From GNRO to OWEB, that’s a wrap

From one government acronym to another, my time as a policy fellow with the Governor’s Natural Resources Office is over, and I am moving on to the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board as the Water Vision Coordinator-sounds cool, huh?

I was initially hired to work with marine policy, but I learned about so much more. Along with helping with the Ocean Policy Advisory Council, the Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia Council, and the Rocky Habitats Working Group, I was helped with legislative projects, as well as pesticides, wildfire, and water policy. I was lucky enough to learn an incredible deal about how the policy I learned about in the classroom, is actually applied on the ground. A plan for ocean acidification is great, but we have to be able to pay for it. How do you balance OAH and a carbon cap-and-trade market? Both address climate change, but both require substantial resources to implement. Luckily that wasn’t my job to figure that out, but it is fascinating to be privy to those conversations.

The most fascinating thing I found about my time in the Governor’s Office was the timescale on which things happen. During the 2019 legislative session, conversations about the 2021 budgets were already happening. In the meantime, strategic legislative decisions are made on the quickly, based on the best available information. The long-term planning and quick, savvy decision-making showed me how incredible of a beast government really is (so overwhelming).

My last project with the Governor’s Office, and new job, is the 100-Year Water Vision, and is a text-book example of long-term planning and quick decision making. The goal is to create strategy to invest in Oregon’s water infrastructure, to ensure that there is clean and abundant water for now, and 100-years into the future. To do that that state must first assess what information we have, and what information we need to make big management decisions, while also engaging local communities now, to develop trusting relationships for the future.

Serving Governor Kate Brown, and being a part of the 100-Year Water Vision has been such an honor, and something that I would have never been able to achieve without Sea Grant. The Natural Resources Policy Fellowship has given me the opportunity to learn from experts in virtually every field, from every agency, and witness policy making at the highest state-level.

This fellowship has allowed me to break into the field, and create invaluable connections. Along with jumpstarting my career in natural resources, Sea Grant has provided me with the skills and a support system to grow and thrive into the future. Thank you!

Whale entanglement mitigation in Oregon

My first summer as a full-time Oregon coast resident has been full of trips to the beach, blackberry picking, hikes, and hammock reading. On most days after work, I am able to enjoy walking my dog along the bluff by our house where you can often spot the telltale spray of whales feeding in the coastal waters. However, given my current project (read about it here!), I can’t help but think about the issue of whale entanglement that occurs when these animals come into contact with fishing gear, and specifically Dungeness crab fixed gear. As part of my fellowship, I will drafting a section for the Dungeness crab fishery management plan (FMP) describing this complicated problem and the work that is being done throughout Oregon and the west coast to address it.

Whale entanglements on the U.S. West Coast have historically occurred at low levels, but an increase in the number of confirmed entanglements has been reported since around 2014. A number of complex factors may be contributing to the increased occurrence of entanglements including changing environmental conditions, altered whale and prey abundance and distribution, shifting fishery effort, and improved public reporting. However, a range of information gaps currently exist that hinder our ability to effectively reduce risk.

Most entanglement reports are the result of opportunistic sightings which are “confirmed” by NOAA Fisheries using photos or videos of the entangled whale, follow-up observations by NOAA staff, or consultation with experienced partners involved in the West Coast Region Marine Mammal Stranding Network. If these criteria are inadequate or unavailable, then these reports cannot be confirmed.

While reporting and response efforts are continually improving, there is still a high degree of uncertainty about the source of entanglements. Whales travel great distances which can make it incredibly difficult to determine the timing and location of entanglements. In a large portion of confirmed reports, it is also not possible to identify the gear type or specific fishery it is associated with. It is clear, however, that whales are entangled in a wide variety of gear types and configurations which contributes to the complexity of the issue and makes a simple solution unlikely.

The majority of identifiable entangling gear has been attributed to trap or pot fisheries, and particularly the commercial Dungeness crab fishery. This issue was highlighted in 2017 by a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity against the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for allegedly allowing the Dungeness crab fishery to take whales listed under the Endangered Species Act without an approved Incidental Take Permit (ITP). In March 2019, a settlement agreement was reached resulting in the early closure of the California fishery on April 15th and including a number of measures for future seasons.

