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A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a build-a-thon at the Agora Journalism Center. During this 3-day event, I worked with web designers, map makers, journalists, and subject area experts to create a web app that will help Oregon residents prepare for the Cascadia Earthquake. The app allows the user to enter any address in Oregon in order to receive a personalized story about what you should expect to experience if the Cascadia Earthquake occurred while you at that specific location. Your personalized story tells you what you should expect when the earthquake occurs (shaking intensity, soil liquefaction, landslides, etc.); how long your community will have to go without resources such as electricity, fuel, and running water; and how you should prepare yourself for the earthquake. In the end, our app produces over 300 individualized stories that help inform Oregon residents how to prepare for the Cascadia Earthquake based on location.  Last week, I returned to the Agora Journalism Center to talk about this app as part of my presentation at the “What is Journalism?” Conference.  Currently, OPB is working to finalize the app, and it should be available to the public very soon.

Then, this past Monday, I got to head up to Seattle to present about the Seismic Rehabilitation Grant Program (SRGP) at the American Planning Association’s 2015 National Convention.  Not only did I get to learn about community planning and emergency management efforts taking place around the country, I also got to promote the SRGP to a ton of APA attendees.

So, stayed tuned for the new Cascadia Earthqauke web app and more updates about the SRGP.

under: Geoff Ostrove, Natural Resources Policy Fellow, Uncategorized

Where’s Waldo

Posted by: | April 16, 2015 | No Comment |

Sorting plankton is a bit like a game of Where’s Waldo, except that Waldo is moving and translucent, and the entire background scenery is moving along with him.

In my case, the Waldos I am looking for are appendicularians. I separate them from the commotion of the background plankton by their distinctive shape and motion. They are easily confused with the transparent rod-shaped body of chaetognaths (“arrow worms”)—but have a more pronounced, football-shaped head—and the sinusoidal wriggling of a nematode—yet less fitful. Their motion can be hard to detect amidst the darts and jolts of the ever-abundant calanoid copepods.

Some days my sample (collected from the net in the figure below) is filled with so many Waldos I cannot possibly pipette them all. Some days I can sort for hours and never find a single one. Usually it is one extreme or the other: no goldilocks plankton here.


Conducting plankton tows in the Charleston Marina with my salty dog, Zephyr.


My task for this term is establishing cultures of appendicularians at our lab on the main campus of the University of Oregon in Eugene—60 miles from the ocean and 120 miles from the collection site. It is rather daunting, particularly since my appendicularians are smaller than copepods—barely visible even when backlit and examined by the squinting, trained eye. Their life cycle is about six days, depending on temperature. Scientifically speaking, they progresses from external fertilization of the egg to embryogenesis to organogenesis to metamorphosis to somatic growth to maturation and reproduction. Less scientifically, they grow from an egg to a little tadpole to a bigger tadpole to a tadpole with a disproportionally large head (yellow for females, blue for males) and then, once her and his heads fills with eggs and sperm, their gamete-brains explode and a new generation begins.

I have yet to raise appendicularians through their full life cycle. For the time being, my efforts are focused on keeping adults alive inland for a few days at a time, which necessitates to a lot of driving back and forth between Eugene and the coast. On the days when hours of scanning yields only Waldo-less samples, I wonder: is it too late to study copepods?

under: Keats Conley, Robert E. Malouf Marine Studies Scholar

Can I get a witness?

Posted by: | April 13, 2015 | No Comment |

Talk to 25 people about the same event and you will get 25 different observations of the experience. This is intuitive especially if you watch any of the multiple crime dramas on TV. Many eyewitnesses can witness something different despite watching the same scene. Add the element of time and the possible observations grows. Add that the witnesses are a diverse grouping of people with different values and worldviews and the possible number of observations becomes overwhelming.

Over the last three months, I have sat down to chat with 25 people who have been involved in a large-scale research project to anticipate water scarcity in the Willamette Valley over the next 85 years. This subset of participants in Willamette Water 2100 (as the research project is called) is meant to be representative of the multiple viewpoints engaged in this project and includes university principle investigators of natural and social sciences, county commissioners, farmers, and representatives from state and federal agencies like the Oregon Water Resource Department (OWRD), the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA), the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and the Forest Service (USFS), among others. The idea is that by talking to multiple witnesses of this project, I can fully characterize the participants and their resulting outcomes after participating. Did each person have a unique experience or did all participants experience the same things? My interviews and analyses will speak to this question and more.

