Melissa Poe

Assistant Director for Outreach

Curriculum Vitae


  • Social and cultural dimensions of coasts, oceans and climate resilience
  • Indigenous and local knowledges
  • Subsistence practices and wild food systems
  • Applying anthropology, ethnoecology, political ecology, and cultural geography approaches to environmental problems through community-based participatory action research


Melissa Poe leads the outreach and engagement strategy across Washington Sea Grant (WSG) covering marine research, education and outreach. Melissa has been a social scientist at WSG since 2013, and previously led the Integrated Knowledge and Education team 2022-2023.

As a principal investigator, Melissa leads various collaborations. She coordinates the Cross-Pacific Indigenous Aquaculture Network, which gathers around Indigenous aquaculture systems past and present, sharing intergenerational knowledge and cultural practices. As part of this work, Melissa worked closely with Indigenous knowledge holders and research partners on the ground-breaking story map of Sea Gardens Across the Pacific: Rewakening ancestral mariculture innovations

As a social scientist at WSG, Melissa has worked on a variety of human well-being, ocean change and marine food systems projects. In each of these applied and community-engaged research efforts, she has centered community priorities in seeking to understand the social and cultural ties to the ocean, particularly among coastal and fishing communities of the West Coast and broader Pacific. In her work on the Olympic Coast as a Sentinel of Ocean Acidification, for example, she co-led a large team of Tribal partners, ocean and social scientists, resource managers, and outreach and education staff to identify vulnerabilities to effects from ocean acidification and tribally-determined resilience priorities such as food sovereignty programming and tribal youth STE(A)M education.

Melissa has served as a science and place-based knowledge advisor on various regional and national initiatives, including the Ocean Decade Collaborative Center for the Northeast Pacific, the national Sea Grant network on Traditional and Local Knowledge, the Northwest Climate Resilience Collaborative, NOAA’s Integrated Ecosystem Assessment, and the Puget Sound Partnership. Bringing a breadth of social-ecological understanding, Poe co-edited the book Conservation for the Anthropocene Ocean: Interdisciplinary Science in Support of Nature and People.

Prior to her affiliation with WSG, Melissa was a social scientist with NOAA Fisheries, the Institute for Culture and Ecology and the USDA Forest Service on topics ranging from subsistence fishing, urban foraging, wildland fire, and forest plan assessments in the Pacific Northwest. Melissa earned doctoral degree and a master’s degree in environmental anthropology at the University of Washington where she focused her research on Indigenous community forestry in Oaxaca Mexico, and the cultural, gender, and governance dimensions of understory plants and mushrooms. Melissa’s undergraduate degrees are in Sociology and Spanish with a minor in Peace and Conflict Resolution studies. She is the first person in her family to go to college, and was supported through the Federal Pell Grant, merit awards, and the UW Graduate Opportunities and Minority Achievement Program. In an earlier phase of her career, Melissa was a wilderness guide, leading sea kayaking, international trekking and coastal backpacking trips. A long-time Puget Sound resident, Melissa enjoys foraging for wild foods and medicines, experimenting with botanical art and fermentation, and enjoys traveling with her wife.