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As a West Coast Sea Grant fellow I work on a wide variety of projects for two agencies (DLCD and ODFW) and the Office of Governor Kitzhaber. I’ve had to rely on a number of resources in order to get (and stay) up to speed on the diverse array of state and national ocean policy issues. One of the most valuable resources has been the wealth of institutional knowledge provided by former Sea Grant fellows. Todd Hallenbeck was a Sea Grant fellow from 2011-2013 and was my predecessor. He worked with the Governor’s Office to support the West Coast Governors Alliance on Ocean Health (WCGA), particularly in the realm of providing regional data management and decision support tools. Since Todd’s fellowship ended, I was curious about how it prepared him for the work he’s currently doing as a project manager for the WCGA’s West Coast Ocean Data Portal. Todd was awesome enough to answer a few questions and share a little bit about his current work, since the completion of his fellowship.

How did your background tie into the work you did during your fellowship?

Nothing could really prepare me for the wide variety of tasks that I was responsible for during my fellowship. I really had no experience in the policy realm that I found myself in. My background in GIS certainly helped me understand the issues involved with sharing and using data, but that work also exposed me to a whole new world of web GIS. I would say that my desire to see best available information and geospatial data used in the policy context of marine planning helped ground my background in the fellowship work. Both in the Oregon marine planning process as well as the Regional Data sharing work, it was all driven by my firm belief that when you have access the right data and tools, you can make the right decisions that have the most benefit to society.

What was your favorite part of your fellowship?

I really enjoyed working with a wide range of people both in Oregon and across the country. The work exposed me to folks from all over who were working in completely different capacities, from fisherman to data managers to biologists. Yet despite all these seemingly differing perspectives, everyone that I worked with shared that same desire to see the oceans protected and managed sustainably.

Now that your fellowship is done, what is your current position?

I started my own business, Sustainable Ocean Solutions LLC, and am providing project management and data networking consultation to the West Coast Ocean Data Portal Project. It’s a little isolating working from home but I get to maintain contact with a variety of steering committees, working groups, and contractor staff so I never feel like I’m working on this project alone. Also it means I get to live in the San Francisco Bay area, where my family is from.

Since you got an awesome job opportunity in another part of the country—what was your favorite part about living and working in Oregon?

I truly loved living in Portland. It really is a unique city that has so much to offer. The music, the comedy, the food, the biking. I really found a place and a community there that was a big part of why I was so sad to leave. I also found myself out at the coast very often. The rugged and rocky nature of the Oregon coast is unlike anything I had ever seen. I really liked surfing and hiking amongst the coves and headlands. I will miss Oregon and hope to visit it often.

under: Uncategorized

Winter update!

Posted by: | March 26, 2014 | 1 Comment |

Hello again and happy spring!

In my last post, I talked a bit about my research on the environmental impacts of wave energy converters (WECs).  In this post, I’d like to give you a few updates on how my work is progressing and where it is heading next.

I am interested in how the presence of WEC arrays will change the wave climate at the shoreline.  I use a numerical model called SWAN to determine the changes in the nearshore wave height, wave direction, and wave-induced forces as a result of offshore WEC arrays.  I started with an idealized coastline, with the goal of developing general conclusions on the nearshore effects of WEC arrays that could be used as guidelines in the preliminary design and development of future arrays.  To do this, I simulated changes in the nearshore wave climate on generic planar beaches for a range of wave conditions, array configurations, and array locations.  I am currently applying the same model to two permitted wave energy test sites along the Oregon coast, the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC) North Energy Test Site (NETS) and the NNMREC South Energy Test Site (SETS) in Newport.  The analyses of the SETS and NETS sites will help determine if the generalized conclusions made in the first part of the study are applicable to sites with more complicated bathymetries (underwater topographies).  Additionally, these analyses will provide relevant, site-specific data that can be used in larger environmental assessments of the NETS and SETS test sites.