These “chats” followed a semi-structured interview format. This means that I had a list of questions or themes that I wanted to talk about but that I allowed the conversation to go any direction so I could follow up on any interesting points that might deviate from my list of questions. The interviews lasted anywhere from 25 minutes to an hour and a half but most were around an hour long. I asked my interviewees how they had gotten involved in Willamette Water 2100 and why. I asked what they had expected coming in to the project and if their expectations had been met. The interviewees also named challenges and successes that the project had faced and identified ways that the project is useful while suggesting methods to present the results to a wider audience.

After talking to each person, I took the audio-recording and transcribed our conversation to a text file. These text files are my data. Now, how do I analyze files of words? I have been trained to handle data of numbers and categories entered into Excel to generate graphs and summary statistics. That is not the way to handle qualitative data like my conversation documents.

I am just beginning to analyze my words in a process called “coding” which organizes repeating ideas into themes and concepts. For instance, one concept that practically every interviewee mentioned was that participating in this research benefitted them through learning. What was learned may differ among individuals or between groups of individuals, but they are all unified under that concept of learning. Reading and re-reading, and grouping and re-grouping are the next steps for me with this data so that I can accurately characterize the long-term participant experience in this research project.

But! That is not the only data with which I will be working. I am also about to launch an online survey to all participants of the process. Where my interviews were targeted based on expertise and experience with the project, my survey will be sent to every person on this project’s list serve. I will ask similar but more specific questions seeking to identify the degree of participation of each individual, their motivations for participating, and their perceptions of the project’s outcomes. The survey will provide me with some numbers to strengthen the conclusions I am making with the words of the interviews. Using multiple measures is a good way to confirm my conclusions.

I am feeling pretty accomplished having completed the interview data collection and transcription by the end of winter term. However, as we are beginning the spring term, I realize that there is still so much more work to do. And, while I would rather continue reflecting on my research process with you, I had better return to organizing the reflections of my subjects on the research process they went through. Unlike the police, however, I am not trying to recreate a crime to identify what happened, so I am going to change metaphors now at the end of this post (and let you see a picture of me when I was four years old). Consider the following picture of a party.

20150413_203158(Photo credit: Pam Ferguson)

Everyone is at the same party, but you might imagine, that different attendees will have different comments to make about the success of the party or how they felt leaving it. I want to know what the common and uncommon perceptions of the party were so that I can throw a better party in the future. While it may be weird to interview and survey your guests after a party, coordinators of scientific engagement processes definitely can do this. And then we hope to develop and invite people to better scientific engagement processes in the future.

under: Laura Ferguson, Robert E. Malouf Marine Studies Scholar

On my last post, I mentioned that we were breaking down the 90-day experiment, where we exposed mussels to environmentally relevant levels (0, 0.3, 3.0, 30.0, and 300 ng/L) of fluoxetine. We had measured mussel length and width as well as mass and water clearance rates, so see if fluoxetine had an effect on mussel physiology. After some preliminary analyses, we found that mussels grew at a slower rate when exposed to the highest levels of fluoxetine (30 and 300 ng/L). While all mussels survived the exposure, some did exhibit negative growth with respect to total mass. I am currently looking at the other data to see if there were similar trends. We are also assessing body condition using a condition and gonadosomatic indices. These indices assess mussel health by measuring the the dry weight of mussel tissue over the length and width of its shell and the proportion of gonad and somatic tissues for each individual mussel, respectively. Once we get the dry weights of each individual mussel, we will have the results from comparing the values between treatments.

The next exciting part of this study is how fluoxetine may affect mussel shell thickening in response to a predator cue. The experiment is designed to test four fluoxetine treatments (0, 0.3, 3, and 30 ng/L) with and without the presence of whelk predator cues (+/-). In total there are 8 treatment types with 10 mussels per treatment, and 2 whelks per (+) treatment. Our facilities have limited space and holding tanks, so I decided to construct an experimental water table to house 800 mussels and 40 whelks that will be used in the experiment (Figure 1). This water table holds fresh water that is chilled at 12.5 °C, and has an air manifold that connects to each vessel housing mussels and whelks (n=80, 10 replicates per treatment).


Figure 1. Experimental Water Table set up. Each vessel houses 10 mussels and is independent from the neighboring vessels.

The individual vessels are simply a 32 oz. wide mouth mason jars. This was a cost effective way to increase replication and ensure independence between replicates. To each fluoextine treatment jar we will add 0.75L of filtered saltwater and the appropriate volume of fluoxetine. In (+) predator cue jars, we cage the whelks in plastic 50mL perforated sample vials (Figure 2).


