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A reflection over the past year

Posted by: | November 21, 2016 | No Comment |

In the summer of 2015 I was fortunate to participate in the Oregon Sea Grant Summer Scholars Program. Having just graduated from Oregon State University the weekend before the internship started, I was uncertain as to my next steps in the real world. For the first time in my life I was out of the education system. I had no plans for after the Summer Scholars Program ended in August, besides some personal travel. I had no idea how big of an impact this program was going to end up having on the next two years of my life.

I was placed with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (ODFW) Marine Reserves Program in Newport, Oregon. Going from living in the Willamette Valley my whole life to living on the Oregon coast for a summer was a huge change. Where were my ninety degree days floating down the river? The change in weather wasn’t the only big change though. My position was focused on the human dimensions side of the marine reserves, and I was paired up with the ‘lone social scientist’ of the organization, Tommy Swearingen. Social science was a completely foreign topic to me coming from a strict biology background, and I was nervous about how the summer would go. How was I supposed to conduct research and write reports on a field of study I knew next to nothing about? Luckily I had a fantastic mentor that took the time to teach me everything I needed to know (and more at times). It is easily apparent by his genuine interest in my education that Tommy used to be a college professor.

Well I somehow made it through that summer (I went with a fake-it-till-you-make-it approach) and my position as a Summer Scholar turned into a position as a part-time research assistant for the Marine Reserves Program. I also ended up landing a job with Oregon Sea Grant (OSG) part-time as the Summer Scholars Liaison, effectively managing the program that I just came out of. My positions’ titles and roles have changed and expanded as the time I’ve spent in these jobs has progressed. At OSG I’ve gained experience with multiple fellowships, facilitating grant review, planning events, and participating in many professional development workshops. At ODFW I have mentored an intern, been an author on many agency reports, taken the lead on a study from idea formulation to report completion, and presented our work at multiple events.


The last meeting with the 2016 Summer Scholars cohort following the Final Symposium at Hatfield Marine Science Center.

Going into the Summer Scholars Program in June of 2015, I had no idea the connections I would make would result in two fantastic jobs with respected organizations. The experience and skills I have gained make me feel more prepared and confident when applying for future positions. Currently I am looking into finding a Master’s graduate program to start in the fall of 2017. I’m generally interested in studying mammals, amphibians, or reptile habitat use and how this use changes as a result of climate change and human influence. (Email me if you have any school or professor recommendations!) While my time with OSG and ODFW has been invaluable, and I know I’ll be sad to go when the time comes, I’m itching to get back to my biology roots and do some field work. Whether that comes in the form of graduate school or a research technician position, I don’t yet know, but I’m excited to find out!

OSGProgramWideMtg2 (crop)

Presenting on the 2016 ODFW visitor intercept study at the OSG Program-Wide Meeting in Yachats.

under: Haley Epperly

Cat Dayger Goes Global

As a fellow, much of the work I do is behind-the-scenes. Editing drafts of documents, taking notes during conference calls, sending emails to follow up on action items, introducing myself to the main players on a given issue. To describe what I am working on during my fellowship, I usually reference the main projects I’m involved in, but skip over the actual day-to-day work I do in support of them, because “send emails” isn’t very descriptive or interesting. Nearly everyone in nearly every job sends emails. Now I have a tangible product of those emails to tell you about.

One of the issues I spend a large portion of my time thinking about in my role as a Policy Fellow is ocean acidification, often shortened to simply OA. What is ocean acidification? The ocean reacts with atmospheric carbon dioxide to form carbonic acid, making the ocean more acidic. If there is a high concentration of carbon dioxide in the air, more of that carbon will end up in the ocean and the ocean will become more acidic. By the way, the ocean is not “acidic” per se, but rather closer to being acidic. That’s a problem because it can prevent shell-wearing creatures (plankton, crabs, clams, oysters, etc) from making their shells properly. No shell, no critter. You can read a more detailed explanation of ocean acidification and why it’s a big deal on the West Coast here.

A bunch of the projects I work on deal with combating ocean acidification in Oregon and on the West Coast more generally. For instance, the newly formed International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification, or more simply the International OA Alliance, supports governments and other entities in addressing ocean acidification.

A few weeks ago, the OA Alliance called entities from all over the world to sign on to the Alliance at the 3rd Annual Our Ocean Conference in Washington DC. The Alliance aims to support those committed to taking action to combat ocean acidification. Our Ocean 2016 brought together governments, non-profits, universities, and more from all over the world to focus on ocean issues, including ocean acidification. Highlighting initiatives together builds greater momentum for each particular issue, making the OA Alliance appearance at Our Ocean 2016 a “big deal”. My contribution? To prepare for the Conference, I worked with a team to develop website copy and short handouts describing the OA Alliance. Yes, that included emails and conference calls and lots of track-changes editing in Microsoft Word. You should check out the OA Alliance website! The OA Alliance had a positive reception at Our Ocean and is moving right along to their next steps. I’m helping with those steps and deliverables too, so stay tuned!

