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Welcome to the GNRO

Posted by: | August 29, 2014 | No Comment |

Hello again! For everyone who has been following this blog over the past year, welcome to the official “re-branding” of my blog-spot as an Oregon Natural Resource Policy Fellow in the Governor’s Natural Resources Office. For those who have yet to read this blog, a little background: I am a recent graduate of the Masters of Environmental Management program in the Department of Environmental Management at Portland State University in Portland, OR. My graduate research focused on evidence-based decision making in coastal and marine management and policy in the Pacific Northwest. At a high level, this work tested a 2 phase methodology for bridging the gap between academic research and policy and management practice: The 1st phase included an interviewing process to gather primary qualitative data and determine scientific data needs of ocean relevant decision makers. In the 2nd phase, I conducted a workshop to bring together academic scientists and decision makers to disseminate phase 1 findings and begin to foster the development, communication, and use of policy relevant research. I have resolved to continue focusing on understanding how best to bring scientific knowledge into policy action through my career in coastal and marine policy creation and management implementation.

My graduate research was funded by the Oregon Sea Grant Robert E. Malouf Marine Studies Scholarship, and I feel very fortunate to continue to work with Oregon Sea Grant as well as other Sea Grant scholars over the next year. I anticipate gaining an incredible wealth of knowledge over the next year working in the Oregon Governor’s Natural Recourses Office. As a neophyte walking around this Office, I often find myself with eyes open wide and full of excitement. Oregon Sea Grant has provided me this incredibly rare opportunity to be placed in the heart of ocean and coastal policy in such a critical coastal state, and I intend to take advantage of every moment. I welcome you to follow me along this journey over the next year!

under: Uncategorized
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Hello Oregon Sea Grant Community!

Before I even get started with my whirlwind update of field work, conferences and dramatic life changes I first want to apologize.  It has been far longer than I ever expected since my last post.  While I certainly can’t fix my prolonged absence… I can at least begin to explain what’s kept me so far away from my computer since my last post this spring.

First- Conference update!

Thanks in large part to the Malouf Fellowship I was able to attend a marine mammal conference this May in Bellingham, WA.  I’m a member of the Society for Marine Mammalogy — but wasn’t able to go to the “big girl” international conference in Dundin New Zealand this past year (as a lowly grad student with teaching responsibilities and a tight budget, well the South Pacific just wasn’t in the cards).  What I love about the marine mammal community though, is our ability and desire to collaborate.  International conferences are biennial (every two years) but as students we hold an annual chapter meeting.  The Northwest Student Chapter for the Society of Marine Mammalogy (NSCSMM- check us out on facebook and get involved!) hosts a one day conference every year at one of the Pacific Northwest Universities.  This year Western Washington University had the lucky draw, and the conference organizer was none other than my dear friend and former intern Kat Nikolich.  The marine mammal world is quite small.

The conference, which is organized entirely by students, was spectacular.  It was a priceless opportunity to hear the latest and greatest in marine mammal research, and entirely from the Pacific Northwest.  Further, we had a chance to take a boat ride out of the Western Washington Marine Lab, where we saw heaps of marine life and generally kicked back and got our feet wet.  It was also a great place to make some collaborators.  At the conference I chatted with a number of  students with similar interests in acoustics who I now have plans to work with in the future.  (Phew… people say science is competitive, that must be why they created conferences.  Working together is always easier than racing to the top).  I’m also proud to report that I was elected the new Chapter Representative, and will be working with Pacific Northwest Students for the next few years keeping everyone informed about conferences and opportunities to participate in marine mammal science.

Which leads me to the next exciting conference news. In May, 2015 Oregon State University will be hosting the NWSCSMM Meeting in Newport, OR. We’ll be inviting students from throughout the region (Northern California to Alaska) to present their research (completed or in progress) to friends and colleagues.  You don’t need to present to be involved; undergraduates, high schoolers, or graduate students are encouraged to attend.  This is an excellent chance for students (or anyone) who wants to learn more about the marine mammal field, or perhaps wants some advice on how to break into marine mammal science, to hobnob with some early career researchers.  Feel free to contact me personally if you have questions about attending or presenting, and keep an eye out on this blog and others.  I’ll be sure to circulate the details as they unfold.