Figure 2. Example of individual vessel. This treatment will be dosed with Fluoxetine to maintain a concentration of 0.3 ng/L and will include predator cues from 2 whelks.

We will be monitoring this experiment over the next few months. I will be inform you on our progress when it has completed. If you would like to follow my more frequent posts, please visit my new personal website: josephrpeters.weebly.com. Also, please comment here if you have have questions or suggestions about the experiment.

under: Uncategorized

PrinciplesBack in December, I posted a blog about how I think about and apply resilience to my research on hazards and the business community. From the high-level questions of “resilience of what” and “resilience to what,” this post will drill down into specific principles of resilience, and how they are applied to this topic.

The Stockholm Resilience Centre has developed seven resilience principles, which form the basis of my evaluation of economic resilience to hazards. Economic resilience to hazards is the ability of the local business community to handle natural hazards. By focusing in on how resilience principles can be applied to that specific intersection of stress and system, we can identify targeted ways to increase resilience and therefore reduce the vulnerability of the business community. This post will look at the first three resilience principles, and how they apply to the more narrow focus of economic resilience to hazards.

The first principle is “maintain diversity and redundancy.” Diversity helps because not all things are impacted in the same way by the same disruption when they have different qualities. Redundancy helps because functions are covered by multiple elements. If one system fails, the function is not completely lost; there are backups. From an economic resilience to hazards perspective, this becomes “support multiple types of businesses and back-up resources.” A community with different industries, locations and sizes of businesses can withstand hazards better. A community with multiple sources of power, water, and transportation options can get back on its feet sooner.

The second principle is “manage connectivity.” Connectivity is tricky, because you want enough connectivity for mutual support, but not such tight connections that breakdowns spill over. For economic resilience to hazards, this principle became “strengthen supportive networks.” By thinking about the networks that provide resources and support to businesses, we can focus on the connections that will serve businesses around hazards.

The third principle is “manage slow variables and feedbacks.” When systems change slowly, it can be hard to notice it happening, and even harder to determine the point at which the change is irreversible. Declining populations of fish or the pollution levels in a river are examples of this type of change. Another challenge is that there are infinite systems in our communities, and we cannot track all of them. This principle, when applied to economic resilience to hazards, became “identify and track areas of vulnerability.” By focusing on areas of vulnerability, the particular systems that businesses rely on, we are more likely to catch shifts that will have significant impact.

These three principles focus on the outcomes that resilience planning seeks to accomplish. The principles in my next post will focus on the process of pursuing those outcomes. Both are important in creating resilience.

under: Sarah Allison

Four years after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, we still have a lot to learn as we prepare for a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake:


under: Geoff Ostrove, Natural Resources Policy Fellow, Uncategorized

It took me a few tries, but I’m finally able to log in and post, so here is my first blog entry as a Sea Grant Scholar! With the legislative session underway, things are moving at an incredibly fast pace. I’m working out of Rep Caddy McKeown’s office as she’s chairing the Coastal Caucus this session. Before session started, the Rep hosted her two legislative staffers and I at her home in Coos Bay. We met with Port and city officials in the district, got a great tour of the area, admired the beautiful southern Oregon coast scenery, and ate the best smoked fish I’ve ever had.

Back in Salem, we hit the ground running. One of my primary focuses is helping craft an Oregon Shellfish Initiative aimed at enhancing opportunities for shellfish aquaculture, protecting wild shellfish habitat and commercial and recreational shellfish fisheries, and promoting research on ocean acidification. California and Washington have passed Shellfish Initiatives, so we’re able to look to those as templates, but Oregon has unique challenges, largely due to having much less available land for shellfish aquaculture. This initiative is bringing together industry, agencies, fisheries, and researchers to identify the best practices and priorities and is serving as a crash course in policy making for this biologist. And as a great admirer of the humble mollusk, I’m honored to be its champion. More updates to come. IMG_5797

under: Uncategorized

There are some moments in this fellowship that I feel particularly fortunate, particularly needing of a stern pinch to believe I do this for a living. In mid-January of this year, I experienced one of these moments. Between January 12th-14th intergovernmental ocean and coastal leaders from across the West Coast representing tribes, state, and federal agencies convened in Portland, Oregon for the first time to communicate ocean health priorities as an entire region.

