Caroline Gibson Scholarship Fund

Promoting Caroline Gibson’s Passion For The Salish Sea

Caroline Gibson devoted the bulk of her career to the protection and restoration of Puget Sound and the Salish Sea. While she worked on numerous projects of importance, one of her greatest contributions was raising attention to kelp (particularly bull kelp) and creating a monitoring network to greatly expand availability of data for its coverage.

Her amazing ability to bring people together, enthusiastically share a vision and increase collaboration among scientists and volunteers was critical to the protection and restoration of the Salish Sea. Caroline created the International Salish Sea Kelp Alliance to encourage the sharing of monitoring techniques and data across borders.

Caroline used her knowledge of the fishing industry and strong personal relationships to assist NOAA in leading an effort to engage commercial fishers on methods to prevent the loss of derelict fishing gear. The candid conversations she fostered and insights she gathered have led to improved fishing practices and reduced net loss.

Caroline held extensive experience in the Northwest Straits Initiative and was a leader in community-based conservation efforts. She served as Northwest Straits Foundation Executive Director, Northwest Straits Commission Marine Program Manager and Jefferson County Marine Resources Committee member.

Prior to joining the Northwest Straits Initiative, Caroline spent more than a decade providing management and administrative leadership on U.S. regional and national marine conservation, policy, research, and development projects.

Working with Caroline was uplifting and inspiring. She brought a spirit of innovation, hopefulness and problem solving to all challenges. Caroline saw and implemented solutions by believing in the power of partnerships and people. The Salish Sea is a better place because of Caroline Gibson. The Caroline Gibson Scholarship Fund supports the next generation of marine conservation leaders and continues her passion for the Salish Sea.

The Caroline Gibson Scholarship In Marine Studies

The Caroline Gibson Scholarship in Marine Studies supports the next generation of marine conservation leaders through their applied studies in sustaining a vibrant and healthy Salish Sea.

This scholarship continues Caroline’s passion for community and the Salish Sea. It supports undergraduate marine conservationists with a twinkle in their eye and a drive to make a difference in marine conservation. The Caroline Gibson Scholarship in Marine Studies will help them along the way. Just as she’s done for all of us and our work.

Please give generously so we can support as many students as possible.

The Foundation’s committed to sustaining Caroline’s love and passion for the Salish Sea. We plan to do it through an endowed scholarship. This year’s giving is a start with 95 percent of every dollar going directly to student scholarships.

Get to Know the Scholars and Explore Their Work

Sarah Davidson – Spring 2023 Scholar

About Sarah Davidson

In August 2023, Sarah joined the Global Ocean Forum as the inaugural Dr. Biliana Cicin-Sain Fellow. In this role, Sarah has spearheaded the development of the UNFCCC COP28 Virtual Ocean Pavilion (available November 22 – December 12, 2023), working to democratize international ocean and climate policy discussions by developing this online platform. Sarah also supports the Global Ocean Forum in its strategic planning efforts and contributes to their ongoing work focused on protecting biodiversity in marine areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ). On November 16, 2023, the Global Ocean Forum published the Report on Assessing Progress on Ocean and Climate Action: 2022-2023, a comprehensive report with contributions from 67 co-authors from 46 organizations, in which Sarah was a lead author.

Sarah recently graduated from the University of Washington School of Marine and Environmental Affairs (SMEA) with a Master of Marine Affairs. While at SMEA, her research focused on the emerging role of marine fisheries “other effective area-based conservation measures,” or OECMs, in global conservation efforts and policy. She was partnered with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations for this work and has since continued to foster a passion for international marine biodiversity conservation and fishery policy. Before that, she graduated from Whitman College in 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts in Biology- Environmental Studies, with a focus on ecology and biodiversity.   

Sarah’s experience includes working as a consultant for the Fisheries Management and Assessment team of the Fisheries Division of FAO. In this position, she focused on capacity building and stakeholder engagement on the topic of marine fisheries OECMs and aided in developing a framework for assessing the biodiversity outcomes that can be expected to come from sustainable fishery management. Prior to this, she also worked as an intern in the Fisheries Division at FAO and as a Research Coordinator for the University of Washington, Department of Family Medicine. Academics, work and school aside, Sarah is an outdoor and travel enthusiast and spends as much time outdoors as her schedule allows. She grew up in the greater Seattle area and can certainly credit the beauty of the Salish Sea and San Juan Islands as major contributors to her passion for the sustainable management and conservation of marine spaces. 

Questions for Sarah? Email her at:

Sarah Gutzmann – Fall 2022 Scholar

The teachings of kelp: assessing Kwakiutl principles, community values, objectives, and trade-offs to cultivate climate resilience in kelp harvest and farming.