But I’m not done yet… I know this post is already growing long… hang in there.

Due again in large part to the Malouf Fellowship that I’m so honored to have received, I was able to travel to Washington D.C. (o.k. Leesburg Virginia) this summer for a weeklong Marine BioAcoustics Summer School (SeaBASS).  I know not everyone gets excited about spending a week learning about marine physics and underwater sound production, but I do!  It was spectacular!  I won’t bore you with all of the details here, except to say that fish do vocalize and it’s amazing, and that physics tells us a lot about ocean ecology.  You can read a more detailed account of the trip on my lab blog here.

In the interest of brevity just a few more points.   I was invited to speak to the American Cetacean Society’s Oregon Chapter this past spring in Newport, OR.  I gave a talk on acoustic communication in cetaceans, with an emphasis on critters we have here on the Oregon Coast- which if you didn’t know includes white sided dolphins, Pacific dolphins, harbor porpoise, sperm whales, humpback whales, and gray whales… among others.  I’ve also since given two other lectures (one on a small cruise ship and one as a master class at the university) on similar topics.  This fall I’ll be teaching two master classes, both of them for universities on the east coast, with a little help from the internet :)

Lastly, I want to pass along some exciting, but bittersweet news.  My PhD project has changed.  I know.  It’s a little strange for me.  When I started my PhD I began working on what I believed (and continue to believe) is an extremely valuable marine mammal monitoring project here on the Oregon Coast.  Over the part year I’ve been able to recruit a series of talented and committed students and volunteers to act as marine mammal observers looking for whales, dolphin, and porpoise from the R/V Elakha.  In my previous posts I told you a little about what we’d been seeing on the water, and this spring we deployed our first round of hydrophones and started listening as well- very exciting.

But, somewhere along the lines something happened.  My phone rang. Funding had come available studying the impact of noise on humpback whales in Glacier Bay National Park, and the Park biologist wanted to know if I was able to shift my dissertation focus to Alaska.  Prior to working on cetaceans here in Oregon I lived and studied humpback whales in Southeast Alaska.  After completing my M.S.at OSU my focus shifted locally to the Oregon Coast, but as you may know funding in science is incredibly tight.  When the opportunity for a fully funded PhD position arose, I wasn’t really in a position to say no.  Given my background in humpback whale acoustics I was a good fit for the project, and although the decision was a tough one (tougher than you might imagine) I opted to accept the offer.

The flip side of the coin? The good news is that I’ve still been working on the Oregon Coast project, and it’s flourishing.  We have a new graduate student in our lab named Courtney Holdman who started as one of our volunteers on the project.  She has since taken over the project for her master’s thesis.  Our volunteers are still going strong, and the program has expanded somewhat.  Two students initially slated to collect data for our marine mammal project are headed out on a 4 day research cruise this September.  Three other students from here in Oregon will be headed into the field with me in Glacier Bay next summer.  So while I’ll be looking at noise impacts up north, I’ll be bringing a little bit of Oregon with me.

I know this has been quite the earful (eyeful?).  Thanks for hanging in there with me on my PhD adventure. It’s been exciting, and I never would have managed it without Oregon Sea Grant (I mean that).  I’ll be sure to stay in touch as things unfold! ~Michelle

under: Robert E. Malouf Marine Studies Scholar
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It’s 7 AM on my day off, and somehow I am already out of bed and driving north on Highway 101. The radio is staticky on this part of the coast and all that’s coming in clear is the bombastic finale to some sort of romantic classical piece. I pull off the narrow, two-lane highway at the Tolovana Park exit in the city of Cannon Beach and keep heading north on Hemlock Street. The road curves extravagantly. As I brake to round a bend, the magnificent Haystack Rock suddenly comes into view.