State management agencies along the west coast are actively working to reduce the risk of whale entanglements in Dungeness crab and other fixed gear. In Oregon, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) is working with researchers, industry, state and federal partners, and the Oregon Whale Entanglement Working Group (OWEWG) to develop management measures and strategies to supplement existing regulations that reduce entanglement risk (e.g., limited entry and pot limits, summer fishery trip limits, post-season derelict gear retrieval program, etc.). The agency is also collaborating with researchers at Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute on a study to better understand the temporal and spatial distribution of whales off Oregon and habitat use patterns. In April 2019, ODFW formalized their intent to apply for an ITP and has taken steps to initiate the multi-year process.

Additionally, ODFW will be recommending management measures for whale entanglement mitigation through a phased approach to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission (OFWC) in the coming months. Phase 1 will be recommended in September for implementation at the start of the 2019-20 crab season, while Phase 2 will be recommended in early 2020 for implementation as early as spring 2020. Recommended management measures aim to improve our understanding of when crab fishery effort overlaps with whale occurrence throughout the season and our ability to determine where and when entanglements originate. Measures will also be recommended to reduce the number of vertical lines in the water during a potential “late season” fishery when whale feeding aggregations are commonly found off Oregon. Details of these rule-making packages can be found in the ODFW industry notice found here.

Voluntary best practices that the Oregon crab fleet can take to reduce the risk of whale entanglement have also been developed by the OWEWG and are available here.

I look forward to learning more about this issue in the coming weeks as ODFW prepares to recommend Phase 1 of the whale mitigation rule-making packages to the OFWC. Moving forward, I will work to include in the FMP the collaborative efforts of various partners working to mitigate the risk of whale entanglements, while maintaining the vitality of the crab fishery.

Additional references

Braby, C. 2019. Reducing risk of whale entanglements in Dungeness crab gear – building resiliency into the crab management framework. Director’s Report. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Marine Resources Program. Available at’s%20Report_Whale.pdf

NOAA Fisheries. 2019. 2018 West Coast Whale Entanglement Summary. U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service. 10 pp. Available at

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). 2019. Industry notice, April 12, 2019. 4 pp. Available at

Saez, L., Lawson, D., DeAngelis, M., Petras, E., Wilkin, S., and Fahy, C. 2013. Understanding the co-occurrence of large whales and commercial fixed gear fisheries off the west coast of the United States. NOAA Technical Memorandum, NOAA-TM-NMFS-SWR-044. 102 pp.

Wrapping Up My Time as a Malouf Scholar

Where has this past year gone?! Just a year ago, I received the Robert E. Malouf Scholarship. Now, I’m writing my last blog post as a scholar and preparing to start a fellowship in New Orleans.

Looking back at why I applied for the Malouf Scholarship, I’m proud of how my Master’s research can inform science communication to Oregon Sea Grant’s served coastal communities. I developed a set of five best practices that scientists, natural resource managers, and other science professionals should consider when communicating with their audiences.

So, how can I as a(n) [insert your profession here] be a better communicator? Well….

Best Practice #1: choose appropriate goals and outcomes for communication

First, you should create some goals and outcomes for the communication activity. Consider what you hope to achieve, and how you would measure success of your actions. For example, are you just hoping to inform your audience, or do you want to start a long-term dialogue? Since science communication is not static, these goals and outcomes should be continually evaluated and updated.

Best Practice #2: choose a scope and scale for information

Next, you’ll want to consider an appropriate scope and scale for your information. This includes thinking about the area (both geographic and temporal) and level of detail that your audience might want to hear. Consider including your audience at this step to help determine information needs.

Best Practice #3: design an appropriate communication structure

Once you decide your science communication goal and determine what type of information you want to communicate, then you should develop an appropriate communication structure. What is a sensible order to your information? What graphics or visuals might be used to communicate your information?

