Samantha Spurlin , MS

Instructor · she/her


Hi, my name is Samantha Spurlin and I am a Non-Tenure Track (NTT) Instructor in the Biology Department at Western Washington University (WWU). I have always loved nature and have dedicated much of my adult life building and investing a skillset in the field of biological sciences. Most recently my focus has been on studying botany and plant physiology, but I have also studied marine mammalogy, environmental education, ecology, natural history, restoration, and conservation.

As a second generation student from a single parent and low-income household, I struggled at first to find my place in higher education while working full-time / part-time. I attended my local Community College and was told I would do best in Business, so that is what I did. Upon my first attempt to transfer to a 4-year college I was denied for missing one class requirement. This ironically led me to take a year of science courses to explore other avenues of study and I found that I absolutely loved the sciences. I then transferred to the University of California - Santa Cruz where they allowed me to change my major and I graduated with a B.A. degree in Environmental Studies & Biology in 2015. 

While completing that degree, I worked for the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum & Botanic Garden as a student worker, as an intern for the Costa Lab studying northern elephant seals, and as an assistant at a native plant nursery, Central Coast Wilds. After graduating, I pursued a graduate degree but unfortunately the professor lost funding and I was unable to be taken on as a student in their lab. I instead continued working at the Arboretum but as their Plant Inventory Specialist, and instead as Assistant Manager at Central Coast Wilds. I greatly enjoyed working with the community of students and volunteers at both jobs and appreciated the opportunities to both teach and learn.

I also continued building my skillset during this time by publishing my undergraduate research on northern elephant seals, completing the California Naturalist Program and assisting with future programs, collaborating with Still Water Sciences on rare native plant research through the UCSC Arboretum, assisting with the UCSC Arboretum California Native Plant Program, and gaining my SCUBA certification to explore more aspects of marine biology. I also took this time for more outdoor adventures across the state of California, US and overseas. 

I began pursuing graduate school once again in 2019 and explored options for a PhD in Environmental Sciences, a MS in Marine Science, or a MS in Biological Sciences. I decided to take the opportunity to pursue a MS degree in Biological Sciences working with Dr. Susan Lambrecht at San Jose State University studying the impacts of drought on the evolution and plasticity of a rare native wildflower. I continued working part-time at the UCSC Arboretum during graduate school until my partner and I moved to Bellingham, WA in September 2022 where I completed my graduate degree.

Through working for the UCSC Arboretum & Botanic Garden, UCSC Costa Lab, and SJSU Lambrecht Lab, I gained a lot of experience in education, outreach, collaboration, field research, interacting and training different age groups, leading field crews, drafting and submitting scientific journal articles, providing public education, presenting research, lab work, and applying for grants. I obtained a wide breadth of teaching experience specifically by assisting with the California Naturalist Program, working at Bay View Elementary as a Science & Environmental Education Intern, and working as a Teaching Associate for SJSU’s Introductory Biology labs and Advanced Biology labs for two years. The California Naturalist Program and SJSU Introductory Biology labs also allowed for creative teaching, collaborative work, and interactive field trips for the participants / students. This also involved management of field practicum logistics and planning with community individuals, organizations or businesses. Due to COVID-19, I became proficient with online or hybrid teaching, providing people with the best possible support, safe face-to-face meetings, or online communications and outreach.

When I am not working I am enjoying time with my partner, Nick, or hanging out with friends, either making dinners or mountain biking, climbing, skiing, swimming, or hiking. Nick and I love to travel so exploring the PNW has provided a wonderful opportunity for that and all our favorite hobbies! Our immediate families are also spread across six different states so when we can we love to travel to see them. A few more fun facts about me is I like to watercolor, I love hanging out with all my friend's dogs, and I get terrible hiccups when I eat spicy food.    

Educational & Professional Experience

San Jose State University – San Jose, California, Feb. 2019 – Jun. 2022

  • M.S. Biological Sciences: Ecology and Evolution – Lambrecht Lab
    Emphasis: Plant Physiology


University of California, Santa Cruz – Santa Cruz, California Sep. 2012 – Jun. 2015

  • B.A. Environmental Studies and Biology
    Emphasis: Ecology, Conservation Science, Marine Mammal Biology & Natural History


Cuesta College – San Luis Obispo, California Aug. 2007 – Jun. 2012

  • A.S. General Studies
    A.A. Legal Studies with an emphasis on Business

Recent Publications

• Spurlin, S., Lambrecht, S. (2022 in progress), Rapid responses to drought in the evolution and plasticity of a California rare annual wildflower, San Francisco Collinsia (Collinsia multicolor).

• Spurlin, S. M., Peterson, S. H., Crocker, D. E. and Costa, D. P. (2019), Nitrogen and carbon stable-isotope ratios change in adult northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) during the breeding and molting fasts. Mar Mam Sci, 35: 707-717. doi:10.1111/mms.12558

• Johnson, J., Weise, E., Genet, R., Anderson, M., Choy, S., Hart, M., … & Wu, S. 2013. Visual Measurements of the Double Star STFA 38 AD. Journal of Double Star Observations, 9(1), 55-57.