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Red Fish Rocks Outreach Event

Posted by: | June 26, 2017 | No Comment |

Blog week 1


The first week of an internship is always interesting. Meeting (and forgetting the names of) countless people, events loaded with free food and really getting to know the ropes of the work you’ll be doing for the rest of the summer. For the next 10 weeks I will be working with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in their marine reserves department. My job will be to assist in the communications and outreach programs. This includes going into the field to record what the science team is doing and communicating it in a way that the public will understand what they are doing and why it is so important to be doing this monitoring work. We will also be following the human dimensions team as they implement their surveys to learn more about the publics’ opinions on the reserves so that we can better serve the public. Our main message channels include all types of social media, town hall events and community engagement events. One of which we will be going to this weekend in Port Orford! It is a BBQ (with a side of science) where anyone can come and ask us anything about the science, marine environment, reserves, etc. Port Orford is located right next to the Redfish Rocks marine reserve, the first marine reserve established in Oregon. The community is very interesting as they were the ones who suggested that a marine reserve be established. Other communities have fought the marine reserves when proposed by the state. The Oregon coastal communities have been hit extra hard by the economy and with many relying on commercial fishing as the source of income, a marine reserve does not sound like the ideal situation. Port Orford was in the same boat, a heavily fishing town that whose economy was hurting. However, instead of fighting the idea of a marine reserve, they welcomed it seeing the possible long-term benefits of protected waters for fisheries as well as possibilities for increased tourism.


This weekend’s event is aimed at answering questions that fishermen and locals still have about the reserve. It will also give them a chance to find out about how they can get involved in the research and feel like they are part of the reserve. For fishermen we have hook and line surveys they can participate in as well as SCUBA surveys if they are qualified scientific divers. We will be having a BBQ lunch in the afternoon where they can ask us any questions, pick up fliers and sweet marine reserve swag. In the afternoon we will have a pub science bingo game to spread more knowledge about the reserve. The bingo sheets are loaded with fish species, benthic species, research techniques, different habitats and facts about the reserves. All of these are related to the marine reserve that the public is connected to. Our marine science monitors are going to be presenting the bingo in an informational way. Science, bingo and a pub? There’s nothing better!


All of this is in partnership with the Port Orford Marine Reserve Community team. Their involvement has been huge for the implementation and communication about the reserves.

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I never thought I’d be the person to experience culture-shock. I especially never expected it to happen in my home-country, in a town not that different from the place I grew up. I’m from a small town in Maryland, a suburb grown out of farm country at the intersection of two decently small highways. I went off to college in Los Angeles, excited to be on the west coast and ready to adapt to the city life as quickly as possible. Four years later, I considered myself a local.

One week ago today, I was graduating from UCLA, packing up my bags, and getting ready to fly up to Oregon. I’d never been to Oregon until this week, but from google images and the TV show Portlandia, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what I was in for: lots of trees, lots of water, and some pleasantly quirky Oregonians. It wasn’t until I got here that I realized how different Newport (the town I am currently living in) is from Los Angeles, and even Maryland.

This past Wednesday I wanted to go into town. The one small thing standing between our Sea Grant Intern dorms and the rest of Newport is one very large bridge. I don’t have a car, so I decided I’d take the bus, just like I’d always done in LA. Turns out there is only one bus in Newport and it runs a total of five loops around the town per day. I managed to somehow catch the last bus, which is harder than it seems as there are no bus signs here. My confusion with this was confirmed once on the bus as a gentleman informed me “It’s Newport, we don’t have signs.” The casual irregularity of this system was further enforced when the bus driver told me “You just gotta holler at me when you want to get off.” So, I hollered as best I could and strolled off the bus about a block past the store I was aiming to go to. Once ready to go home, I faced my next challenge of getting home without the bus running. I asked the women in the store if there was a taxi service. They said no, “It’s Newport, you’re lucky to even have the bus running.” I half-heartedly asked if uber existed here? Definitely not. So, is my best option to walk across the bridge? “Yes,” they said, “but hold on to the railings, it’s really windy.” And windy it was. I don’t know what the speed was, but it was windy enough that every time someone walked into the store, the door would burst open and rattle the ceiling tiles. It was the kind of wind that gives you a little shove forward while walking if you pick your foot up at the right time. So, I braced myself, held on to the railing, and walked across this bridge like an obvious out-of-towner. I’d also like to point out that I have a rather large fear of heights, and this bridge is 246 feet tall (according to Wikipedia).

