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Interview Participation

Posted by: | September 11, 2017 | 1 Comment |

Participation in the interview process for a Sea Grant Fellow position was one of the most valuable parts of my Fellowship. While initially it may seem like an extra task added onto an already busy schedule is actually exactly the kind of preparation Sea Grant seeks to provide its fellows in order to help them enter the work force. Just the initial read of applicant’s materials helped me see how to improve my own, and not just because they had better word choice. I started to see where I had not fully explained something and left an area open to interpretation that I actually had very specific answers too. I realized that if I cannot fully explain a subject in my cover letter that I should not bring it up at all, because the blank will be filled in by the reader and that distracts from other more important subjects. I also finally understood the value of letters of recommendation, especially from those who had clearly developed a personal working relationship with a student. Letters of recommendation that highlighted the same projects or attributes of a students cover letter demonstrated that the student was under no delusions about their strengths or even weaknesses they sought to improve. While grades where a factor and where important to complete the full picture of a student they carried far less weight than I thought. Really all they are need for is to demonstrate is that a person is capable of hard work and following through, or that they have acquired skills needed for a particular job.

Through discussion of the materials with other members of the selection committee I began to understand what parts of a cover letter we all responded to. Direct statements such as “This is my dream job, I would take it above all others.” where incredibly well received. While statements such as “I would like this job so that I can stay in Oregon” were less well received unless they were followed up with further explanation of a person’s commitment to the area or a particular issue. Sea Grant really responds to passion and commitment, they want students who are going to use this opportunity to develop further, not just as something to do while they figure out a better option. It was especially interesting to see how we all balanced the multiple parts of an application against each other, grades verse dedication to a certain area or letters of recommendation verse personal statement. Each person on the panel valued things differently and through our conversation we started to put together a whole picture of what this person would look like as a fellow. I really understand now how to make myself stand out to different kinds of interviewers.

The actual interviews helped me understand how my personality and interview style is viewed by different people. There was an incredible amount of understanding from the panel about nerves and how those are presented in different people. I learned that it was ok to be nervous as long as I addressed it if my composure slipped or I answered a question weirdly. Observing this part of the process and discussing it afterwards will definitely save me some sleep at 4 am in the future. I used to think that panel interviews were worse than one on one interviews but through this process I learned that they are actually better. Every person carries with them unavoidable biases based on their personal experiences, but its is also our experiences that help us balance them out, especially when combined with other peoples. As we discussed the differences in each candidates in person interview there were some things we all noticed and agreed on and others that surprised us and needed explaining from another person. I deeply value this experience and took away a lot more than I thought I would initially.

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So I think I’ll start off by saying that I am writing my final yet very late blog post from Kawasaki, Japan. It’s currently 6:41 in the morning and my jet lag has still not adjusted itself. I got here three days ago and it’s been quite the culture shock. After leaving Oregon, I drove and stayed in Santa Cruz for two days, then I drove back home to Redlands where I stayed for a week, until going to San Diego for a night before leaving for Japan. This rapid change in scenery and cultures that’s occurred in the last week and half has me a bit discombobulated, making my time in Oregon feel like it was a year ago rather than a week. Being here in Japan especially, where the only things I can say to anyone is “Konichiwa” and “Arigato,” really make me appreciate the fact that I was living in a place where I could actually communicate with its members of society. So this final blog post is dedicated to those members of Oregon’s South Coast that I befriended during my 10 weeks and the knowledge I gained from them about something my knowledge is a bit rusty on: relationships.

I think it’s fairly obvious that older people are full of experience and knowledge about many subjects, sometimes with wisdom, sometimes without. It’s been a while since I was in a real relationship myself so whenever I get the chance to connect with the older generation I make it a point to observe them and ask about their love life if they’re comfortable discussing it. I spent my free time with more “old” people than people my age this summer so I will tell you some of the advice they imparted upon me and what I learned through observing them with their significant other. I would prefer to give a more detailed account about the event where each person gave me advice because I think it gives the advice context and depth but in order to preserve anonymity I will just list the things that I learned from all these good ole geezers.

  • Find someone with similar interests with you. Whether it’s something like bird photography or yoga or any other niche little thing, I think having someone you can share these unique experiences and interests with is important.
  • A person who you can laugh with is truly sweet or as one person put it, “someone you can talk sh*t to.” The two people who told me about this one would just clown on each other constantly and both would just laugh about it afterwards. The world seemed lighter being around them and their banter.
  • Now this one was a bit more explicit but someone who you can link up with in bed in a cooperative and positive manner is apparently very important.
  • Be real. Don’t try to be the cool guy. Know what you’re feeling and say how you feel.
  • Find someone where you genuinely love the person that they are. 
  • “Realize that all the sh*t you think is big in your twenties is little minor sh*t when you look back on it in your thirties.” Ex: “He wants to hang out with his friends tonight. Back then I would freak out and be all upset but now I’m like pushing him out the door to do it.”
  • Get your heart broken as much as possible. As tough as it is in the moment, looking back on it you’ll realize it’s the times you grew most as a person and learned the most about yourself.
  • Don’t forget your friends in a relationship. You should never have to ask for someone’s permission to hang out with your friends, especially not your significant other.
  • “The second marriage is usually the right one.” (ain’t that encouraging?)
  • Cherish the times you have away from that person. That’s the time you have to do something for yourself, like watching TV where you’re the one in control of the remote.
  • Find someone who you want to take care of. People don’t stay healthy forever and being with someone whom you genuinely want to care for is special
  • “Acknowledge and accept that every relationship is f***ed up.” Relationships are hard and they require work from both parties in order to succeed. 




