My name is Daniel Sund, and this is my first ever blog post! I could not be more proud to be doing it for Oregon Sea Grant, an institution so very close to my heart, as a 2016-2017 Natural Resource Policy Fellow!
Seven years ago – when I officially transferred the focus of my academic studies to marine science – I passed along a nascent resume to my favorite oceanography professor in the hopes of gaining some hands-on experience. Low and behold two weeks later, after an out of the blue phone call from his colleague and then an interview I didn’t know I was walking into, I started work as a research assistant conducting a literature review on environmental hypoxia and its impacts on fish.
Since that first experience, which lasted nearly two years, Sea Grant and I have continued to have a long and fruitful relationship. I have had the distinct pleasure of mentoring other students developing their professional experiences in the Sea Grant Summer Scholars program, serving as a part of the interview committee placing students with mentors for the same program, interviewing for a few of Sea Grant’s fellowships myself, and, coming full circle, becoming a full-fledged Sea Grant Scholar.
Before accepting the Natural Resource Policy Fellowship, I spent that last four years as a field ecologist. I have spent endless days on the small bays in the Pacific Northwest looking at burrowing shrimp, juvenile crab, and intertidal habitats and endless nights watching video, making maps, and analyzing data to try to understand the role commercial oyster and clam aquaculture plays in the ever intricate and dynamic ecology of our estuaries. It surprises many people who know me that I have turned in my field gear and floppy old fishing hat for a position where I am at my desk 100% of my workday. My “fieldwork” now consists of organizing workshops, gathering sets of experts in a room to pick their brains, and rending even more time commitments from their busy schedules to inform resource management. All I have to say is that I am extremely happy with the transition.
As a fellow, I have stepped in as the only support staff in the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and am the only person within all of the state’s executive agencies entirely focused on Ocean Acidification (OA) and, on occasion, Hypoxia (OAH). For those of you who don’t know, OA refers to the process by which carbon dioxide (CO2) is removed from the atmosphere by our oceans, where it chemically transitions to carbonic acid (H2CO3), a weak acid, resulting in seawater with lowered pH (acidified) as our oceans remove more and more CO2 in response to increased atmospheric concentrations. Hypoxia (H) refers to an environmental condition of low oxygen dissolved within the water leading to decreased productivity and stress on organisms that respire on one end to massive fish die offs on the other. This focus of my position on OAH means that I am a single issue type of guy granted the unique ability to entirely immerse myself in the realms of science and policy to better understand and inform resource management as they relate to OAH along the Continental West Coast.
Day to day, my work duties include drafting emails, editing documents, reading literature, and compiling information. However, at a broader level, I have been an integral part of launching an international collaborative focused on combating OAH impacts across much of the globe (OA Alliance). I have also participated in high-level discussions between state, federal, and international governments. Additionally, I have organized regional-level efforts to understand how state governments are monitoring OAH on behalf of the public as well as started the process of identifying the monitoring improvements necessary to insure resource managers are able to respond threats to our coastal resources and the communities that rely upon them. While it may seem like a lot to have been part of in only two months, this list is far from exhaustive.
Being engaged in work that has tangible products with societal benefit is a very different experience from the academic research I have been a part of up until this point. After working as a technician and research assistant, I often felt that the information and insights we were generating were lost to the annals of a journal or our own filing cabinet. In comparison, this fellowship has placed me “where the rubber meets the road” with regards to being able to use research to create tools used both by natural resource managers and stakeholders. It seems to me that the efforts I am currently part of make a more immediate and meaningful impact than anything I have previously worked on. I look forward to continuing my work here and seeing where it takes me.