Yaquina Bridge

I survived the walk across the bridge, with a burst of adrenaline as the prize for conquering my fear. I decided to take this opportunity to go for a run and explore some of the surrounding area. I picked a route that would send me to a nice beach run. As I’m running, I look to my left to discover a surprise secret waterfall carved into the bluff right next to me. It was amazing! A secret not-so-little waterfall hiding in the cliffs! It must have been about 30 feet tall. I ran over and stuck my feet in. The cold water felt as refreshing as if I were drinking it. I climbed all around the edges of the waterfall, sliding in the dark gray mud like a little kid.

The magical waterfall

What is this mysterious place that I’m in? A place where they don’t have ubers (even my small town in Maryland has uber) and Mother Earth humbly juts out waterfalls right onto the beach. I read a Humans of New York post recently which reminds me a lot of this point in my life. The interviewee was describing how she wanted to move to a new country because she wanted to be a tourist in her own life again. After four years of trying to become a local in Los Angeles, a city swimming with tourists, I find myself in a state I’ve never been, in a sleepy beach-town with a population of ten thousand and once again a tourist in my own life.



under: Uncategorized

Week 1

Posted by: | June 25, 2017 | 1 Comment |

I’m happy to be back in Newport. Last summer I worked in the oyster culture laboratory at the Hatfield Marine Science Center. Behind the oyster lab, in a mysterious concrete building, was the EPA, and I always wondered what they were up to. I only ever saw them washing off their boats in the yard. Now I know. The team I am working with includes chemists, computer modelers, engineers, biologists and other scientists. The facility is a top notch ecological research laboratory, and the project I will be helping out with involves gathering data on the water chemistry in Tillamook Bay in order to build a model of how the carbonate chemistry, pH and nutrients change over time in the Bay. This research will help all the stake-holders of Tillamook Bay better understand their waters and what to expect in the future as the climate continues to change.

I will also be helping on a related project involving the design and testing of a bag device designed to enclose a blade of living eelgrass in situ and monitor its rate of photosynthetic production and respiration by measuring changes in the gas concentrations in the water inside the bag. The bags currently being tested are the same bags that hold wine inside cardboard boxes at the store because the plastic is engineered to be impermeable to CO2, the gas of interest. I look forward to snorkeling over the eelgrass in Yaquina Bay, deploying and recovering these devices and refining the technique. I love what science can do with PVC, duct tape and plastic wine bags!

So far my time in the lab has been consumed by mandatory new employee training, tours, introductions and planning. I have also become intimately familiar with the EPA’s IT support process. I consider it a successful first week: I was assigned a computer, managed to gain full access to it within hours, assigned a custom password to it within days, AND got into their intranet training portal to access the mandatory training by day 4. Having worked for federal agencies in the past, this is lightning fast. I also received my first ID badge, featuring the mandatory unflattering picture, for which I am grateful and proud. Although it is just a temporary position, it feels good to be part of the EPA and an organization whose mission I can be proud of.

Next week I should get my first introduction to programming dissolved oxygen sensors, and hopefully go out on the water.

under: Uncategorized

New Age in Newport

Posted by: | June 25, 2017 | 2 Comments |

As a transplant from Monterey, CA I was definitely excited to return to a scenic coastal town after living in the Bay Area for four years. Over the past year I spent every free weekend traveling back and forth between the city and the California’s Central Valley, so getting to stay in one place for two months sounded like a treat. Bonus points for the tall trees and windy beaches, us NorCal kids don’t expect to do much swimming anyway.

My first day on the job I drove out to Salem with my mentor, Meg, and quite frankly chatted her ear off. In the Salem office I met a good amount of the Department of Land Conservation and Development staff and all of them seemed to take interest in my project. A few of them also had some hand in it over the years and I believe they were excited to see where I could take it being that it is my main focus during my time here.

Beauty of the bridge.

The official title of my project is the Oregon King Tides Photo Initiative. This project is actually an international initiative dependent on citizen science. Coastal communities around the world are asked to take pictures of “King Tides”, or the highest tides of the year, and standard high tides for comparison. This helps coastal management organizations visualize and plan for the ways in which these communities may be affected by sea level rise. Newport is a prime location to witness the King Tides in the winter and is where I’ll be working for the next 10 weeks.