The music on the radio now feels appropriate. Two hundred and forty feet tall, shaped like the pope’s hat and encircled with squawking seabirds, Haystack Rock is a commanding presence on this long sandy beach. The rock itself is nesting habitat for about a dozen species of seabirds, and the foot of the rock is composed of turquoise tide pools that provide a home for countless marine organisms. Thousands of people from all over the country and even the world flock to Haystack Rock every summer. And that’s why I’m here. As a volunteer interpreter, my job is to educate the hordes of summer crowds and also to protect the marine garden and wildlife sanctuary from them.

I’m better at the former than the latter, to be honest. Having spent many hours scrambling over tidepool rocks, picking up snails and starfish, and, yes, even poking sea anemones, it feels hypocritical to dissuade others from these activities. But the Haystack Rock tidepools are visited by tens of thousandsof people every summer, unlike the deserted tidepool spots I’ve visited in southern Oregon. Haystack Rock is visible for miles and easily accessed from the beach– it had no chance of being kept secret.

Luckily I don’t spend too much time in the role of ‘enforcer.’ In the last six weeks or so, I’ve also started writing the program’s weekly nature blog entries. After a couple of hours on the beach, I head to Cannon Beach City Hall, where the group is headquartered, and use staff notes to write up a summary of what the animals of the Rock have been up to during the past week. You can check out the blog here: http://hrapnatureblog.blogspot.com. Lately I’ve been focusing on one, relatively common animal—so far I’ve chosen the brown pelican, hermit crab, and aggregating anemone— and highlighting how surprisingly special and complex it is.

I’ve worked and volunteered at a number of environmental education programs over the years, but the Haystack Rock Awareness Program is perhaps the most impressive I’ve ever been involved with. Born from a grassroots effort to protect the tide pools and nesting habitat, this program puts interpreters—some paid, many volunteer— out on the beach at every low tide during the summer. The group operates out of a clever truck and trailer operation on the beach, where they store signs, binoculars, scopes, and pamphlets. Interpreters roam the tidepools pointing out animals, aiming scopes at birds’ nests, answering questions, and discouraging visitors from trampling the barnacles and anemones on the rocks.

TEP, where I am carrying out my fellowship, also began as part of a grass roots community effort. Recently, I’ve been helping TEP write a report for its 20th Anniversary celebration, which means I’ve been learning a lot about how the organization got started. It’s really encouraging to be involved with not one but two organizations that came into being via the sheer willpower of concerned citizens. Encouraging enough to get me out of bed before 7 AM on a day I’m not working (the coffee and bagels at the Sleepy Monk Café help too.)

More information about the Haystack Rock Awareness Program can be found here:http://www.ci.cannon-beach.or.us/~Natural/HRAP/hrap-program.html

under: Natural Resources Policy Fellow, Rose Rimler
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Closing Remarks

