Why did you decide to become an academic?
Honestly, I’ve never been someone who was necessarily set on becoming an academic. I earned my PhD in marine ecology, but was always most interested in and motivated by research questions with implications for marine conservation, natural resource management, and marine policy. My early exposure to academia made me think that connecting my science to policy and management was something I had to do on the side, which made me think I might be happier outside of the academy. It wasn’t until I started collaborating with academics across a broad range of disciplines, and placing marine policy and management at the center of my research, that I found a true home for myself in academia. That is why I have felt like I can thrive in the College of Social Science and Public Policy at FSU.
What do you find most fulfilling about your job?
Mentoring graduate students, 100%. I love working with graduate students and seeing and supporting them grow intellectually and professionally. No matter how busy I am, I always love meeting with students because they have so many creative ideas – they prevent my ideas and research from getting into a rut. When I was a grad student, I found the process of figuring out how to become an independent scientist so intimidating and emotionally challenging, but also so rewarding – I love supporting students on that journey. I’m also lucky to have really incredible students!
What are you working on or teaching right now that has you excited professionally?
I can’t have just one answer to this question. I’m teaching Environmental Science (GEO 1330) this semester and I love exposing students to the complexities of environmental issues and the environmental, social, economic and political dimensions of sustainability. These students make me hopeful for the future of the planet. I am also really passionate about creating a more diverse, equitable and inclusive climate within my department and FSU. And for my research, I am really excited about better understanding the spatial and temporal patterns and drivers of the development of marine aquaculture – the farming of seafood in the oceans – which has the potential to contribute to more sustainable food systems.
Please let us know if there is something that you would like us to share with blog readers (picture, publication, website, favorite book).
My latest publication, published in the journal Reviews in Aquaculture, presents a systematic analysis of state-level marine aquaculture policy within the United States, in particular focusing on policies that have the potential to enable marine aquaculture development and expansion in state waters. Check it out: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/raq.12631
Dr. Sarah Lester is an Associate Professor of Geography at Florida State University. Her research interests include marine conservation and protected areas, natural resource management and policy, and marine spatial planning/ocean zoning. You can learn more about Dr. Lester here.