Although a lot of my work involves sorting through photos and developing ways to discuss the importance of this project, I will have the chance to do some field work! Many of the photos sent in do not include the “normal” high tides comparison shots. Throughout the summer I will travel up and down the coast a few times to make sure we gather the missing pieces and develop a clear message about why this project matters.

Drew some inspiration from past posters, but still proud!

My first week was mostly full of correcting the photos uploaded to the Flickr page that had missing or scrambled information. Meg had mentioned that most of the participants were from *much* older generations… and it showed just a bit. One of my own goals this summer is to help Meg create a stronger social media platform for the project so people of all ages are informed and start to get involved (follow @oregonkingtides on Instagram!). Social media has be become an incredible marketing tool in the last 5 years and I see so much potential in it. If used correctly, projects like this and others that depend on citizen science can truly gain massive numbers of dedicated participants and continue to educate the public on why the issue of our rapidly-changing planet is important.

My favorite part of the week was getting to do some graphic design work for posters being used at an upcoming beach bash. This project has so many great opportunities for me to be creative. I also feel obligated to learn as much as I can about photography which has really helped get me outside to explore and take some photos.

Tell them Meagan sent ya

On my lunch breaks I usually grab a Dutch Bros (they are a true delicacy in California!) and head to the beach to play around with my camera. I’m hoping I’ll soon be contacted by Dutch Bros offering me a large sum for advertising their coffee so well.

Lastly, I found both a gym and a natural foods store where I can lift weights and purchase my favorite vegan snacks. My personal goal is to hit a couple personal records while I’m here and try some new recipes out on my roommates. If anyone misses work due to food poisoning that’s probably my fault, apologies in advance! Newport may be small but it’s full of kind and passionate people. Cheers to week one and embarking on a new adventure.

It took me five minutes to figure out how to set the exposure on my camera to take this picture but I’d say it was worth it!

under: sea_haye, Summer Scholars
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*Please click on photos throughout to view associated captions*

Week 1:

After a long day of exceptionally smooth travel (still thankful for that) I arrived in Corvallis, OR at the Oregon State University campus ready for orientation the next morning. On Monday we met up for a small, informal breakfast to finally meet the program coordinators face-to-face rather than via email, as well as the other Summer Scholars. The lax atmosphere continued throughout the day as we played (dare I say) fun ice breakers and listened to presentations on what to expect from our summers/ what Oregon Sea Grant is all about. We even went to lunch at a great little café for Mexican food before heading out to Newport to the Hatfield Marine Science Station (OSU’s marine campus). There, I got my first glimpse of Oregon coastline and met my mentor for the first time; Tony D’Andrea, project leader/supervisor for Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife’s Shellfish and Estuarine Habitat Assessment of Coastal Oregon (SEACOR) project through the Marine Resources Program. I got to spend the night there and hang out with my fellow scholars and other students staying in the housing on campus, which was a very fun way to relax after a day of information overload and recovering from jetlag.

Day 2 began with a riveting session of paperwork and reading of lengthy protocols to learn just what it means/takes to be part of ODFW. We took the forms mobile as we started the drive from Newport to my final destination of Charleston- I signed many a form to indicate my understanding of safety procedures and agency policies (the scenic ocean views from the pacific highway were a frequent and welcomed distraction throughout). I felt very official and excited to be an employee of a state agency that does so much. Once we got to Charleston, a town on Coos Bay where I would be living and working, I checked into my room at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology (The University of Oregon equivalent of OSU’s Hatfield campus) and unpacked a little bit before meeting back up with Tony. We toured the lab we’d be using which is shared with researchers from the South Slough estuary, the garage where all our equipment is stored, the boat, and the ODFW office where I got to meet more members of the agency. Everyone was very nice and answered my barrage of questions (I feel like my first week was essentially me asking everyone a million questions). I learned that my position would be aiding in field work for the shellfish assessments of Coos Bay, which would help with informing fishery regulations for the area. I would also be an extra set of hands for whichever ODFW project needed me, and I expressed a desire to be part of their community outreach and education programs, as I have a growing interest in science communication.

