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Meet Abigail Wells, a Molecular Geneticist at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center

June 13, 2022

Abigail Wells supports the Northwest Fisheries Science Center as a molecular geneticist (Lynker contractor). She reflects on her career and what Pride Month means to her.

Headshot of Abi in front of a red and white Cessna 152.

What is your key responsibility?

Generating genetic data on marine species.

Where did you grow up?  

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest.

Scientist in high visibility yellow safety gear and hard-hat holds a plastic sample bag while collecting water from a grey Niskin from a CTD on the deck of a ship.
NOAA Contractor collects environmental DNA (eDNA) water samples from a Niskin aboard the NOAA vessel Bell M. Shimada.

Is there anything about your childhood or where you grew up that influenced your career path?

I grew up spending much of my time outdoors, and a great biology teacher showed me Punnett squares were a fun puzzle. This led me to pursue dual Environmental Science and Cellular Biology degrees. The combination of these interests brought me into my first genetics lab working on Phycodnaviridae, viruses that infect algae. That’s where I learned the skills needed to work on the fish, coral, whale, and microbiome genetic projects at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center.

What is your educational background?

I have a double degree in Environmental Science and Cellular and Molecular Biology from Seattle University.

Are you a member of a community groups or other organizations? 

I’m a member Martha's Moms Rowing Team, the National Gay Pilots Association, and The Ninety-Nines: International Organization of Women Pilots.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I cox masters rowing, fly recreationally, volunteer with GenPride, and generally try and get myself outdoors!

Is there a book, quote, or person that influenced you to be the person that you are today? 

Campbell Biology, the only textbook I still hold onto. So You Want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Oluo, my first TIDE book club at the science center. And, Stone Butch Blues, the first LGBTQ+ book I ever read, and a good reminder to understand our personal biases and our communities' histories as we work toward a diverse future.

Abigail Wells

What does working at NOAA Fisheries mean to you?

Working to support NOAA Fisheries as a contractor for Lynker has been an amazing journey. I have grown tremendously in the lab, been out to remote field sites and away to sea, and I work with an amazing group of people. Together we have achieved great scientific work, leading to more informed resource management choices. We have also driven forward a diversity and equity team model that has taken root at many other science centers. The science center is a diverse group of scientists, administrators, planners, modelers, and connectors. Working here inspires me to keep asking questions, and to serve our science and each other with curiosity, creativity, and dedication.

What advice would you have for someone interested in a career at NOAA Fisheries?

Reach out to folks who do work you are interested in. An email or tweet can go a long way in the science world. People may be busy, but most folks are happy to answer a few questions about their job path, career skills, and what opportunities exist in the field. For example, if you want to talk eDNA, give me a shout!

What does this Pride Month mean to you?

Pride Month is a time to remember our history, to celebrate what has been accomplished, and to reinvigorate our efforts towards equity. I encourage everyone to do a bit of each.