It is fun to have a tangible (is a website tangible?) outcome to show people with pride when asked how my Fellowship is going. Celebrating milestones is essential in the incremental business of science policy.

under: Uncategorized

This past Tuesday I was confronted with a shocking sexist letter directed at a woman applying to the College of Forestry in 1957. The woman was blatantly told that she could not enroll in the College of Forestry because the social constructs of the time would not allow it. The forestry jobs post college are only suitable for male employees, field trips for the college require sharing sleeping quarters, which would “pose a definite problem as far as a girl is concerned”, and a woman would not be able to fulfill the internship requirement because no forestry organization would hire her. Yikes. The culprit college behind this letter? Oregon State University. Fortunately the College of Forestry has come a long way since 1957. In 2015, 142 men graduated from the College of Forestry as well as 91 women, from 0% female graduates to 39%, a significant improvement.

This letter was brought to my attention during a search advocate training workshop I am taking this week put on by Anne Gillies, the Associate Director of Affirmative Action and Advancement in the Office of Equal Opportunity and Access at OSU (what a mouthful!). Working in the research and scholars department at Oregon Sea Grant puts me directly in the process of requesting and reviewing applications, and therefore I figured I should know how to navigate this process in a fair and equitable manner. While I certainly do not purposefully attempt to introduce any bias into this process, I am also aware that many employers believe that they are conducting a just search such as I do, and yet there is still a stunning lack of diversity in many STEM fields. Now why is that? Due to this vast discrepancy, I, and the rest of the research and scholars team, am taking action to ensure we are aware of potential biases and how to avoid them.

Focusing on increasing diversity in applicants applying for and selected for OSG fellowships is necessary seeing as there is very little diversity currently in the fisheries field. A fellowship with OSG gives fellows unique opportunities to network and expand their skill sets, as well as provides a competitive edge for their resume when applying to future jobs. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that OSG fellows may have an advantage when applying for some fisheries positions. A study conducted by Arismendi and Penaluna in 2016 found that women and racial/ethnic minorities are sorely underrepresented in fisheries science both in higher education institutions and in federal employment. Despite the fact that slightly more (52%) women are earning PhDs in biological science, the majority (74%) of federal fisheries scientists/managers are male, and over 70% of tenure-track faculty in fisheries are male. This study points out that there is not a lack of well qualified women and minorities in the fisheries field, however, these groups are not ending up being selected for the tenure-track faculty or federal positions. Clearly something needs to change.

Why should we focus on increasing diversity in the fisheries workforce? The main reason is that every individual, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc., deserves the same unearned privileges and opportunities. Another important reason is that diversity in general is actually beneficial to a workforce. “Previous research has shown that a diverse workforce generates new ideas, promotes innovation, leads to better problem-solving (Østergaard et al. 2011), enhances scientific productivity (Horta 2013), and increases the chances that the science will be high impact (Freeman and Huang 2015).” – Arismendi and Penaluna 2016. There is nothing to lose, and much to be gained, by incorporating diversity into the workforce. I look forward to entering into day two of the search advocate training workshop tomorrow and furthering my knowledge on this topic.

under: Uncategorized

The Final Post

Posted by: | September 15, 2016 | 1 Comment |

First Results for Tillamook Bay!

It seems as though the end of the Malouf scholarship is drawing nigh and that this will be my last blog post. I’m not quite sure where a year went as it seems just a month ago that I was meeting with Dr. Malouf and the other scholarship recipients, happily discussing our research and the work ahead. That said, from another perspective it seems a lifetime spent over the last year slowly grinding forward. In terms of progress, much of the hard computer modeling work is nearing a close and we are transitioning into the significantly more fun results stage. In this pursuit I am working with Jon Allan at the Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI) to make flood maps for public consumption. There is a wealth of progress to be made in this regard, comparing our results to DOGAMI’s and FEMAS flood maps and tracking down the important processes controlling flooding. It feels like a breath of fresh air to be finally getting close to the answers and (hopefully) community shaping results that I began working on years ago. For a problem of this size it’s sometimes easy to get lost in the little details and forget the big picture and the reason why you are here!