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At the very end of the legislative session, on the very last day, Oregon took a big step in the fight against the impacts of ocean acidification and hypoxia.  Oregon’s Legislative Assembly passed a bill called SB 1039, relating to ocean chemistry. This bill declares state policy on ocean acidification and hypoxia and forms a 13 member council, the Oregon Coordinating Council on Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia. Why are either of those things important?

First, setting state policy demonstrates to the public, neighboring states and the world that OAH is affecting Oregon, that Oregon is a leader in research and monitoring on OAH, and that Oregon is taking the impacts of OAH seriously. Now, to be fair, Oregon has arguably been demonstrating some of these already by participating in regional collaborations to address OAH like the West Coast OAH Science Panel, the International OA Alliance, and the OAH Monitoring Task Force with Federal agencies. Regional collaboration is valuable, but Oregon’s marine resources and coastal communities face specific local impacts of OAH too. Acknowledging that the impacts of OAH are especially profound in Oregon and threatens Oregon’s resources and communities is critical to work towards finding solutions to mitigate and adapt to OAH.

So, how will this bill actually help address OAH in Oregon? Big thorny problems are daunting. No one change in policy or program will solve them. There are pros and cons to almost all ideas to address big problems. Limited funding, capacity and will needs to be focused on the ideas that stand the most chance to make the biggest difference while minimizing the costs. The Oregon Coordinating Council on Ocean Acidification (OA Council) hopes to do just that. By formally gathering representatives from state agencies, academia, fishing and shellfish industries, Native American tribes, and other thinkers and charging them with coordinating the Oregon’s response to the impacts of OAH, Oregon hopes to effectively address OAH in a way that works for Oregon.

The OA Council is charged with identifying research and monitoring priorities to better understand OAH, and recommending priority actions the state could take to address OAH. Maybe those actions include active mitigation, increasing monitoring and research capacity, identifying socioeconomic impacts of OAH, increasing public awareness of OAH or leveraging local work on OAH in coordination with regional and even international efforts. Other states, such as Maine, Maryland, and Washington have taken a similar approach to addressing OAH, forming multi-stakeholder panels to coordinate state action.

Addressing ocean acidification could be contentious because it may involve prioritizing some uses of the ocean over others. For instance, protecting or restoring eel grass beds has been proposed by scientists as a way to help mitigate acidic ocean conditions, at least near the eel grass. Eel grass could help oysters thrive, but can make it harder to harvest the oysters. One method to harvest oysters involves dredging the sediment to collect the oysters, but dredging disrupts eel grass, at least temporarily. So, how to design a program of restoring eel grass to protect the shellfish industry without displacing the very industry we are trying to help? Having extensive stakeholder involvement from the very beginning is the best way to find solutions and broker compromises that can actually be implemented.

My role in the Governor’s office was to support the drafting the language and making sure interested parties were aware of developments as the legislature considered the bill. Much of the work coming up with a concept for the bill happened before I joined the Governor’s office, but I still felt a sense of ownership watching the bill work its way from introduction, through amendments, through Senate and House committees and finally seeing it get passed.

My time in the Governor’s office has now ended and I’ve been reflecting on what I accomplished during my year as a Natural Resources Policy Fellow. I found working on policies to combat the effects of climate change on the ocean was the most compelling and interesting part of my work. The OA Council stands out to me as a concrete step forward to address ocean acidification, one of the repercussions of climate change that is already affecting Oregon’s waters.



under: Natural Resources Policy Fellow, sea_day

In standard fashion, a week after finishing this internship, it is really starting to hit me how lucky I was to have been surrounded by such incredible people this summer. From prepping for the final presentations to the last minute literature review on community engagement evaluation, the last two weeks of the internship were a whirlwind with no down time. Since that time there just hasn’t seemed a time to collect my thoughts and finish off this final blog (sorry Sea Grant!) Two flights and a U-Haul trip later (more on this in a hot minute), I was right back in the swing of things. Four hours after my getting picked up from the airport I was sitting in a lecture hall in New Britain Connecticut getting briefed on the syllabus for the upcoming semester. I know I’ve got plenty more to experience, but I’d like to think I’ve done a fair share of traveling for my age. Yet of all my experiences, coming home always feels the weirdest. Feeling like your experiences have given you new perspectives on life and helped shape you more into who you really are. Then coming home to find that, while you were out there exploring and growing, life at home had just kept on going without you. Home hadn’t changed a bit. Which to be honest can be pretty nice, but at the same time makes you just want to scream. I’ve got so many stories to share, but no audience to listen to them.

This summer has been different to all the traveling that I’ve done in the past. I wasn’t backpacking my way through Europe while I should have been in class, hitch hiking through Nepal or diving in the South Pacific in the name of science. Newport Oregon was the closest to home that I’ve spent an entire summer in 3-4 years. That feels pretty odd when I write it out. But what’s even weirder, is that it I felt more out of my comfort zone this summer in my own country than I did in any of my trips in recent memory. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out why that was. The people I was surrounded by were incredibly friendly and I was in a state that I had dreamed about visiting for years, why would I be out of my comfort zone?

Until this point I had only met individual peers whose commitment and motivation just caused you to respect them. This summer I found myself living with 18 of those people all at once. Every single one of them joked around like a normal person, but get them on the topic of their field or their passion and they would blow you away. It was humbling and inspiring. Being surrounded by so many incredibly intelligent and motivated people properly intimidated me at first. What was I doing there? I was older than they were and still procrastinated so hard that my final blog post was a week late (my bad). Did I have what it would take to make it in this field? Oddly enough, at the same time that I was nervous, I was hopeful that there were so many amazing young people who hadn’t decided to chase the money. Instead they chose a career to make a difference in the world. I had found a group of people who cared more about helping the planet more than the nice things money could buy. Intimidation gave way to motivation and I wanted to do as much as I could for the environment that I loved so much. Maybe I couldn’t make it in the hard sciences, but I feel like I knew that all along. I’m a people person who loves the environment and I reckon the best way of doing my part is to work with the people.

