header image

A Fleet of Meetings

Posted by: | January 6, 2015 | 2 Comments |

How do you talk about issues like ocean acidification and habitat preservation and changing land use patterns? Where do you even start? Having now coordinated two such meetings, I can answer that question: Start with a working coffee machine. At the first of these meetings, the snazzy built-in coffee machine provided by the meeting place malfunctioned and flooded so we had to abandon the idea of making a pot of coffee– and the look on people’s faces as they tried to get coffee out of an empty pot can only be described as “crestfallen.” But eventually we got it working, and the meeting took off from there. That first day our topic was water quality issues. During the second meeting, we tackled the larger and somewhat more amorphous category of “habitat” issues.

Why were we meeting at all? As an Oregon Sea Grant Natural Resources Policy Fellow placed at the Tillamook Estuaries Partnership for a year, it is my job to coordinate the revision of the organization’s Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan, or CCMP. The original CCMP came out in 1999, and devotes a chapter each to habitat, water quality, erosion and sedimentation, flooding, citizen involvement, and monitoring. These early meetings are a way to meet with many of the agencies we partner with and get a sense of the issues they feel are most pressing; what they feel has changed since the original CCMP was written; and how these evolving policies can best be implemented.

It’s very satisfying to get twenty people in a room—a feat in itself because of so many busy schedules—and talking about these big issues and the long-term plans for addressing them. For me, this experience has really driven home how important it is to, well, talk to people. Reading and solo research is important, but nothing can quite substitute for the understanding that comes from conversing with the players who have been involved with the issue at hand for two, five, ten years. In fact, some of the meeting participants were involved in the drafting of the original plan back in the mid-90’s. Because they were starting from scratch, that process was much more intense. The people involved met every week for five years.

For the revision, we’re condensing that time frame. We’ll be holding another couple of meetings in February to narrow down and clarify the brainstorming list produced by the first meetings, and then we’ll be holding public information sessions in March to present a rough draft of the management plan and ask for input from the community. In early May, my time at TEP ends. I may not leave with the plan finalized, but I do think I’ll be able to produce a solid rough draft or outline at the very least before I leave TEP. Certainly I’ll leave with a better understanding of the process of planning an organization’s future and a knack for jury-rigging reluctant coffee machines.

under: Natural Resources Policy Fellow, Rose Rimler, Uncategorized

December 18 marked the end of a 90-day exposure study. During this time, we exposed the mussel Mytilus Californianus to regular doses of the drug, Fluoxetine which is the active ingredient in Prozac, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant. For this project, we wanted to determine if environmentally relevant levels of fluoxetine affect the mussels’ biological functions, namely their ability to grow and clear algae from the water column. We set up the experiment with different exposure levels to cover a spectrum of concentrations measured in water samples worldwide.  We wondered if the higher exposure levels would cause more disruption to the biological functions we were measuring. We were most interested in whether fluoxetine affects the mussels ability to clear algae from the water. The reason is because this important function, when magnified across an area of mussel bed, has been shown to be an important ecosystem service. While mussels are an important fishery on their own, some might argue that their role in the rocky intertidal community far exceeds their value as seafood. Since mussels are sessile filter-feeders they filter the water of algae, excess nutrients, and frankly anything in the water that passes by their gills. This makes them highly vulnerable to contamination from toxins in the environment. As other organisms consume mussels (e.g. sea stars and whelks) any contaminant stored in their tissues could accumulate in the tissues in higher trophic organisms. Run off that contain the chemical residues of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) could affect marine life dramatically, and warrants more intensive study.

While there are numerous studies that show negative effects of PPCPs on aquatic organisms, they are mostly acute toxicity studies lasting only 7-10 days. Very few have done chronic exposure trials lasting longer than 30 days, and even fewer have looked at marine organisms. We wanted our study to mimic how fluoxetine could be persistent in the rocky intertidal environment. Often contaminants enter the coast through ‘pulse’ events, where rain drives more run-off and the compounds are essentially ‘flushed’ into estuaries and neighboring nearshore communities. We housed our mussels in tanks and dosed the mussels with fluoxetine every 10 days, to mimic these pulse events rather than constant exposure at the same concentration. We coordinated our measurements around the days we dosed the tanks. We measured mussel clearance rates using a Coulter Cell Counter. This involved feeding the mussels and taking water samples just after feeding and another sample 3 hours after the first sample was taken. The cell counter allowed us to process each water sample in under 15 seconds, which was terrific given that each algal sample day yielded 60 samples that needed immediate processing! We also measured growth by taking the length and width of each mussels every 30 days. While not as exciting as algal clearance rates, we wanted this baseline data to see if this fluoxetine could affect mussel growth. On days 30, 60, and 90 we harvested mussels to save their tissues for additional biological and chemical analyses.  We were interested in how mussels body condition might be affected, so we compared the biomass of tissues necessary for the gonadosomatic index.

Currently, we are in the beginning stages of another experiment that will assess how mussels ability to induce defenses (e.g. thicker shells) in response to predator cues may be affected by the presence of fluoxetine in the water. This experiment should be finished in April or May. Also, our undergraduate student Dylan Dayrit who has been assisting with sample processing throughout the course of this experiment, is currently developing his Honors Thesis to determine the concentrations of fluoxetine in the mussel tissues. This is a big undertaking because we currently have 500 frozen mussels to process. We feel that this information could be very important in determining how much of the fluoxetine in water is taken into the mussels tissues.

I will be filling you in on the findings of this first experiment in the next post.

Have a good new year!


under: Uncategorized

SRGP Awards Announced

Posted by: | December 29, 2014 | 1 Comment |

For this round, the SRGP has awarded 22 emergency service buildings a total of $13.4 million and 13 public schools a total of $14.7 million.  Complete lists of these awards are attached here (School Award List Names and Amounts & Emergency Service Buildings Awards), along with a press release from Oregon’s Senate President Peter Courtney(PR-seismicgrantawards).

under: Geoff Ostrove, Natural Resources Policy Fellow, Uncategorized

What is Economic Resilience?

Posted by: | December 27, 2014 | 1 Comment |

Economic ResilienceAllow me to introduce myself. My name is Sarah Allison, and I am the 2014-2015 Oregon Sea Grant Resilience and Adaptation Fellow. My research looks at economic resilience to natural hazards on the Oregon coast. As an introduction to this topic, I will use this post to clarify what I mean by economic resilience within the context of natural hazards. With growing uncertainty around climate, the economy and global politics increasingly impacting our lives, resilience has become a “buzzword” in recent years. It is not always clear what it really means, though. By explaining how I am using the concept, I hope both to make it easier to understand and show that there are ways to increase our resilience, leading to safer communities.

Resilience is a tricky concept, because it means different things when you apply it to different systems. You might call this “resilience of what”, like the resilience of an individual versus a building. Resilience also means different things when you apply it to different stresses. You might think of this as “resilience to what”, like the resilience to disease versus emotional trauma. At a very broad level, resilience is the ability of a system to anticipate, absorb, recover from, and adapt to a given stress. You might also think of this as reducing vulnerability to a particular threat.

Because my project focuses on economic resilience to natural hazards, I will start by clarifying the “resilience to what” – resilience to hazards. Hazards resilience explores how different systems can better handle natural hazards, such as floods, earthquakes, landslides, or drought.

Hazards impact many aspects of a community, including the local economy. Businesses can be destroyed in a disaster, taking vital services and employment with them, but there is a lot that can be done to help them weather the storm. This, then, becomes the “resilience of what” – resilience of the local economy.

With both resilience of what and resilience to what defined, you can begin to pinpoint areas of vulnerability and ways to address them. Efforts to make the business community less vulnerable to natural hazards would be considered ways to increase economic resilience to natural hazards. By looking at how communities currently support businesses in the face of hazards, we can better identify opportunities to make them safer and more secure.

One way to think about the types of support the business community might need is around key principles of resilience, such as redundancy. Redundancy is a principle that affirms the value of having multiple elements serving the same function, so that if one element fails, the function is not lost. For example, if there is only one source of electricity for a community, and a disaster breaks it, then the community is in serious trouble. If it has two or three sources of electricity, then even if one of them breaks, the community as a whole has access to some electricity. A community with multiple sources of electricity is more resilient than a community with only one.

Redundancy is one of seven resilience principles developed by the Stockholm Resilience Centre. These principles form the basis of my research. Upcoming posts will explore these principles, and how they have been refined for this specific project.

