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Six Women Working in Sustainability Share their Inspiration and Advice

March 16, 2023


The women of the Port’s Environmental and Sustainability team come from all different backgrounds and have mastered a range of subjects, but they share a few things in common —a passion for their work, a love for our planet, and seeing more women and minorities in science fields. Whether on our shorelines or the airfield, they are planning and executing ideas to make our seaport and airport better for the planet and our local communities. To celebrate Women’s History Month, we’re  taking the chance to learn from them and about them. Consider us inspired. If you are too, check out the open green jobs at the Port. 

1. Jana Braaten, Senior Environmental Program Manager, Stormwater and Wastewater

I always live by the motto that I want to leave things better than I found them. This applies directly to my work and to the people around me. I look for opportunities to help young engineers build their confidence and maintain their enthusiasm for science. Enjoy the ebbs and flows of your interests but ultimately just stay curious!” – Jana Braaten

DecorativeJana’s work focuses on managing compliance of the stormwater and wastewater permits for SEA Airport. On a typical day, you will find her reviewing capital design drawings, analyzing stormwater sampling data, or educating tenants and contractors on stormwater pollution prevention. As a young girl growing up in Arkansas, Jana spent a lot of free time at the nearby creek; building rock dams, investigating critters, or making mud pies (not for consumption). She hasn’t strayed too far from this in her career and always takes the opportunity to walk the creeks for an inspection and a dose of fresh air.

Who Inspires Jana?

Growing up, Sally Ride was a household name, having been the first American female astronaut. I had an early fascination with space and science in general, so Sally was the obvious choice for a role model. Later in life, as I pursued my engineering degree, often as one of just a few females in my classes, I would remember Sally’s fearlessness when she applied for NASA even though she had no visual representation of herself there. The same year I graduated, Sally passed away and in her obituary it was publicly revealed that Tam O’Shaughnessy was her partner of 27 years … making her the first gay astronaut as well. A legend!

2. Ashley Townes, Washington Sea Grant Keystone Fellow

For women and young people venturing into fisheries science, seek mentors within the field, while also engaging with like-minded individuals who share your passion and have achieved success in the industry.” - Ashley Townes

DecorativeAshley is a passion-driven fish ecologist and researcher. She is completing her doctorate in fisheries ecology at the University of Washington School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences (SAFS). Her research focuses on sockeye salmon breeding behavior in Bristol Bay, Alaska, and the habitat associations of juvenile chinook in Lake Washington. As the 2022–2023 Washington Sea Grant Keystone Fellow, Ashley works with the Port’s  maritime habitat team on advancing the development and implementation of innovative habitat restoration projects including kelp research, fish monitoring using ROVs and 360-cameras, and blue carbon monitoring. Additionally, she will investigate ways to strengthen the linkage between habitat restoration, stewardship, community engagement, and equity. 

Who inspires Ashley?

“Behold, a quartet of remarkable women, who have deeply inspired me with their achievements, leadership and resilience. There is Roger Arliner Young (1899-1964), who was the first African American woman marine scientist to earn a Ph.D. in zoology that shattered glass ceilings in her field; Mae Carol Jemison,  who defied gravity as the first black woman to travel into space; I had the pleasure of meeting Asha de Vos, the first Sri Lankan to obtain a doctorate in marine mammal research and launched the first long-term study on blue whales within the northern Indian Ocean; and finally, there is my incredible mother, Lorraine Howard, who blazed trails as one of the first African American women to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics and an MBA from the prestigious University of Pennsylvania. What unites these women is their unwavering determination, tenacity, relentless pursuit of excellence, and their firm belief that nothing is beyond reach. Moreover, they have leveraged their positions to serve as role models, mentors, and advocates for young Black women and people of color in the sciences. These four women have left an indelible mark on history and will continue to inspire generations to come.”

3. Sandra Kilroy, Senior Director, Environment and Sustainability

If you know exactly what you want to do then perfect –pursue it fully and don’t look back.  If you are not sure, then don’t be afraid to experiment and try different things. Careers don’t need to be linear and there is value in having breadth of experiences. Be willing to explore and take advantage of opportunities even if it’s not exactly what you may have envisioned.  You never know what doors will open and what you find you are really good at.” – Sandra Kilroy


Sandra is the influential leader of the Port of Seattle’s award-winning programs in all things environmental which includes climate action, habitat restoration, stormwater management, and remediation. She’s mastered the art of balancing science and policy to achieve environmental benefits. She’s integrating, analyzing, and synthesizing information and really thinking strategically and holistically while supporting the talented and passionate environmental program teams to do their best.