Alright introspective monologue over. Onto more important things:


The Objective Top 3 list of the Summer at Hatfield Marine Science Center

Forward: Top 3 was a joke that originated in Angelina making fun of me for saying it constantly. It turned into a way to exclaim something that is properly epic. Saying something in the top 3 does not rank first, second or third, but rather a collective top 3. These are some of the things that stood out this summer and get the nostalgia running pretty hard.


Top 3 Modes of transportation:

  1. Hatfield marine science center foldable bikes
  2. Begging the Californian interns to drive us around
  3. U-Haul Truck: Zach and I had our flights home out of Seattle. We had originally figured we’d be able to hitch a ride with someone, but the Wednesday before the internship ended we realized that was not the case. As a semi joke a friend of ours suggested renting a U-Haul since we had to be 25 to rent a car. After having a good laugh we took a look into it. Not only was it cheaper than renting a car or taking a bus/shuttle combo, we only had to be 16 and could drop it off in any of the U-Haul drop off points in Seattle! So without further hesitation we rented a full size (the only size available) and drove this bad boy 6 hours north. Was it the most extra mode of transportation? Possibly. Was it genius? Well.. we would like to think so. Did we have a blast doing it? You betcha.

Top 3 Cinnamon Rolls (No brainer on this one):

  1. Fishtail Café
  2. Fishtail Café
  3. Fishtail Café


Top 3 Waitresses at Fishtail Café

  1. The sweet middle-aged lady that calls Zach and I baby
  2. The sweeter older lady that refers to Zach and I as her boys
  3. The 20 something lady that assumed we were there to flirt with her (We just wanted cinnamon buns)


Top 3 “Songs” of the Summer

  1. Norf Norf by Vince Staples
  2. The entire Moana Soundtrack
  3. The entirety of Funk Wave Bounce Vol. 1 by Calvin Harris

The last two albums were basically extended songs as that is all we listened to this summer.


Top 3 Movies of the summer

  1. Moana – watched it 3 times and listened to the soundtrack ~a million times
  2. Shrek – ability to quote this movie is amazing
  3. The Dark Knight – So many people hadn’t seen this movie??


Top 3 worst Lil Yachty lyrics – Lil Yachty is a terrible rapper, but his terrible lyrics are one of the things that really brings people together.

  1. “You need to stay up out them streets if you can’t take the heat. Cause it get cold like Minnesota, cold like Minnesota.” – Because he’s been to Minnesota and its “really cold there”
  2. “Almost had a lifetime sentence, but I beat it, shout out to Pat! Pat, that’s my lawyer, he got me off them charges. 8 stacks for that boy, he took care of the boy” – Hits a soft spot because we, regardless of gender, are part of the “boyssssss”
  3. “Remember that time I put those pepperoni on your face. Made you a creature. Now I think about you, every single time I eat pizza.” – Top 3 most heartfelt love lyrics of all time, FOR SURE.


Top 3 Activities to Participate in on the Hatfield Dorm Porches

  1. Cold Ones and Ice Cream Porch Nights – A time for people to come together and talk about science, our feelings, Lil Yachty, race relations in the U.S., travel stories, and anything that comes to mind. A proper judgment free zone.
  2. Beer Can Hockey w/ broom sticks– self explanatory
  3. Impromptu dancing while waiting for any of the Californian’s to drive us places.


Top 3 Exclamations

  1. YA BOYYYY – A true classic way to welcome someone into your home or welcome yourself into someone else’s home
  2. TOP 3 “insert object being pointed at”, TOP 3 “insert another object” – just a great way to display affection of whatever you’re looking at.
  3. I AM SHOOK, I TELL YOU, SHOOK. – Usually exclaimed after Game of Thrones.


Top 3 Things to get stressed about

  1. Lack of proper signage at the Marine Reserves
  2. Lateness of blog posts
  3. Game of Thrones


Top 3 things spotted while snorkeling in Newport Harbor

  1. Some kelp
  2. Rocks
  3. TWO crabs


This could go on forever, but this is already super late. So I will finish it here. Thank you everyone for a wicked summer. Especially Sea Grant staff for organizing everything and constantly being supportive of us.

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Hello Everyone,

I will not be graduating until early 2018, so this is not my last post as an Oregon Sea Grant Scholar. However, this IS my last post as a Robert E. Malouf Scholar. With that in mind, I decided I would give a taste of what I have been doing this summer, but leave the “whole shebang” for my final post.

Recall, my project is characterizing metformin, a pharmaceutical drug, as a contaminant of emerging concern (CEC) in the lower Columbia River estuary. Fully characterizing a CEC in the environment should obviously include an ecosystem component. Thanks to the Malouf scholarship, I am currently exploring the effects of metformin on the lower food web.

This summer is best described as a series of never-ending lab experiments and instrumentation. It turns out that testing the effect of metformin on phytoplankton and microbes is harder than it looks! Currently, my lab bench looks like an explosion of flasks, vials, pipettes, and sediment. Like most scientists, I spend more of my time washing and prepping experiments than I do actually collecting data – an unromantic fact of the scientific existence that the public tends to ignore. I will focus on my phytoplankton work, since the microbe experiments are currently taking an unexpected turn (more on that in the future!).

Most of my phytoplankton work has revolved around the PAM fluorometer – an awesome device that measures the kinetics of fluorescence in photosynthetic cells.

The simple beauty of PAM.

