June is Ocean Month, and to celebrate STEM Rising is sharing profiles of Energy Department staff in ocean-related careers. Meet Kailan Mackereth.
My name is Kailan Mackereth and I’m an Earth scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). I’m originally from Minnesota and moved to Oregon in 2010 to be closer to the ocean! I began working as a research assistant at PNNL’s Marine Science Laboratory (MSL) in 2017 after completing my masters degree in fisheries biology at Oregon State University (OSU).
What’s your favorite fact about the ocean?
While at OSU, I worked on a salmon project in the Coos Bay estuary and fell in love with the complexity of these coastal areas. Estuaries receive both upstream and coastal influences, making them incredibly diverse and productive systems, essential habitat for fish, migrating birds, and other critters.
What do you do to celebrate Ocean Month?
There are so many excellent places on the Olympic Peninsula to experience the ocean. I like to take advantage of them by either hiking the beaches looking for treasures, kayaking along the shoreline, or getting out for some SCUBA diving.
What inspired you to work in water power?
In the Pacific Northwest, studying salmon is often intertwined with understanding how water power structures impact the surrounding river ecosystem and biota, so that’s where my interest in water power originally developed from. At MSL, the opportunity came to join a team of biologists to explore the effects of marine renewable energy devices like tidal turbines on both river and marine ecosystems. It’s been exciting to learn about the application of marine renewable energy technology and to contribute to the growth of renewable energy resources.
What do you do in your job?
The projects that I’ve been most involved with at PNNL are focused on assessing the benefits of restored estuarine habitat in the lower Columbia River for juvenile Chinook salmon. I love macroinvertebrates, so I specifically look at what young salmon are eating compared with what critters are available to eat between restored and intact habitats. I’ve also been able to join other projects at PNNL allowing me to explore additional interests related to salmon movement in Oregon reservoirs, eelgrass restoration in the Puget Sound, and the effects of marine renewable devices on marine habitats.
What books or movies about the ocean do you recommend?
As a kiddo growing up in the Midwest, all I wanted to do was SCUBA dive, so I would read and watch whatever I could that had a SCUBA theme, including books like The Silent World or Shadow Divers and shows like Sea Hunt. Since moving to the Pacific Northwest, I’ve found the book Salmon Without Rivers to be an influential resource as to why the work we do studying coastal ecosystems is important.
Do you have any advice for people who want to work in ocean-related careers?
I have had a very non-linear path to get to where I am today that I attribute to how many times I’ve said “yes” to a new experience or opportunity. For sure, some experiences/opportunities have been better than others, but you learn from both and being able to differentiate between the things you like and don’t like is really important towards developing a career that you’re happy with!
For more Ocean Month profiles and STEM resources, visit STEM Rising.