By Paige Welsh
For this newsletter issue, I sat down with Lucie Hazen, a COS Research Analyst. Lucie's career has embraced the connection between science and practical application. Since her undergraduate work, she's been thinking about the interplay between people and the ocean they use for ecosystem services. In our interview, I learned about how Lucie's well-rounded experience contributes to the Center's mission and the depth of her tenacity when she sets her mind on a goal.
Lucie's current work focuses primarily on developing guidance for tracking implementation of California’s Marine Life Management Act (MLMA). This work involves building an assessment tool that would allow the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and other entities to clearly identify strengths and weaknesses in existing fisheries management approaches and more easily prioritize their limited resources. She is also generating an inventory of ecosystem and human activities assessments of the California Current in collaboration with the West Coast Regional Planning Body and contributing to a federal, coast wide management plan.
Your current work is focused on California Fisheries and the implementation of the Marine Life Management Act. Why do we need a project focusing on this?
The Marine Life Management Act is one of the most progressive examples of ecosystem-based fisheries management law. In principle, it is impressively sweeping, but in practice it is challenging to implement to its full potential. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the California Fish and Game Commission (FGC) manage the state’s expansive ocean waters well, but due to data gaps, high compliance costs and funding and capacity constraints, managers may lack access to the best available knowledge, data and technologies. One of the clearest examples of that gap between theory and practice is that the law calls for fishery management plans (FMPs) for each fishery managed by the state. Yet after 17 years on the books, only six FMPs exist today even though there are approximately 200 species in state waters. Everything from the species’ life history and ecology to the fishery history and socioeconomics, management alternatives, environmental impact analysis and research protocols goes into a fishery management plan. Producing comprehensive plans is resource intensive, and given the other regular urgent issues that must be addressed, the Department is not always able to focus on these data-intensive management plans. We have a unique opportunity to help the Department prioritize their competing demands by developing a novel assessment tool. We are doing this in collaboration with California fisheries managers at an exciting time, as the CDFW and FGC are in the process of revising the guidance for the MLMA.
How did you come to be involved in ocean sciences?
I earned my Masters in aquatic and fisheries sciences from the University of Washington in 2003. Since then, I've done a variety of field research in rocky and sandy intertidal and river systems as well as marine mammal surveys on the west and east coasts. I also spent a few years at Duke University focusing on project and grant management work in the realm of fisheries and marine science. I got hooked on marine ecology and international travel in my undergraduate years, when I joined an NSF-funded biological survey aboard a Russian research vessel going to the Kuril Islands. I also spent a few months after graduation as a fisheries observer for the long-line tuna fishery based in Hawaii. I was the onboard biologist recording and measuring the catch from every 20+ mile haul, watching for Pacific loggerhead and leatherback turtle by-catch because of their endangered status. That was a pivotal experience because it exposed me to commercial fishing and made me think more in-depth about the interaction between the ocean and the people who depend on it.
What challenges have you encountered in your work?
As I think many Master’s level scientists have done, I struggled with whether to get a PhD or not. It seemed like something everybody does, and the academic system generally guides people in that direction. However, the job prospects following a PhD were not as good of a fit for me. There are professional opportunities without a PhD, and I am fortunate to have this one. I like working in in the science-policy space in which COS operates. To this date, I have been able to carve a career path that does not require a PhD, which has worked well for me. In retrospect, I'm happy with my decision.
Do you have a memorable COS experience?
I have had a series of positive interactions and opportunities to learn from many talented people during the five years I’ve been here. It's all contributed to an outstanding set of professional opportunities and growth as well as great relationships.
What is an accomplishment you are particularly proud of?
I led authorship on a paper this past year in Fisheries Research titled, “Translating sustainable seafood frameworks to assess the implementation of ecosystem-based fisheries management.” I have been a coauthor on several papers, but this was my first primary authorship. Honestly, the process was quite frustrating, including multiple back and forths with the journal and reviewers, and multiple revisions, but ultimately the paper was stronger and we were successful.
What would you be doing if you weren't working in marine science?
I have an alternative career reality in my mind about being involved in exercise physiology, or the health and wellness field. I run, hike and occasionally do triathlons. Outside of work, I try to keep myself fit and my family healthy.
Lucie and her family at the Grand Canyon.
What is something people may not know about you?
I taught myself to swim from a book at the age of thirty. It was a great book, and I was really committed. I thought it was ridiculous that I was thirty and a marine scientist, but I didn’t know how to properly swim. There's this how-to book called Total Immersion about improving your swimming skills. It shows what to do with your body step-by-step, which worked well for me.
What do you find more rewarding about your work?
I've always been drawn more to the applied side of science and research. I feel like we do our best at COS to advance meaningful change in the policy and management world. It's not just about interesting scientific questions or cutting edge research. It's being in that boundary space and influencing sustainability and stewardship.
If you could be anywhere doing anything right now, where would you be?
I would either be diving in the Maldives, given the incredible diversity and likely decline due to climate change. Or I might be sleeping, as I don’t get to do enough of that as a parent of two young kids.