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Where Are They Now?

Which Sea Grant researcher did you work with as a graduate student and what did you work on?

I earned a masterrsquo;s degree in wildlife conservation from the University of Minnesota with Dr. Donald Siniff. My thesis work focused on the reproductive ecology of black- and red-legged kittiwakes. I conducted my research on Buldir Island, AK, in the Aleutian Islands.

Colleen Henson

Colleen Henson

What do you do now?

For the past eight years I have worked as a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in Portland, OR. I worked in the environmental contaminants arena, particularly on oil spill response and natural resource damage assessment. I also worked with other agencies to examine Caspian tern predation on endangered juvenile salmon in the Columbia River.

I recently transferred to the USFWS field office in Honolulu, HI, where I work as a fish and wildlife biologist. Some of my activities include writing recovery plans for endangered waterbirds and seabirds, coordinating with other agencies on endangered species issues, forming a working group to address albatross conservation, and overseeing vertebrate research, monitoring, and restoration projects.

How did your graduate work prepare you for your current job?

My graduate work gave me a strong foundation in biological concepts and taught me how to carry out a project from beginning to end. The camaraderie, critical thinking, ecological background, self-reliance, and flexibility needed to survive and thrive in graduate school translates to the workplace.

Did you receive any awards or fellowships as a graduate student?

I received a Bell Museum grant to pursue my ornithological research on kittiwakes. In 1991, I was awarded a Dean Knauss Sea Grant Fellowship. For this fellowship, I spent a year in Washington, D.C., working with the USFWS on a multi-agency Coastal America program as well as a contaminant biomonitoring program.

Why do you think Sea Grant is a worthwhile organization?

Sea Grant provides an excellent blend of research, policy, and management concerns. The work conducted by Sea Grant researchers is directly applicable to major conservation issues. The educational program provides a solid background and exciting opportunities for students as well as important information for the public.

When you were in college, did you ever think yoursquo;d be doing your current work?

Yes! I envisioned working on important conservation issues and conducting field work on remote islands. My Sea Grant fellowship opened my eyes to the political, legal, and bureaucratic aspects of conservation which are a part of every government position. However, by working in a field office Irsquo;ve been able to focus on biological issues while the managers address other aspects of conservation. Directly impacting species conservation has been a tremendous challenge and opportunity.

Whatrsquo;s your dream job?

My current position is very close to my dream job. Irsquo;m working on interesting, controversial issues, many of which deal with seabirds -- my focus in graduate school. My office has a great group of biologists who deal with the numerous, diverse, and at times overwhelming conservation issues in Hawaii and the Pacific Islands. My workload is only limited by my imagination. I have the opportunity to be a “field biologist” on occasion and I’m living in America’s Paradise -- Hawaii. Irsquo;ve also been able to balance my family and work interests by working part-time. Itrsquo;s a job thatrsquo;s hard to beat!

By Sea Grant Staff
January 2001

Return to January 2001 Seiche

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