In partnership with the Kwakiutl Nation and the BC Ministry of Land, Water, and Resource Stewardship, Sarah’s research created a new information framework to support Kwakiutl marine management. This work weaves Indigenous and western knowledge to explore how Kwakiutl principles, community values, objectives, and trade-offs can cultivate climate resilient kelp harvest and mariculture. We use semi-directed interviews with local knowledge-keepers to remember and uplift Kwakiutl knowledge and principles for governance; community surveys to document local values for kelp and trade-off preferences for mariculture; and a workshop to co-create climate adaptation strategies for kelp practices in Kwakiutl territory. This co-developed and collaborative research aims to provide information and space to Kwakiutl Nation leaders so they can make informed decisions about developing kelp mariculture and/or burgeoning wild kelp harvest in their territory.

About Sarah Gutzmann

Sarah Gutzmann is a Master of Resource Management (MRM) student, Community Engaged Research (CERi) Fellow, and interdisciplinary researcher at in the Coastal Marine Ecology and Conservation Lab at Simon Fraser University (SFU). She is passionate about coastal marine social-ecological systems and addressing environmental crises (be it biodiversity loss, climate change, habitat destruction, pollution, etc.) through coproducing knowledge and supporting place-based governance and management, specifically in collaboration with Indigenous nations. Ultimately, her goal is to solve real-world, environmental problems in a socially just manner.

Prior to starting her MRM, Sarah completed a B.Sc. (Honours) in Environmental Science with a minor in Environmental Toxicology at SFU. Her honours thesis research established that photography can be used as an application for community-based fisheries monitoring of broad whitefish in the Canadian Arctic. Her dedication to the bettering our environment has given her a diverse background in conservation biology, toxicology, marine ecology, as well as public outreach and science communication. She has worked in riparian habitat restoration, researched salmon energetics, searched for pests in cranberry fields, run experiments to evaluate microplastic toxicity, developed public educational programming, helped rehabilitate sick/injured marine mammals, and more.

Sarah is grateful to the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh), kʷikʷəƛ̓əm (Kwikwetlem), q̓ic̓əy̓ (Katzie), qʼʷa:n̓ ƛʼən̓ (Kwantlen), qiqéyt (Qayqayt), and Stó:lō Nations for stewarding the lands and waters on which she lives since time out of mind. In her free time, you can usually find her exploring with her beagle, Tova.

Questions for Sarah Gutzmann? Email her at:

LinkedIn: Sarah Gutzmann

Alexis Jordan – Fall 2023 Scholar

Zostera marina is the native species of eelgrass in the Salish Sea. Eelgrass beds are known to provide multiple ecosystem services, such as stabilizing sediment and providing habitat and feeding ground to marine fauna. Padilla Bay, located in Mount Vernon, WA, contains over 8,000 acres of eelgrass! In the summer field season, I get to enjoy walking out into the eelgrass bed to assist the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve with eelgrass long-term biomonitoring, European green crab (Carcinus maenas) trapping, Olympia Oyster (Ostrea lurida) restoration, as well as conducting research and collecting materials for our eelgrass team lab at Shannon Point Marine Center in Anacortes. The eelgrass team has just started a two-year experiment in our outdoor mesocosm tanks that addresses the eelgrass life cycle, gene expression, and how these may be affected by rising sea surface temperatures. During its life cycle, an eelgrass shoot can adopt one of two life history strategies. The annual life history strategy diverts energy to sexual reproduction, meaning the life cycle starts and ends within a year. The perennial life history strategy can also undergo sexual reproduction but is primarily focused on asexual reproduction through clonal growth. It is commonly assumed that the annual life history strategy is triggered by environmental stress. These life history strategies appear morphologically distinct, but it is unknown whether these life history strategies are genetically distinct. Our collaborators at the University of Washington will be taking samples to observe flowering gene expression. Moreover, we are interested in observing whether rising sea surface temperatures (3° above ambient temperature) affect life history strategy and other aspects of the eelgrass life cycle. In November 2023 we will be planting seeds collected from annual and perennial eelgrass shoots, from both Padilla Bay and Willapa Bay. Seeds will be germinated in ambient or heated water temperature, and after germination, we will be transferring a subset of seedlings to the opposite temperature treatment in case the timing of elevated sea surface temperature might impact the eelgrass life cycle.

About Alex Jordan

I’m a fourth-year undergraduate at Western Washington University, studying marine science and geographic information science. I work at WWU’s Shannon Point Marine Center as a research assistant, running temperature experiments on eelgrass (Zostera marina) from the Salish Sea. My team and I are currently planning the experimental design for our next project, which aims to uncover how elevated sea surface temperatures may affect eelgrass germination and life history strategies. In my free time, I like to watch movies and go hiking.

Questions for Alexis Jordan? Email her at:

Elyse Kelsey – Fall 2023 Scholar

Citizen Science European Green Crab Early Detection and Monitoring Program

Elyse Kelsey works as a Student Assistant for Washington Sea Grant Crab Team which is a citizen science early detection and monitoring program supporting the management of invasive European green crab in Washington state. As a Student Assistant, Elyse helps with participant management, education, and engagement including workshop and on-site training events for more than 250 partner and volunteer monitors. She enters participant-collected data from the field season from a network of 67 early detection and monitoring sites that are surveyed monthly April through September. Elyse also supports Crab Team communications through social media posts, newsletters, blog posts, and presenting at outreach events. Elyse is looking forward to participating in monitoring during the next field season alongside the volunteers, tribal staff, and agency partners that make this work possible.

About Elyse Kelsey

Elyse Kelsey is a first-year graduate student in the School of Marine and Environmental Affairs at the University of Washington. Prior to starting her master’s degree, she earned a B.S. degree in environmental science and a graduate certificate in data science for environmental applications from Western Washington University. She has enjoyed working outdoors in many seasonal positions after earning her undergraduate degree. Elyse worked at Wolf Hollow Wildlife Rehabilitation Center on San Juan Island caring for native species, at Ocean City State Park maintaining coastal recreation areas, and for the University of Alaska Fairbanks APECS Lab assisting with field research on nearshore fish assemblages in Southeast Alaska. Most recently, Elyse has worked for the Issaquah School district developing educational curriculum and activity programming for elementary-aged students. She is hoping to combine her background in education with community outreach and citizen science to promote marine conservation. She currently works as a student assistant for the Washington Sea Grant Crab Team. When Elyse is not in class or at work you can find her exploring tide pools, hiking the foothills of Mt. Rainier, or crocheting somewhere sunny.

Questions for Elyse Kelsey? Email her at:

Kathy Qi – Spring 2023 Scholar

Decomposing Picocyanobacteria Growth Dynamics across Oceanic Gradients

Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus are two groups of picocyanobacteria that contribute to large fractions of global marine primary production. Their widespread geographic coverage and high abundances allow them to dominate the surface oceans, especially in nutrient poor, or oligotrophic, regions. Although Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus are typically co-occurring, different environmental conditions and biological interactions affect their distributions and growth rates. Additionally, global models predict increases in abundance for both populations with increasing temperature and decreased vertical mixing. These organisms also have different ecotypes, or subspecies, that have varying ranges of optima and tolerance for subsequent environmental constraints. Thus, understanding patterns in cell populations can be complex under dynamic ecosystems, especially compounded with the effects of climate change. I use observational data in the North Pacific Ocean to estimate Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus growth rates using a time series analysis. By detangling and identifying the main drivers of growth and production in these populations, many marine ecosystems, especially the open ocean, can be better understood from the bottom up. Furthermore, these biological rates can be incorporated into regional and global models to predict effects on local ecosystems, such as the Salish Sea, to aid in prioritization of conservation and restoration efforts.

An example case study of my research

Left: Prochlorococcus modeled daily growth and temperature from in situ flow cytometry data Right: Prochlorococcus lab culture data for 2 different ecotypes
Time series modeled output from the environment follows similar relationship with lab experiments, which implies cells in the ocean also experience thermal stress

About Kathy Qi

Kathy Qi is a second year Biological Oceanography PhD student in the Armbrust Lab at the University of Washington. Her research focuses on tiny phytoplankton that have large ecological roles in ecosystems and disentangling their responses to environmental variables and climate change. She uses flow cytometry data coupled with other datasets of varying resolutions, and she is working to model growth rates in the Salish Sea and the larger North Pacific Ocean. Kathy holds a Bachelor’s in Science in Marine Biology and Computer Science (2020) and a Master’s in Science in Marine Biology (2021) from the University of California San Diego. In her free time, Kathy enjoys skiing, rock climbing, biking, backpacking. She also likes spending time with her two cats and painting to Bob Ross videos.

Questions for Kathy Qi? Email her at:

Michael Sadler – Fall 2022 Scholar

The Role of Viruses in Shaping SAR11, the World’s Dominant Marine Bacteria

Viruses form evolutionary relationships with their hosts and have likely existed as long as life itself. These relationships can be brief and deadly, or long and mutually beneficial. My research investigates the role of viruses in shaping microbial evolution using marine bacteria that are ubiquitous in the ocean. I perform this work by culturing novel marine microbes and by leveraging advances in DNA sequencing technology to explore the prevalence and dynamics of long-term virus-host relationships. By using a natural virus free and virus-host model for infection and microbial physiology studies, I also try to understand how stable these relationships are in a changing climate and what that instability might mean for ocean health.

