Soy bióloga. I am a biologist. That is what I would always say when introducing myself while working in the Peace Corps in Peru. I had left my undergraduate university with a degree in marine biology and Spanish and was going to use that knowledge to benefit developing communities. It didn’t take me long to realize, however, that, while I could identify any fish given a dichotomous key, I lacked the theory and practice to turn scientific knowledge in to personal and community action. I returned to school for my master’s degree in the Marine Resource Management program at Oregon State University to learn about one of the major species in all ecosystems – humans.
Soy sociólogo. I am a sociologist. Since embarking on my graduate degree, I have felt more like a sociologist than a biologist. My coursework has kept me grounded in the natural sciences with introductions to physical oceanography, geology, and biogeochemistry and up to date on my biology in courses like wetland ecology and restoration. But it has also given me insight in to human communities, behavior, and communication with natural resources and community values, marine economics, environmental sociology, and communication and the practice of science courses. I have been learning methods to study human behavior and values in my qualitative research methods course and developing my thesis project protocol.
This fall, I advanced my plan to study how university natural scientists collaborate with non-academics in resource management, user, and policymaker positions. I will be using Willamette Water 2100 (WW2100), a five-year long freshwater modeling effort funded by the National Science Foundation, as a case study for the process of how university researchers work with community “stakeholders” on a long-term and complex investigation of future water availability in the Willamette River Basin (http://water.oregonstate.edu/ww2100/). I realized that I was most interested in the experiences and perspectives of the participants in this process and that if I wanted to find out what people thought about the process of working together, I would have to ask them. And that is where this term’s challenge began.
I am a biologist. When I want to study something, I study it. Plants do not require that you ask their permission to study them. Nor do animals, really. Sure, you may have to get past the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee of your academic institution if you want to study chordates (animals with a notochord), but really, there isn’t much to it.
I am a sociologist. This term, I learned what is required to study people. Each university is home to an Institutional Review Board (IRB) whichreviews your proposed human research. They must grant approval before you can proceed with your study. This term I spent weeks preparing my application for IRB approval – meticulously outlining the protocol details of my study, outlining the speech I would give to recruit my would-be subjects, detailing the way in which I would obtain and document their informed consent, drafting a survey they will take months from now, scripting the themes I will use to guide future interviews, and constantly ensuring that the data – their words – will be stored in a safe space for the correct amount of time. Based on the scope of my study, it was accepted for express review, one of the IRB’s reviewing categories, and within fifteen minutes of this meeting, my study was approved. With IRB’s blessing, I can now proceed to ask the WW2100 participants (my subjects) about their experiences and I will begin doing so as soon as the new year begins.
This term, more than others, I am so glad to be a student of the Marine Resource Management program and an Oregon Sea Grant Scholar. Both institutions understand the importance and value of the natural sciences and the social sciences. Through opening doors to conferences such as the State of the Coast (in Florence, OR, where I attended and presented in October), and hosting communication workshops (such as the one I attended in November), these institutions are teaching me how to combine the biology and the sociology. Soon I will be able to simply and confidently say: I am a scientist. Soy científica.
See the exciting message below from Yumei Wang, Geotechnical Engineer at the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI):
Dear SRGP colleagues,
I am excited to inform you that the just-released 2015-2017 Governor’s recommended budget includes $100 million for earthquake safety of public schools and emergency response facilities (page 408 of http://www.oregon.gov/gov/priorities/Pages/budget.aspx). If approved by the next Legislature, this would mark a significant increase over the 2013-2015 budget of $30 million for schools and emergency response facilities.
Many more thousands of lives will be protected. Funds would be distributed to through the state’s seismic rehabilitation grant program (SRGP), which was initiated by Oregon Emergency Management and now administered by the Oregon Business Development Department. This grant program uses DOGAMI’s 2007 seismic needs database, available at http://www.oregongeology.org/sub/projects/rvs/default.htm.
To date, this grant program has funded 22 K-12 schools, which has helped to protect over 8,600 school children, 3 higher ed institutions and 18 emergency response facilities in our communities. It is slated to fund additional ~$30 million in grants on February 15, 2015. This critically important progress would not not have happened without many key players, especially Senate President Peter Courtney, OSSPAC, staff from OEM, OBDD and DOGAMI, Ted Wolf, SRGP committee members, as well as other partners including many of you.
In our future, we still have a whole lot of work ahead to meet the state deadlines of seismically safe schools and emergency response facilities. My hope is to make our school children safer and community resilience a reality.
