Casting a wide net and making the most of the catch


Usha Varanasi (2021). Casting a wide net and making the most of the catch. ICES Journal of Marine Science.


I describe lessons learned and the people and principles that influenced six decades of professional endeavours from graduate schools to ascending, often unexpectedly, the science and management ladder in National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) fisheries, which manages US living marine resources. For this woman chemist from India, the twists of fate and love of adventure presented amazing opportunities as well as challenges. My research on cetacean biosonar as well as on the impact of fossil fuel pollution on seafood safety and the health of marine organisms taught me the value of multidisciplinary approaches and unusual alliances. Transitioning into management, and eventually as the director of Northwest Fisheries Science Center, I learned the value of transparency and empathy while communicating our results to impacted communities, and the resolve to support the science regardless of the consequences. My advice to young professionals is that the journey should be as fulfilling as reaching the goalpost. At the twilight of my own journey, I networked with NOAA Fisheries and India’s marine science community to encourage scientist exchanges and training. My participation in University of Washington’s nature and human health programme confirms my conviction that conserving healthy ecosystems is a powerful and practical approach for people and our planet.