While this part of the project is nearing an end, I am considering it only part one of the story. Many lessons have been learned and part two will incorporate these changes as well as input from communities and stakeholders. The two main points that will be tackled in this new approach are:

  1. As per community and stakeholder request, a fully probabilistic approach that both encompasses scientific uncertainty and allows a determination of risk to be placed in the hands of local communities
  2. A generalizing of the modeling process that allows for assessment at multiple locations instead of single study sites.

I have just started spinning up this new part of the project via a collaboration with Peter Ruggiero at Oregon State. I have also restarted a collaboration with Sally Hacker in the integrative biology department to try and transfer our predicted future hydrodynamics to changes in the biosphere. So while the sun is setting on the first stage of the project, it only means a rebirth of these important questions.


Newport Sunset

I want to end by expressing my vast gratitude to the Oregon Sea Grant folks for funding this project initially (before I was even a student here) and then funding me through the Malouf scholarship. Their vote of confidence has provided me the funding and motivation to continue onward when things get hard. I hope that when my PhD eventually comes to a close, everyone who has read this blog will be at my defense for the true final blog post update. Thanks Everyone!

under: Uncategorized

Posted by: | September 14, 2016 | 1 Comment |

The summer is just about over and school is starting again in a couple weeks. But what a summer it has been!

Just after school ended, I had the opportunity to go to the upper peninsula of Michigan to attend the International Symposium on Society and Resource Management (ISSRM). Students and professionals from all over the world were in attendance. I got to go on a field trip hosted by the Keweena Bay Indian Community, who showed us around their fish hatchery, native plant greenhouse and garden, nursery, a restoration area that was a previous stamp mine dump site, and their dance ground. They were very hospitable and answered our (numerous) questions.

There were a lot of talks, on a wide variety of natural resource and human dimension topics, and the keynote speakers were extremely interesting. On the last day of talks we were eating lunch and looked outside; it looked like midnight. Then the wind came. Then lightening. Then torrential rain. I was one of the few (ahem, unwise) adventurers to walk the 10 minutes back to the afternoon talks through the brunt of the storm. I had to wring out my pants and still had my own personal puddle at the end of the talk. Ah, the Midwest. Despite that, we had a wonderful picnic on Lake Superior with one of the local delicacies: meat pasties. It’s like a hearty oblong meat pie, and is delicious.

I got to present my poster at the poster session, and had people from several countries as well as from the local Native American community asking questions. I had a particularly interesting conversation about the differences in the meaning behind “tribe” with a fellow from Africa.

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The rest of the summer was quite busy as well, including helping a couple fellow students with field work, getting my field work off the ground, and a phone survey job that had me asking questions of Oregon residents on their opinions and knowledge of Oregon marine spatial planning and reserves.

Currently, I am traveling back and forth between Portland (my current home) and the Oregon coast conducting interviews with tribal members for my thesis. This is extremely exciting and is going extremely well so far.

The amount of work to get to the point of interviewing tribal members is a lot more than I initially thought. Each tribe is a sovereign nation, meaning in part that they each have different procedures and timing for approving any type of research. This is especially important when the research includes traditional knowledge, which is the topic of several of my interview questions. I have had to draw upon my experience working for a tribe prior to going to graduate school. There are extensive data protections that have to be put in place, as well as a sensitivity when interviewing tribal elders that can only be learned with experience. Nonetheless, I have found the experience to be a great learning experience and I look forward to continuing the project.

Since this is my last blog post, I would like to take the chance to express my tremendous thanks to Sea Grant for accepting me and my project into the Malouf scholarship program. The funding has made my graduate experience much more extensive, with being able to go to several local and one larger conference. The funding also allowed me to get the equipment needed for the interview set-up, as well as the travel up and down the coast for interviews, meetings, and trainings that helped make this project possible. I am also thankful for the connections that Sea Grant has made possible, which has made for a very rich networking experience. I highly encourage students to work with Sea Grant if at all possible for the opportunities this great organization offers.

under: Uncategorized

Week 10: The End (and Beyond)

Posted by: | September 13, 2016 | 1 Comment |

I am writing this from my cute little house in Bloomington, Indiana. I am already in my fourth week of classes at IU – can you believe it?

My last week at ODFW was spent finishing up my final report of my results. I polished the report, cleaned out my desk, and caught a glimpse of Portland on Wednesday before boarding a plane back to St. Louis on Thursday. Four days later, I was sitting in my Evolution class in Jordan Hall, IU’s biology building.

A rushed transition, to be sure (I think I am finally getting settled into a routine), but Newport has not yet left my mind, and I think a few thank-yous are in order.

