December 21, 2022
My name is Olivia Horwedel and I am so grateful for the opportunity to be the Communications Fellow for the Cross-Pacific Indigenous Aquaculture Collaborative Network. I grew up in Michigan and spent the majority of my childhood outdoors exploring the rivers, lakes and streams of my home state. Growing up with such an appreciation and admiration for aquatic ecosystems sparked my interest in ocean ecosystems. When I was 16, I saw the ocean for the first time. I was shocked to see how much it resembled the Great Lakes, but that it could be home to such an incredible abundance of marine life just below the water’s surface. This initial ocean encounter sparked a curiosity that could not be cured, and led me to pursue a degree in marine ecology during my undergraduate career at the University of Michigan. During that time, I also earned degrees in sustainable food systems and Native American studies.
My junior year of college, I studied abroad in Aotearoa (New Zealand) where I was able to braid together my various passions and conduct marine and food systems research alongside Māori communities, ensuring that management prioritized Indigenous voices and knowledge systems. This experience showcased my passions for intersectional ecology, and I wanted to pursue a career that emphasized Indigenous Knowledge and collaboration in conservation efforts. Before entering graduate school, I worked various positions in marine mammal research, many of which utilized western research methods. While I really valued each of those experiences for a variety of reasons, I was looking to pursue more interdisciplinary work. This led me to pursue a master’s at the School of Marine Affairs (SMEA) at the University of Washington.
My research in SMEA thus far has been working at the crossroads of food sovereignty, Indigenous governance and marine mammal conservation. For the last year, I have been working on a capstone project with the Elakha Alliance. Formed by Tribal, nonprofit, and conservation leaders, the Elakha Alliance aims to restore otters to the Oregon coast. The Alliance seeks to understand the ecological and cultural connections between otters and communities while they work towards revitalizing a culturally important species to Oregon Tribes. In addition to my graduate research, I have worked as a Teaching Assistant in the College of the Environment as well as the School of Public Health in their Food Systems, Nutrition, and Health program. This year, I also worked as the Science Communications Fellow for Washington Sea Grant in the Spring and Summer of 2022. Through these opportunities, I have developed my skills in writing, content creation, education and outreach. I am excited to continue to work with Washington Sea Grant through the Indigenous Aquaculture Collaborative Network where I can continue expanding my communication skills on a project I am incredibly passionate about while also building relationships with communities working at the intersections of food sovereignty and marine conservation.
Fun facts about me: I have a dog named Maple who has now done three cross-country road trips with me from Washington to Michigan! I absolutely love cooking and eating, and have several spreadsheets of all the restaurants I want to try while I live in Seattle. In college, I had a goal to swim with a new marine species each year, and I accomplished that goal. My favorite animal I swam with was a tie between night diving with manta rays in Hawaii and being in the middle of a superpod of dolphins in New Zealand.
Washington Sea Grant, based at the University of Washington, helps people and marine life thrive through research, technical expertise and education supporting the responsible use and conservation of coastal ecosystems. The National Sea Grant College Program is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce.