33
winter
2013
arches
Meanwhile, I managed to postpone any
career decision-making by enlisting for three
years in the Army. While in the military, vi-
sions of a satisfying adulthood as a biologist
and family man took form. After discharge, the
value of my UPS undergraduate degree became
apparent both in entering graduate school and
in finding a job. My love of fishing guided me
(against parental advice) toward the UW School
of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences (SAFS). As a
sorority houseboy, I met and promptly married
Nancy Darrow; we started our family within a
year, and to make ends meet I took a job with
the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).
Visions broadened during the 1960s with com-
pletion of a master’s degree in fisheries and a
Ph.D. in genetics at UC Davis.
The experience at Davis gave me a back-
ground in the emerging field of molecular
genetics and, of equal importance, exposed me
to a working model that continues to guide
my professional activities. Clyde Stormont, my
major professor at UCD, established an atmo-
sphere of cooperation and mentoring among
his students and colleagues that extended to my
work at NMFS. I was appointed affiliate profes-
sor at the UW SAFS, and the new molecular
genetics laboratory there served as a productive
training facility leading to graduate degrees for
students such as Puget Sound grad Jim Seeb ’74.
Jim’s professional career returned him to SAFS
as co-leader of a group that is prospering under
a model of cooperation and mentoring, and that
includes myself as a senior collaborator, and
graduate student and 2008 UPS grad Marissa
Jones. Being a catalyst throughout the process
leading to this three-generation involvement
under these dynamics continues to be satisfying,
productive and contagious; the outcome has
vastly surpassed my wildest youthful dreams.
Jim Seeb ’74
I’m the center layer of a three-layer Puget Sound
sandwich: Fred Utter ’54 was my Ph.D. men-
tor at the University of Washington, and now
I’m a faculty mentor for UW graduate student
Marissa Jones (UPS ’08). It was a delight to re-
view Marissa’s application for graduate school; I
smiled when I spied that she also was a Logger.
Certainly our common undergraduate history,
both opportunities and challenges, played a role
in the three of us joining forces to work in eco-
logical genomics in the same laboratory.
Like Fred, I spent time pursuing an array
of adventures prior to solidifying a career in
genetics. One of these was to spend a brief tour
with the Washington Department of Fish and
Wildlife, where I became intrigued with the
ecology and diversity of Pacific salmonids. The
importance of the Endangered Species Act (ESA)
of 1973 was just being realized in the Pacific
Northwest as scientists and managers observed
that habitat degradation was extirpating some
of these populations. Also, genetics was just
emerging as an important discipline in fisheries
science, and I took the opportunity to return to
graduate school to study the genetics and con-
servation of Pacific salmon.
Since those days many genetics studies have
morphed into
genomics
studies. Modern advanc-
es in DNA sequencing allow us to more clearly
examine both adaptively important genes and
the genetic architecture that underlie the health
and robustness of natural populations. Many
salmonids in Washington (and elsewhere) were
listed as threatened or endangered under the
ESA, and genetics studies have played a central
role in understanding the cause of declines and
crafting plans for restoration.
Our lab can take advantage of these genomics
advances to train students while at the same time
extending results of student research to improve
conservation and management by federal and
state agencies.
Fred, who faked retirement in 1988, still
maintains a key leadership role and spends much
time writing, helping students edit manuscripts,
and teaching population genetics. I serve as a
catalyst (a model I learned from Fred) to provide
a platform for graduate students to conduct in-
novative and high-impact research. Students like
Marissa have the fun: Marissa’s current project
is the study of domestication and de-domestica-
tion in Washington’s iconic steelhead trout.
Marissa Jones ’08
Lately I have spent a lot of time thinking about
the concept of emergence. In biology this refers
to the process by which seemingly intelligent de-
cisions and complex behaviors arise from inter-
actions between decentralized, unintelligent, and
undirected entities. This process has been used
to explain the actions of ants in an ant colony,
honeybees, and even our own neurons. I actually
find it comforting to apply this concept to my
own life.
I graduated from UPS with a degree in biol-
ogy, and for years I have been thinking of myself
as a biologist well in advance of my credentials. I
credit this to the time I spent as an undergradu-
ate doing what real scientists do: reading the
literature, writing (pretend) grant proposals, de-
signing (real) research projects, and then rolling
up my sleeves, putting on my boots, and head-
ing outside in the hope of answering a question.
Now at the University of Washington, I have
joined the Seeb Lab, and I’m working on steel-
head genetics. I never planned to study fish, but
it unites my interest in evolution and genetics
with issues that are relevant to Washington state.
It is interesting to me that Jim, Fred, and I all
ended up in the same lab at UW: very different
paths with two important intersections.
This concept of emergence is not to discount
the personal initiative, dedication, and hard work
that it takes to achieve the things we want to do.
But I do detect a theme: Successful and enjoyable
careers arise from (at first) uncoordinated and
undirected expressions of the things we simply
like doing. During Fred’s—dare I say, inauspi-
cious—undergraduate career at what was then
CPS, those afternoons he spent fishing rather
than attending classes were in fact the harbingers
of a career as a fisheries geneticist. And not just
a
fisheries geneticist; Fred is widely acknowledged
as
the father of fisheries genetics.
Fred’s current
and former students and colleagues cite his
genuine and infectious enthusiasm. Carrying on
in what now might be called a tradition, Jim’s
energy, mentorship, and intellect extend to an-
other generation. Was this tradition the product
of hard work and sacrifice? Absolutely. But I sus-
pect it also arose from a passive, self-reinforcing,
self-correcting refinement of how Fred and Jim
like to spend their time.
The way I see it, there are a couple of key
factors that affect the direction a life goes in.
Some of them are direct—they reflect the active
choices we make, the time we put in, the things
we hope to get in return. Others are passive and
uncoordinated. Habits are formed and refined,
preferences are established, things we’d rather
not do are conveniently ignored. I don’t have a
clear idea of what I will do from here or how my
“success” will ultimately be measured, but it is
comforting to think that emergence may be at
work—giving me a nudge here, reinforcing an
interest there, shaping my actions in ways I am
not even aware of.