Jonathan MacKay recently joined the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s aquaculture program as a California Sea Grant State fellow. He received his master’s degree in environmental science from California State University, Los Angeles in 2014. For his thesis work he modeled an oil spill in Santa Monica Bay, examining oversights in policy and analyzing the ecological effects on protected species and areas. Jonathan is married with no pets, house plants, or plans to have kids. He and his wife Diana, corporate counsel for a biotechnology company, recently relocated from Santa Monica to Midtown, Sacramento. They enjoy traveling, so “the fewer commitments outside of work and marriage the better.”
1) Where did you grow up and how did your childhood environment and your family shape you?
I lived on several islands around the world throughout my childhood, starting life on an organic farm on Prince Edward Island, a Canadian province located on the east coast in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. For the remainder of my upbringing, I shuttled between our farm in Canada and the tropics, living in Singapore, the Philippines, and Fiji. I learned to swim, snorkel, and scuba dive in their warm ocean waters. Growing up as a global nomad provided me with a worldly outlook and an appreciation for the underwater world.
2) What sparked your interest in environmental science?
My time studying at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji and working as a guide in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park gave me first-hand exposure to some of the marine environmental issues that my generation will be left to resolve. These experiences led me to further my education in environmental science with a master’s degree from California State University Los Angeles.
3) Is there any particular area of environmental science you focused on in college or that you would like to focus on and why?
The focus of my graduate work was on the marine environment and, more specifically, the effects of oil spills. The title of my thesis was Oil Spill Model Trajectory Analysis of a Catastrophic Scenario in Santa Monica Bay. I examined policy and environmental impacts for protected areas and species and examined many other environmental issues. I would like to continue similar work with a focus on anthropogenic causes of marine environmental effects, in other words, how humans are impacting our oceans.
4) What are your hobbies and interests outside of work and school?
My wife and I like to stay active. We rock climb and cycle together, and I have joined a local soccer team. My main hobby is photography and I continue to explore different subjects. Currently, I am documenting waterfowl at the Yolo Bypass Wilderness area.
5) Describe what you will be doing with CDFW’s aquaculture program and how you see the Sea Grant Fellowship helping you to achieve your professional goals?
At CDFW’s aquaculture division I have been focused on a broad range of tasks from performing CEQA reviews to conducting outreach through administrating and contributing to our website. For my Sea Grant fellowship, the main focus is on policy, and already my work here has provided invaluable experiences. This fellowship has given me the opportunity to work with the aquaculture industry and agency leaders who are committed to environmentally sustainable practices in California.