Best Practice #4: build relationships with current and new audiences

As a science communicator, you won’t be talking to an empty room, but to people who have unique perspectives, information needs, and levels of understanding. Building relationships early in the communication process may help improve information delivery and create buy-in with your audience. Your audience should understand why they matter in your communication process.

Best Practice #5: choose an appropriate communication tool

By considering the goals, information, and communication structure, you might have started thinking about what tool will be most effective for your science communication. If your goal is simply to inform, then a presentation, video, or social media may be an effective communication tool. However, different structures would need to be used to have a dialogue and develop a two-way relationship with your audience. Again, consider including your audience in developing this communication structure so it meets their needs.
Before rolling out the communication tool, test that it is working as intended. While technology is great for reaching new people, we all get frustrated when it doesn’t work as intended!

In the end, science communication can be a difficult process. If you aren’t connecting to your audience as intended, try not to get discouraged. Be flexible in your process and try connecting with new people.

My Year as a Malouf Scholar Coming to a Close

My year as an Oregon Sea Grant Malouf Scholar has been truly a year of growth. Going into the fall of 2018, I had little to no outreach experience. During the last year, I learned about the process of developing, funding/supporting, delivering, evaluating, and reporting outreach activities. My experience as a graduate teaching assistant and completing the course requirements for the OSU GCCUT (Graduate Certificate in College and University Teaching) program proved useful in designing my activities. For instance, I utilized my knowledge of backward course design, which is a technique for designing course content by starting with outcomes in mind. When choosing content and creating my lesson plan for the SMILE events, I based all decisions on my desired learning objectives for students. In addition to learning how to apply my formal teaching skills to outreach education, I learned skills specific to engaging with the public. I did this by reading materials provided by OSG and SERC (the Science Education Resource Center at Carleton College), but I also sought advice and guidance from others along the way. I talked with graduate students in my program who have extensive experience developing K-12 educational products and outreach activities (Sophie Wensman, Dani Miller, and Ian Black), I spoke with outreach coordinators from my college (Abby Metzger and Nancy Steinberg) and from the Marine Geology Repository (Cara Fritz and Maziet Cheseby), and I asked for advice from a number of OSU outreach organizations (Precollege Programs and the Center for Research on Lifelong STEM learning). However, no matter how much I prepared for my activities through reading and reflecting, I needed the actual experiences of delivering my sediment core activities and displays in a number of formats – to coastal community members at Hatfield Marine Science Day, to the middle and high school students in the OSU SMILE program, and to Corvallis community members at da Vinci Days. These experiential learning opportunities taught me what works, what doesn’t, and how to quickly assess and adapt as the situation required. Just like being a research scientist and college and university teacher, being a member of the STEM community who effectively delivers outreach activities requires passion, practice, and a lot of self-assessment. I’m so thankful for Oregon Sea Grant’s support at the beginning of my outreach and engagement career!     

Me showing off my sediment core display at Corvallis da Vinci Days.

So, what does the next year hold for me?

I will be a fellow in OSU’s Risk and Uncertainty Quantification in Marine Science National Science Foundation Research Traineeship (NRT) program. In association with this program, I will be working with a transdisciplinary group of graduate students from different STEM backgrounds to assess the health of Oregon’s coastal sediment routing system. Specifically, we will work to better understand the connectivity between freshwater and saltwater systems by combining knowledge of hydrologic landscape classification schemes with estuarine morphology. This topic is of extreme importance for assessing the vulnerability of these systems to climate and land-use change. My experience as a Malouf Scholar will certainly provide useful in this project as much of the project will focus on the human dimension – both how Oregon coastal communities are influencing these systems through land-use change and also how Oregon coastal communities will be impacted by degradation and loss of coastal ecosystem services. The NRT program incorporates a significant professional development aspect, and I hope to further develop my newfound community engagement skills through collaboration with Oregon marine resource stakeholders, development of outreach products, and delivery of public presentations of our results.  

