State Fellow spotlight: Jamie Musbach

Jesse Gordon contributed to this story

The 2021–2022 cohort of Alaska Sea Grant State Fellows are wrapping up their fellowships this summer. This month we introduce you to Jamie Musbach, who has been working with NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service Protected Resources Division in Juneau.

Jamie earned a bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in marine science from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and graduated in December 2021 with her master’s in fisheries from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Her master’s thesis project with Alaska Sea Grant involved investigating ocean acidification and warming effects on the physiology of juvenile Northern spot shrimp

During her studies, Jamie volunteered to teach marine science lessons at several schools from Sitka, Alaska, to Palm Harbor, Florida. “Outreach is a great way to form connections with communities. It’s easy to forget that an important part of research is to educate and communicate about science,” she said.

woman in hat holding electronic device
Jamie Musbach shares the pH STAT control system she built as part of her master’s thesis project. Photo courtesy of Eliza Searcy

Jamie’s fellowship allows her the opportunity to explore agency-based marine science and policy career opportunities, as well as to continue engaging with schools and communities in Alaska. Jamie is involved in a range of research, policy and education projects. She is exploring the connection between declining Western Distinct Population Segment Steller sea lion populations and increases in mercury contamination; assisting with the international Pinniped Entanglement Group, which collaborates to reduce seal and sea lion entanglement in marine debris and fishing gear; researching sea lion deterrents for fishing gear; and even got the chance to participate in a humpback whale necropsy with the Alaska Marine Mammal Stranding Network. 

In addition to her work with Steller sea lions, Jamie is participating in the Ocean Guardian School Program through NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, which provides environmental stewardship programming and lessons for schools in Alaska, including in Juneau and Anchorage.

Reflecting on her fellowship, Jamie shared, “It has been interesting to see the role the National Marine Fisheries Service Protected Resources Division has as a federal agency in marine research and management. Being a fellow with them has been an awesome experience. I have gained great mentors and learned so much. I don’t want it to end.” 

Jamie hopes the fellowship helps to guide her career path. “Ultimately, I hope it gives me an idea if working in a federal agency within the scientific community is a good fit for me. I have gained an understanding of protected resources and how marine policy impacts threatened and endangered species like Steller sea lions.”

Perhaps uncoincidentally, Jamie’s first marine science job was an internship in the Milwaukee County Zoo sea lion exhibit after her freshman year of college. She fondly recalled memories of thawing dead fish to feed the charismatic pinnipeds. Now in her fellowship, she gets to work on critical issues addressing Steller sea lions in Alaska.