Three Stanford graduate students share what led them to study the oceans, and why the next generation of ocean scholars must define the field more broadly.
Across Stanford’s campuses, from the shores of Redwood City to the beaches of Pacific Grove, scores of faculty, staff, and students have something to contribute to ocean research and conservation. Some may not even know it.
The university has long been on the forefront of traditional marine science, with departments such as Biology, Earth System Science, and Civil and Environmental Engineering offering avenues to study the sea. The new Oceans Department, launched last fall as part of the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability, unites scholars focused on ocean discovery and sustainability. This fall, it will welcome its first cohort of graduate students.
But the university is also home to many other disciplines crucial to solving ocean challenges, like business, political science, the humanities, design, and computer science. Protecting the ocean requires mobilizing them all.
For World Oceans Day on June 8, the United Nations will highlight how the “tides are changing” in celebration of the people across disciplines, sectors, and geographies that are working to understand and care for the oceans.
We spoke with three Stanford graduate students currently pursuing an ocean-related degree about their path to studying the sea, their hopes for the future, and why a healthy ocean needs various schools of thought – and all walks of life.
Ceyenna Tillman, PhD ’26
“When I think about how the ‘tides are changing,’ … I think about including people and community needs that historically have been excluded from important conversations. My hope is that we can make access to the ocean more equitable.”
Margaret Daly, PhD ’23
“I have a lot of hope for solutions-based approaches to addressing ocean science and thinking about holistic impacts, not just on fisheries management, but also what it means for communities.”
Maurice Goodman, PhD ’24
“Historically, science conceptualized people and nature as distinct, but scientists are finally starting to embrace local ecological knowledge and acknowledge that people … are important parts of healthy ecosystems.”