Julie Ann Koehlinger headshot photo

Julie Ann Koehlinger

Science/Data Team
Graduate Student
University of Washington

Tell us about your work / research. What kinds of things do you do?

I study science and policy in the School of Marine and Environmental Affairs. My research involves water temperature in the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, focusing on the effects of the North Pacific Marine Heat Wave ("the Blob") in 2013-2015. The coastal environment in Washington is influenced by everything from tides to currents in the Pacific Ocean to outflow from the Strait of Juan de Fuca. We really know very little about those individual coastal influences and how they interact. The potential impacts on people, fisheries, and other organisms are tremendous, however, especially as we continue to see the effects of climate change.

What sparked your initial interest in your career?

I’ve been interested in the natural world since I was very young. I grew up in Ohio and used to joke that I moved to Seattle to be closer to the water. When I found out that the University of Washington had an undergraduate oceanography program, I knew it was for me.

Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?

I stand on the shoulders of many, many people who have helped me (and continue to help me) along my journey. LuAnne Thompson mentored me as an undergraduate oceanography student and first sparked my interest in physical oceanography. She and Charlie Eriksen (who mentored me as I wrote my undergraduate thesis) both supported me and helped me acquire valuable skills as a researcher.

What element of your work / study do you think is the most fascinating?

If it's ocean-related, I probably find it fascinating. The thing I find most fascinating is ocean circulation, or how water moves. We have amazingly diverse and productive ecosystems on the West Coast of the United States because of circulation processes. The fact the some of the water in the Pacific Ocean has been out of contact with the atmosphere for a thousand years or more blows my mind every time I think about it.

What other jobs led you to your current career?

Most of my jobs have been in the field of health care. They have honed my ability to think critically, look at the big picture, be adaptable, and get along with all kinds of people. All very valuable skills in science and public policy as well!

What are your degrees and certifications?

I have two Bachelor’s Degrees, one in Biology from Purdue University and one in Oceanography from the University of Washington. I also have an Associate’s Degree in Nursing and am a Registered Nurse.

What are your hobbies?

Kayaking out in Puget Sound. Hiking, biking, and backpacking with my son. Learning to play the guitar. Cooking for my friends.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to have a career like yours?

Live fearlessly! By that I mean find things that interest you and do them. If your interests change, that’s ok, too. Failure is an option. So is asking for help. Don’t put limits on yourself, and don’t be afraid to try something new. When I started studying oceanography, I never saw myself being interested in physical oceanography and I sure didn’t picture myself writing computer code to analyze data for both my undergraduate and master’s theses. Now I love both of those things! Creativity is also important. Taking time to pursue something artistic helps you see things with a different perspective.

How did you get involved with the Nautilus Exploration Program? How did you get on the ship?

Jenny Waddell from the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary asked me if I wanted to join the expedition. I’ve been out on the University of Washington’s research vessel before and loved it, so I jumped at the chance.


Julie Ann participated in the following Ocean Exploration Trust expeditions: