What research questions currently preoccupy you?
I am interested in understanding the socio-cultural variables that affect well-being and quality of life among commercial fishermen and their communities. As an applied anthropologist, I use the data I collect to inform policy and to create practical solutions to social issues. I am currently working on ways to help fishermen create opportunities for resilience through innovative marine-related activities and marketing strategies.
What personal factors contributed to your study of fisheries and marine anthropology?
There is no logical explanation for my fascination with people who make a living from the sea, except to say that I had an immediate draw to the profound culture and knowledge that are a part of this profession. I worked for the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council prior to receiving my Ph.D., and it was through this experience that I grew passionate about preserving this unique cultural heritage and the communities that it supports.
What has been most challenging in your research?
Working with a population that is exceedingly insular, not very trusting and difficult to find has been a challenge in my research in every geographic region that I have worked in. It took four months of persistence and patience while on a Fulbright scholarship on the island of Chiloé in southern Chile before people started to talk to me. I had a year to complete my research then, but when working on a time-constrained consultancy, this can be an issue. Establishing and maintaining rapport is very important.
How has your position in SJSU contributed to your research?
I am new to SJSU this year, but already my position has helped immensely. I have been welcomed into northern California CSU community, and am already serving on the board of the new Center for Aquaculture at the Moss Landing Marine Lab. This collaboration will be significant in helping with my current project of integrating commercial fishermen into the seafood farming industry, which is part of my effort to diversify markets.
A hidden (research) talent:
Liking beer. Seriously. A lot of my interviews take place in bars. It’s just the nature of the business!
One book that changed your life (or research) and why:
Priests and Programmers: Technologies of Power in the Engineered Landscape of Bali by J. Stephen Lansing. I read this as a master’s student, and it set me on the path of pursuing ecological and environmental anthropology, ultimately leading to my Ph.D. from the University of Georgia, the only doctoral program with that exclusive focus. The book discusses the importance of understanding socio-cultural variables in addition to ecosystemic functions for viable and successful policy development.
A website/journal/newspaper (in your field?) you follow without fail:
I read articles from the journal Human Organization, published by the Society for Applied Anthropology. I find many articles relevant to my own work, and others that help me keep on top of what is happening in the field of applied anthropology.
Advice you’d give to newer faculty or students:
Always put yourself out there, and apply for everything that interests you (or doesn’t—you never know). The worst that can happen is that you get a response of “no”. Most of my professional and academic successes have come from taking a leap of faith and putting my CV in the mail.