Melissa (Watkinson) Schutten

Equity, Access and Community Engagement Lead


Melissa (Watkinson) Schutten (she/her/hers) is the Equity, Access and Community Engagement Lead with Washington Sea Grant. Melissa is a leader in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) within the marine science and policy fields across the Salish Sea region. Internal to WSG, Melissa leads the WSG DEI workgroup and implementation of the WSG DEI 10-year Roadmap. She is currently piloting the tentatively named Urban Marine Program, where she is seeking community-based and identified solutions to address the disparities in access to marine foods and resources of urban communities of color. She previously supported the social science efforts on the Olympic Coast Ocean Acidification Vulnerability study, a community-based participatory project with WA’s coastal treaty tribes.
Melissa explains that “harvesting shellfish and sharing seafood has always been a way for my family to connect to the environment and to 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 is committed to ensuring that the environmental workforce is inclusive and representative of the communities most impacted by climate change, and that future generations have equitable access to marine environments.
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. In 2016, she completed a Marc Hershman Marine Policy Fellowship at The Nature Conservancy. Melissa served as co-chair on the City of Seattle’s Environmental Justice Committee 2016-2019.
You can follow Melissa on Twitter @MelKWatkinson.