Wednesday morning was a 5 AM start time for field work on the boat, using a sampling method called megacoring (more on that later, when I can use photos to accompany the description: a picture’s worth a thousand words, right?). It was a brisk day, with a LOT of wind. Common for these parts, but not what I’m used to calling “summer”. The water tends to stay in the 50’s so we donned dry suits paired with fleece onesies underneath, many base layers, extra socks, boots, and our ODFW hats (which I’m still stoked about) to stay warm. After a few hours in the field, we returned to land to rinse off the boat and sampling materials. I discovered there’d been a tear in my suit and I ended up soaked from the waist down- just my luck, but a good reintroduction to the joys of field work. Thursday (day two of 5 AM start time) was originally going to be like Wednesday, with more work from the boat and some new stuff (for me) surveying low tide habitat. However, mother nature had her own plan of very high wind speeds, so we opted to stay close to land and conduct the surveys at a nearby tidal flat site- Charleston Triangle.



Methods: The sampling strategy used for these surveys is called the Rapid Assessment Method (RAM). Previous bathymetry data is used to map tidal levels across the study area, ensuring that samples were taken across all tidal elevations. A handheld GPS is programmed with randomly generated waypoints displayed both as a grid and as points spread intermittently between rows.

At each waypoint designated “grid” a 1 m2 quadrat is placed, and before any disturbance occurs, a photo is taken with the site location and waypoint number for identification purposes. Within the quadrat environmental data such as sediment temperature, anoxic layer depth, and sediment type are taken. Biological data including percent of algal or eelgrass cover on surface, shrimp borrow density, clam “show” density, and physical presence of clams living below the surface are taken. This is done by using a hand rake to disturb the top ~15 cm of sediment. Species observations are also made for a 2 m radius surrounding the quadrat, which can be used to dub the area a clam/shrimp bed, even in the absence of those organisms within the quadrat.


For the “random” waypoints the Detailed Assessment Method (DAM) is employed in addition to RAM. The supplementary data includes collecting above-ground eelgrass blades and sediment samples for total organic carbon and grain size analyses. The eelgrass samples were collected in a 0.25 m2 quadrat within the larger quadrat. The placement is determined by a random number generator. The same goes for sediment samples within the larger quadrat. These waypoints are also marked with a stake and attached buoy for future megacoring sampling.




By Thursday afternoon I was pretty much exhausted from traipsing in the mud (sorry for all the yawning, Tony) as we went over ODFW’s payroll system and I was given my employee computer login, with access to project files and agency documents.

5 AM Friday came all too soon, but as we had accomplished so much the day before, and Charleston Triangle is a fairly small site, we were able to finish the rest of the waypoints quickly, resulting in an early end to the day. J I used that time to take a sizeable nap, start this blog post, and spend some time in the nearby Marine Life Center (which I know I’ll be returning to since it’s free, interesting, and the volunteers are super nice!).

I also took time throughout the evenings/weekend to make friends with other interns living in my hallway and their friends from the South Slough Estuary Research Reserve. We lit off sparklers, took many a trip to Walmart, and hiked out to waterfalls at Golden and Silver Falls State Natural Area. The beauty of Oregon is absolutely awe-inspiring, and I am so glad I get to experience it.


under: sea_gre, Summer Scholars

This place is ferntastic!

Posted by: | June 25, 2017 | 1 Comment |

Yes, we are starting with plant puns, in dedication to my guzmania bromeliad – who unfortunately did not survive the move to Oregon. The 100 degree wind blowing through my air conditioning-less CRV for the greater portion of 13 hours did a number on the tropical-turned-houseplant that prefers gently filtered-through-understory sunlight and a slight misting in the morning. “You brought plants?” my fellow Sea Grant scholars chuckled. Beleaf it or not, I did. There’s no need to read between the pines…I just like plants.

Polystichum minutum. Golden and Silver Falls Natural Area, June 2017.

My first week in southern Oregon has indeed been ferntastic. Having never visited the state, I am pleasantly surprised by its breadth of diverse vegetation, which significantly differs from the dry, Mediterranean climate of where I attend school in San Luis Obispo, California, and the semiarid climate of my hometown of Denver, Colorado. A favorite plant encountered here so far is the sword fern (Polystichum minutum). Many other understory plants I have become familiar with include vine maple (Acer circinatum), salal (Gualtheria shallon), and pacific rhododendron (Rhododendron macrophyllum).

