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Julia K. Parrish
Seabird Biology and Conservation - Much of the lab works on the forces affecting seabird population dynamics in the Pacific Northwest. From murres to terns, from the marine environment to freshwater, from pristine outer coast islands to highly modified urban settings. In general, we seek to understand the balance of top-down, bottom-up (e.g., climate change and physical oceanographic forcing), and anthropogenic factors which lead populations to decline, OR to increase. After wrestling with each system, we also pursue conservation solutions, where appropriate. We work in active fisheries on seabird bycatch issues, on seabird-salmon interactions, and on species affected by oil spills. Finally, we run a highly effective citizen science program designed to collect information about beached birds. Our conservation research adopts a strict no fingerpointing and no whining policy - we are interested in solving the problems and benefiting both the resource AND the people.
I could never really decide what aspect of the marine environment interested me most. As a consequence, my research, and the research of my students, postdocs, and technicians reflects a broad diversity, from fish to birds, from theoretical science to in-your-face conservation.
As an undergraduate at Carnegie-Mellon, I focussed on biochemistry and biophysics, and convinced myself that I wanted to work on organisms visible with the naked eye. After a seminal senior undergraduate experience at the Duke Marine Lab, I returned to that lab as a graduate student to pursue a PhD in schooling behavior of fish.
Fish, and schooling, occupied my brain and my life for 8 years, until I came to the University of Washington, where circumstances beyond my control introduced me to seabirds. Contrary to how it may look to the casual observer of my academic record, the birds I work on (Common Murres) actually have alot in common with the fish schools I am still fascinated by. In fact, murres are one of the densest nesting birds on the planet, providing me with a diurnal, terrestrial opportunity to ask many of the same questions about why and how animal aggregate as I do with fish.
At present, I hold a joint position in the Biology Department, and in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. I am definitely a type AAA person, as anyone in my lab will gladly tell you. However, I don't require those who work with me to do the same (too much...).
When I'm not teaching, tied to my computer, in endless meetings, or out in the field, I really enjoy playing with the same gusto that I apply to my research. In general, I believe that you only live once, and you had better make the most of it.