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Donor Perspectives
Spotlight: Nathan Stewart,
SFOS Ph.D. student, Marine Science and Limnology

by Teresa Thompson, SFOS Development Officer

Nathan Stewart is one of those students everyone knows and loves.  He’s outgoing, friendly and helpful; he’s very passionate about his field and he’s a great listener.  Nathan is a Ph.D. student in Marine Science and Limnology (the study of inland waters).  He has quite a list of accomplishments, with an emphasis on diving.  Nathan is an American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS) certified Scientific Diver, a Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) Ice Diver, and he is also certified by the National Association of Underwater Instructors as a Master Scuba Diver and a Rescue Diver.  Impressive!

Nathan Stewart, Patrick Lane and Terry Efird.

Nathan Stewart, pictured here with dive assistants and fellow SFOS graduate students Patrick Lane and Terry Efird, conducting sea otter foraging research in Kachemak Bay, AK.

Nathan is in the fourth year of his Ph.D. program and has been studying habitat use and prey selection of sea otters in Alaska.  I found his description of what he does to be rather exotic and fascinating.  Nathan is using maps of sea otter foraging locations gathered by VHF tagged sea otters in Kasitsna Bay to select dive sampling sites. Each site is surveyed, habitat features such as seafloor relief and bottom type are quantified and available sea otter prey are counted, identified, and collected for analysis. Nathan is essentially following foraging sea otters underwater in order to understand why they select certain foraging areas over others. The results of his work will help us to better understand how sea otter use the bay. Doesn’t that sound like fun?!  So much fun that Nathan has recruited three students to our program so far!  Thanks, Nathan!  Way to give back.

Nathan spent much of his academic career during 2008 and 2009 at the NOAA/UAF Kasitsna Bay Laboratory, just outside of Homer, Alaska.  He made 121 dives over six weeks during those two research seasons.  He said his research and those dives would not have been possible without the support of scholarships he has received.  In 2008, Nathan received the Frances and Alfred Baker Memorial Scholarship, in 2009, he was awarded the Ken Turner Memorial Scholarship, and in 2010, Nathan won the Dieter Family Marine Science Research Scholarship.  When talking with students who have benefited from the generosity of our SFOS donors, I see first hand just how important donors gifts are to our students.  Let’s see, school, car payment or food – which comes first?!  With rising student costs, every gift no matter the size is crucial for our students.

Nathan Stewart

Stewart preparing for a sampling dive in Tutka Bay on the southern shore of Kachemak Bay Research Reserve, AK.

Nathan’s plans after he graduates are to continue research on resource selection in marine animals through a post-doctoral fellowship in marine biology. Nathan hopes to use his training and experiences at SFOS as a foundation for a career in research and teaching.

Would you consider helping a student like Nathan?  Our University depends upon the support of people like you and me!


For more information on giving to the UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, please contact Teresa Thompson, SFOS Development Officer, at, or 907-474-1867.