Things are coming along nicely, albeit a bit slower than expected.  Numerical modeling is a true test of patience!  Although I expected to move a bit more quickly, I did make a lot of progress this past term, and I was able to submit my first conference paper in January.  The paper was accepted yesterday, which is really exciting.  Additionally, I will be presenting in a few weeks at the Annual Global Marine Renewable Energy Conference (GMREC) and the Marine Energy Technology Symposium (METS), a joint week-long conference in Seattle.  This will be a great opportunity to meet and build connections with a range of researchers and professionals in the field, to share my current research and information on other research being conducted at OSU, and to broaden my understanding of current developments in the field of marine energy.  I’m really looking forward to the conference and I’m excited for a week in Seattle!

Overall, I’m happy with the progress I’ve made this year.  I just finished my last class, and I’m really excited to be able to focus exclusively on my research in the upcoming quarter.  There is still a lot that needs to be done!

Thanks for reading, and enjoy spring break!

under: Robert E. Malouf Marine Studies Scholar

Thar She Blows!

Posted by: | March 18, 2014 | 1 Comment |

Hello Again Sea Grant Readers,

Michelle Fournet checking in with an update about the marine mammals of our Oregon Coast.  In my first blog entry (where I introduced myself as one of the 2013 Malouf Fellowship recipients) I told you a little about the marine mammal survey that I’m conducting along the Oregon Coast. Well I wanted to follow up with a short synopsis of what we’ve seen and who’s been along for the ride.

We’ve been conducting surveys on at least a monthly basis — more when the weather cooperates.  This may seem intermittent, but we had good the good fortune to go out quite a few times during the winter months, allowing us to conduct one of the first ever rigorous marine mammal surveys on our coast during that season. We’re looking for signs of all marine mammals, but I’m particularly interested in odontocete species (dolphins and porpoises).  So far we’ve seen harbor porpoises on nearly every survey, we’ve seen Dall’s porpoise on many of our surveys (including one glorious bow riding event), and we’ve seen at least one species of common dolphin.

I’m interested in these species in particular because they are commonly described as sound sensitive.  Our coastal waters are home to bustling marine industry, the lifeblood of many of our coastal communities.  Vessel traffic, marine research, tourism, sustainable energy development, and more all produce noise.  Sound travels faster and further in the marine environment.  On this one hand this makes sound the ideal sensory modality for marine communication, on the other it also means the ocean is particularly vulnerable to noise pollution.  The input of anthropogenic noise, or man-made noise, may alter the behavior of marine mammal species that rely on sound to navigate, communicate, or forage.

The first step to assessing species resilience (a key tenet in the application of ecosystem based management) is knowing how much these sound sensitive species are currently overlapping with industries that produces noise, and how that overlap is likely to change as we make decisions about how to develop our ocean resources.  All of this research is firmly rooted in the answering the question: who’s there and when?

I’ve been fortunate to expand my research team over the past few months.  We have a number of volunteers from the community of Newport as well as students from OSU staffing the Elakha as she makes her coastal surveys.  In conjunction with a marine bird survey, conducted under the leadership of M.S. student Jess Porquez and her advisor Dr. Rob Suryan of the Hatfield Marine Science Center, we were able to mount a large scale training initiative to get volunteers prepared for their time on the water.

Lastly, in thanks to the Malouf Fellowship, I will be attending the Northwest Student Chapter Meeting for the Society of Marine Mammalogy this coming May.  It will be a great opportunity to present some of the work that I’m pursuing as a grad student, as well as rub elbows with other marine mammoligist students.  Meeting and collaborating with other students in the field is priceless.  We are often facing the same problems, and in collaboration can brainstorm some effective solutions.  Further, it’s always nice to spend a weekend with ocean-minded folk, watch a few whales, and talk shop.



under: Robert E. Malouf Marine Studies Scholar
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The author communing with ocean critters.

