Apply now to be a part of Western's first Marine and Coastal Science cohort

by John Thompson
Office of University Communications
  • Apply now to be a part of Western's first Marine & Coastal Science cohort!
    Apply now to be a part of Western's first Marine & Coastal Science cohort!
  • Jim Cooper
    Jim Cooper
  • Emily Roland
    Emily Roland
  • Karin Lemkau
    Karin Lemkau
  • Kathryn Sobocinski
    Kathryn Sobocinski

As Western’s brand-new Marine and Coastal Science (MACS) program nears its first-ever major-application deadline on Dec. 31, Western Today thought it would be helpful for the campus community – and especially the second-year students now on campus who might be considering applying to the major and be part of its first official cohort -- to meet the program’s newest faculty.

Marine and Coastal Science is an interdisciplinary program at Western made up of faculty from departments across the university, with classes, lab work and experiential learning happening both on the main campus in Bellingham as well as at Western’s Shannon Point Marine Center in Anacortes. The mission of MACS is to promote the study of marine systems with an emphasis on immersive educational experiences.

The goal of the program is to help students develop as confident, thoughtful, ethical scientists ready to address the growing challenge affecting our marine and coastal environments. Sound interesting? Then read on to meet the newest MACS faculty, and find more information below on resources, information, and how to apply to be in Western’s first MACS cohort.

Meet the new MACS faculty

Jim Cooper – Biology

Jim Cooper is an evolutionary-developmental biologist whose research program integrates studies of fish-feeding biomechanics with investigations of fish skull development. His broader research goal is to understand the factors that direct evolution down particular paths as organismal lineages diversify into different ecological niches.

A native of the Florida Gulf Coast, Cooper received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Biology in 1991 and 2000 from Florida State University. During the intervening years he performed science education outreach at FSU’s Turkey Point Marine Lab, and received his doctorate from the University of Chicago and the Field Museum in 2006. As part of those studies he participated in multiple research and collecting expeditions to the Philippines, Australia, Palau and the Cape Verde Islands. From 2007-2011, Cooper pursued postdoctoral research at Syracuse University, studying the evolution, development and genetics of fishes; he began work as an assistant professor in biology at Washington State University in 2011 and came to Western in 2020. 


“The MACS program provides an opportunity to work across four different departments at Western Washington University in order to prepare students to work in a wide range of fields within marine science,” Cooper said. “MACS is intentionally focusing on our local environment within the Salish Sea. This spectacular coastal region is both world-famous for its beauty and widely recognized as facing a variety of threats.”

“Many students at WWU are strongly motivated to understand and protect not only the Salish Sea, but the world’s oceans in general. The MACS program is perfectly placed to support their efforts, and I’m absolutely thrilled to be a part of it,” he said. 

Karin Lemkau – Chemistry

Since arriving at Western in 2018, Karin Lemkau has been teaching in the organic and analytical chemistry groups as well as teaching water quality and oceanography courses in the Environmental Science department. She accepted a position with MACS in 2020.  Karin received her doctorate in chemical oceanography and environmental chemistry in 2012 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Her graduate research examined how oil weathers in the environment following an oil spill and her research interests continue to revolve around organic anthropogenic contaminants in the environment.

After finishing her doctorate, she completed postdoctoral research at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the University of California, Santa Barbara where she worked on the Deepwater Horizon and Refugio oil spills and applied her skills in the lab, machine shop and scuba diving to design and test sampling equipment for collection of gas and oil samples from natural hydrocarbon seeps.

Lemkau has participated in numerous research cruises focused on studying petroleum in the coastal oceans and has ventured to the ocean depths three times in the submersible Alvin. From 2016 to 2018 she was a professor of marine science at the Maine Maritime Academy where she taught introductory chemistry and marine science courses, took students out to sea and mentored undergraduate research.

Outside of work Karin enjoys doing house projects, crafting of all sorts, and hiking with her husband and dog.

"I wanted to be involved with MACS because of the ability to work in a collaborative and interdisciplinary research environment, teach across disciplines and engage with a student body interested in the environment and excited to work for a better tomorrow,” Lemkau said.

Emily Roland – Geology

Emily Roland is a new assistant professor in Geology at Western and is also a new member of the MACS faculty.  She received her doctorate in marine geophysics in 2011 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Roland’s research is focused on exploring processes that influence natural hazards like earthquakes, tsunamis and landslides using clues in the marine landscape and the structure of the Earth.  Emily uses marine remote sensing techniques to map the seafloor and listen to earthquakes, and seismic methods to image the near-surface and deep crustal structure. Much of her current research is focused on tectonic systems in Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, and the equatorial Pacific. Occasionally she also works on land and loves riding around in the back of pickup trucks full of geophysical gear, skiing on volcanos, and gathering, cooking and eating delicious food with her family.    


Where do we still have the most to learn about our environment? And where do we get to use boats to do it?  Natural resources, habitats, hazards, human impacts, ecosystems: all reasons we should all be marine scientists,” she said.

Kathryn Sobocinski – Environmental Science

Kathryn Sobocinski is an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences (ESCI) and the Marine and Coastal Science (MACS) program at Western. She is an applied marine ecologist focusing on fishes, fish habitats, and impacts of human disturbance and climate change in coastal ecosystems. She uses statistical, ecological, and individual-based models in conjunction with field data to describe patterns and processes in these ecosystems. Sobocinski teaches biostatistics, fisheries science, and classes within the MACS program and supervises graduate students within ESCI.

Currently, Sobocinski is working on several projects within the Salish Sea, including investigations of herring-egg mortality and of the trophic impacts of large jellyfish aggregations, and she is developing statistically-based ecosystem indicators related to salmon species of concern in the Salish Sea. She also has a collaboration to understand patterns of species distribution related to environmental conditions in the Bering Sea. She is the lead scientist/author for the State of the Salish Sea report currently under development and coordinated by Western’s Salish Sea Institute. 

Sobocinski, who received her doctorate in marine science from the College of William & Mary, lives in Bellingham with her husband and two dogs and enjoys all outdoor activities and cooking tasty food.


“MACS presented a great opportunity to do hands-on marine science and teaching in the Salish Sea -- a place that has incredible marine diversity, but that is also urbanizing and in need of actionable science related to these impacts,” she said.

Find out more

Learn more at the MACS Student Resources page, or contact us at or through our MACS Interest Form.

Interested in applying? See the online application here, or go to MACS major applications are due by 11:59 p.m. on Dec.  31,2020. Notification of admissions decisions will be made before February 20, 2021.

Have questions about MACS or your potential decision to apply to the major? Email -- the MACS faculty and staff look forward to seeing your application!


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Tuesday, November 24, 2020 - 10:48am