In summary, 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.

under: Sarah Allison


under: Geoff Ostrove, Natural Resources Policy Fellow, Uncategorized

Soy Bióloga

Posted by: | December 9, 2014 | 1 Comment |

Soy bióloga. I am a biologist. That is what I would always say when introducing myself while working in the Peace Corps in Peru. I had left my undergraduate university with a degree in marine biology and Spanish and was going to use that knowledge to benefit developing communities. It didn’t take me long to realize, however, that, while I could identify any fish given a dichotomous key, I lacked the theory and practice to turn scientific knowledge in to personal and community action. I returned to school for my master’s degree in the Marine Resource Management program at Oregon State University to learn about one of the major species in all ecosystems – humans.

Soy sociólogo. I am a sociologist. Since embarking on my graduate degree, I have felt more like a sociologist than a biologist. My coursework has kept me grounded in the natural sciences with introductions to physical oceanography, geology, and biogeochemistry and up to date on my biology in courses like wetland ecology and restoration. But it has also given me insight in to human communities, behavior, and communication with natural resources and community values, marine economics, environmental sociology, and communication and the practice of science courses. I have been learning methods to study human behavior and values in my qualitative research methods course and developing my thesis project protocol.

This fall, I advanced my plan to study how university natural scientists collaborate with non-academics in resource management, user, and policymaker positions. I will be using Willamette Water 2100 (WW2100), a five-year long freshwater modeling effort funded by the National Science Foundation, as a case study for the process of how university researchers work with community “stakeholders” on a long-term and complex investigation of future water availability in the Willamette River Basin (http://water.oregonstate.edu/ww2100/). I realized that I was most interested in the experiences and perspectives of the participants in this process and that if I wanted to find out what people thought about the process of working together, I would have to ask them. And that is where this term’s challenge began.

I am a biologist. When I want to study something, I study it. Plants do not require that you ask their permission to study them. Nor do animals, really. Sure, you may have to get past the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee of your academic institution if you want to study chordates (animals with a notochord), but really, there isn’t much to it.

I am a sociologist. This term, I learned what is required to study people. Each university is home to an Institutional Review Board (IRB) whichreviews your proposed human research. They must grant approval before you can proceed with your study. This term I spent weeks preparing my application for IRB approval – meticulously outlining the protocol details of my study, outlining the speech I would give to recruit my would-be subjects, detailing the way in which I would obtain and document their informed consent, drafting a survey they will take months from now, scripting the themes I will use to guide future interviews, and constantly ensuring that the data – their words – will be stored in a safe space for the correct amount of time. Based on the scope of my study, it was accepted for express review, one of the IRB’s reviewing categories, and within fifteen minutes of this meeting, my study was approved. With IRB’s blessing, I can now proceed to ask the WW2100 participants (my subjects) about their experiences and I will begin doing so as soon as the new year begins.

This term, more than others, I am so glad to be a student of the Marine Resource Management program and an Oregon Sea Grant Scholar. Both institutions understand the importance and value of the natural sciences and the social sciences. Through opening doors to conferences such as the State of the Coast (in Florence, OR, where I attended and presented in October), and hosting communication workshops (such as the one I attended in November), these institutions are teaching me how to combine the biology and the sociology. Soon I will be able to simply and confidently say: I am a scientist. Soy científica.

under: Laura Ferguson

$100 Million for the SRGP!

Posted by: | December 1, 2014 | 1 Comment |

See the exciting message below from Yumei Wang, Geotechnical Engineer at the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI):

Dear SRGP colleagues,

I am excited to inform you that the just-released 2015-2017 Governor’s recommended budget includes $100 million for earthquake safety of public schools and emergency response facilities (page 408 of http://www.oregon.gov/gov/priorities/Pages/budget.aspx). If approved by the next Legislature, this would mark a significant increase over the 2013-2015 budget of $30 million for schools and emergency response facilities.

Many more thousands of lives will be protected. Funds would be distributed to through the state’s seismic rehabilitation grant program (SRGP), which was initiated by Oregon Emergency Management and now administered by the Oregon Business Development Department. This grant program uses DOGAMI’s 2007 seismic needs database, available at http://www.oregongeology.org/sub/projects/rvs/default.htm.

To date, this grant program has funded 22 K-12 schools, which has helped to protect over 8,600 school children, 3 higher ed institutions and 18 emergency response facilities in our communities. It is slated to fund additional ~$30 million in grants on February 15, 2015. This critically important progress would not not have happened without many key players, especially Senate President Peter Courtney, OSSPAC, staff from OEM, OBDD and DOGAMI, Ted Wolf, SRGP committee members, as well as other partners including many of you.