For those of you who followed my ten-week journey in the quaint town of Bandon, Oregon as a Coastal Tourism Intern with the non-profit Wild Rivers Coast Alliance, you have some idea of my background.  However, for those of you who are just tuning in, let me tell you some basic facts about myself that will help put things in perspective: I have known that I wanted to be a marine biologist since the age of four when I fell into a manta ray touch tank at Sea World, I graduated this past June from the University of California Santa Cruz with a Bachelors of Science in Marine Biology, I adore slimy odd creatures that provoke a queasy look from most, and if I could eat a doughnut a day and not gain a pound I would.

Post Bandon: Flash forward eight months after graduation, and now instead of spending hours in the library frantically trying to decode physics problems and figure out what exactly the right format for a scientific paper is, my days are filled with making Cappuccinos (and usually scalding myself with 150° milk) and asking the general populous how their day is going.  I have gone from spending 50 plus hours a week in lecture halls and libraries, to 40 hours a week at two part-time jobs: a retail associate and a barista.  Now to some this might seem like an odd progression of events.  I spent (and by I, I mean my lovely parents) thousands of dollars on a University education to ask people if they want room for cream in their coffee?!  This is the reaction I received from many family friends, colleagues, and random strangers when I was asked what my plans after graduation were.  For those of you who immediately understand the reasoning behind my choice, you rock.  However, for those of you who are still a wee bit baffled, let me explain…

Roughly speaking, I have been in some kind of formal education for the past eighteen years of my life.  That’s somewhere in the ball park of 22,610 hours IN school; not counting hours spent in addition to the traditional school day, or extra hours on the weekend.  And for the most part I’ve loved every second!  But as my senior year rolled around, I saw a shift.  While I decided to load on the units so I could fit in all the awesome classes and internships that I wanted to take advantage of before I graduated, many of my friends took numerous GE’s which enabled them to have something called “A social life.”  At first this didn’t bother me because I was a senior, and as such and had put my partying years behind me (visible on my transcript by my two attempts each at Chemistry 1A and Calculus 1).  But it wasn’t their ability to party that had me jealous; it was their ability to go hiking for an entire afternoon, or to take spontaneous weekend trips that didn’t need to be planned around papers or midterms.  I was able to get through my 23-unit final quarter by telling myself “Just wait till after graduation.  Then you can have the whole summer to do nothing and spend time with friends!”  However this wasn’t the case as I was fortunate enough to be one of six students accepted into Oregon Sea Grant’s amazing Summer Scholars program; one of the more awesome things that has happened to me.  So naturally it started two days after, and 631 miles away from graduation.

Now I’m not going to go into detail about my summer experience in Bandon Oregon, for that you can feel free to check out my previous blog posts (which I highly recommend as they contain pictures of cute animals and delicious pastries).  But I will try to put into words what I took away from my experience.  I will start off by saying that my internship was the polar opposite of what I thought I was getting myself into, and I will even go as far as saying that I was a little let down at first.  But what I initially thought was a feeling of being let down, I later realized was a feeling of being slightly confused, and generally lost.  Being a recently graduated marine biology major, I went into this experience with a somewhat jaded attitude and blindly assumed that what I was going to be doing would involve constant action in the field, and my work would have instant applications.  WRONG.  Essentially I was charged with figuring out a way to boost the economy of Southern Coastal Oregon via revamping their ideas of tourism.  This was the exact definition of putting a small fish into a huge pond, or the Pacific Ocean if you will.

I’ve never worked on such a large-scale project before and this was a huge undertaking unlike anything I had done before.  My assignment was not a lab study or research project; there was no hypothesis or conclusion.  In other words, there was no clear path to follow or set steps to go through.  When I first started this internship, I was slightly annoyed that I didn’t have more tasks to do.  As time passed, I realized that part of that was due to the fact that I was working with such an enormous “big picture” idea, and I had no idea of what direction to go in.  Eventually I came to realize that any kind of change (especially on this level) deserves a great amount of time and consideration (AKA., a little more time than my ten-week stay).  Not much in this world is 100% certain.  Sometimes you need to move forward and grab the amazing and unknown opportunities in front of you.

