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Blog post #3

Science and Art: A Natural Connection

In lieu of a strictly science post, I wanted to talk about a passion of mine that is as important to science as it is to my person. It is something I fall back on during challenging moments in grad school. It is something I utilize when I am at my most confused, most stressed, and most happy. It is something I use to help myself, as well as other scientists and my fellow person. It is a critical facet to every field of science that is often overlooked in books, museums, posters, and classrooms. I am talking about my favorite scientific tool: visual ART.

When I define art as a “scientific tool”, I am not referring to a lab instrument like a scale or pipette. Nor am I referring to visual imagery for data analysis, such as graphs (although these do indeed communicate science to an audience!). Rather, I am referring to the role of visual art as a universal translator for the often complex nature of science.

The old adage “one picture is worth a thousand words” is extremely apt in this case. The ultimate goal of science is to better understand the world around us and communicate this understanding, but science is often perceived as “difficult” due to its multifaceted nature. Science can break down the simplest parts of life into insanely complicated individual components and overwhelm the reader with numbers and information. This complexity has built a stigma around the sciences that the public often references (we are all guilty of assuming the “scientist = smart” stereotype). The “other worldy” aura surrounding science, and often actively perpetuated by unaware or high-flown scientists, has prevented many capable individuals from learning science for themselves. This can ultimately lead to abuse of knowledge or misinformation. Only by dispelling the stigma we have built around the sciences can we unite humans under a common objective knowledge that will improve the state of our lives and our planet.

Politics and personal opinion are the usual suspects to blame for scientific communication breakdown, but I argue that over-complexity is just as problematic. Think about it: how can you learn and apply new knowledge in, for instance, fisheries stock assessment if you don’t know anything about basic statistics or basic fishery principles? The experienced statistician may fully understand the definition of a regression, but he may not know anything about fish ecology. Likewise, the experienced fisherman with extensive fish knowledge may not know anything about the statistics underlying the fish population. What’s more, a person who is neither a statistician nor a fisherman may not trust, learn, or even care about new knowledge in such a field (and rightfully so, if they are not properly informed).The problem boils down to one question: How can you communicate a complicated topic to a wide audience?

Herein lies the rub. If I want to apply this conundrum to my current research, I face the challenge of communicating chemical concepts that may be very familiar to chemists, such as microscopic compounds in the environment and mass spectrometry techniques, but wildly foreign to everyone else. Posing the above question to myself: how can I communicate the complicated topic of chemical environmental contaminants to a wide audience?

Now, I am speaking from experience here. When I started this chemistry-based project, I was a marine biologist, pure and simple. My background was the macroscopic – small invertebrates, large fish, and the ecology oflake and ocean systems that supported these organisms. When I embarked on a project that characterized a chemical compound at least 5000x as small as the smallest creature I had studied, I found myself faced with a wall of seemingly insurmountable chemical knowledge. I had to spend months just reading about chromatography and mass spectrometry to scratch the surface of a topic that I could have learned much faster if given a straightforward learning aid.

This is where visual art fits into science. Visual art is a wonderful way of bringing science to a large audience since it presents intimidating information in a comfortable, simplified, and easy-to-digest format. Pictures have a way of simplifying complex topics into a cohesive image that our brains can assimilate. Of course, the image cannot convey all the details, but it provides a comfortable foundation for learning and a fantastic way of getting the “take home” message of convoluted data. Anyone can become intrigued by an interesting image since it captures the eye and engages the brain. In my experience, children are also much more likely to pay attention if given an exciting visual aid.

The principle of learning science through visual stimulation goes both ways for the artist and the viewer. Along with many students, I learn better if I draw an image of something I am learning. I have drawn illustrations for other scientists’ research projects that I know very little about, and ended up consuming a plethora of information about a niche field that I would not have learned otherwise. The act of moving my hands and engaging my brain to make a visual representation of the topic I am learning reaffirms what I know and enlightens me on what I do not know.

Personally, graphite and ink drawings are my medium of choice for learning and communicating complicated scientific topics. I have used my art to show specific biological structure, biochemical pathways, or biomechanical dimensions, and to convey general concepts in single images (e.g. neuroscience engineering, chemicals in the environment, etc.). I have even used art as a social tool in the lab to generate a sense of community between individuals (what can I say? People love to talk about new picture!). Art is my go-to tool for working and learning effectively. Think of the potential for art to bring awareness to important complicated topics that would otherwise be misunderstood or brushed aside in the wake of confusion! Art has the ability to connect all of us as humans under a common framework of understanding.

 

So, next time you are at an art museum, or even just staring at the pictures on the walls of your favorite coffeeshop, keep in mind that the same underlying skill that was used to paint, draw, sculpt, or craft aesthetic works is also the key to understanding art’s seemingly antithetic friend, science.

under: Uncategorized

Calm before the storm

Posted by: | February 14, 2017 | 2 Comments |

I am the 2017 Sea Grant Legislative Fellow for the Coastal Caucus, and for the last two and half years I have been slogging through law school at U of O.  Most of law school is sitting in a class franticly typing everything your professor says, praying you don’t make enough eye contact to get cold called, or sitting alone reading really really boring cases. I think I actually forgot what is was like to be in a serious office environment. It’s taken me a few days to remember how to curl my eyelashes and never to wear heels. Although I miss yoga pants and messy buns something fierce but I’m glad to trade them for daily human interaction.