Having only ever lived either near central Californian coastal areas or landlocked mountainous areas, I have been most excited to encounter a subspecies of lodgepole pine: P. contorta var. contorta, or shore pine.

P. contorta var. contorta. Source. 

These trees have specially adapted to living conditions too harsh for their fellow lodgepole cousins. They are therefore the dominant species here in their northern range, growing in rocky sites and sandy soil and surviving powerful salty winds. The unique shore pine is of keen interest to me as it is a symbolic representation of why I feel quite at home here: coastal Oregon = forests + the ocean. The southern Oregon coastal mountains support highly diverse plant species because the region is a transition zone between the Coastal Range and the Klamath/Siskiyou Mountains.

Ecoregions of Oregon. Source.

Learning the ecology of the places you visit creates a special connection between humans and nature. Instead of just aesthetically experiencing the views, fresh air, and songbird calls, the species of plants and animals around you become familiar as you learn their names. For those of us who are particularly ecologically inclined, this is much like seeing old friends*.

This type of outdoor experience is known as experiential tourism, and it is what I will be working on this summer with the Wild Rivers Coast Alliance for Oregon’s Southern Coast. Much like interpretation, experiential tourism encourages the visitor to learn about the contextual and ecological meaning of what they are experiencing in order to form a long-term, transformational relationship between visitor and environment rather than a distant, transactional relationship. This type of interaction with nature creates personal meaning in the tourist and not only provides an understanding of the species’ names, it also encourages a deeper understanding about the species’ important role in its balanced and complex greater ecosystem.

Our project aims to build a sustainable, experiential tourism program for this region that enhances the resilience of the South Coast’s livelihoods, people, and ecosystems through economic, community, and conservation initiatives. We then hope to create a tourism development training program to help other coastal communities throughout the country prioritize ecosystem health and economic opportunity in environmentally sensitive and significant places. Stay tuned for more!

Silver Falls, June 2017.


under: Summer Scholars

Have you ever seen the TV show Scrubs? If not, then you are missing out on some of the greatest television in the history of television. If so, then you can sort of understand what this week has been like for me. Scrubs follows three young doctors (JD, Turk, and Elliot) as they begin their careers at Sacred Heart Hospital. It’s hilarious. My sister and I can recite entire episodes, having both watched every season at least 3 times (shoutout to Netflix). But that’s not the point. The point is, when JD, Turk, and Elliot first arrive as interns, they know next to nothing. Everything they do is a learning experience, and every time they accomplish even the most menial task it’s a huge victory. That’s basically my life right now. This week I began my post as a Sea Grant Scholar working with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in their Marine Reserves Program. With me are two other Sea Grant Scholars, Sarah and Neal (the Elliot and Turk to my JD (I get to be JD because I’m writing this)). Together, we’re taking on the world, one marine reserve at a time.

My inspirations. From the left, Turk aka Neal, JD aka me, and Elliot aka Sarah.

Instead of Scrubs we get survival suits

As the three of us leave the office every day, we all walk with a little bit of a strut, just like the Scrubs characters after a day in the hospital. You can’t help but feel a little proud after a day working hard for a cause that you really care about. Sometimes that involves scrambling over mussels in the rocky intertidal zone searching for sea stars. Sometimes it involves jumping into 50-degree water where you can’t see three feet in front of your face to try and catch juvenile fish. And sometimes it involves laminating papers. Just five days in, this has already been by far the most diverse work experience I’ve had, and I love it. I’ll be spending the summer undertaking ecological monitoring of Oregon’s marine reserves. Each of the five reserves is unique and monitoring all five is quite a task. Volunteer fishermen catch fish, take measurements, and release them. Longlines are also used to similar effect. Scuba divers and landers equipped with GoPros assess subtidal diversity. We also have two awesome submersible ROVs (Remotely Operated Vehicles) that conduct underwater surveys. But the monitoring project I’ll be working most closely on certainly has the cutest name.

