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April 10, 2015
By Jennifer Kirk, alumni magazine intern
This story is featured in the spring 2015 edition of the Northwest Alumni Magazine. To view the magazine in its entirety online, click here.
When students graduate from Northwest, they have opportunities to go anywhere their degrees lead them. For Kate Poelzl '14, a degree in marine biology led her to Alaska.
"I jumped out on a limb," Poelzl said. "I have a friend who got a job here and loved it. It looked so beautiful. I had to give it a shot and apply."
Poelzl accepted a position with the Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corporation in Cordova, Alaska, and works at the Wally Noerenberg Hatchery on Esther Island, Alaska. The non-profit corporation helps commercial and recreational fisherman while working to sustain salmon populations.
"I've done all sorts of jobs," Poelzl said, citing work that spans from spawning female salmon to packaging unusable eggs for caviar. "I have helped collect millions and millions of salmon eggs."
In between working 13-hour days, Poelzl also enjoys hiking with friends on Esther Island.
"I've never been to a place like this before," Poelzl said. "I am living remotely. Hiking around the island is very exciting. I get to see completely unspoiled nature. There is a short trail from the hatchery to the boardwalk, which is a walkway made of wood for visitors. Walking it gives you some awesome views, including a waterfall."
Poelzl, a native of Olathe, Kan., became interested in marine biology at a young age.
"I remember watching the ‘Flipper' movie from 1996, and I fell in love with dolphins," Poelzl said. "From then on, I knew that I wanted to study ocean life."
During the summer of 2012, Poelzl interned with the St. Louis Zoo and gained valuable experience working alongside the wildlife. She assisted in the zoo's education department and worked in the stingray and shark exhibits.
"One time I helped the keepers give medication to a stingray that lost its tail," Poelzl said.
At Northwest, Poelzl says she developed a stronger work ethic with the support of faculty members, including Kurt Haberyan and Peter Adam in the Department of Natural Sciences.
Poelzl also was involved in the Marine Biology Society and gained field experience in oceanography and marine biology at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in Ocean Springs, Miss.
Eventually, Poelzl hopes to delve into research, particularly of coral.
"I want to work with an organism that benefits countless others, not just one specific species," she said. "Healthy coral reefs support so much life and I want to help restore and protect them."
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