Bacterial viruses (orange) attached to a membrane vesicle produced by a SAR11 cell (grey)

About Michael Sadler

Mike is currently a PhD student in the University of Washington’s School of Oceanography and was previously a municipal wastewater treatment laboratory technician here in the Puget Sound. He has always been passionate about environmental conservation and resource management, but his work in wastewater gave him a new perspective on effective conservation and the complexities of managing diverse stakeholder interests. This lead Mike to volunteer with the Snohomish County Marine Resource Committee, which significantly contributed to his decision to join the UW School of Oceanography. A group of bacteria known as SAR11 dominate the world’s oceans. Due to their sheer abundance, they are strong contributors to the organic carbon and dissolved oxygen concentrations in marine systems. Mike studies how these bacteria exchange genetic material, the role viruses play in shaping these bacterial populations, and how this group of bacteria might respond to a changing climate.

Questions for Michael Sadler? Email him at

Mary Margaret Stoll – Fall 2022 Scholar

A Century of Change in the California Current: Quantifying the Impact of Anthropogenic Climate Change on Ocean Chemistry

The California Current System (CCS) is an eastern boundary current off the west coast of North America that is characterized by intense upwelling of acidified waters with low-pH and high-pCO2. This uplift of deep water to the surface also provides a pathway for nutrients to fuel one of the most economically vital and biologically productive ecosystems in the world. As a result of these acidified, upwelled waters, the CCS represents the leading edge of ocean acidification impacts while also providing a window into future ocean conditions and processes. However, predicting the extent and pace of acidification in upwelling systems is complicated because anthropogenic contributions to acidification are intertwined with natural sources of acidity and variability. Therefore, a central and contested question is whether acidification in coastal upwelling regions like the CCS will follow the pace of increasing atmospheric CO2, or if dynamic climate effects will act to either accelerate or attenuate acidification.

Here, we apply a boron isotope pH proxy to cold-water orange cup corals collected since the 1890s along the west coast of North America. We establish a historic baseline for acidification in the CCS and the Salish Sea, an associated coastal estuary. Combining these geochemical records with a biogeochemical ocean model, we show that the CCS and Salish Sea have experienced accelerated acidification and increased CO2 accumulation over the industrial era relative to the atmosphere. We use our biogeochemical model to show that this acceleration is projected to continue in the coming century, posing a severe threat to marine ecosystems of economic, cultural, and biological significance.

About Mary Margaret Stoll

Growing up in New England, I attribute my love of the oceans to my family’s annual camping trips to Acadia National Park in Maine. My curiosity for the surrounding world steered me to pursue a dual degree program in Chemistry and Environmental Studies at Amherst College in addition to Engineering at Dartmouth College. Subsequent research experiences studying the effects of climate change on blue mussels, sea ice in Alaska, and green sea turtles in Hawaii solidified my career path as a scientist exploring our impact on the oceans.

I am currently a fourth-year graduate student in the School of Oceanography at the University of Washington. My graduate research aims to identify the primary processes that affect ocean acidification in the Salish Sea and broader California Current using coral paleoclimate records and biogeochemical models. I hope these insights will enhance our understanding of the western US coastal waters and constrain our projections of climate change impacts in the region.

As a scientist, it is my goal to understand the challenges confronting the marine environment and produce actionable science that informs responsible environmental policy and conservation. As the insights from my research will constrain climate change impacts in this region, I hope to open pathways of engagement within the community to collaboratively inform strategies that protect the Salish Sea. I hope to weave this common thread of marine conservation based on science, policy and communities into my future work to protect ocean ecosystems from a holistic perspective.

Questions for Mary Margaret Stoll? Email her at

Twitter: @MM_Stoll

Brian Timmer – Fall 2023 Scholar

About Brian Timmer

Brian (he/him) is a National Geographic Explorer in the second year of his PhD with Dr. Julia Baum at the University of Victoria, which is supported by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), as well as the Kelp Rescue Initiative and the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. He is using historical data that he discovered in the University of Victoria archives to investigate how a half-century of climate change has affected seaweed phenology and kelp forest distribution in the Salish Sea, as well as working with the Kelp Rescue Initiative team to advance kelp forest restoration techniques. Brian spent nearly a decade as a SCUBA instructor, where he watched first-hand as all the kelp forests disappeared from his favourite dive sites in the northern Salish Sea. Soon after he completed a BSc in Biology followed by an MSc in Geography, focused on the remote sensing of kelp forests.

Questions for Brian Timmer? Email him at


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