Affecting change in the environment

Kristin Williamson '02


Kristin Williamson ’02

Salmon Habitat Restoration Biologist, South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group
Tacoma, Washington

When I first arrived at the university I knew I enjoyed interacting with and learning about the natural world, but I had a lot to learn about the complex and overlapping issues encountered in marine-habitat restoration. My classes and internships allowed me to focus on topics that interested me but still gain an understanding of broader matters in the context of a liberal arts education.

In the fall semester of my junior year, I enrolled in a Puget Sound affiliate study abroad program through the School for Field Studies in the Turks and Caicos Islands. This program emphasized the protection of threatened or endangered species and the efforts required to achieve conservation ecologically, socially, and economically—a broad and thorough approach. I came back from the Caribbean, ready to finish my education and return to tropical waters. But then, through subsequent coursework and direction from professors toward work-study opportunities, I came to realize that the issues I had studied in the Turks and Caicos were present in my own backyard.

After graduation I spent several years with the Puyallup tribe, assessing the health of Puyallup River salmon populations. From there I transitioned to salmon habitat restoration, spending less time with fish and more time with engineers and contractors, trying to improve the physical features of the rivers, streams, and shorelines that sustain them. My work is very hands on; I see a restoration project move from an idea in principle, to a plan on paper, to a project on the ground. The most rewarding part about that process is sharing the results with the larger community and being able to show people how a project can affect change on our environment and benefit salmon populations in our region. 

Photo courtesy of Kristin Williamson ’02