The deadline for the SRGP has closed, and we received a ton of applications. On December 11 and 12, we will be holding SRGP Committee meetings to discuss which projects will be funded. We will discuss schools on the 11th and emergency services buildings on the 12th. For more information about the SRGP, check out the new IFA website: http://www.orinfrastructure.org/Infrastructure-Programs/Seismic-Rehab/
Climate change-driven shifts in ocean conditions and growing coastal populations are two of the many factors raising uncertainty in coastal and marine resource management. Fortunately, there is a growing understanding of the opportunity to improve policies and decisions on these issues by drawing on and infusing scientific data into policy and management decisions in order to promote healthy coastal economies and ecosystems. My graduate degree research focused on this intersection between science and policy and how to imbue scientific data into the policy process. In my past few months with the Governor’s Natural Resources Office I have seen two regionally focused efforts in the eastern Pacific Ocean that speak directly to this interface.
The first of these is the establishment of a West Coast Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia Science Panel (OAH Panel). The OAH Panel, consisting of 20 esteemed scientists representing California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia, was tasked with advancing decision makers’ understanding of drivers and impacts of ocean acidification and hypoxia. Ocean acidification poses a particular threat to the west coastal waters of the United States and Canada, where naturally upwelling waters bring deep water with a low pH to the surface, where it mixes with low pH waters caused by atmospheric deposition of carbon dioxide. Successive upwelling events also increase the occurrence of seasonally hypoxic (low oxygen) areas of the ocean. Acknowledging the specific threat that ocean acidification and hypoxia bring to the west coast, the OAH Panel is intended to identify the research and monitoring needed to answer practical questions faced by policy makers and managers about ocean acidification and hypoxia. While biological impacts have been seen from ocean acidification and hypoxia, there are still many questions to answer for the purpose of decision making. On my very first day on the job, I was fortunate to attend a meeting between Oregon natural resource agency managers and Oregon-based OAH Panel scientists convened to set an agenda for ways to advance science-informed decision making in Oregon waters. They agreed to work collaboratively to develop accurate and accessible outreach materials to inform policy makers and the public, establish ongoing information sharing and coordination forums on OAH, and identify ways to ensure the science products being developed by the OAH Panel are used by decision makers.
The second effort endeavoring to infuse scientific data into policy and management practices in the eastern Pacific Ocean is the West Coast Ocean Data Portal (WCODP). The WCODP is a project of the West Coast Governors Alliance on Ocean Health that provides access to ocean and coastal data to inform regional resource management, policy development, and ocean planning. I was able to help at the WCODP’s annual Network meeting in early November to unveil a new feature of the Portal that creates a geographic visual of data, specifically data relating to marine debris. This new feature, the Data Viewer, provides coastal decision makers with a tool to track marine debris and help prioritize clean ups and advocate for policies to reduce the impact of trash on our beaches. As the WCODP charts its strategic plan moving forward, it seeks to continue to be a rich data resource and tool to visualize and map that information, so that ocean and coastal managers can make sound decisions to improve ocean health.
Both of these efforts have established a significant opportunity to sustain and continue to build cross-sector cooperation between decision making and scientific sectors in coastal Oregon. The state is thus poised to more efficiently and effectively protect and preserve the ocean’s critical natural resources. Both the scientific community and decision making community are working to improve ocean health. Combining forces is helping scientists ask the questions managers need to answer to understand how ecosystem services that people value will be affected, and what steps people might take to try to mitigate and adapt to those changes in coastal Oregon now and in the future.
Hello Oregon Sea Grant Community– I’m Keats Conley, a 2014-2015 Robert E. Malouf Marine Studies Scholar. The blog below shares some recent reflections on my work with appendicularians.
April 2014: Here, in a small tourist town on the south coast of France, I am hunched over a dissecting microscope, wire-tipped dissecting probe in hand. The wire is finer than dental floss. I am using it to break my ancestors’ spines.
I use the term “spine” loosely.
Appendicularians are a “Urochordate”, one of the three subphyla of the phylum Chordata, along with Vertebrata and Cephalochordata. Cephalochordata is a rather obscure group of small, soft, fish-like creatures called lancelets. Vertebrata includes true fish, hagfish, humans and Labradoodles alike. Urochordates are therefore a sister group to us vertebrates. We are much more closely related to appendicularians than we are to, say, the bivalve oysters we so enjoy shucking and shooting. A great deal of research has compared mammalian and Urochordata genomes to provide information on, among other things, the evolutionary origin of the vertebrate immune system, the eye lens, and the central nervous system.
Appendicularians look like a millimeter-sized translucent tadpole. Under the microscope, they appear equal parts alien and human embryo. They have a football-shaped head (the “trunk”) and a tail, which writhes wildly. I break their spines so that they will hold still long enough for me to take a photograph, which I can later use to measure their size.
The term “appendicularian” refers to the appendices of the animal, their houses. As described in a scientific paper: “The house is secreted as a rudiment by the oikoplastic epithelium, a specialized single-layered organ that covers the trunk of the animal.” In other words, they grow their house from their head. The “house” is a spherical or ellipsoidal structure made of mucus. It is secreted, and then the animal bangs its head up and down to inflate the house with water. The animal then swims inside and sits in the house, with the house roof tucked under its appendicularian “chin.” The house is made of rectangular mucus filaments that function like a spider web. Structurally, its architecture is kaleidoscopically intricate, but its function is straightforward: to capture and concentrate prey particles, such as bacteria and small algae, from the surrounding seawater. The house concentrates prey up to a thousand times that of the surrounding seawater, and then the appendicularian sucks up its thick prey soup as if through a straw.
