November 1, 2023
Washington Sea Grant (WSG) has appointed Dr. Melissa Poe to assistant director for outreach. Poe has been at WSG for 10 years, leading the social science program in work to identify, define and incorporate measures of human well-being and cultural practices into marine planning and ecosystem-based management. She was promoted internally after having served as a Team Lead on the Integrated Knowledge and Education team for the past year and a half, and supervising staff since 2017.
In her new role, Poe will lead the outreach and engagement strategy across Washington covering marine research, education and outreach, and supervise four team leads and an overall program of 22 staff. “I am very inspired by the creative, smart and dedicated team of people that I get to work with, rooted in our shared love of this place and commitment to coastal communities,” Poe says. “It’s incredibly satisfying to work in partnership to solve urgent challenges and to bring a sense of care, bravery and fun to this collective purpose.”
As a principal investigator on several WSG projects, Poe has held key leadership roles. She coordinates the Cross-Pacific Indigenous Aquaculture Network, which most recently included the close collaboration with the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community on planning and hosting the 2023 Salish Summit, a four-day event that drew over 25 Indigenous communities from around the Pacific Rim to the Swinomish Reservation on Fidalgo Island, Washington for collective work on a clam garden and other regional cultural ecosystem restoration efforts. The network continues to gather around Indigenous aquaculture systems past and present, sharing intergenerational knowledge and cultural practices. As part of this work, Poe led the ground-breaking story map of Sea Gardens Across the Pacific together with Indigenous knowledge holders and research partners.
As a social scientist at WSG, Poe has worked on a variety of community well-being, ocean change, and marine food systems initiatives. 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.
Poe leads scientific and place-based knowledge guidance in the Northwest region, including serving as an advisor on 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, Poe 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. Poe earned a doctoral and a master’s degree in environmental anthropology from the University of Washington, where she focused her research on Indigenous community forestry in Oaxaca, Mexico, and the cultural, governance and equity dimensions of understory plants and mushrooms.
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.