Additionally, over the next year, I will be starting a new project with funding from the Geological Society of America to determine the recovery times of Oregon’s salt marshes following the 1700 Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake. I hope to disseminate the results of this project at the end of next summer. I also look forward to presenting my OSG-funded research at the CERF (Coastal & Estuarine Research Federation) 2019 conference in Mobil, AL this fall and continuing to attend OSG sponsored events, such as the State of the Coast conference and OSG Site Review.

Signing off for now!


a hui hou — until we meet again

When I first decided to apply for the Oregon Sea Grant Summer Scholars Program, one of my initial thoughts was “Itʻs only ten weeks — I can go without surf for that long.” I soon began think of other fun summer activities on Oʻahu that I would be missing and convinced myself that I exploring the unknown in Oregon was a much better use of my time. I was right.

The past ten weeks have been absolutely amazing and went by way too fast. One of the best parts about working with HRAP was that I used so much of what I learned in school when answering visitors’ questions. Ironically, most of the questions were biology or geology related — I specialized in chemistry. I also found myself explaining the State and Federal laws that protect the wildlife and habitat at Haystack Rock. Knowing the details of specific regulations not only gave me a certain amount of authority, which can be helpful when you are not actual law enforcement, but also helped me to explain the importance of what is being protected. Overall, the experience that HRAP provided me was the perfect opportunity for me to successfully apply marine science and policy to educating the public. 

At Cape Disappointment…The view was not disappointing at all.

This summer, I also learned a lot about myself. My travel has been very limited in the past six years that I have been in school. I forgot how exhilarating new terrain can be. These ten weeks spent in Oregon reminded me that I am capable of independent travel and the unknown is often more exciting than scary. I will miss my weekend escapades to Portland, Seattle, Longview, and Newport, and being able to choose the route I had not driven yet. 

Prior to this summer, I had never really spent much time on the Eastern Pacific Coastline. Sure, I have lived in San Francisco and surfed a little in Santa Cruz but other than that I have had a blind spot in the area. Getting to see what the coastline looks like from Newport to Astoria, and even further North in Ilwaco and Long Beach, was such a treat and I looked forward to exploring more of the coastline in the future. 

All good things must come to an end :(

So these last few weeks have been pretty busy. It was a little hectic trying to finish my poster while doing field work but it all came together in the end. This time around I didn’t have to digest any shrimp so it was nice to help out with the other projects going on in the field. I was very nervous for the poster session and the lightning talk but I think everyone did a great job. Overall I think it went really well and was definitely a learning experience. It was also nice to get feedback from the scientists at HMSC.

I’ve really enjoyed all the food that I’ve eaten in Washington and Oregon and I think I’ll really miss it when I go home. Last week we walked to Chalet and I had the most amazing strawberry pancakes. I was in a serious food coma afterwards but it was so worth it.

I’ll really miss Oregon and HMSC but I’m so grateful for the experience that I’ve had here and I’ll for sure never forget it. I’ll be sure to keep in touch and hopefully cross paths with you guys again!

Farewell Post

It’s just hit me today that I’m really leaving the Oregon Sea Grant Summers Scholar program this week. It’s really felt like home the last few weeks. The people I’ve gotten to know here have been some of the kindest, funniest, and most passionate people I’ve met. I’m so glad I got to participate in this program.

Research Symposium

This past week has been a lot of fun. Our research symposium was on Friday, where we presented our research poster and did a five minute lightning talk to introduce our research. Autumn and I split up our projects at the EPA and I presented on the Zostera Marina mesocosm experiment, seeing how changing temperatures affects the relationship Zostera Marina has on carbonate chemistry in estuarine waters. It was a lot of fun to talk about and try to explain in five minutes. I had a blast talking with people about the research. Afterwards I made a blackberry pie and invited the Summer Scholars who were still in Newport after the conference, as well as Suhn’s roommates, to eat! It was a great time.

We went to the beach!

On Sunday, Nikki, Autumn, Suhn and I went to the beach! Suhn and I thought it would be a great idea to bury me in sand. Meaning, he said “Can I bury you in sand” and I said “sure.” By then time he was done the only thing emerging from the sand was my head and my cap. I would not say the experience was worth it, per se, but I don’t regret it.