The days began with the first in-person meeting of West Coast tribal, state, and federal representatives engaged in discussions around regional marine planning and the potential formation of a West Coast Regional Planning Body, an entity geared at implementing the National Ocean Policy through a region-wide marine planning dialog. An audience of a variety of stakeholders, including NGOs, were also present. My anticipation and excitement for the events ahead were high as I personally welcomed and registered attendees to the meeting. After dynamic conversation from members and comments from the audience, it was agreed that the group would move forward with pursuing the formation a Regional Planning Body on the West Coast in hopes of creating an effective forum around marine planning activities.

That same evening marked the beginning of a 2.5 day West Coast Ocean Summit (WCOS) convened by a collaborative planning team with support from the West Coast Governors Alliance on Ocean Health (WCGA).

Manning my note-taking station at the Ocean Summit

Manning my note-taking station at the Ocean Summit

The first WCOS brought together 150 leaders in total from West Coast tribes, representatives from the Governors’ offices of California, Oregon, and Washington and state and federal agencies to share ocean health priorities and discuss regional ocean coordination and collaboration opportunities. The objectives of the Summit were to develop a shared understanding of common priorities, document issues of mutual importance, create strategies for identifying opportunities for intergovernmental coordination and overcoming challenges, and develop mechanisms for ongoing dialogue among federal and state agencies and tribes in the region. The 2.5 days were filled with robust conversations about priorities and collaborative possibilities. I was a member of the WCOS planning team, and I also assisted during the WCOS with a variety of tasks as needed (including general coordination and note-taking for future reports). Attendees revealed their ocean health priorities, which included ocean acidification, climate change, and the sharing of information through such mechanisms as the West Coast Ocean Data Portal to name just a few. Perhaps the more powerful message communicated by the end of the WCOS was that in moving forward the tribes, state, and federal agencies all agreed that collaboration among these entities would be the most effective means of managing West Coast ocean resources. While nongovernmental organizations, the private sector, academia, and citizens are also key players, strong relationships among the “three sovereigns” — tribal, state, and federal governments — is an essential foundation for broader collaboration.”

While there are still obstacles to overcome and questions to answer, I personally found the respect and camaraderie I witnessed over the course of these 2 events to be a promising foundation for the collaborative efforts to come. As these efforts evolve, I hope we all think back to how a variety of leaders came together for these 3 incredible days in solidarity around ocean health. In the end, all of these entities are stewards of the ocean. That is why I am so passionate about this work, at the core of everyone in attendance for these 3 days is a person who truly wants to protect one of our regions greatest assets for current and future generations. That is a truth we can all agree on.

under: Uncategorized

DOGAMI recently released Yumei Wang’s analysis of how the Cascadia earthquake will impact hospitals and water systems. I suggest checking out the executive summary: http://public.health.oregon.gov/Preparedness/Prepare/Documents/oha-earthquake-risk-report-2014.pdf

The main takeaway for me: “Both pilot study hospitals have seismic vulnerabilities and are expected to incur significant hospital bed shortages for over 90 days after a Cascadia earthquake… Lincoln City hospital is estimated to incur significant damage due to its proximity to the Cascadia subduction zone and will slowly recover to operate at about 52% bed capacity in 90 days. A number of bridges that connect the community and hospital, including bridges crossing the Siletz River, are expected to incur major damage and impede citizen access to the hospital complex. Although the McMinnville hospital has modern seismic structural engineering, design, and construction, it is expected to have a severe reduction in function due to shaking damage. It is expected to recover to about 76% bed capacity in 90 days. A number of bridges that connect the community and hospital, including the Three Mile Lane bridge and nearby Highway 18 bridges to the west of hospital complex, are expected to incur major damage and impede citizen access.”

under: Geoff Ostrove, Natural Resources Policy Fellow, Uncategorized

At approximately 9 p.m. Pacific Standard Time on Jan. 26, 1700, a magnitude 8 or 9 earthquake occurred on the Cascadia Subduction Zone, a 600-mile stretch between Vancouver Island, British Columbia and Cape Mendocino, California. 315 years later, we are preparing for another Cascadia Subduction Zone event to occur.  Check out these OPB articles to learn more:

Can Coastal Communities Survive a Tsunami?

Japanese Earthquake Holds Lessons For Oregon Coast

Jan. 26, 1700: How Scientists Know When the Last Big Earthquake  Happened Here

Why Would You Build A Hospital In A Tsunami Zone?

under: Geoff Ostrove, Natural Resources Policy Fellow, Uncategorized

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