Assistant Professor of Environmental Science
‘Good scientists must be exceptional advocates for their research findings’
When biologist Meagan Krupa thinks about sustainability of the natural world, her perspective takes in wide-ranging factors from environmental justice to natural resource economics, from fish passage to stream ecology, and much more. She believes that complex interactions of social-ecological systems are best understood by interdisciplinary study.
As a Fulbright scholar in 2006, Meagan traveled to coastal towns of Chile to apply this multidiscipline approach to an analysis of socio-economic and ecological effects of salmon farms. As an APU faculty member in the Environmental Science Department, Meagan draws on her National Science Foundation-funded research that combines her passion for biology, political science and economics.
Looking back on your undergraduate career, what do you wish you’d known then about succeeding in your field?
I have so many interests and fields in my background, I’m having a hard time answering!
But I do know what it takes to succeed in the Environmental Science Department at APU: A willingness to gain valuable field experience from the very start of a student’s academic career.
A feature that sets our program apart is that the ES faculty maintain strong connections with local, state and federal agencies and organizations.
ES students directly benefit from these partnerships through research projects, summer employment and full-time jobs. Our undergraduate and graduate students alike may enhance their APU degree by graduating with skills desired by employers.
Your students know that sustainability issues involving water and fish are top interests of yours.
That started when I was a college sophomore, searching for fin whales in the Gulf of California. It was a semester-long marine conservation field course and my first venture beyond biology.
When we eventually concluded that fin whales no longer migrate through the Gulf, students joined a water sampling project involving Baja fishing villages. We worked with a nonprofit to put together a bilingual newsletter addressing local water quality and fishing issues.
I began exploring the shrimp industry’s fishing cooperatives and investigated the interaction between social, economic and environmental factors surrounding sea turtle population declines. I quickly realized that social and economic issues were at the heart of conservation, and that policy was the driving force behind success or failure.
When ES Department students ask for your help to plan senior projects, what are things you encourage?
Alaska Pacific University permits a lot of flexibility in these capstone projects. I really enjoy that. Strong projects are ones that challenge students to make connections to the world around them – while enhancing their resumes.
Helping our ES students plan an interesting junior practicum or senior project – and then seeing students achieve their goals – has been a great experience for me. Many APU students discover their career paths through these projects. Students often make important connections that can lead to job offerings.
Why is it important to you that ES Department graduates are problem solvers as well as good scientists?
It’s no longer enough to be a good scientist, although that will always be essential to problem solving. Good scientists need to be exceptional advocates for their research findings. That means taking part in decision making that stems from our political process.
If scientists don’t communicate their results beyond their discipline, then I fear that we are just accurately recording the demise that surrounds us.
Meagan Krupa teaches policy and ecohydrology courses within the Environmental Science Department.