Suhn and I then rented a canoe and we spent two hours on the lake. We were zooming the first hour, feeling pretty great about ourselves and our innate athletic abilities, and then when we had to turn back, Oregon decided to make us work for it. The wind was blowing so hard that if we stopped we’d start moving back very quickly, so we rowed like crazy until we got back! We also met an adorable corgi named 2020 (that’s what his nametag said) who was chilling in the shade near the docks, living his best life. All in all, a wonderful sandy Saturday.

Leaving the EPA

I’ve started the process of paperwork to end my internship at the EPA and I’m so sad about it. I am stunned by how warm, friendly, and inviting the members of the Newport Western Ecology Division of EPA were to Autumn and me. I couldn’t have asked for a better environment to do summer research, and I’m going to miss this place very much.

Thank you!!

So many people made this summer absolutely incredible! Thank you to my mentors, Jim Kaldy, Cheryl Brown, and Stephen Pacella, and to Beth Rutila and T Chris Mochon Collura! The people we worked with at the Oregon Sea Grant, including Jenny Engels, Stephanie Ichien, and Sarah Kolesar, were so friendly and fun! Finally thank you so much to my fellow Summer Scholars Autumn Herrington, Dominique Zuk, Naomi Scott, Suhn Brown, Hannah Sinclair, Honour Booth, and Melissa Wood, for being amazing and welcoming and making me feel at home! And thank you to everyone reading the blog, we really appreciate it!

Whirlwind Week in Kentucky

Sadly, I had to miss the Oregon Sea Grant Summer Scholar presentations that happened last week. I had a good excuse however. I was presenting the research that I completed last summer at the annual Ecological Society of America conference. This year, the conference was located in Louisville, Kentucky. My research was looking at the burrowing habits of the Northern Idaho ground squirrel.

With an attendance just shy of 3000 people, I was a bit intimidated at the thought of presenting a poster. I was pleasantly surprised by the reality however. Everyone was very friendly and I received some great feedback on my poster. 

I only spent one of the days presenting, so I had the rest of the week to attend various talks and workshops. There were so many things going on at once, it was hard to choose how to spend my time.

The week was not all work however. I made sure to take some breaks and explore the city. One of the highlights of my Kentucky experience was the river cruise I went on. It was a 2-hour ride down the Ohio river, which is bordered by both Kentucky and Indiana. I also had a great time exploring the city at night with my fellow Doris Duke Conservation Scholar cohort. It was great to reconnect with this group of wonderful people. The last time we were all together was in 2018 at the National Conservation Training Center in West Virginia.

I want to thank Oregon Sea Grant, Jim Kaldy, Cheryl Brown and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation for making this trip possible and being so flexible.

The end :(

Last Week in Newport

Wow, I can’t believe it’s the last week already. Last week flew by, and I just finished my last full weekend in Newport.

This post will be bittersweet: bitter because I don’t want to leave the people I’ve met or this amazing little town, but sweet because I’m ready to go back to school and am looking forward to life after school.

Last Week of work

We had our final symposium for Oregon Sea Grant on Friday! I think it went really well. Everyone’s posters and presentations were soooooo good!

I went to the last Oregon Coastal Management Staff meeting that I could attend last week. It was saddening to say goodbye to them, but I’m hoping to see them all again one day ;)

I hope to see everyone I have worked with again some day, including (especially) the other scholars!!

One of the last things that I’m doing is finalizing the displays for the king tides project, and I’m honestly not ready for it to end.

But, if you are ever in Oregon during the winter season, I encourage you to go out and take pics of the king tides and submit them! And keep an eye out for the travelling display, and when it’s up on the web, check out the virtual display!

Last week of fun

I forgot to mention that I went to the Oregon Coast Aquarium two or three weeks ago! It was super cute and the shark tunnel was amazing (of course, sharks are the best)!

Here are some cute lil jellies :)

Over this past weekend, Ariana, Autumn, Nikki, and I went to Devil’s Lake again! Ariana and I canoed on the lake, which was super fun!!