The crew at ODFW helped shape both my project and personal experience this summer. My mentor, Justin Ainsworth – along with other members of the Shellfish Division, Mitch Vance and Steve Rumrill – offered superb guidance, patience, and support. Carri Andersen, Marilyn Leary, Anne Vandewalle, and Adrian Cardoso made my data collection not only possible, but also enjoyable. They are, and will continue to be, missed.

I could not have asked for a better group of Sea Grant Scholars with which to spend the summer and explore Oregon. Steph, Erin, Jess, Lexi, Collin, Angus, Justin, Ed, and Skyler – it was lovely getting to know you, and you made my summer what it was.

And finally, thank you to Oregon Sea Grant for making this experience possible. Thanks to Sarah, Mary, and Haley in particular for running the program flawlessly. Such a special program requires outstanding leaders, and Oregon Sea Grant has certainly found them.

Moving forward: I will graduate this May with a B.S. in Biology (and some other stuff). After that, I plan to take a year “off” before applying to graduate school. For once, I am not sure what my plans are for the immediate future, which is thrilling. And who knows – maybe I will see Oregon again sooner than I expect.


under: Claire Mullaney, Summer Scholars

Welcome to the first blog post of the 2016-2017 Oregon Sea Grant Natural Resources Policy Fellow! It feels like an impressive title compared to PhD student, the hat I’ve been wearing for the past 5 years. Basically everything about this fellowship is different from what I experienced as a full-time PhD student and I find that I can’t stop marveling at the contrasts.

For one thing, I have a regular schedule. My husband has heard me say a million times “Science waits for no one” to explain why I unexpectedly needed to stay late at the lab, work weekends, and go into the lab early in the morning.

An imposing building to work in to go with my imposing - maybe just long - title.

An imposing building to work in to go with my imposing – maybe just long – title.

Bench science – experiments in a lab – often take more or less (ha! never!) time than expected, which means making plans with friends and family are constantly derailed or postponed. Now, as a Policy Fellow working in the Governor’s office, my schedule is largely confined to regular business hours. There are holidays! I find the more predictable schedule refreshing.

For another, I am surrounded by colleagues excelling in the career I see for myself pursuing. I knew fairly early on in my PhD career that I was not interested in a career in academia, at least not at an institution primarily focused on research. I love doing bench science and field work, and I love the teaching and mentoring I’ve done, but the prospect of packing grant writing and academic service on committees around research and teaching only fills me with dread rather than excitement. I find that I am inspired and focused in ways I haven’t felt in a while because I’m immersed in the field I’m most interested in. I guess I’m also relieved to feel like I’ve made the right choice.


The State of Oregon coffee (tea) cup I bought the first day at the Capitol.

Not everything is so different though. I still work primarily independently, at least so far. I spend some time working as part of a team on projects with tight deadlines, which I’ve always perversely found enjoyable. And I still drink tea almost constantly at my desk. How do people live without hot drinks?

One of the unexpected surprises of my first few weeks has been the commute to Salem, OR. I was dreading it, frankly, but I’ve been riding the Amtrak train and watching the sunrise over the farm fields recalls to me the time I spent driving through corn fields to feed horses and go to horse shows early in the morning when I lived in Michigan and Illinois. It seems I still have a soft spot

The tumble of morning glories on my walk to work.

The tumble of morning glories on my walk to work.

for early mornings in rural America. I’m also enjoying exploring Salem itself on my lunch breaks. I keep finding this beauty out of the blue that stops me, literally, in my tracks.

I don’t have much to report on the actual work I’m doing yet. I’m still getting on all the right people’s radar so they know I’m the person to contact about ocean and coastal issues. Today, I look forward to attending the Oregon Shellfish Task Force meeting where they will finalize their recommendations to the legislature. I’ve been hearing about the progress of Shellfish Task Force for more than a year from Kessina Lee, my predecessor and PSU Biology colleague, so it’s exciting to see the product of all that work.

Next time, I hope to be able to outline the projects I’ll be working on and maybe highlight some of the neat architecture and sculpture I get to walk by every day working around the Oregon State Capitol.



under: Natural Resources Policy Fellow, sea_day
Tags: , , , ,

The Last Week: A Reflection

Posted by: | August 27, 2016 | 1 Comment |

I can’t believe that I’ve already been away from Oregon for a week. As I’m telling my friends back home my experiences, I know that Oregon will always have a place in my heart. My last week at WRCA wrapped up pretty uneventfully, making sure that I put a bow on all of my projects so that they’re easily accessible to those in the future that will use them.

