June is Ocean Month, and to celebrate STEM Rising is sharing profiles of Energy Department staff in ocean-related careers. Meet Mikaela Freeman.

My name is Mikaela Freeman and I joined Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s Coastal Science Division in 2016 after receiving my Master’s of marine affairs degree from the University of Washington. I am a marine science and policy analyst focusing on environmental impacts of marine renewable energy and outreach and engagement. In my time at PNNL, I have supported projects related to marine renewable energy and wind energy environmental effects, co-locating aquaculture and wave energy as part of the blue economy, water resource management in the Puget Sound, review and synthesis of US marine energy regulations, and permitting for growing macroalgae. Previously, my master’s work focused on marine spatial planning and the human dimensions of the marine environment.

Mikaela Freeman is in the Coastal Science team at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

What’s your favorite fact about the ocean?

Less than 5 percent of the planet’s oceans have been explored and it is estimated that the majority of the species that exist in the ocean have not yet been discovered. This is wild that there is so much of the ocean we have yet to explore and so much more to learn.

What do you do to celebrate Ocean Month?

One of the biggest ways I’m celebrating Ocean Month this year is with my team’s release of the 2020 State of the Science Report through our OES-Environmental Initiative. The report is the most comprehensive international analysis to date on environmental effects of marine renewable energy.

What inspired you to work in water power?

I have always been drawn to the ocean. Growing up, both living in a coastal city and a family vacation where I was able to experience the ocean through scuba diving solidified that I was not only passionate about the ocean and the life it sustains but also interested in pursuing a career that focused on the marine environment. I also knew I wanted to have a career where I felt like I was contributing to the betterment of our world. Working in marine renewable energy allows me to combine these areas and be a part of finding solutions to provide clean, renewable energy for our world.

What do you do in your job?

A lot of my work is on the OES-Environmental International Initiative that examines environmental effects of marine renewable energy (mostly wave and tidal energy). Within OES-Environmental, I work with regulators to aid permitting processes, coordinate and collaborate with our 15 partner nations, assess the interactions between marine renewable energy and the marine environment, and evaluate social and economic impacts. I also work on a variety of other projects related to marine energy, such as an assessment of the potential to combine offshore aquaculture and wave energy and a review and synthesis of US marine energy regulations.

What books or movies about the ocean do you recommend?

There are so many great documentaries about the ocean. A few I enjoy are Chasing Corals about the decline of coral reefs, Mission Blue about Dr. Sylvia Earle and her work to study and protect the ocean, and Sushi: The Global Catch about sushi, sustainability, and the fishing industry.  

Do you have any advice for people who want to work in ocean-related careers?

Follow your passion and identify what you are specifically interested in studying and pursuing as a career. There are so many options for ocean-related careers from research scientists to engineers to policy experts. Once you know what area you want to explore, reach out to people working in that field and make connections – in my experience people are always willing to talk about their career path and provide advice.

Read more Ocean Month profiles and get information about STEM Rising at www.energy.gov/STEM