Before that, we made a stop at Taft to check out the beach there. It was pretty windy, so we didn’t stay long, But, I got to bury Ariana in the sand before we left :)

For her last pie, Ariana made an amazing blackberry pie (shoutout to Nikki for the handpicked, perfect blackberries)!! It was great and bittersweet (get the theme yet?). So, I rescind my previous pie comment haha.


I’ve never been the best at saying goodbye, so we’ll see how this goes. My time here has been incredible, and definitely formative and informative. It’s helped me figure out what I want to pursue in grad school and future careers. I found some of my favorite people here. I found one of my favorite places I have been to. I want to say the biggest of thank you’s to everyone who has contributed to my experiences here – everyone at Oregon Sea Grant for making this possible; everyone at the DLCD for being accommodating and warm; Meg and Hui at the Newport office for being the best; and all of the other scholars for great conversations, hugs, laughs, love, and good times. :)

For the last time, sea ya!

Goodbyes and Blackberry Pie!

August 19th, 2019:

As predicted in my last blog, I blinked and it’s Week 10. So much has happened these past few weeks no wonder they completely sped by. For one, we had our final symposium and poster session last Friday! The day before that, my mentors and some members of the Marine Reserves program took me out for a farewell lunch at Local Ocean and got me the sweetest gift (plus a bag of sweet & salty kettle corn—my absolute favorite!!) I’m really going to miss the people I’ve gotten to work with these past 10 weeks; I seriously don’t think I could’ve dreamed up a better work environment. I’m extremely thankful for everything and everyone who has made this summer so memorable!

Though we wrapped up our last round of field days a few weeks ago, I still have things to keep me busy in the office before I officially head out. With whatever down-time I’ve had this summer (when I wasn’t in the intertidal, SMURF-ing, coordinating Sea Star Surveys, or creating my poster and presentation for the final symposium), I was down a Google Scholar rabbit hole sorting through all the research articles I could find that were published on rocky intertidal habitats along the Oregon Coast. The Marine Reserves will be presenting a huge progress report to the state legislative body in 2023 and they’ve asked for my help in making an Annotated Bibliography. Essentially, my job is to compile all the research that has ever been conducted in rocky intertidal habitats both inside and outside the Marine Reserves, before and after their implementation in 2012. As I’ve basically finished it off at this point, I can definitely say I know way more than I ever thought I’d know about Oregon rocky intertidal life.

As I began my series of blogs with dessert, I feel it absolutely necessary to conclude with it as well. Just to preface a bit before I dive completely in: before this summer, I had only been to Oregon once. I was 12 and stayed in a really cute beach town up north—Manzanita. During my stay, I had a genuinely life-changing dessert at a Mom & Pop restaurant on the coast: a slice of marionberry pie. Since then, I’ve deemed the marionberry as my ULTIMATE favorite fruit and marionberry pie as my ULTIMATE favorite dessert. At the beginning of this summer, I vowed to have a slice of marionberry pie (as I’m now back in Oregon, marionberry-territory). Well, unfortunately Newport isn’t close to any wild marionberry bushes so I had to compromise for its less lavish cousin: the wild blackberry. There are hundreds of ripe blackberry bushes scattered around Hatfield, so last week I went on a 3-mile loop and picked as many blackberries as my bucket could carry. I brought them back to the apartment and my roommates and I made a fresh blackberry pie to conclude the amazing summer. Though nothing can ever compare to a slice of marionberry pie in my book, this pie came pretty darn close.

Some of the blackberries I picked along the estuary trail at Hatfield!
The blackberry pie straight out of the oven!! Gonna miss Ariana’s pie crusts </3

So I guess this is goodbye—goodbye to the amazing people I’ve gotten to meet, goodbye to the amazing foods I’ve gotten to eat, and goodbye to the amazing memories I’ve made in this quaint little beach town. I’m going to miss everything tremendously. Thanks for staying tuned with my life as a Sea Grant Scholar, and thanks for (hopefully) not rolling your eyes every time I’ve rattled on about food :) And thank you, Newport, for the most amazing summer!

-Dominique :)