If you recall basic photobiology, photosynthesis (the production of energy from sunlight) works through an electron transport chain that takes place in the thylakoid membrane of chloroplasts in photosynthetic cells. Pigment molecules (e.g. chlorophyll b, xanthophylls, or carotenes) within a membrane photosystem (Photosystem II) absorbs photon energy from sunlight. This energy is used to excite electrons donated by oxygen in water. The excited electrons are held less strongly by the oxygen nucleus and escape into a “pigment funnel” (i.e. antenna complex), where it is passed from pigment molecule to pigment molecule toward an ultimate electron acceptor (i.e. chlorophyll a) at the reaction center of the photosystem. The chain continues after the electron is shuttled to another photosystem (Photosystem I) and a different electron acceptor. The electron will ultimately be used in the production of NADPH and a proton gradient that fuels ATP synthase to produce energy.

The concept of photosynthesis: an electron from water is excited to a higher energy state and escapes into Photosystem II where it is passed from pigment molecule to pigment molecule until it hits an ultimate electron acceptor. The electron is then passed through an intermembrane system to Photosystem I where it is funneled to another electron acceptor and eventually used to reduce NADP+ to NADPH. This forms an intermembrane proton gradient that drives ATP synthase and the production of energy.

In a nutshell, the PAM fluorometer stimulates and measures this process by delivering light pulses to a water sample containing photosynthetic cells (algae, in my case). Recall, photosynthesis is based on the idea of an excited electron losing energy. Whenever an excited electron moves to a lower energy state, it must release energy. This energy is released in the form of long wavelength fluorescence, which can be measured by a fluorometer. By measuring minimum and maximum fluorescence in response to a series of light pulses, the PAM fluorometer can measure electron transport rate and non-photosynthetic quenching processes (e.g. energy lost via heat, instead of fluorescence). In my case, this is perfect for looking at the effect of a chemical compound on photosynthetic efficiency.

My labmate jokingly dubbed the PAM fluorometer a “magic box”, however, there is a scary amount of truth to that term. The PAM fluorometer is an amazingly compact device that can measure an amazing number of photosynthetic processes. People tend to take it for granted since it appears simplistic: turn it on, insert sample, measure photosynthesis, and you’re done! WRONG.

There are so many quirks to the device. First off, the manual. Or, should I say, manuals. Part of one topic will be explained in one manual, but an important note on the same topic will be explained in the other manual. Confusing is an understatement. Let’s not mention the calibration protocol which cost me a month of fiddling.

As a result, I have learned the PAM fluorometer from the inside out. Some examples of what I have learned over the past three months: (1) there is an optimum time to “dark-adapt” samples to make sure photosystems are completely receptive to light (i.e. completely empty of electrons), (2) far-red light should also be used to fully oxidize Photosystem I and the intersystem electron transport chain to maximize electron receptivity, (3) the sample should be diluted until the fluorescence value does not exceed a maximum value, and (4) the sample cuvette has an optimum volume and should be cleaned with ethanol in between samples to prevent obscured light paths. These are just some of the many things that I had to learn by trial and error through countless failed phytoplankton experiments.

I am aware that this entire post is about the PAM fluorometer, but it has arguably been my greatest achievement this summer. I am proud that I am mastering such a deceptively complicated device. By the end of this project, I plan on having written a detailed calibration protocol and detailed illustration of the PAM fluorometer so that future lab members can easily take measurements without a similar summer of trial and error. The long process was a blessing in disguise though – I truly have a better grasp on photosynthesis and fluorometry instrumentation.

What about the results? Well, if you don’t make it to the CERF conference this year, you will have to wait for my last blog post. I am currently doing my fine-tuned toxicity experiments with Chlorella vulgaris (a basic green algae) and will be performing the same experiments with Thalassiosira weissflogii (a diatom, which tends to be more sensitive). This should give us a good idea of the effect of metformin on the photosynthetic processes of two representative organisms in the Columbia River estuary.

Stay tuned.

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The work part

It’s cliché to say (and it’s cliché to say “it’s cliché to say”), but these ten weeks really have flown by. Looking back, it’s as if the first week and a half flowed like molasses, and then the rest of the summer got dropped into a time warp that spit me out here on the second to last day of my time at Hatfield. I have to honestly say that this internship did not always follow my expectations, however it did not disappoint. First off, I expected to be interning with the US EPA, but due to issues with technicalities I ended up being taken in on a USDA project. I expected to be working in an office and finally getting some wear out of the ‘business-casual’ clothes I bought in high school. I ended up wearing t-shirts and working in a lab with eelgrass samples still caked in mud. I did not expect I’d get to go on multiple fieldwork trips to Washington and I definitely did not expect to experience a month-long power outage of a federal building. However, these are all details, and while we can form predictions of how we think such details will play out, I’ve learned that things never are completely how you expect them. My expectations of the internship that were met include the experience I gained in estuarine ecosystems, affirmation of my love for marine science and field work, and the initiation of a professional social network. I was able to present my research to experienced scientists, attend two graduate student thesis defenses, and form many friendships with young scientists like myself. Working at the Hatfield Marine Science Center has been a great experience to participate in research and learn about some of the many other research projects going on in the Pacific Northwest.

My PTU (Predation Tethering Unit) fortress- a daily activity in the field to organize PTU’s prior to deployment

The play part

I’d like to revisit the tourist in my own life concept that I discussed in my first blog post. I said Newport, OR was very different from Los Angeles and Maryland, however, I now would also like to say I’ve had the most American summer of my life here. I spent the 4th of July on the beach, had a BBQ, and watched fireworks over a river. I’ve floated in rivers and waded in creeks, gone camping and hiking many times. I watched monster trucks at a county fair and worked in the realm of agriculture (USDA). Did I mention we’ve been living in wood cabins all summer? I felt so out of my element my first day here, and I felt so at home by the end. I have always valued living in a new place for extended periods of time over traveling to many places for a week or so because you really get to experience the place rather than visit it, and I feel this experience has definitely accomplished that goal. I got to not only visit Oregon, but become a part of it for a while. I went to a local “beer and dogs” festival at a brewery, cheered on fellow interns and REUs at a state volleyball tournament, and became a regular at Fred-Myer.