In our future, we still have a whole lot of work ahead to meet the state deadlines of seismically safe schools and emergency response facilities. My hope is to make our school children safer and community resilience a reality.

under: Geoff Ostrove, Natural Resources Policy Fellow, Uncategorized

CIFA Conference

Posted by: | November 24, 2014 | No Comment |

The CIFA Conference was a success! Josh Bruce, Kent Yu, and Larry Eaton led a great plenary session, and Renee Loveland and Bruce Brown led us on an awesome tour of Portland’s sustainable infrastructure.  See some pictures below!




under: Geoff Ostrove, Natural Resources Policy Fellow, Uncategorized

SRGP Committee Meetings

Posted by: | November 24, 2014 | No Comment |

The deadline for the SRGP has closed, and we received a ton of applications. On December 11 and 12, we will be holding SRGP Committee meetings to discuss which projects will be funded.  We will discuss schools on the 11th and emergency services buildings on the 12th.  For more information about the SRGP, check out the new IFA website: http://www.orinfrastructure.org/Infrastructure-Programs/Seismic-Rehab/

under: Geoff Ostrove, Natural Resources Policy Fellow, Uncategorized

Climate change-driven shifts in ocean conditions and growing coastal populations are two of the many factors raising uncertainty in coastal and marine resource management. Fortunately, there is a growing understanding of the opportunity to improve policies and decisions on these issues by drawing on and infusing scientific data into policy and management decisions in order to promote healthy coastal economies and ecosystems. My graduate degree research focused on this intersection between science and policy and how to imbue scientific data into the policy process. In my past few months with the Governor’s Natural Resources Office I have seen two regionally focused efforts in the eastern Pacific Ocean that speak directly to this interface.

The first of these is the establishment of a West Coast Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia Science Panel (OAH Panel). The OAH Panel, consisting of 20 esteemed scientists representing California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia, was tasked with advancing decision makers’ understanding of drivers and impacts of ocean acidification and hypoxia. Ocean acidification poses a particular threat to the west coastal waters of the United States and Canada, where naturally upwelling waters bring deep water with a low pH to the surface, where it mixes with low pH waters caused by atmospheric deposition of carbon dioxide. Successive upwelling events also increase the occurrence of seasonally hypoxic (low oxygen) areas of the ocean. Acknowledging the specific threat that ocean acidification and hypoxia bring to the west coast, the OAH Panel is intended to identify the research and monitoring needed to answer practical questions faced by policy makers and managers about ocean acidification and hypoxia. While biological impacts have been seen from ocean acidification and hypoxia, there are still many questions to answer for the purpose of decision making. On my very first day on the job, I was fortunate to attend a meeting between Oregon natural resource agency managers and Oregon-based OAH Panel scientists convened to set an agenda for ways to advance science-informed decision making in Oregon waters. They agreed to work collaboratively to develop accurate and accessible outreach materials to inform policy makers and the public, establish ongoing information sharing and coordination forums on OAH, and identify ways to ensure the science products being developed by the OAH Panel are used by decision makers.

The second effort endeavoring to infuse scientific data into policy and management practices in the eastern Pacific Ocean is the West Coast Ocean Data Portal (WCODP). The WCODP is a project of the West Coast Governors Alliance on Ocean Health that provides access to ocean and coastal data to inform regional resource management, policy development, and ocean planning. I was able to help at the WCODP’s annual Network meeting in early November to unveil a new feature of the Portal that creates a geographic visual of data, specifically data relating to marine debris. This new feature, the Data Viewer, provides coastal decision makers with a tool to track marine debris and help prioritize clean ups and advocate for policies to reduce the impact of trash on our beaches. As the WCODP charts its strategic plan moving forward, it seeks to continue to be a rich data resource and tool to visualize and map that information, so that ocean and coastal managers can make sound decisions to improve ocean health.

Both of these efforts have established a significant opportunity to sustain and continue to build cross-sector cooperation between decision making and scientific sectors in coastal Oregon. The state is thus poised to more efficiently and effectively protect and preserve the ocean’s critical natural resources. Both the scientific community and decision making community are working to improve ocean health. Combining forces is helping scientists ask the questions managers need to answer to understand how ecosystem services that people value will be affected, and what steps people might take to try to mitigate and adapt to those changes in coastal Oregon now and in the future.

under: Uncategorized

Older Posts »