Posted by: | August 21, 2014 | No Comment |

It’s hard to believe that this will be my last blogpost as a Malouf Scholar. The past year has been amazing, and would not have been possible without the support of Oregon Sea Grant. I have completed my graduate research, compiled the findings, and graduated from Portland State University this summer. Through my research I proposed and tested a method to overcome institutional barriers and build cross-sector communication capacity between decision makers and scientists that mutually benefits those involved while promoting their respective roles in society. Preserving and protecting critical coastal and marine resources becomes ever more important as climatic, land use, and socio-demographic shifts occur. Doing so will require effective and efficient policy and management schemes that include the best available science, i.e., evidence-based decisions. My research engaged decision makers and scientists to begin a collaborative approach to extract, design, and integrate relevant information into evidence-based policy and management practices. This integrated approach maximizes use of information to prevent, and in some cases reverse, the negative effects of human practices.
Though, I want to emphasize that this work has been just the start in a long and sustained process. Further workshops, dedicated interactions, and the stimulus from funding agencies should all be used to sustain the connection between decision-makers and scientists. A clear linkage between decision makers and scientists, electronic networks, decision support tools, and ecological models can all support long-term engagement as well.
Increasing communication between scientists and decision makers results in an impressive return on monetary investments, generating greater value for research dollars spent by developing more effective research. By enhancing social capital through communication, decision makers can better protect natural capital. Since there are real economic and ecological costs associated with continued consumption of finite resources, the interactions established during my research (and ideally beyond) should be a high priority for decision-makers and scientists alike.
While I have recently accepted a Natural Resource Policy Fellowship with Oregon Sea Grant at the Governor’s Natural Resources Office (and my attention will naturally shift to this program’s requirements), I intend to continue to follow-up with the work I have done with evidence-based decision making. Fortunately, there is a strong desire in the Governor’s Natural Resources Office to do just that! I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to continue these efforts, and embrace new ones in my role, as well as continue to work with the amazing caliber of people at Oregon Sea Grant. As I move on to this next stage, and pass along the torch to the next cohort of Malouf Scholars, I look forward to reading about what fascinating and promising research they conduct! Stay tuned everyone!

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SRGP NEWS!

Posted by: | August 20, 2014 | No Comment |

Senator Peter Courtney has made it clear that he plans to go after $200 million to add to the Seismic Rehabilitation Grant Program (SRGP). Check it out:

http://www.statesmanjournal.com/story/news/politics/2014/08/19/sen-courtney-wants-m-school-safety-upgrades/14297181/

under: Uncategorized

CIFA Conference

Posted by: | July 29, 2014 | No Comment |

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 the impending Cascadia Earthquake. Jay Wilson (Chair of the Oregon Seismic Safety Policy Advisory Committee), Josh Bruce (Director of the Oregon Partnership for Disaster Resilience), and others will talk about the infrastructure issues associated with this predicted earthquake 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, we will be making three stops: the Portland Building, Portland State University, and the Pearl District’s Brewery Blocks. The Portland Building houses both the Portland Water Bureau and the Bureau of Environmental Services. We will hear presentations from both of those agencies before heading up to the top of the Portland Building to check out its Eco-roof. At Portland State University, we will explore the campus’s storm water infrastructure. Finally, in the Pearl District’s Brewery Blocks, we will get a tour from Gerdling Edlen, the firm that designed this Eco-district. On top of getting to see the nation’s first condominium to receive LEED Gold Certification, tour attendees will also get to experience some local Portland culture by getting to explore the Brewery Blocks.

The 2014 CIFA Conference is being held at the Hilton Double Tree. Click here for more information about the conference.

under: Geoff Ostrove, Natural Resources Policy Fellow

Field Trip

Posted by: | July 23, 2014 | 1 Comment |

On a recent sunny day, not long after my fellowship began, I found myself waist-deep in a pit of pondwater by the side of the highway.  It was a good place to be. I was spending the day—three days, in fact—at the Miami wetlands restoration site, about fifteen minutes north of the city of Tillamook and just east of Highway 101. Over the past few years, TEP has been working to transform this site from an unused property riddled with ditches and dominated by invasive weeds to a lush wetland. We—me; Scott, TEP’s project manager; Tracy, an environmental consultant; and Katherine, a botanist working for The Nature Conservancy— were there to check up on the willows, elderberry, spruce, alder, cottonwood, twinberry, slough sedge, and other native species that TEP had planted the previous winter and several years before. Although the site is by no means free of invasives—reed canary grass, for example, swayed above my head at many of the sites we surveyed, even when I wasn’t sunk in a hole—TEP’s restoration work is giving native species a chance to take over and turn things around.

