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New Lake Superior Office agent to focus on climate and tourism

When Natalie Chin came to Superior, Wisconsin, for her job interview with Sea Grant, the location struck a chord with her. “There’s something about the place that made it feel like it could be home,” she said. “I like being close to the water. Superior and Duluth seem like interesting places – there’s a lot to do and a lot going on.”

Natalie Chin. Image credit: Bonnie Willison, Wisconsin Sea Grant.

Chin, who earned her Ph.D. from Purdue University in agricultural and biological engineering, started August first in her new job as a climate and tourism outreach specialist. The post interested her because she wants to connect decision-makers with useful scientific information.

“I was looking for a position like this one where there was a heavy emphasis on community engagement, but I could still be connected with the science. I wanted to try to help people in the community – business owners and government folks – understand and use science for good policy.”

Her new job will expand on her Ph.D. work, which explored the potential impacts of climate change on tourism in the Great Lakes. Her work focused mainly on Lake Michigan, and Chin is excited to continue it and learn more about Lake Superior, as well.

The four northern Wisconsin counties (Douglas, Bayfield, Ashland and Iron) will be her focus. She plans to assess community needs first, and expects that could take some time. “I’m focused on creating actionable science – science that’s informed by stakeholders and responsive to their needs, and also involves their input. There’s a lot of opportunities to do that,” Chin said.

Chin’s passion for science and the environment started young and was honed during her academic career. She grew up in Virginia and by fifth grade, had joined a “save the manatee” club. “My parents instilled environmental values in me and my two younger sisters,” Chin said. “We all have that proclivity toward caring for the environment.”

She went to the University of Maryland, earning her bachelor’s in biological resource engineering. During an internship in Washington, D.C., for the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, she became aware of the need for people who can work at the intersection of science and policy-making.

“That just really stuck with me,” Chin said. “I saw it as a good place for me to be in terms of the work I do and wanting to make a difference for the environment.” This led her to pursue her master’s in public policy at George Mason University.

Besides the environment, Chin has an interest in data science. “I see potential for using scientific datasets and using scientific analysis and data availability to create decision-support tools related to climate and tourism that would be of interest to people broadly across the Great Lakes, but also in the tourism sector. It seems like an opportunity to engage with tribal communities and new communities, which is something I’m excited about. Seeing how it all evolves over the next year will be fun and I’m sure a bit challenging,” Chin said.

“It feels like a dream job, and I’m excited that I get to stay connected to the Great Lakes,” she said. And Wisconsin Sea Grant is excited to have her!

To contact Chin, call (715) 399-4083 or email her at nchin5@aqua.wisc.edu.