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.  She also conducts botanical surveys and designs re-vegetation plans for restoration projects.  A native Lopezian, Madrona is currently pursuing studies of native food plants, local populations of salmon, coastal cutthroat trout, black-tailed deer, and island bats.

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. 

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 works as a field biologist for Kwiáht.
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.
Jill Bliss received her design training in systems, research, theory, and consumer physcology from Parson’s School of Design (BFA) and California College of the Arts (MFA). Jill has gradually migrated north to the Salish Sea along a path that includes a Northern California family farm, big city academic training, teaching art and design in Oregon, coastal and mountain sojourns, permaculture studies and island off-grid living. Blending academic training and direct observation, Jill’s artwork explores the relationships between all living things. Her notecards & prints can be found at the Farmers Market and Roche Harbor Village on San Juan island during the summer. She is also a naturalist/educator for San Juan Excursions. In winter months, Jill immerses herself in her work on the more remote islands of the Salish Sea. As Kwiaht staff artist, she collaboratively illustrates current research projects.
Cheri Lanham has always had a strong interest in the natural sciences.  She has participated in many science experiments exploring bioluminescence and Circadian rhythm, competed in the National Marine Science Bowl, and volunteered with various organizations such as the Whale Museum.  Throughout her high school career, she has maintained a perfect GPA while partaking in advanced courses such as AP Biology.  She dedicates her free time to ballet, music, and coding.