Program on the Environment welcomes Thao Huynh

This quarter’s newest addition to the teaching team is Thao Huynh, a graduate student at School of Marine and Environmental Affairs who is teaching our popular Sustainability Studio course.

Welcome, Thao!

What brought you to Seattle and our program?

Thao Nguyen

I was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. I moved to Seattle to study marine and environmental affairs at the University of Washington. I am certainly passionate about environmental issues, so Seattle is a great place to be for this kind of stuff!

When I saw an opportunity to teach in the Program on the Environment, a program that specializes in learning, understanding and tackling real-life issues, I knew it would be a valuable experience for me. The students, faculty and staff have been great to work with, and the ideas and creativity that flow through the program motivate me to become a better environmentalist and instructor.

Can you share a bit about your educational background, research interests and expertise?

I received a Bachelor of Arts in biology and a Bachelor of Music in violin performance from the University of North Texas. While there, I developed an interest in marine-related topics, particularly aquaculture and fish physiology. When I moved to Seattle and started my Masters in Marine Affairs, a very human dimension was added to my background and understanding; this shaped my research interests toward food security and sustainable seafood, with aquaculture being a potential solution to these developing issues. Currently, I am collaborating with NOAA to complete my thesis on farming potentials of black cod. 

What’s the focus of this quarter’s Sustainability Studio?

This fall, the ENVIR 480 class is learning about Green Event Planning, and with great timing too. Next summer, Seattle will be hosting the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games, and UW campus will be a main hub for many of the activities. To better ensure that sustainability is incorporated into the planning of this mega-event, the students will be working closely with clients, such as UW Recycling and UW Transportation, to identify and help implement environmental solutions for the USA Games.

Although large organized events can often have large environmental impacts, the Sustainability Studio class will take on this challenge and strive to make the USA Games even greener. 

What environmental issues resonate most deeply with you? 

Environmental justice is very important to me. With climate change on the rise, I believe “climate refugees” may soon become a reality. These are people who are forced to relocate and adapt to new surroundings because their native residence was compromised. You can begin to see these climate refugees from Small Island Developing States, where sea level rise has inundated their homes, and similarly from the PNW indigenous tribes, where a combination of sea level rise as well as environmental degradation has compromised their homes and food sources.

Unfortunately, there is a trend showing that more privileged groups tend to contribute most to climate change while those that contribute least are most affected. I think this dilemma presents a great opportunity to further encourage collaboration across multiple disciplines in environmental studies. 

Share a fun fact.

I love cats! I have a pet cat named Esmeralda, who is currently six years old. I adopted her from an animal shelter at six months in Dallas and drove her all the way up to Seattle. Although she was not too happy during the 10 day drive, we are glad to still be with each other. By the way, I am always open to sharing cat pictures!