State Fellow spotlight: Becca Cates

Jesse Gordon contributed to this story.

photo of Becca Cates on a boat holding a crab pot
Photo courtesy of Becca Cates.

Becca Cates recently began her Alaska Sea Grant State Fellowship with the Alaska Fisheries Science Center. Cates earned her B.S. in Environmental Science from Western Washington University, where she developed an interest in marine ecology. After completing her undergraduate degree, she moved to the Florida Keys, where she worked as a marine science instructor. “I enjoyed engaging with the community, working in classrooms, and gaining SCUBA experience,” she said. While in Florida, she also volunteered with the Mote Marine Laboratory and assisted with coral research. These experiences further propelled her interest in marine science. Cates then relocated to Juneau, Alaska and worked in the tourism industry, serving as a naturalist on whale watch tours and Mendenhall Glacier hikes. Cates quickly fell in love with Juneau, and decided to stay in southeast Alaska as a field technician in Dr. Ginny Eckert’s lab. Halfway through the field season, she started as a Master’s student in Dr. Eckert’s lab, where she is researching sea otter predation and habitat structure, and their effects on nearshore crab assemblages in southeast Alaska. 

As an Alaska Sea Grant State fellow, Cates is working with Jordan Hollarsmith at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Juneau, where they are conducting mariculture research to support the development of these industries in Alaska. Cate’s projects will include research on pinto abalone husbandry, investigating the linkages between environmental conditions and harmful algal blooms at a local oyster farm, and developing a mobile kelp tumble culture for classrooms that will serve as a pilot project to increase interest and engagement in commercial aquaculture operations by Alaska native communities.   

When asked what drew her to the fellowship, Cates explained, “It seemed like a great opportunity to learn about different marine and fishery sectors, fine tune where my passions and interests lie, and collaborate with multiple agencies and organizations throughout the state of Alaska. I have been interested in the mariculture sector for a long time, and this fellowship is the perfect opportunity to explore the intersection of engagement with coastal communities and sustainable mariculture resources on a state and global scale.”

Cates is one of eight Alaska Sea Grant State Fellows in the 2021-2022 cohort.