State Fellow Spotlight: Hannah-Marie Garcia

Jesse Gordon contributed to this story

Alaska Sea Grant State Fellow, Hannah-Marie Garcia, is completing her 12-month fellowship with the Alaska Conservation Foundation’s (ACF) Northern Latitudes Partnership (NLP) team. The mission of the NLP is “collaborating across geographic and disciplinary boundaries to help communities be culturally, environmentally, and economically secure in a rapidly changing North.” NLP “strives to meet this common goal by developing strategies, building new tools, and facilitating coordination with all partners to improve resource stewardship and sustainability.”

Woman in front of frozen waterfall
Courtesy of Hannah-Marie Garcia

Hannah-Marie supports coordination and planning for partnerships among federal and state agencies, Alaska Native corporations and tribal governments, and universities in western Alaska, the Aleutian Islands, and the Bering Sea region. For one of her projects, she works with the Aleut Community of St. Paul Island on a project called SkipperScience, which utilizes cell phone technology for commercial fishermen to collect data about weather events, unusual marine life, and other fishing ground conditions that can inform environmental changes. For another one of her projects, she is helping to create an Indigenous-led stewardship map that will highlight current projects in need of additional support.

Originally from Charleston, South Carolina, Hannah-Marie attended high school at the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey and traveled to Peru to study tropical ecology. This experience as a high school student showed her the value of including humans in the study of ecology and influenced the focus of her undergraduate studies at Sewanee: The University of the South.

Hannah-Marie earned a B.A. in environmental studies and sustainability with a minor in anthropology, and conducted research on cetacean-based food product consumption and potential mercury exposure in a Caribbean whaling community. “We identified demographic and geographic patterns where whales were harvested and consumed in order to provide better information for decision makers,” she explained. This research catalyzed her interest in applied research and policy. “I wanted my work to land in the hands of people that are making decisions about environmental resource management.”

After completing her undergraduate studies, Hannah-Marie attended the University of Delaware where she earned a Master’s in marine policy. For her graduate research, Hannah-Marie conducted interviews with federal and state agencies, offshore wind developers, and Mid-Atlantic tribes to highlight ways to improve tribal engagement in decisions regarding offshore windpower. She noted, “There’s a lack of research on Native Nations’ perception of offshore wind power, especially in the Mid-Atlantic, and my research helped facilitate more dialogue and informed decision-making.”

Hannah-Marie said that when she first heard about the fellowship with ACF, she knew it would be a perfect fit. “This fellowship through Alaska Sea Grant offered the opportunity to guide me into my field of interest and learn more about different aspects of marine policy that relate to conservation and tribal engagement.” She said the fellowship has supported career development by offering the chance to participate in trainings on best practices for working with Indigenous communities, gain experience in grant writing, and learn about the inner workings of nonprofit conservation and stewardship activities.

Hannah-Marie plans to pursue a PhD focused on conservation and tribal engagement and to continue conducting research in policy within a federal agency or nonprofit organization. She is passionate about fostering trust to make meaningful change. “You can only move at the speed of trust, and if the trust isn’t there, the issues keep repeating themselves, and we are prevented from moving forward with conservation efforts in a meaningful and sustainable way.”