I think the most rewarding part about making yourself a tourist in your own life is overcoming the tourism. It’s conquering the fears of being on your own in a new place with new people, and turning those strange places and strange people into home. At the beginning of summer, I asked myself “why do I keep putting myself in these new and uncomfortable positions?” and this summer has truly reminded me of the joy that can come out of those challenges.

Holding a crawfish during the OSG camping trip

The feels part

One thing that really made a difference to my overall quality of life this summer was the amazing group of students and interns that I have had the pleasure of living with. Having a group of adventurous, passionate, and intelligent people to see every day after work and explore Oregon with has been an extremely valuable part of this experience. It’s a little weird being back to Los Angeles where topics of daily discussion don’t include bomb calorimetry and marine reserves, and beach volleyball is not the dinnertime entertainment. Where it may not be as casual to discuss climate change as it is to discuss the latest Calvin Harris album. Every person I have befriended here is not only bright but driven. I consider myself not to be an easily inspired person (it takes more than a documentary or article), but the REU’s and Sea Grant scholars I met this summer really do inspire me to be a scientist even when we are not always listened to, to stay passionate and engaged about the state of our environment and country, and to stay open to meeting new people even though it may be challenging at first.

Some of the Sea Grants and REUs this summer– if you follow any of us on social media you’ve probably already seen this ~5 times, but dang we look good)

Thank you to Sea Grant and my mentor for the internship and thank you to all the friends I made along the way for making it unforgettable.

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And That’s That!

Posted by: | August 28, 2017 | 3 Comments |

Having perused the previous Summer Scholar’s blog posts when applying for this program, I read that not only will you learn a great deal about yourself, research, and science, you will form connections with people who will serve as role models and friends long after the program ends. At the time, I knew that this would be a great experience, but I was not aware of just how meaningful those students’ statements were until now as I write this final blog post. More on that in a moment; first I want to reflect on the final week of this program. As always, it was full of positive experiences. The final weekend consisted of presenting at the Final Symposium, celebrating the end of the program with the rest of the Scholars, and traveling to Corvallis to see the total solar eclipse. To say the least, that was the most eerie, fascinating experience. The remaining weekdays consisted of finishing up small projects, saying goodbye to the magical Bandon office, farewell dinners, learning quintessential dart games from Miles, apricot ale, making too much noise with Chris, Rowland, and Dustin at our farewell breakfast, packing up all of my belongings, turning in my keys, and driving to Portland for my last night in Oregon. That evening, I visited Powell’s bookstore with a friend from school, which takes up an entire city block. Literally a dream. This weekend, I flew to my hometown of Denver for my mom’s wedding. I didn’t take any pictures because I was too preoccupied catching up with family and friends (my mom has 7 siblings, most of which have kids, some of whom also have kids), and butchering a toast in front of all of them because I was too overcome with emotion and gratitude. But here’s a picture of my mom and her best friend that my sister managed to snap. Seeing her celebrate love with our family surrounding her was one of the most beautiful experiences. 

Now that the craziness has died down, I am finally able to sit down and reflect on this past summer in the sunny, plant filled kitchen of my sister’s home. (Yes, the obsession runs in the family). I’ve previously written a bit about how my research this summer led me to learn how to maintain a strong sense of patience and diligence in the face of discomfort. (I’ve also learned that I have an almost uncontrollable sweet tooth when stressed. A very tangible thing that I will take from Oregon is my newfound obsession with Pepperidge Farm’s chocolate hazelnut pirouettes). In addition to learning about my personal research process, studying environmental interpretation, the tourism industry, and natural resource based recreation has shown me the overall potential to strengthen natural resources through sustainable tourism when collaboration between communities and the sharing of knowledge between stakeholders are the top priorities. There is so much potential for community collaboration, economic recovery, and ecosystem restoration/enhancement in the southern region of Oregon, and I hope more people have the chance to experience the wildness that resides there in the secluded coves, uninterrupted sand dunes, geologic sentinels, and centuries-old forests. 

As for the people I had the privilege of interacting with, saying that I am grateful for them is an understatement. There are so many people that have either offered me their knowledge, time, books, stories, and/or connections with other influential people that have also proven to be invaluable.

Surrogate Oregon parents Rowland and Chris with Dustin. We got scolded for laughing too loud.

Having now completed this program, I feel more motivation, bravery, and excitement for the future. Upon my return to California in a couple of weeks, I plan to complete my last round of classes, resume my role at the Estuary Program, graduate (!!), work at the Marine Mammal Center, and bring in the conclusion of the calendar year with getting my PADI Open Water Diver certification. After that – time will only tell. Within a few years from now, I hope to apply to graduate school, my (tentative) top choice being the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management of UC Santa Barbara to double-specialize in coastal marine resources management and water resources management.

In wondering about what I will end up pursuing, I am reminded of a statement I made in the essay I wrote when applying for this program: “As I approach my graduation in December of this year, and as climatic and destructive threats confront coastal communities, I feel a sense of urgency to seize every opportunity available. My lifelong goals are simple: to always learn, and to contribute to the well-being of the planet. Whether I become a scientific explorer for the National Geographic Society, obtain doctorate degrees in various areas of study, or lead a successful public environmental agency, my ambition is to be in a challenging profession that will further the scientific discovery of the world and augment the protection of our planet’s marine and terrestrial ecosystems.” This program has reinforced those goals and has added/strengthened other passions in the mix, such as marine mammal ecology and the indescribably, critical importance of effective science communication. 