This isn’t part of my typical day as a Sea Grant Natural Resources Policy fellow at the Tillamook Estuaries Partnership in Garibaldi. Usually, I’m in the office, working on the update and revision of the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan. What does that look like exactly on a day-to-day basis? Well, that’s something I’m still figuring out. The original CCMP came out in 1999, so the first step is to gather as much existing information as I can about what has happened in the intervening 15 years. That means combing through TEP’s internal documents, talking to staff, and reaching out to the dozens of agencies that TEP partners with.

But it’s fun to get out of the office, and also really valuable to see some of the projects I’ll be writing about. Hopefully I was of some help—I don’t have the plant ID skills that Scott, Katherine, and Tracy have, so I assigned myself the role of pack mule, quadrat-assembler, and picture-taker.  I also made a pretty fantastic human flag pole, if I do say so myself.

Whatever help I was, I certainly learned a lot. I can now identify dozens of plants I would have only vaguely recognized before. I also learned that I have a wicked allergy to reed canary grass. Two tabs of Claritin later, my head cleared enough for me to think about the distinction between working in a ‘wetland’ rather than working in an ‘estuary.’ Despite the “E” in “TEP”, most of this organization’s habitat restoration projects take place on the banks of rivers, in marshes, and in wetlands. It’s not false advertising—those kinds of habitats are vital to the health of the estuary. Because of my experience working in mudflats, my understanding of estuaries before joining TEP was pretty literal: they are bodies of water where ocean water and freshwater meet and mix. But for those interested in protecting them, estuaries are inseparable from the rivers that feed into them and the marshy margins that surround them. Estuarine health is wetland health is riparian health is watershed health.

Or, anyway, that’s what I told myself as I was I scrambling out of that mucky, waist-deep hole. Thank goodness it’s there.

 

under: Natural Resources Policy Fellow, Rose Rimler
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Overly acidic water is a common problem in southeastern U.S. lakes, and left alone, this can have huge negative impacts on aquatic ecosystems. Essentially, fish and invertebrates don’t particularly enjoy the low pH levels that come with acidic water and can’t survive at a pH below 4. To get around this issue, calcium carbonate is added to water to help maintain a pH that is more preferable to aquatic creatures (usually, around pH 7).

So, what does acidic water in southern ponds have to do with the west coast?  More than you think, but it’s on a much, much larger scale.

It’s called: ocean acidification. Similarly to overly acidic ponds in the southern U.S., when the pH level drops in the marine environment many organisms are negatively impacted. But, in contrast to a lake or pond, there is no quick fix for low pH levels in the ocean. Dumping massive amounts of calcium carbonate in the open ocean isn’t an option (can you imagine how much calcium carbonate that would take?  A lot.).  But, it is an option on a much smaller scale, and something similar is currently used by a hatchery in Oregon.

Through my fellowship, I’ve become familiar with a lot of great work being done in Oregon to try to better understand ocean acidification, and the impacts on the marine environment. And, believe me, it’s a lot — which is awesome because ocean acidification is a big problem. For example, did you know that the west coast ecosystem is particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification (see #12 of this fact sheet)? Or that free swimming sea snails, call Pteropods, have shells that are dissolving in acidic environments (check out this graphic; these strange looking little guys also happen to be salmon food)?  Or that ocean acidification impacts on west coast oyster larvae have been compared to ‘a canary in a coalmine’ (see this TEDx video)? Needless to say, ocean acidification is something that can’t be ignored. Fortunately, Oregon is at the forefront of some really cool research in order to better understand the impacts of ocean acidification, and strategies to combat it. Some current projects include, investigating how sea grass could provide a refuge for shellfish in more acidic conditions, or understanding the impacts of ocean acidification on native oysters, along with exploring how terrestrial factors influence oxygen levels in estuaries.  Plus, an Oregon hatchery is home to a unique partnership between researchers and shellfish growers that arose from a massive oyster die-off a few years ago.