Off work, I spent my time saying see you later to the friends that I made, and trying to cram all of the stuff that I had acquired into my suitcase. I tasted the famous Denny’s Pizza in Coquille (still the best pizza ever) again, and I tried out a few local hotspots that I had been wanting to try – Edgewaters (I tried Halibut for the first time!), Coastal Mist (delicious chocolate company, where you can get their awesome chocolate mixed with coffee for a great mocha), and Broken Anchor (a local bar & grill favorite, where I learned how to play shuffleboard for the first time). I walked all around Bandon and visited their cute artisan stores, finally settling on my favorite sea-glass necklace (made my Sally, who also sells seashells on the Port of Bandon, a.k.a. the Sea Shore).

I learned a lot about development efforts in the rural United States, and I’ve already been able to use this knowledge in a few of my classes in the first week of school. But most importantly, Oregon taught me most about who I am – in the quiet summer, humbled by the giant trees, listening to the sea breeze, I looked inside and was really able to discover who I am, critically reflect on my career path, and determine where I want to go in the future. One of my goals of the summer was to “find peace” –- to learn how to focus my mind and energy and determine what activities allow me to be the most peaceful and productive. I believe I’ve found just that, and it’s allowed me to settle into my school year, with my sights on my senior projects, making new friends, and applying to graduate school. I cannot thank enough Oregon Sea Grant, Oregon State, WRCA, and everyone involved in the programs for selecting me to receive this invaluable experience. Thanks to those who mentored me along the way, and for all that you’ve taught and shown me. I will be forever grateful. I know that it is not a goodbye to Oregon – I am already planning my next trip up. See you soon!

under: Lexi Brewer

Giving Thanks

Posted by: | August 25, 2016 | 1 Comment |

I couldn’t think of a better last day than having it be the last Shop at the Dock. I spent Thursday making some baked goods to thank all of the fishermen who participated in the program (and tolerated our presence on the docks). Through all of the events, the best part was getting to see how grateful participants and fishermen were and I’m lucky to have been a part of it.


I am unbelievably proud of this.

With the program over, I’ll look forward to spending some time with my family, getting in some traveling, and finding a job. I’ve always been interested in science and education. Helping with Shop at the Dock and being a part of Sea Grant has solidified my interest in pursuing both. It was really great seeing what a powerful tool education can be and I’d like to find a career where I can incorporate education and outreach with science.


So long Sea Grant

I wanted to finish off by thanking the village of people who worked so hard to make this summer happen. So thanks Haley, Mary, Sarah and every other Sea Grant employee who made the Summer Scholars Program possible. I am eternally grateful to my mentors, Kaety Jacobson and Kelsey Miller, for the wealth of information, the never-ending guidance and support, and for being a constant source of inspiration. Also huge thanks to the rest of the Shop at the Dock crew- Jess Porquez, Amanda Gladics, and Mark Farley- for teaching me about Newport, fisheries, different career paths, and how to be understanding and gracious towards others with conflicting opinions.

Thank you to my fellow Summer Scholars, who made this summer unforgettable. I’m so grateful to have been surrounded by such incredible, kind, and caring people and I will miss you all dearly. Cheers to the many outdoor adventures, the endless sass and sarcasm, the great meals and conversations, and everything in between.

And finally, thanks very much for reading and (hopefully) listening along with me. I’ll finish this post with my final song of the summer from Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros called Home. Partly because I’m happy to be headed home for a bit, but mostly because I’m so grateful to have found a little piece of home along the Oregon Coast. Newport, you will be missed.

under: Stephanie Ng, Summer Scholars
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All things that begin must end. But not all things have to end the way they began. Friends made, memories of the journey, and the momentos of progress and challenge all are forged in time. Each token of time will remain a keepsake to me forever. Things certainly did not end the way they began: the Oregon coast has been explored, several estuaries have beeen preserved in cyberspace and eagerly await analysis, and my curly mug has been etched into the brains of at least 20 people. A journey like this teaches many things, but as with all teachings the lessons are unique to the one experiencing  it. My mentors include my team, SEACOR, the tides and the ocean, my fellow summer scholars, the Sea Grant Staff, and of course practically the entire Hatfield Marine Science Center staff; all of which deserve personal thanks.

Perhaps my favorite part was personally experiencing (and at least partly responsible for creating) the beauty of images taken 7-60 meters above the ground (click on them!):

Final Alsea Bay Flight; collected via TurboAce MAtrix-E w/ Sony RX100 M3. A Labor of love, these mosaics require intense attention to detail for long periods of time.

Mill 18, Courtesy Erik Suring.

Trask River Dam Removal


Or perhaps it was the places I went, the way the sun rised and set, or the things I met:



But I know for sure it was the people I encountered and befriended, the people who taught me so much, the friends who became family, and the family who I will surely miss:

under: Skyler Elmstrom, Summer Scholars

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