Thank you to Sea Grant; Miles, the Scholars, OSU Extension; Haley; Dustin, Dave Lacey, Anthony, and friends of South Coast Tours; Rowland and Chris Willis; Erik Urdahl; Justin Meyers; Tom Calvanese; Joy Primrose; Gary & The Whale’s Tail; Marine Discovery Tours; The Oregon State Marine Board; Capt. John Blanchard; Dean Finnerty, Frank Burris; Mark Lottis; Sarah Kolesar; Mary Pleasant; and MOTHA EARTH. This has been a beautiful experience. 


under: Uncategorized

Clichés from California

Posted by: | August 27, 2017 | 1 Comment |

My lovely move-in crew to my new home in Monterey.

It amazes me the rate at which humans are capable of adapting. In just one week, I have made the trek from a life on one central coast to the next. I write to you now in California from my new balcony in Monterey. I had a wonderful move-in crew (my family) to help me set up in this new home. In the spirit of a new beginning, I have given myself the allowance to be cliché in reflection with my final blog post.

Oh how I’ve missed the California sun.

This summer has been a challenge. Not only have I learned to engage in interdisciplinary research outside of my normal scope, but I have reformed my ideologies as a person. I am increasingly aware of the social clock, watching all of those I grew up with get engaged, married, and have children. It can be easy to look at these developments of those around you and wonder, “Am I on track?”

From my research perch, all of these things are not yet an option. I am merely focused on my tasks at hand. That being said, this summer’s experience has given me one of the greatest insights into my future ambitions. Though not directly related to my research topics, this internship has caused me to parse out what I want in life from a holistic perspective. I love my career in research. And I want to pursue it.

What a successful summer! Jumping for joy in Astoria, Oregon.

As I begin to pour over my new books, research articles, and course requirements, I feel sentiments of gratitude. Thanks to the skills that I have sharpened this summer, I feel no hesitation to learning new material. After all, if a psychology major can understand the inner workings of national economics and marine policy, then what truly may stand in our way?

I am proud of our work as summer interns. Every REU and Sea Grant scholar I met during my time in Oregon shone bright with potential. I have no doubt that I will encounter them all again, working as colleagues towards a common goal in our appointed fields.

Though I walk away with a certain degree of healthy pride in our overall accomplishments, I believe that humility was one of my own greatest lessons. In being surrounded by such an abundance of remarkable people, I hold a newly found reverence for both passion and intelligence. Even amidst a politically uncertain time, I have hope that those who truly support inquisition and learning will be heard. I walk away from this internship more certain of the importance of research as well as the humble mind that must come with an ever-questioning spirit.

Goodbye Oregon- see you again soon.

Thank you, Sea Grant, for pushing our bounds and asking us to grow. I am leaving this internship a better and more hopeful person than I came. For anyone reading this blog with anticipation, waiting to hear back for next year’s recruitment, I have yet another cliché word of advice. Enter this experience with an open mind in all aspects, whether mentally, physically, socially, or spiritually.

With that, I will leave you. Thank you for reading along with me this summer.

Sarah Ann Coffin



under: sea_cof, Uncategorized

Fairwell for now

Posted by: | August 27, 2017 | 1 Comment |

The past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind- from preparing and then giving my final symposium presentation, to eclipse chasing, to working the Oregon State Fair, it has been a wild ride.

Let’s back up to week 9. Joe and I had finished our native oyster surveys, which sent us all around the bay to over well over 60 sites. I had helped in developing the qualitative methods, which were for determining the abundance of oysters at a site to a “level”, ranging from absent to high abundance. It is meant to take little time and to be repeatable. I wrote up those methods which will later be used to draft a final report, which I’m pretty excited about. I didn’t get too far with data analysis, because I barely had time to enter it all while also making my poster and final talk, but I do know that compared to the previous 2 studies in ’96 and ’06, there are more oysters in Coos Bay. More work will be done checking previously mitigated sites for successful recruitment and on determining range expansion.

Symposium day was in Newport at the Hatfield Marine Science Center on August 18, 2017. We were required to make a 4×3 foot poster of our summer work and prepare a 5-min talk paired with a visual presentation. Many hours of feedback and editing took place that week, but I was very pleased with my first ever academic poster. I also used Prezi for the first time for my talk (for those of you who don’t know, it’s an online resource that is kind of a step up from PowerPoint, with cool graphics and transitions), and though there were some technical difficulties, it looked great and I feel I still gave a well-delivered, informational talk. After the poster session that afternoon Julia and I took to Rogue Brewery for a celebratory drink to end the semi-stressful day.

Me and my lovely poster, titled “The science behind managing Oregon’s shellfisheries”.