Who inspires Sandra?

“Jane Goodall. There are so many women to celebrate, but Jane Goodall, the world’s foremost expert on Chimpanzees,  had an early impression on me. She is dedicated, passionate, independent, and tough. She pushed boundaries throughout her life, especially early in her career.  And she didn’t stop with just the science.  She is a pre-eminent scientist and a conservationist and activist.  She is an amazing woman.”

4. Megan King, Senior Environmental Program Manager

 “If you are a person that likes to solve puzzles or think of creative new ways to do things, this is a great field to consider. Environmental engineering is a challenging, complex field with a real visible and identifiable outcome. Don’t be turned off by all the math and science -- those are the foundation -- the real job is the creativity and passion for solving problems and making things better. There are no math equations for that.” - Megan King

DecorativeMegan manages the contaminated soil and groundwater program for the Aviation Environmental Division. Her role ensures historical contamination associated with airport operations is managed and addressed in compliance with State and Federal Regulations.

Who inspires Megan?

A dear friend of mine that I have known since middle school is an OB/GYN on the East Coast. She provides family planning services for low-income communities and provides women’s health care to inmates at a local women’s prison in addition to training students and residents at the local hospital as part of her ‘normal job’. She inspires me because every day, she is conducting highly scientific, highly skilled procedures while also providing emotional support, compassion, and love to people during very emotional and challenging times.

5. Jenn Stebbings, Environmental Program Manager, Habitat Initiatives

"Make them tell you no. Don’t be afraid to apply for a job, even if you feel a little underqualified. If you do not apply for the job, you will not get the job 100% of the time.” - Jenn Stebbings

DecorativeJenn designs, constructs, monitors, and maintains different habitats in the Green/Duwamish watershed and nearshore areas of Elliott Bay, the Ship Canal, and Shilshole Bay Marina. These habitats include freshwater, estuarine, and marine ecosystems, with a focus on Chinook salmon recovery.

Who inspires Jenn?

“More recently, Savannah Smith and Ebony Welborn of Sea Potential really inspire me. They have created an opportunity for BIPOC youth to discover and pursue careers in the marine science field while highlighting the importance of representation. They are the future of environmental science, and they are just getting started.”

6. Kathy Bahnick, Senior Environmental Program Manager

Do not undercut yourself. I have seen women not try for something because they don’t have all the qualifications and so they took themselves out of the running before it even began.  The biggest thing is to show you have a good base of knowledge and  the willingness and ability to learn the rest.” - Kathy Bahnick

In her free time, Kathy volunteers to protect

local wildlife, like this adorable baby seal

from a recent project!




Kathy manages the maritime environmental remediation team which investigates and cleans up legacy contaminated sites.  The work includes identifying the contamination, finding ways to cleanup up the sites, contracting for the cleanup, and monitoring the sites to make sure the cleanup is performing as hoped.  This involves a lot of science, engineering, project management, and working with regulators and other parties that contributed to the contamination.  

Who inspires Kathy?

“The two women I admire are both in the same family. Both had a vision of what they wanted to accomplish and they achieved it. A good college friend of mine, Gillian Bowser, is a Ph.D. biologist. Gillian has used her platform in the sciences to bring more awareness of the need for diversity and equity. One big part of her work has been obtaining National Science Foundation grants to bring underserved communities out into the field to perform science at the national parks. The other person I admire is her mother Pearl Bowser who, with no model to follow, saw the need to preserve and study silent films produced by black filmmakers. Her collection is now in the National Museum of African American History and Culture. I also want to give a shout out to my father who was always a great ally and who expected the same from me as he did from my brother.”

We want to give a special shoutout to all the women on the environment team who also inspire us:

Jessica Brown

Danielle Butsick

Allie Bull

Nicole Chen

Ryann Child

Sarah Cox

Detta Dayton

Jane Dewell

Persia Duckworth

Joanna Florer

Mallory Hauser

Kathleen Hurley

Charlene Jones

Karen Kalanick

Julie Kinzie

Brenda Marshall

Stephanie Meyn

Sarah Ogier

Alex Porteshawver

Leslie Stanton

Madelyn Saez

Laura Wolfe


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