This experience taught me that no one field can stand on its own; for example, for tourism to be successful, the ecological, business, political, and marketing concerns must be addressed as well.  While my experience didn’t necessarily change my career goals, it did drive home the points that: 1). There needs to be better communication between the scientific and non-scientific communities (such that issues and topics are presented in a way that makes them seem approachable) and 2).  There is a growing need to educate future generations on the environmental issues and assets that are right in their backyard, and that if the environment isn’t properly taken care of, lots of money and time will eventually need to go into fixing it (if it can be fixed at all).  It also taught me that any experience is a good experience.  I hope this point resonates with everyone who reads this, whether you are an adult who has been in their chosen field for 20 plus years, or are an undergraduate who is unsure what they want to do with their life. However cliché this sounds, remember that everyone is different.  We can’t all be that person who got all A’s in their undergraduate career, and then went directly into their masters and PhD (but for those of you who did do that, you are more amazing and awe-inspiring than being able to successfully fry Oreos); some of us have to do a little more wandering until we find our path.

A large portion of the reason I didn’t immediately go to gradschool after my internship with Oregon Sea Grant (besides the likelihood that I wouldn’t have gotten into my top choices…) was that I had no idea what I wanted to study.  That unknown was something that I struggled with for nearly my entire college career, and something that at times made me feel quite inadequate.  I feel like it took me stepping away to help me realize what I’m truly passionate about, and what I want to spend the rest of my life doing.  In the next year or two, I will be going to graduate school to get my degree in some mixture of conservation, management, outreach, and elasmobranchs.  And I couldn’t be happier.

I’m not sure how many of you made it through this whole post, and how many of you stopped reading when you realized there were no pastry or cute animal pictures.  If you did reach the end then I hope you took something from this; whether it was as simple as a laugh at my joke (or more likely my attempt at a joke) or an understanding that you don’t always have to have the answer to the rest of you life planned out and ready for the next person who asks.


A marine biologist perfects her foam (too bad it’s not sea foam).

So on that note, I’m off to make some lattes!!

under: Catherine Courtier, Former scholars, Summer Scholars

In my last post I mentioned that I was deeply entrenched in data analysis. I am now happy to report, that I made it through the trenches! What a great feeling it is to have taken pages and pages of transcribed words, to work with it and mold it like play dough until I come to some understanding of what all those interviews were telling me. That being said, I have found that qualitative data analysis is an iterative process, and as I begin the write-up for this project some elements are still evolving.

While I don’t want to get too deep into detail, interviewees reported fascinating preferences regarding important ecosystem services and scientific data needs that I would be remiss not to at least touch on here. Overall interviewees reported 20 ecosystem services as being important benefits provided to the community and state through ocean resources, four of which rose above the rest as they were expressed by 50% or more of participants. These services included a broad concept of recreational opportunities, broad level economic prospects, commercial fishing, and tourism. A telling pattern emerged from these important ecosystem services when they were analyzed by exploring interviewee proximity to the resources. This pattern portrays a relationship between place based ways of knowing ocean resources and perceptions on importance of services.

A similar pattern can be seen in the stated scientific data needs of policy and management decision makers interviewed. Overall, interviewees stated that current scientific data needs related to:
• Ecosystem services analysis
• Updated information for estuarine ecosystems in the state
• Local baseline habitat information
• Spatial mapping studies
• Stock and fisheries data
• Effects of renewable energy on ocean resources

However, a closer look at proximity to ocean resources revealed further emphasis on certain data needs for coastal decision makers, and certain needs for decision makers located geographically inland. Analysis of other interview descriptors revealed some interesting, though less widely prominent, patterns regarding preferences and correlation to entity affiliation as well as years in the field. I hope this teaser of results as successfully enticed you to read the unabridged results and discussion in the final project report when it is completed this summer.