In case you live under a rock, the great American eclipse was this past Monday! So, the day following the symposium Julia and I were headed inland. We were not going to risk staying on the coast and missing totality due to the fog, so in our search for a place to get the best viewing we were lucky enough to be invited to stay with a friend of her sister’s in Salem, OR which fell right in the path of totality (and, is loads warmer and sunnier than the south coast weather we’ve grown tired of). On the way to our final destination, we made a stop north of Newport in Depoe Bay, dubbed the Whale Watching Capital of the Oregon Coast by its visitor association. They have a resident pod of grey whales this time of year that are easily visible right off shore. Armed with Julia’s binoculars we spent over an hour making what must have been hundreds of spout, fluke, and back observations (if I had to guess there were at least a dozen animals there at the time). It was spectacular. 10000/10 would recommend. From there we took a nice drive from the coast through forest to the drier, grassier interior of the state. Julia mandated that we make a pit stop at Burgerville, a local chain that is locally sourced, sporting menu items like a marionberry shake. Again, 10000/10 would recommend. We met up with her family and family friends late that evening and spent Sunday afternoon doing a wonderful, waterfall-filled hike at Silver Falls state park. Monday morning it was time for the big event! We got up early to scope out a prime spot on the neighborhood golf course. We were surprised to find that we were one of only about 7 groups who had staked a claim there, after all the media hype about crowds and traffic and such (seriously, they were treating like a natural disaster- “stock up on food, water, gas, ahh!”). Equipped with our eclipse glasses and breakfast, we watched the entire thing from the start of the partial eclipse till the last bit of the sun peaked its way out from behind the moon. With the eyes of an excited child on Christmas morning, we all ooh-ed and ahh-ed as the temperature around us dropped and darkness began to creep in. We experienced about 2 minutes of totality, and it had everyone awe struck (I’m getting goosebumps writing about it). We popped champagne and toasted to the wonder of the universe. The “diamond ring” shone beautifully and an artificial sunset was created on the horizon. I’m so glad we went, and I think the whole event may have created a new wave of eclipse junkies.

My final week at work involved a couple more oyster surveys with Scott, measuring shrimp, and cleaning up data. On Wednesday, the office threw me a last-day-in -Charleston party, with a very pink heavily frosted chocolate cake. It was very sweet (the sentiment and the pastry). Thursday I made my last drive up 101 to Newport, as I’d be spending my last day of the program on Friday working the first shift at the ODFW shellfish display at the Oregon State Far! The 3-hr drive didn’t annoy me as much as the past few trips, being that it was the last time I’d be doing it. I listened to NPR and took in all the beauty and grandeur of the coast, and was very content. Upon arriving in Newport I met up with Liz, Ylva, and Graham and together we packed the trailer with display stuff, gallons upon gallons of frozen sea water, and the animals. We got to the fairgrounds in Salem late in the afternoon and between unloading, set up, and making sure the animals would be fine overnight (aka making sure the pump and chiller systems were operating correctly) it was a long day. We had dinner and finally got back to Liz’s where I was also staying at around 9 pm. It was all worth it though because we did not walk into a disaster Friday morning, the animals were A-OK, and we were able to finish setting up and even take a breather before the fair opened at 10:00. I had a blast working the exhibit; donning my very official beige button up, I talked to many Oregonians young and old for about 4 hours. We had an estimated 600 people (that’s a conservative estimate) during that time. I had some very meaningful interactions, including talking to an older gentleman about invasive green crabs and teaching a brave little girl how to hold and sex a crab- she got so comfortable with it, she began teaching others. I’m very happy to have gotten a taste of outreach experience (shout out to Liz for letting me crash family weekend, as her daughter was turning 3 and her parents were in town).

This weekend, I’m accompanying Julia on her drive home up to Seattle. Yesterday we stopped in Portland to check out Powell’s books and grab some food, and then made our way to Mount St. Helen’s! Such a cool place, full of interesting history and amazing landscapes. Shoutout to Julia for being my travel companion and closest friend throughout my time in Oregon, this summer wouldn’t have been the same without you. And to her family for opening their home to me and letting me pet their dogs.

I am very VERY excited to be home in a few days, but this summer has been a memorable and enriching experience for me and my career. I’ve gained skills and made connections that I know will benefit me greatly in the future, and I’m ready for whatever comes my way.


Over and out,


under: Summer Scholars

Coos Ba(y)ngers

Posted by: | August 26, 2017 | 2 Comments |

I’ve used these blog posts as a medium to talk a lot about what I did this summer, people I met, things I learned, etc., and it’s all important. But one thing that is really, really important to me that I never went into is MUSIC! I discovered and rediscovered a ton of sweet tunes this summer so I’m dedicating this post to my 12 favorite songs from this summer. Why 12? I don’t know but it was too tough to cut the list down to 10. Each of these 12 were at some point either stuck in my head for elongated periods of time, on repeat throughout the summer, perfectly complemented a moment, or all of the above. I think each of them are worth checking out at some point. Enjoy.