I’ll be spending much of the summer working with Standard Monitoring Units for the Recruitment of Fishes, also known as SMURFs. These adorable contraptions are basically a tangle of folded plastic suspended a few meters below the surface of the ocean. They serve as a great substrate for juvenile fish to take shelter in. Several have been set up inside and outside of the reserves to monitor fish recruitment. Collecting the fish involves snorkeling down with a Bincke net (pronounced binky) and grabbing the entire SMURF. Once you’ve got your SMURF in your binky (adorable right?) you take it up on the boat, collect the fish, take them back to shore and measure them. I haven’t gone SMURFing yet, but I’m really looking forward to getting out on the ocean.

Though I haven’t SMURFed, I have spent a significant amount of time in the field already. I spent Thursday and Friday morning surveying sea stars at Otter Rock and Cascade Head. Sea-star wasting disease is a gruesome viral infection which essentially causes stars to pull themselves apart and dissolve into the rock. Not a pretty sight. There have been outbreaks in the past, but in 2014 it returned to Oregon with devastating effects. Recently the prevalence of disease has seemed to subside. However, it’s unclear whether that is because the populations are recovering or because only the largest stars are highly susceptible and they have been mostly wiped out. That’s why we monitor. We crawl on our hands and knees, comb through algae, and splash through tide pools on the hunt for the “lions of the intertidal.” It’s basically a safari. Plus I’ve gotten to see the sun rising over some beautiful beaches. Anyone who knows me will tell you how much I love Ohio and Pennsylvania (where I’m from and where I went to school, respectively), but the natural beauty of Oregon blows the Midwest out of the water.

Hard at work surveying in the intertidal

A beautiful family of healthy sea stars

It’s been a spectacular start to the summer so far. I’m working for an awesome cause undertaking an awesome project in an awesome place and meeting some awesome people. It’s awesome. What has stood out to me so far is how quickly I’ve been able to get involved with meaningful work. We spent one day doing hiring paperwork, and the very next day I was in the water trying to capture black rockfish in a net. Pardon my awful closing pun, but in the world of marine biology they toss you in the deep end and it’s up to you to either sink or swim. Sorry.

under: sea_cle

Week One: Green Crabs

Posted by: | June 25, 2017 | 1 Comment |

This summer, I will be interning for the South Slough Estuarine Research Reserve (SSERR), near Coos Bay, Oregon. I mainly will be working on monitoring European green crabs (Carcinus maenas), one of the most invasive marine species. Native to the Atlantic coast of Europe and northern Africa, green crabs were first documented on the East coast of the U.S. in the mid-1800’s and in California in 1989. Green crab presence was first documented in Coos Bay in 1998. Green crabs can out-compete juvenile Dungeness crabs (Metacarcinus magister) and disrupt native communities, including negatively impacting commercially important shellfish and eelgrass populations.

The SSERR has continued to monitor the green crab populations in the South Slough and Coos Bay since their discovery. Though the population has cycled through years of high and low abundance since the species was first documented in the region, the last couple years have seen a spike in green crab abundance. Along with other interns and staff, one of my main roles this summer will be to continue monitoring efforts throughout the South Slough, tracking their distribution and abundance at various points throughout the estuary.

This week, after settling in to my housing and meeting the green crab team and the rest of the staff, my first task was to conduct inventory on all the green crab trapping equipment to prepare for the season’s fieldwork. We use two main traps in the green crab research: 1) Fukui traps, and 2) Minnow traps. Fukui traps are intended to capture adult crabs, while minnow traps are aimed at smaller juvenile crabs.

Thursday and Friday were our first days out in the field. Traps have to be set during the morning low tide, and then are left until the low tide the following morning. On Thursday, we set traps at 2 sites in the estuary, and on Friday, we retrieved crabs from the traps.

Setting a fukui trap in the Metfield site in Charleston, OR.

Me holding a green crab caught in one of the traps. All of the green crabs caught are weighed and measured, and their sex, abdomen color, and number of missing limbs recorded. (My eyes were closed in every picture taken.)

Retrieving crabs in a fukui trap at the second site. Dungeness crabs, Oregon shore crabs, and sculpin (a fish) are also often caught in the traps. This site was extremely muddy, and we all got our boots stuck multiple times.
























These two days of fieldwork were just a brief start to the green crab project, and we will continue monitoring at several sites throughout the estuary for the rest of the summer. Collecting data on green crab abundance and distribution will help us better understand their population in the region and hopefully mitigate and prevent damage to the native ecosystem.


under: Uncategorized

Let’s Begin with an Exercise…

Look up from your screen and observe the things around you.