In 2007, Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery, located on Netarts Bay, had a catastrophic oyster die-off caused by ocean acidification (you can read the backstory here). In order to understand the causes and find solutions, researchers and the shellfish industry teamed up to develop a collaborative partnership that continues today. The hatchery combats acidic water with their own version of an antiacid, called soda ash.  Adding soda ash to hatchery systems helps increase the pH and buffers the water against acidity. This solution works most of the time, except during the annual summer upwelling, in which no amount of buffering can combat the low pH levels associated with this event. For this reason, Whiskey Creek Hatchery continues to work towards better understanding the science and ecological impacts behind ocean acidification.  And, since the 2007 die-off, the hatchery has hosted numerous research efforts to better understand ocean acidification and hypoxia.  In-fact, some of their current projects include: addressing and mitigating early warning signs of ocean acidification on oyster larvae, along with working to improve juvenile oyster survival rates.

Also, on the policy front, there is a lot of great support in Oregon to research, manage and ultimately, better understand this issue. Last summer, Governor Kitzhaber announced that Oregon is teaming up with California to form a panel that focuses on the extent, causes, and effects of ocean acidification along the Pacific coast. Five researchers from Oregon were selected to be on the West Coast Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia Panel.  The goal of this panel is to bring together experts from across the West Coast to tackle the complex issues of ocean acidification and hypoxia, and hopefully this will lead to some creative research efforts, management or policy options.

Even with all this ongoing work, there are still a lot of unknowns surrounding ocean acidification and hypoxia.  For example, we are only in the early stages of understanding the degree of impact that acidic conditions can have on ecosystems, fisheries, the economy, and even, human health. But, we do know that we are facing a future with lower pH levels and higher CO2 levels that will likely be less than ideal—at least for some species, and in some environments. Although, how this will ripple throughout the ecosystem is difficult to predict, although the more we know, the better off we’ll be.

under: Uncategorized

Portland State University sustainability professional’s wrote a great article about the workshop! Have a look here:

http://www.pdx.edu/esm/news/psu-researchers-bridge-gap-between-marine-scientists-and-policy-makers

under: Uncategorized
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Happy summer!

Posted by: | June 12, 2014 | 1 Comment |

Hello Sea Grant readers,

It’s been an exciting (and busy) term, both in Corvallis and on the road.  I went to two weeklong conferences in April/May, which were interesting but very different experiences.  The first was the Marine Energy Technology Symposium (METS) in Seattle, which was held in conjunction with the Global Marine Renewable Energy Conference (GMREC).  The GMREC/METS conference focused heavily on the mechanical and industrial side of marine renewable energy.  I learned a lot about the history of the marine renewable industry, recent progress in the industry, and well as the major setbacks and obstacles.  The second conference was the Environmental Interactions with Marine Renewables (EIMR) conference, in Stornoway, Scotland.  Scotland was beautiful, and we had unexpectedly great weather for the entire week (!), which was wonderful.  The conference focused on the impacts of marine energy devices on the physical environment, on the wave climate, and on marine organisms and ecosystems.  Although the main focus of the conference was marine biology/ecology, I met several other wave modelers looking at the far-field effects of WEC arrays and tidal turbines.  I was really excited to have the opportunity to discuss goals, methods, and model issues with other researchers with a similar focus, and I came back with a lot of new ideas and new contacts.

Now that I’m back in Corvallis, I’m trying to get myself ready for a summer spent in front of my computer, writing my thesis and a journal article (or two).  I plan to defend my thesis in mid-September.  It’s almost hard to believe I have already been in Corvallis for 2 years! I love Corvallis and I am sad to leave, but I am really excited about the next step.  I was recently awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to do a yearlong study on coastal evolution and coastal hazards in Dakar, Senegal, which I plan to start in October.  With writing and defending my thesis, moving overseas, and starting the Fulbright, I expect the next 6 months to be a whirlwind!

Before any of that, though, we have another important event: the 2014 WORLD CUP.  I am so excited!!

Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you out cheering on team USA!

under: Robert E. Malouf Marine Studies Scholar

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