Staff Associates

Kwiaht is a scientific cooperative that employs local scientists and students part-time on a project basis.  This enables us to draw on a wide variety of technical skills and experience without a large, costly permanent workforce or full-time administrative staff.  The quality of Kwiaht’s work reflects the exceptional people of the San Juan Islands, from the young professionals that have chosen to raise families here, or to conduct research in the islands between advanced degrees, to well-established researchers that have retired to the islands after a successful career in academia or industry.  Featured here are some of the scientific associates currently working at Kwiaht.

Kwiaht offers excellent opportunities for recent university graduates to devote themselves full-time to research and conservation in the unique marine and terrestrial ecosystems of the San Juan Islands.  Two-month paid trial associateships are often available in a variety of fields.  Send your resumé and a sample of your research or teaching (written or video) to

Madrona Murphy is a Reed graduate in botany and political science who worked as a technician at the University of Washington’s Center for Cell Dynamics at Friday Harbor Laboratories before establishing and managing Kwiaht’s genotyping laboratory.  As Kwiaht's botanist she also conducts botanical surveys, designs re-vegetation plans for restoration projects, and grows native food plants and heritage apple varieties in Kwiaht's research garden.  Born and raised on Lopez, Madrona is currently pursuing studies of native food plants, local populations of salmon, heritage fruit trees, black-tailed deer, and island bats.

Molly Harding received her BS in Environmental Toxicology from Western Washington University. Her passion for salmon began during her internship, surveying salmon spawning grounds for Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association. She spent a summer in Alaska working for Northern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association as a Hatchery Technician spawning and rearing salmon. Molly coordinates community science shorebird monitoring on Orcas Island and has also coordinated volunteers for Kwiaht's Indian Island Marine Health Observatory and Friday Harbor Marine Health Observatory.

Christian Oldham graduated from Davidson College with a B.S. in Biology, where he worked in the Southeastern US as a technician conducting research focused on herpetofauna and freshwater ecology. He received his M.S. in Forestry and Natural Resource Sciences from the University of Kentucky, where he continued pursuing his research interests throughout the Bluegrass region of Kentucky. As a recent transplant to Orcas Island, Christian has assisted with several of the ongoing research projects being conducted by Kwiaht and is excited to become further involved in research in the San Juan Islands.
Amber Notaro earned a B.S. in biology from Stockton University before working as a lab technician for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. She eventually decided to go back and earn a master's degree in biology from Adelphi University where she studied the distributin of Saccharina latissima, a species of kelp. Upon finishing her M.S. she found herself teaching environmental education aboard tall ships, including the Schooner Adventuress, which brought her to the Salish Sea. She will now be working with Kwiaht as a genetic technicain studying the population genetics of Pacific sand lance.


Joe Behnke studied seabirds at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology participated in a research apprenticeship at the University of Washington's Friday Harbor Labs where he surveyed sea birds and marine mammals in San Juan Channel. He also worked as a Marbled Murrelet surveyor in the North Cascade Foothills, spying on the inland-nesting seabirds whose documented presence preserves old growth habitat and surrounding forestland.  Joe lives on Lopez Island and teaches science at Lopez School as well as working as a field biologist for Kwiáht.
Nathan Hodges received his B.S. from Portland State University with a research focus on urban hydrology and the ecology of terrestrial mollusks, then completed a Masters in Landscape Architecture at the University of California-Berkeley.  Nathan has extensive practical experience in green building and design, including rainwater harvesting and bioremediation, as well as use of GIS for mapping and modeling landscape processes. He designs shoreline restorations and maps habitat change for Kwiaht, builds bat and bird boxes, and teaches studios on green design in local schools.
Julia Mira has a rusty BA in mathematics from Pomona College and a well-used MA in education from Claremont Graduate School. In recent decades she’s been teaching on an off-the-grid island in a two-room schoolhouse, and painting and drawing on the side. She’s currently working on drawings of pollinators for Kwiaht. She has a strong intuitive understanding of gardening and, as Kwiaht’s research gardener, hopes to bring that skill towards rigor. As a result of training from Russel Barsh, Julia will now pit her ability to make a juvenile salmon vomit against anyone’s in the world.