These results of the interview analysis will be used to feed into a data Synthesis Session to be conducted this coming spring. From the beginning of this project I wanted to work with some tool meant to bring stakeholders together around this issue of effective ocean resource management and policy based on data driven decisions. For this reason, the Information Needs Assessment for Coastal and Marine Management and Policy in the Pacific Northwest project will be conducting a Synthesis Session of the results from interview analysis. This Session will bring together coastal decision makers and policy practitioners with academic scientists from a range of institutions. Various structured and semi-structured interactions will be used to communicate data needs and scientific research interests among parties involved. The Synthesis Session will try to generate the basis for evolving-mutualistic relationships in which policy practitioners and academic scientists work together to define research projects oriented around informing a pressing policy or management decision. Ultimately, some understanding will be garnered from this experience regarding how well relationships may be formed in this setting. With the significant threat to ocean resources, understanding various perspectives and related scientific data needs is crucial is creating more effective policy to protect, enhance, or restore coastal and ocean ecosystems in the state.

Plans are forming now about where (Corvallis), when (May 30th), and how the Synthesis Session will be conducted. Interview results regarding how policy and management decision makers find data transfer most effective are being used to formulate the types of interactions to be had during the Session. I am very much looking forward to seeing what may evolve from the next portion of this project, and will happily report back in posts to come!

under: Uncategorized
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Greetings Sea Grant Scholar followers and contributors!

I am now officially in my last 6 months as a NOAA Coastal Management Fellow with the Washington Department of Ecology. Soon, the soft shoreline stabilization guidance document I have produced as a central part of my project will be published by the WA Dept of Ecology’s SEA program.  I will be sure to post a link once it is available to the public.

I now have the opportunity to plan for outreach and training on soft shoreline protection policies for local planners and will be presenting on this topic at the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in May.

In a couple of weeks I will be attending the Social Coast Forum and the annual NOAA Coastal Fellows meeting in Charleston S.C. where I will be catching up with my colleagues and learning about social science in marine management.

I am looking forward to my last six months as a fellow with opportunities to get out and work with Puget Sound local governments to help them implement policies and regulations for healthier shorelines!

I also wanted to congratulate Jenny Thompson who recently completed her year as a Knauss Fellow in Washington D.C.! Great work and all the best to her and her future! :)



under: Kelsey Gianou, NOAA Coastal Management Fellow, Uncategorized


Posted by: | January 28, 2014 | 2 Comments |

At the end of this week, my year as a Knauss Fellow will be over. For the fellowship, I worked as a Policy Analyst in the Office of Policy at NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries).

In this post, I wanted to focus on sharing some of the opportunities available to me as a fellow. I am including an assortment of links covering a range of topics, as there may be materials that are of interest to some of you. This post focuses on work I contributed to through my office and some of the events that I was able to attend. In an upcoming post, I will include links to some additional events, reports, etc. that you might find useful.


In terms of my role in the Office of Policy, here are some of the activities I was involved in:

  • Organized 3 breakout sessions for a national workshop to further evaluation and regional implementation of electronic technologies for fishery-dependent data collection
  • Helped develop, revise, and incorporate comments into a new NOAA Fisheries guidance document and national policy on electronic monitoring and reporting
  • Served as rapporteur and drafted proceedings for a session on fishery sustainability at Managing Our Nation’s Fisheries 3, a national conference resulting in 128 findings applicable to fishery and ecosystem policy, regulation, and Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization
  • Maintain a portfolio of policies, spanning multiple NOAA Fisheries offices. NOAA Fisheries’ policies and procedures can be accessed from the Policy Directive System page.
  • Assisted in drafting, editing, and reviewing Congressional testimony
  • Provided secretariat support to the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee (MAFAC, a Federal Advisory Committee to the Secretary of Commerce on all living marine resource matters) and the NOAA Fisheries Leadership Council

Outside of my role at NOAA Fisheries, there were many other opportunities I was able to take part in or attend. (Note to future fellows: attend as many events as possible!) I am still amazed at the array of events in DC that are open to the public, if you just have (or make) the time.

Senate and House Hearings on Fisheries Management

During the fellowship year, I attended two hearings in the U.S. Senate and one in the House of Representatives.