As I do so myself, it is not difficult to estimate the market value of the couch, rug, and even the land on which my cabin resides. If I were to have a yard sale tomorrow, each item could be priced with a bright orange sticker for potential buyers to assess and purchase.

“…it is not difficult to estimate the market value…”

Many appraisals of worth, similar to those that we just assigned our surrounding items, are based on the ideals supported by Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Each object has a market value, which fluctuates with condition, use, and personal necessity for that thing. On a national level, our country’s resources can be assessed and quantified as Gross National Product (GNP). Simply put, everything that can be used has a worth.

“Subjective well-being: overall quality of life”.

As rational as the ideas of Gross Domestic and National Product seems, this system of assessment is flawed. Now that you have looked at the items around you, indulge me in a bit of introspection and think back to one of your happiest moments.

How do you place a value on that time? By GDP and GNP’s standards, there is no market value for the scene you just pictured or the feeling of satisfaction you may feel upon reflection. Your happiest moment can instead be categorized under a non-market (or non-use) value. Though you cannot assign a price to it, that instant of happiness adds merit to your life and increases your subjective well-being, or quality of life.

In his 1968 address to the University of Kansas, Robert Kennedy encompassed this idea of non-market value best in saying,

Robert Kennedy on Gross National Product (GNP)

“…gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play.  It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials.  It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”

Often our most valued moments are those that have no market value. This week, I have begun to delve into the literature surrounding subjective well-being (SWB), which I previously alluded to as our overall quality of life. This concept of SWB can be applied in a natural setting as well, despite our attempts to place monetary value to resources such as land, water, and forests. Though these aspects of nature are factored into our GNP, there is an element of worth that we cannot account for with simple market value. For example, many people will donate to rainforest conservation funds even though a large portion of those donors will never set foot in the rainforest themselves. The worth lies in the existence of the forest instead their use of that land.

Oregon Marine Reserves (image by Oregon State Parks).

This summer I am studying subjective well-being surrounding the protection of marine areas on the Oregon coast in the form of five marine reserves. Through administration of survey instruments tailored to our nearby fishing communities, I am working with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to determine the economic and non-market values of these marine areas. Through the use of choice experiments, we aim to gain a more in depth understanding of the subjective well-being of residents in Oregon coast communities as they relate to forest and marine preservation.

I won’t disclose all of the “good stuff” yet, but stay tuned to this blog. I will be updating weekly with photos, articles, and summaries of my time here.


~Sarah Coffin~


Author and Oregon Sea Grant Scholar Sarah Coffin at Owen Rose Garden in Eugene, Oregon in June, 2017.



under: sea_cof

I’m using this blog post as an excuse to take a detour from my usual research and explore the tantalizing world of protists. Studying nothing but microbes and chemical compounds for the past year has given me an excitement for small aquatic critters of all kinds. You are officially about to become a sounding board to the army of thoughts and large confusing taxonomic names that are assaulting my brain. Bear with me and you might find yourself similarly enthralled!

It started with reading a paper on the ecology of Labyrinthulomycetes (Raghukumar 2002) as I was studying the topic of disease in eelgrass. Recently, I have been doing a lot of research on seagrass for classwork and personal interest (“NERD!”). I find seagrass meadows particularly fascinating since they are the most common coastal ecosystem on the planet, sequester 12x more carbon than terrestrial forests, provide habitat for thousands of species, and filter contaminated water in temperate AND tropical coastal/estuarine ecosystems. I think of seagrass meadows as “unsexy” coral reefs (“NERD!”).

Common eelgrass (Zostera marina) is a type of seagrass that often suffers from the parasitic disease called Eelgrass Wasting Disease. Labyrinthula zosterae is a marine protist that causes this disease by destroying the photosynthetic ability of eelgrass leaves through lesion formation. The L. zosterae protist is actually symbiotic if the host is unstressed. As soon as the host becomes stressed (due to any number of factors, such as salinity, temperature, light, etc.) L. zosterae quickly turns pathogenic and produces lesions on the plant. Labyrinthulomycota is the marine protist group under which L. zosterae is found, hence the interest in the Raghukumar paper.

