Natalie Sahli



The appeal of an Interdisciplinary Masters Program
This is a picture of Natalie Sahli
In the time between receiving my B.S. in biology and entering the MES program at Evergreen, I accumulated a diverse array of professional and life experiences. Eventually, this exploration resulted in a desire to pursue a more fulfilling path in accordance with my love of nature and my deep-felt sense of social responsibility. The interdisciplinary nature of Evergreen’s MES program suited my desire to build upon my strong science foundation inside a socially conscious atmosphere.

As someone with a background in the hard sciences, the educational emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration was new to me. One of the most profound realizations I had in my time at Evergreen was that the best available science does not affect change alone. One must take into consideration the surrounding social, economic, and political climate.

My Experience in the MES program

My experience in the MES program was memorable far beyond the intellectual achievements it supported. The people in the program truly allowed for a positive experience. The faculty included many of the best instructors and most progressive thinkers I have encountered in my academic career. I learned this lesson though the core courses, and through my thesis research in marine biogeochemistry. Ultimately, Evergreen’s emphasis on interdisciplinary study illuminated a path through the sciences far more comprehensive than my experience in a research driven university.Additionally, the students in my cohort became some of my greatest friends. It was wonderful to meet people of varied interests sharing the same sense of social responsibility.

Deciding how I would best apply my skillset towards a meaningful social and environmental contribution was daunting task. In my first quarter in the MES program, I was fortunate for the chance to research the effects of Ocean Acidification on the shellfish industry though a biogeochemical perspective. I fell in love with marine chemistry. I looked toward aquaculture industry for a relevant research question in this area. Thankfully, Joth Davis of the Puget Sound Restoration Fund was interested in supporting a master’s project investigating nutrient exchange between cultivated shellfish and seasonal macroalgae blooms. I happily accepted this project.

Overall, my thesis made interesting contributions shellfish aquaculture literature. More importantly, I was able to propose recommendations to the industry on the sensibility of incorporating multiple species into Washington State mariculture systems. Yet, despite the clear benefits of integrated aquaculture, state policy limits immediate action in this area. This disconnect between scientific evidence and direct policy reform inspired me to pursue my next professional steps.

Future Plans and Goals

Currently, I await the start of a year-long fellowship position. The Marc Hershman Marine Policy Fellowship, offered through Washington Sea Grant, places recent graduate students at agencies focused on marine resource and social sustainability.  I look forward to working at the Washington State Department of Health creating a risk assessment model from illness incidences, caused by a pathogenic bacterium, for all Washington State shellfish growing areas. This fellowship will involve me in the assessment of recently implemented state public health policy. I hope to use this experience to better understand the process of bringing scientific data to action.

After the fellowship, I plan to return to academia. I will likely continue in the field of marine biogeochemical research. However, I will utilize my growing understanding of the policy process to promote the adoption of innovative, interdisciplinary solutions to ecological issues in the marine sector.