  1. My Mind Is Playing Tricks On Me – Geto Boys
    • I really discovered this song this past spring but it’s so damn good that this classic 90s banger was played continuously throughout my summer. While I can’t relate to the Boys and their situations, as a person who frequently gets lost in his thoughts I definitely resonate with the song’s title and dominant hook: my mind is playing tricks on me. The song weaves through four different narratives each told by one of the Geto Boys. Some are comedic, some are real, all are dominated by an insanely strong and personalized flow and a consistently upbeat tempo. Just when you think the song is done Bushwick Bill comes in and keeps you going with his rugged voice for just one more verse. Definitely a classic.
  2. Eat Your Heart Out – Hungry Kids of Hungary
    • I heard this song on my first day in Oregon. Catie and I were riding in Julia’s car on the way back from Newport and my iPod was on shuffle when this song came on. I can’t really explain what makes this song so distinctive and special to me. If it was played at another time on another day I might not have truly appreciated it. But that first guitar riff and its melancholic message perfectly complemented this chill drive with strangers who would very soon become friends.
  3. Fire Coming Out of the Monkey’s Head & Last Living Souls – Gorillaz
    • I put two songs for this one because they both were played in succession during a drive to Siskiyou National Forest. This was my first weekend in the South Coast and my roommate Brendan and I had only known each other for a total of two days but we decided to escape the wind and go camping for a night. While Brendan was driving, playing his chill tunes, “Fire Coming Out of the Monkey’s Head” came on. I can’t remember anymore if I had selected it, if he had, or if it just came on at random, but within seconds I was reminded just how incredible this story of a song was. In a desperate attempt to keep the vibe going, I randomly chose another song off Demon Days that I had never heard before. “Last Living Souls” was slow at first but thirty five seconds in I knew I had made the right choice.
  4. Dope on a Rope – The Growlers
    • Now the Growlers are probably one of my favorite indie rock artists. Frontman Brooks Nielsen’s grainy, unconventional voice gives new meaning to every one of their songs. It’s no different with “Dope on a Rope.” The Growler’s album City Club was one of my favorites for the first half of the summer but this has to be the song that I would play constantly. I played it during Fourth of July when some of the South Coasters came over for burgers and it was the perfect ambience for such a day. Really pay attention to the bass line, like most Growlers songs it doesn’t follow a consistent rhythm. It’ll knock your socks off, trust.
  5. Suburban Beverage – Real Estate
    • I relistened to Real Estate’s self-titled album while roaming around Battle Rock and the beach in Port Orford. I’m a huge lover of Real Estate but their first album never captured me the way their later ones have, so when I was looking for some chill music to accompany this relaxed yet adventurous-feeling jaunt I figured this might be the perfect time to get into it. Real Estate’s emphasis has never been on their lyrics or vocals and this trend is most obvious in their self-titled. This particular song’s only lyric is “Budweiser Sprite, do you feel alright?” and for 3 minutes the band just repeats this ambiguously nonsensical phrase until crescendoing into a 3 minute jam sesh of emotion-driven, lyric-devoid instrumentation that will just make you FEEL.
  6. Sketch – Stereo MC’s
    • This groovy British hip-hop gem played on my way home from work on a Monday. I give attention to the day because Mondays are always those days where the routine seems so set in stone. In an attempt to escape this comfortable prison I put my iPod’s 15,911 songs on shuffle. I was blessed with Sketch, a 6 minute long groove cruise of British-accented flow, and I DUG it.
  7. Secrets – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
    • I love 80s music. I like to think that I’m pretty versed in this unique musical era but OMD is a group that I did not even know existed until this summer. Based on the suggestion of a friend who was seeing them in concert I decided to give them a listen and god damn god damn, “Secrets” is so beautifully 80s electro-pop it makes me want to throw up. With a catchy synth riff, a theme that could have been taken directly out of a teenage girl’s diary, and a continuous, longing outcry from a female singer who most likely is wearing something studded with too many rhinestones, “Secrets” is an anthem and my favorite 80s song of the summer.
  8. California – The Lagoons
    • Now of these 12 songs, this might have been the one that most suited the moment in which it was played. This moment occurred during the Mid-Summer Check-In. I had just gotten my full dose of the North Coaster’s lifestyle with a bonfire on the beach that was part of a goodbye party for a chill dude by the name of Brady. It was a beautifully memorable night shared with beautiful strangers that was concluded with a tight, illegal squeeze in Brady’s truck bed with people who were no longer just strangers. Combine the company, the night lights from the bay bridge, the Oregon beach breeze, and this sexy sax-filled song and you’ve got a liberatingly content moment out of a Stephen Chbosky novel. Shoutout to Sarah for being such a great DJ.
  9.  ALL OF EVERYTHING NOW – Arcade Fire
    • Ok first off f*** the haters, this album is incredible. It’s not the Arcade Fire you’ve grown up with, it’s not the Arcade Fire you love, but it’s the Arcade Fire of today and I am fanboying HARD. I listened to this album three times within 12 hours. The first time I heard it I was at the Punchbowl trying to play putt putt as I danced along to the album. With every song that came on I thought “Wow, that was fantastic, it can’t possibly get better” but I am so happy to say that it did get better, and it got better and it got better and it got better and…(do I need to keep going?). The second time I heard Everything Now was the next morning at 7am when Catie and I drove up to Depoe Bay to go whale watching. I was so filled with joy to discover that my love of the album was still just as strong after a night of sleep. It made me even more happy to see that Catie was digging it just as much as much as I was. The third time I listened to it was that evening while cleaning my room. Nothing special, but still just as dope as the first two times.
  10. Pyramids – Frank Ocean
    • Apparently it’s a sin if you didn’t fall in love with Channel Orange in high school. The first time I ever heard it was my junior year of college and I only really liked three songs off it so I’m basically the devil. But a week ago I needed to organize my negatives and I knew it was going to be a long and lonely process. So, I cracked open a cold one and threw on Frank’s Blonde. A few beers later and I had finished Blonde and started Channel Orange. The combination of repetitious work, booze, and Frank’s stories created a vibe that would get you ready to call up your ex. Pyramids nine minute ballad and its disgustingly encapturing transition really made me understand Frank’s music.
  11.  Uncle John’s Band – The Grateful Dead
    • One of my goals this summer was to get into the Grateful Dead. My roommate Brendan is a Dead Head and he would make it a point to show me their music here and there. It took eight weeks but my eyes were finally opened on his last night in Coos Bae. As I sat in my room, a live version of this song played in the kitchen. I can’t describe exactly what set Uncle John’s Band apart from all the other Dead songs I’d heard before but it felt like I was listening to the Dead for the first time. Since then I’ve listened to their Blues for Allah and the song Shakedown Street (which I am in love with). If things keep up I may be a late bloomer to the Dead Head scene.
  12. Young Folks – City of the Sun
    • I was so fortunate to have Catie as a co-worker. We carpooled for more than half the summer and with every drive we would listen to music. Let me tell you, her music taste is on point. This was the last song she suggested I listen to and it’s been playing at least three times a day for the past three days. Peter Bjorn & John are great and this is a truly creative and commemorative tribute to a classic.

“Cheers to the end of a great summer and a larger music library!” is what I would say if I didn’t have one last blog post to do. I’m an awful Scholar I know. Stay tuned.

under: Uncategorized

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