Melissa Watkinson

Social Scientist


Melissa Watkinson is a social scientist with Washington Sea Grant where she supports the social science efforts on the Olympic Coast Ocean Acidification Vulnerability study, a community-based participatory project with WA’s coastal treaty tribes. Project partners hope that their work will help policy makers and tribal communities develop evidence-based strategies for anticipating and responding to the effects of ocean acidification.
Melissa explains that “harvesting shellfish and sharing seafood has always been a way for my family to connect to the environment and to the each other. When I learned about the effects that anthropogenic climate changes were having on marine first foods, I knew that I had the responsibility to work on addressing these issues. I believe that the integration of western and Indigenous sciences has the potential for profound opportunities to address the social, cultural, and ecological impacts that these ocean changes have created.” Melissa also works on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts, including co-leading WSG’s DEI Workgroup and the Salish Sea DEI Community of Practice, to ensure that the environmental workforce is inclusive and representative of the communities most impacted by climate change.
Melissa is a Citizen of the Chickasaw Nation and grew up in the Pacific Northwest where she considers the Salish Sea her home. She earned both a B.A. in Global Studies and Society, Ethics & Human Behavior (’11) and M.A. in Policy Studies (’15) from UW Bothell.  As a graduate student she worked with the Quinault Indian Nation to better understand the impacts of historic land policies on the capacity for coastal tribes to adapt to climate change. She also collaborated with Washington Sea Grant on a social indicators project for the Washington Marine Spatial Plan, and similarly to the socio-cultural dimensions of ocean acidification study with the Squaxin Island Tribe.
In 2016, she completed a Marc Hershman Marine Policy Fellowship at The Nature Conservancy. Melissa serves on the City of Seattle’s Environmental Justice Committee, a citizen advisory body to the mayor’s office which deepens the influence of communities of color in the city’s environmental programs, ensuring that the experiences and policy priorities of people of color shape Seattle’s environmental work.
Follow Melissa on Twitter @MelKWatkinson and keep posted on Washington Sea Grant’s social science activities through our blog, Coastal Connections.

Areas of Interest

  • Climate adaptation and resilience
  • Community-based participatory approaches
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Environmental justice
  • Human dimensions of coastal environments
  • Indigenous methodologies
  • Spatial analysis of socio-ecological change