Carla Stehr

Carla StehrEducation

B.A., The Evergreen State College, 1975
M.S. Fisheries, University of Washington, 1982


Carla Stehr's Biography


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Biographical Note

Carla was part of the first class of students to attend Evergreen when the college opened in 1971. In 1976, she began work as a Fisheries Biologist in a newly established Electron Microscopy laboratory at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service in Seattle. She used light and electron microscopes to examine cells and tissues of aquatic organisms, participating in research projects including studies on fish development, contaminant effects on fish health, and identification of toxic diatoms. Occasionally, images photographed with the scanning electron microscope (SEM) by Carla and other NOAA scientists were especially unique. Carla assembled the most artful micrographs into an educational book that was published in 2012 shortly after she retired from NOAA Fisheries. Carla’s fascination with aquatic organisms also inspired her to explore other art media. She currently uses cloth, paint and stitch to make contemporary art quilts inspired by her experiences with the marine environment and the images she photographed with the SEM.

Publication Types

Scholastic, Academic Research

Sea UnseenLatest Publication Title

Sea Unseen: Scanning electron microscopy images from Puget Sound and beyond.

Publication Excerpt

Even the tiniest creatures in the sea have amazingly intricate structures that cannot be seen by the human eye. Images in the book Sea Unseen illustrate some of the remarkable structures that are present on the surface of fish and other aquatic organisms from Puget Sound waters of Washington State, and Pacific Coast waters from Alaska to California. The images in this book were photographed with a scanning electron microscope at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, WA. The micrographs were photographed as part of research projects conducted to study the tissue and cells of aquatic organisms. Occasionally, the samples examined during research projects have an incredible beauty, or sometimes by sheer luck, the timing is just right to show a unique moment in the life of an organism. This is a collection of some of those timely, artistically unique and information images photographed by NOAA scientists from 1975 to 2010.

How did Evergreen help you in your career?

The programs I took at Evergreen (Political Ecology, Matter and Motion, and Life on Earth), and an internship at the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History, Division of Invertebrates, helped fuel my life long passion for the marine environment. The research projects I did as part of each program gave me skills to hit the ground running when I began work as a scientist. I also encountered my first Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) at Evergreen. It was an early model with a manual vacuum system, and initially no one knew how to use it. So students and faculty read the manual and together we learned how to operate it through trial and error. I don’t remember getting very good micrographs at Evergreen, but my experience with that manual SEM provided a foundation for using and maintaining other SEMs, which I continued to do throughout my career as a Fisheries Biologist.