Senate and House hearings are typically streamed and, after the hearings, webcasts are made available. Additionally, written testimony from panelists is posted the day of the hearing.

Council Coordination Committee Meeting

Shortly after I started my fellowship, the Council Coordination Committee (CCC) met in Silver Spring and I was able to sit in on quite a bit of the two-day meeting. The CCC is made up of top leadership from each of the eight Regional Fishery Management Councils. Attending their meeting was a great way to be exposed to some of the similarities and differences in the issues facing each of the regions.

Capitol Hill Ocean Week 2013

Capitol Hill Ocean Week (CHOW), hosted by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, focuses on high priority ocean and coastal issues. The CHOW website includes videos and presentations from the 2013 event.

Consortium for Ocean Leadership’s 2013 Public Policy Forum – Economies of a Changing Ocean

Among the speakers at this event were U.S. Senators, U.S. Representatives and, of particular note to Oregon State readers, Mark Abbott and George Waldbusser served on a panel focused on ocean acidification. The website for the event includes videos.

Feel free to reach out if you have any questions. As I mentioned, more links will be coming…

under: Jenny Thompson, Knauss Fellow

January at the IFA

Posted by: | January 22, 2014 | 1 Comment |

To get 2014 started, I’m beginning to take a look at the Agora Investment Platform.

In April of 2011, the Meyer Memorial Trust (MMT) set out to understand what it could do to make a difference in economic development. After six months of secondary research and conversations with nearly 100 economic development practitioners from across Oregon, MMT Fellow Kipp Baratoff learned that economic development was exceedingly complex, especially in rural Oregon. As an outcome from these conversations, he created a nomenclature (here to view image) designed to categorize the different system requirements of economic development that lead to economic vitality. In October of 2011, MMT, in partnership with Oregon Governor Kitzhaber’s Regional Solution Center and the Mid-Columbia Economic Development District (MCEDD), piloted this nomenclature in the MCEDD region to identify opportunities for investment.

By January 2012, conversations with approximately another 100 individuals in the MCEDD representing over 45 organizations had produced a list of over 100 community prioritized opportunities and an expressed interest by the community and capital providers outside the region for a “tool” to replicate the work to include a larger audience. Between January and April 2012, the MCEDD community and a broad range of capital providers came together to assess the precise need for, level of interest in, and cost of a web application, which later was dubbed the “Investment Platform for Economic Development” (IPED) or “Agora.”

In basic terms, Agora is a social media tool that connects potenial funders and capital providers with community development projects. As part of my responsibilities with the IFA, I am examining the Agora Investment Platform in order to think of ways to improve the tool. I am also helping to develop a training workshop to teach IFA staff members to use the website.

For more updates on the Agora Investment Platform, stay tuned for my next blog.



under: Uncategorized

Oregon Sea Grant Adopts Idahoan

Posted by: | January 17, 2014 | 1 Comment |

My name is Zachary L. Penney, and I am representing Oregon Sea Grant as a 2014 Knauss Marine Policy Legislative Fellow in Washington, DC. I am a recent graduate of the University of Idaho (December 2013), where I completed my Ph.D. in Natural Resources with a primary emphasis in fisheries biology and management. Although I label myself as an Idahoan, I am also Nimiipuu (Nez Perce Tribe), who historically occupied areas in central Idaho, western Montana, southeastern Washington, and northeastern Oregon. So despite the boundary between Idaho and Oregon, I have undeniable ancestral ties to the state of Oregon.

After being selected as a Knauss finalist, I traveled to Silver Springs, MD during the first week of November 2013, also known as placement week. As a legislative fellow, I spent the majority of my time traveling into Washington, D.C. (via Metro) and running around our nation’s capital. Coming from rural Idaho, the Metro system was a completely new and, at times, a stressful experience for me. However, after a few days of trial and error, I quickly became a metro expert. Believe me when I say that using the metro is far less stressful than trying to drive downtown Washington D.C.