As I alternate between spine- and camera-snapping, I don’t need to follow any particular protocol. (I do try and move swiftly). In my home lab back in Oregon, a fellow Ph.D. student one building distant works with two-inch zebrafish (Danio rerio) and must adhere to procedures outlined by the University of Oregon’s Animal Care Services, the organization “responsible for administering all activities related to the care and use of animals.” An animal, in this case, is implicitly considered equivalent to a vertebrate. And as we know, although appendicularians coexist with zebrafish in the kingdom Animalia, the two occupy separate subphyla within the phylum Chordata. When I called Animal Care Services to inquire whether any particular care procedure must be followed for research on appendicularians, I was reassured that, no, Animal Care Services oversees supervision of only live vertebrates, as well as some charismatic, seemingly intelligent invertebrate mollusks, such as octopuses. But, I protested, appendicularians are a sister-group to vertebrates. A sister-group. Just the same, I am free to do what I wish with my small, sister house-builders.
The summer after my spring of spine-breaking, I served as a teaching assistant for a marine invertebrate zoology class at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology. In a lecture on the difference between “anadromous” and “catadromous”, the professor showed a photo of the rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss. In small font, the caption read: “Vertebrates are just invertebrates that happen to have backbones.”
Appendicularians don’t have a spine. They have a notochord. A notochord is a flexible, thin-walled tube, found in the embryos of all chordates. Notochords were advantageous to primitive fish-ancestors because they provided a rigid structure for muscle attachment, yet were flexible enough to allow more movement than, for example, a hard chitinous exoskeleton. In humans, the notochord of the developing embryo is a precursor that will eventually become the central nervous system, including the spinal cord and vertebrae. But in appendicularians, the notochord just stays as a notochord. They have a simple, spineless tail. And a head that builds houses.
Spada, F., Steen, H., Troedsson, C., Kallesøe, T., Spriet, E., Mann, M., & Thompson, E. M. (2001). Molecular patterning of the oikoplastic epithelium of the larvacean tunicate Oikopleura dioica. Journal of Biological Chemistry,276(23), 20624-20632.
 The next time you look at a spider web, notice that it is made up entirely of rectangles. This is because a rectangle is the shape that catches the most bugs with the minimum amount of web material. After all, spider silk is energetically costly to produce. Appendicularians employ this same strategy of catching prey using rectangular-mesh nets, except their thread is mucus rather than silk.
It’s finally here! This November 11-12, the Council of Infrastructure Finance Authorities (CIFA) is holding their annual national conference in Portland, and the Oregon Infrastructure Finance Authority is doing their best to support this effort. Specifically, I am helping to organize an Oregon-focused plenary session for the conference, as well as a tour of some of the sustainable infrastructure that exists around Portland.
For the plenary session that will take place on Wednesday November 12 at 9 am, we will be bringing together a number of excellent speakers to present the work they’ve been involved with in regards to Oregon’s natural hazards resiliency. Dr. Kent Yu (Former Chair of the Oregon Seismic Safety Policy Advisory Committee), Josh Bruce (Director of the Oregon Partnership for Disaster Resilience), and Larry Eaton (GSI Water Solutions, Inc.) will talk about the infrastructure issues associated with natural hazards and discuss what lessons other infrastructure professionals from around the country can learn from the work taking place in Oregon.
For the sustainable infrastructure tour taking place immediately after the plenary from 10 am – 1 pm, the entire tour will take place within the Pearl District’s Brewery Blocks. We will get a tour from Gerdling Edlen, the firm that designed this Eco-district, as well as a presentation from the Portland Water Bureau about some of the reservoir projects they are working on. On top of getting to see the nation’s first condominium to receive LEED Gold Certification and explore some of the most innovative storm water management strategies to date, tour attendees will also get to experience some local Portland culture by getting to explore the Brewery Blocks. Click here for more information about the tour.
The 2014 CIFA Conference is being held at the Hilton Double Tree. Click here for more information about the conference.
Good news! The SRGP application deadline has been extended for Emergency Services Buildings! The new deadline is Monday, November 24, at 5:00 pm. So, if you know of any fire stations, hospitals, or police stations that are in need of seismic retrofits, tell them about the SRGP!
Hello Sea Grant readers!
I wanted to let you all know that I will be defending my master’s on September 18th at 10 am in Burt Hall, Room 193. If you’d like to hear about the impacts of Wave Energy Converter arrays on the nearshore wave climate, come listen!
- Former scholars
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