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Kayleigh Somers, Ph.D.

Research Fish Biologist
Fisheries Observation Science Program
Observers, Bycatch, Fishery Management
Office: (206) 302-2413

Kayleigh Somers, Ph.D.

Research Fish Biologist


Kayleigh received her Ph.D. in Ecology, focused on thermal pollution in urban streams, in 2013 from Duke University under Drs. Emily Bernhardt and Dean Urban. In her graduate work, she collected data on streams both in the field and from spatial information to understand the effects of urban land use on stream ecosystems. She gained statistical and analytical skills and realized she was passionate about using data to inform environmental management decisions. She has done exactly that since 2013 in her position as a research fishery biologist with the Fisheries Observation Science Program at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center. Kayleigh is also passionate about supporting diversity, inclusion, and equity in the federal government.

Current Research

Kayleigh translates gigantic datasets describing fishery effort, landings, and discards from disparate sources into meaningful reports and analyses for decision makers and stakeholders. Over the past two years, her knowledge of fisheries policy has deepened as she helps enact management decisions through her position on the Groundfish Management Team of the Pacific Fishery Management Council. These meetings often involve in intense discussions on the conflicting needs of states, fisheries, non-governmental organizations, and the general public. Datasets and analyses have allowed her to build consensus among these groups and develop management tools to ensure west coast fisheries remain sustainable. Connecting science and industry has been particularly inspiring, from helping industry members apply for and improve exempted fishing permits to learning how NOAA Fisheries and industry collaborate on cooperative research grants to develop creative bycatch mitigation techniques and test the feasibility of new fisheries.

Kayleigh engages in and, when needed, creates opportunities to grow her leadership skills while working as a non-supervisor. In addition to formal training, she has worked with her supervisor to identify stretch assignments that both help her gain new skills and support the needs of her program and of the NWFSC. She led the development of FOS's five-year science vision plan to better understand where the program is now and to ensure that our goals reflect the diversity of our staff and their research. She has also co-mentored two undergraduates and trained federal and contractor staff.

Kayleigh volunteered to lead the scoping of a diversity and inclusion initiative after NWFSC leadership expressed interest but lacked resources. After soliciting input from NWFSC staff at all levels, she wrote the charter that founded the NWFSC's Team for Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity. She was unanimously elected Chair for 2020 and has begun the work of organizing the team while supporting others to lead specific initiatives that address the NWFSC's goals.

Curriculum vitae (PDF, 2 pages)