During the final few days of placement week I spent the majority of my time interviewing with the staff of senators and house representatives. In total, I interviewed with 17 different offices and committees, which at times felt quite a bit like speed-dating. Admittedly, I must confess that before my interviews I thought that I already knew what offices would fit my skill set best. This couldn’t have been further from the truth. After my interviews it quickly became apparent that there was more to selecting an office than which one best fit my background or degree. I found that finding an office that would provide a positive work environment in addition to professional development was also very important. In the end I selected to serve in the office of U.S. Representative Jared Huffman, who represents the 2nd district of California, which lies along Oregon’s southern border.

I officially begin my Knauss fellowship on February 3rd, 2014 and am currently looking for a place to rent in the Washington, D.C. area. Considering that 2014 is an election year, I expect that the political atmosphere will be charged, which should provide an interesting experience during my fellowship.


.  knauss-zachary-penney-2014

under: Uncategorized

Posted by: | December 17, 2013 | 1 Comment |

This post has been a long time in the making.  No matter how hard I try to stay on top of things early in the quarter, November and December always end up being a bit of a whirlwind.  I have (finally!) finished the quarter, and I have moved on to regular 40 hour work weeks.  It almost feels like vacation.

This quarter was a particularly busy one.  In addition to my classes, I was presenting my research at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting, a weeklong conference in San Francisco that gathers more than 20,000 researchers from a range of fields. The conference very inconveniently occurs during finals week, but it’s an incredible opportunity to interact with fellow scientists and to learn more about the work being conducted in the field.

A bit of background: I am an MS candidate at Oregon State University and one of three Robert E. Malouf scholars for 2014.  I work with Dr. Merrick Haller in the Coastal and Ocean Engineering group on the effects of offshore Wave Energy Converter (WEC) arrays on the nearshore wave field. This research is part of a large and multidisciplinary effort to understand the potential environmental impacts of WEC devices.  The Malouf Fellowship allows me to be more active in the scientific community through conferences such as AGU and the Marine Energy Technology Symposium (METS) (where I will be presenting my research in April 2014) and it has given me insight into other Sea Grant related work being done at a more local level.  I am very grateful for the support of the Oregon Sea Grant and for the opportunity to be part of the Sea Grant community.

More specifically, my research focuses on how the presence of WEC arrays changes the waves at the shoreline, and the potential impacts of these changes on nearshore processes.  WEC devices extract energy from the waves, which results in a low energy area behind the devices, referred to as the WEC shadow.  The extraction of energy results in a reduction in wave height and a change in wave direction in the WEC shadow.  Wave height and direction are important parameters in nearshore processes, and are especially important in the generation of rip currents and longshore currents that drive sediment transport.  Coastal erosion is a serious problem on certain parts of the Oregon coast.  Could the deployment of offshore WEC arrays increase erosion in vulnerable areas? Could it result in the generation of rip currents that pose serious risks for swimmers and beach users?  If so, where?  It is important to understand the potential impacts of WEC arrays in order to choose the best size, design, and location for arrays before they are deployed.

To address these issues, I am using the numerical model SWAN to simulate the changes on the wave field resulting from each individual device.  The past few months I have spent developing a technique for representing the WEC arrays in the model, and then applying this technique on an idealized coastline to make a few general conclusions about the effects of WEC arrays on the nearshore zone.  In the upcoming months, I will be using this same technique to simulate arrays at two permitted wave energy test sites off the coast of Newport, the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC) North Energy Test Site (NETS) and the South Energy Test Site (SETS), using high resolution bathymetry and directional wave spectra from a 2011 hindcast.  This will allow us to gain insight into the effects of WEC arrays on a more realistic coastline, and to see how the deployment of a WEC array could potentially affect the nearshore environment and communities in the Newport area.

I am happy with the progress I’ve made in the past few months, and I’m really excited to continue.  At the moment, though, I am very ready to enjoy winter break.  Happy 2014!

under: Robert E. Malouf Marine Studies Scholar

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