Before we move on, let’s define protists. Protists are any eukaryotic organisms that are not plants, animals, or fungi – they are typically microscopic unicellular organisms. There are four groups that comprise protists: protozoa, slime molds, water molds, and algae. Labyrinthulomycetes are marine slime molds that produce a network of filaments or tubes (“ectoplasmic net”) which they use for movement or nutrient absorption. Interestingly, they are actually more closely related to algae (i.e. diatoms, other phytoplankton, and kelp) than they are to other slime molds.

Enter the chaos. Labyrinthulomycota comprises two groups of marine protists: labyrinthulids (e.g. L. zosterae) and thraustochytrids. Labyrinthulids are typically endobionts (organisms that live within another organism), while thraustochytrids are epibionts (organisms that live on the surface of another organism). My current research is interested in the effects of pharmaceutical contaminants on phytoplankton, so I started thinking about effects of contaminants on other non-algae protists as a trigger for diseases, such as Eelgrass Wasting Disease. My lab-mate, Lyle, who is also an awesomely passionate scientist, is culturing and studying chytrid parasites on phytoplankton. I thought, “Fantastic! A possible chance to study the effects of contaminants on a Labyrinthulomycete! Both chytrids and thraustochytrids are small circular epibionts that have “chytrids” in their name so they must be related… right?”. WRONG.

After a furious onslaught of text messages with [a very patient] Lyle arguing the difference between these two seemingly similar groups of organisms, I finally realized that chytrids are fungi, while thraustochytrids are protists. Now you may be thinking, “Protists and fungi… wait… aren’t those on opposite ends of the tree of life? Why are they both using the word “chytrid” in their names!?”. That’s a question that only taxonomists can answer, but one explanation is that thraustochytrids and labyrinthulids were variously placed under the fungi and protozoa groups before being consolidated into the Labyrinthulomycota protist group. Labyrinthulids look very similar to protozoa and thraustochytrids look very similar to fungi (e.g. chytrids). Similar morphology in combination with a seriously lacking fossil record makes it easy to see how taxonomists could have originally mistaken thraustochytrids for chytrids. It sure fooled me!

(above) Chytrids (left) vs. thraustochytrids (right)
(below) Protozoa (left) vs. labyrinthulids (right)
They look totally different… right?

Now that I understand that Lyle is NOT studying Labyrinthulomycetes, can I still explore the toxicology of protists in my lab? Actually… yes! Even though chytrids are fungi and thraustochytrids are protists, they employ similar life strategies (epibionts) and can be found simultaneously in the environment. For instance, chytrids and thraustochytrids colonize mangrove ecosystems by breaking down pollen spores and fallen leaves (Phuphumirat et al 2016). If they can be found co-occurring in the environment, and if they are hard to tell apart via microscopy, does that mean that Lyle might be unknowingly growing thraustochytrids as well as chytrids in his cultures? This is definitely a possibility, since he often spikes his cultures with actual material from the Columbia River Estuary.

If we have a successful thraustochytrid culture in my lab, I can perform similar toxicology tests as with my phytoplankton. Effects of contaminants on thraustochytrids will give us insight into possible effects of contaminants on other Labyrinthulomycetes, such as Labyrinthulids, which could have ramifications for outbreaks of Eelgrass Wasting Disease. Of course, labyrinthulids are endobionts so their exposure to contaminants would be different. Nevertheless, disease ecology is a wonderful excuse to expand my research interests and enter through the gateway of non-algae protists. The world of Labyrinthulomycete toxicology awaits!

On a closing note, non-algae protists are particularly neglected in the world of microbial research. I can’t help but think that part of the reason scientists bypass these organisms is due to confusing taxonomy and terminology. But don’t let that deter you – all it takes is a few text messages to your scientist friends to start understanding protists in relation to other plants, animals, and fungi. In the meantime, oh, the possibilities that this negligence affords! This could be the beginning of a beautiful project for those of us who know…



Raghukumar S. (2002). Ecology of marine protists, the Labyrinthulomycetes (Thraustochytrids and Labyrinthulids). European Journal of Protistology 38: 127-145.

Phuphumirat W., Ferguson D. K., Gleason F. H. (2016). The colonization of palynomorphs by chytrids and thraustochytrids during pre–depositional taphonomic processes in tropical mangrove ecosystems. Fungal Ecol. 23: 11–19. 10.1016/j.funeco.2016.05.006

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