 

A lot of my first few months working for the Coastal Caucus has been spent learning what exactly the Caucus does and how it functions. The Caucus is made up of eight Senators and Representatives who represent coastal districts. Senator Jeff Kruse from District 1 is the Chair for the 2017 session so my desk is in his office this year and I interact with him or his Chief of Staff the most. I’m in almost constant contact with the rest of the members or their staff as issues come up. So far I have spent about 2 weeks total at my desk in the building and the majority of my work has been attending meetings around Oregon and answering emails from coffee shops. I know that this easy pace is about to change and I am so thankful for the extra time before session to get my feet wet.

 

Today is the first day of session, and the change from relatively low key to high energy is palatable in the building. For days I have been researching issues like tide gates and shipyards in an almost silent building, today I think I’ve been able to read 5 pages max. Lobbyists, staff, and constituents are everywhere discussing what this session will mean for Oregon. Tomorrow is our first 7 am Coastal Caucus meeting during session where we will start to prioritize and schedule all of the issues that have been discussed so far. Today is the final deep breath before the plunge.

under: Uncategorized

It’s started folks, the 2017 Oregon Legislative Session is here, as of Feb 1. Working in the Governor’s office I could feel the wave building, a collective anticipation of the impending deluge of legislative concerns around the office. I won’t say that folks braced for impact, but there was the feeling of straightening of shoulders and a clearing of decks.

Already one week of the session has passed and I’ve already learned so much about how government works. Before Session, I knew in the back of my mind that bills introduced to the legislature would be posted online, or would at least be subject to public records requests. I hadn’t ever gone looking for what my legislators were up to or what issues where the topic of discussion in the halls of the Capitol. If I came across legislation at all, it was filtered through an advocacy group telling me I should care about it via an email or a petition circulated through social media.

Now, especially given the increased interest in activism since the Presidential election in November, I tell everyone I know to go searching. Until very recently, I was in the position of not quite knowing how to find out what’s happening in the Oregon legislature. Fear not, here are three steps to get plugged in:

Step one: Find out who’s introducing what. Go to the Oregon State Legislature’s Oregon Legislative Information System https://olis.leg.state.or.us. On the top left corner, you can click “Bills” and you can search by bill text (that’s keywords), bill sponsor (that’s which legislator(s) supports the bill by sponsoring it) or by bill number (good for if you’re already familiar with a bill from another source, like a newspaper article). If you’ve read my previous blog posts, you might guess that I searched “ocean” right away and you’d be correct (26 bills with some mention of ocean in the text!).

Step two: Do some research. You can read the bill on OLIS…they often aren’t nearly as dense and unreadable as you might think. You can read about any considerations regarding financial impact on various industries. If the bill has received any hearings in committees* you can read summaries and testimonies. You can even WATCH a video or live feed of the hearing! On the subject of committees, once a bill is introduced (or “dropped” if you’re hip to the lingo), it gets assigned to a committee of legislators with knowledge of the subject area. Figure out what committee your bill of interest is in.

Do an internet search for the bill or the associated keywords and see who’s talking about it. Maybe there’s an analysis or opinion from a news organization, or an advocacy group which you could read critically to inform your opinion. Talk to your friends and family (civil discourse y’all…) and see what they think. Is there a bill that you like or don’t like a whole bunch?

Step three: Tell your legislators what YOU think (find your legislator and their contact info here). Which legislators are on the committee considering the bill? Contact them too. Is the bill up for a hearing? Go testify at the hearing, or if that’s logistically unfeasible or too intimidating, submit some written testimony (on the committee page there is a link to an “exhibit email”).

They listen, truly. I know because I’m now occasionally party to citizens telling their government what they think about the decisions being made. Sometimes folks voice their support for a decision or a bill. More often, folks speak up when they don’t like something. Maybe that’s human nature.

You can do the same thing for the US Congress in Washington, D.C. You can search the bills that have been “dropped.” You can find your legislators in the Senate and House.

Go forth and be informed!

under: Natural Resources Policy Fellow, sea_day

Posted on behalf of Eva Lipiec, a 2016 Knauss Fellow who served her legislative fellowship in the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources, Democratic Staff.

Every day, we are bombarded by stories of partisanship and gridlock in Congress, between branches, and increasingly between our very own neighbors. To break through these barriers, especially after our most recent election, it is important to become more involved in the issues we hold dear and understand how the decisions of our elected officials impact those issues.

Personally, as a scientist and voter, it can get depressing – how are we ever going to deal with global problems like climate change and the resulting regional hostility around the world if our elected officials can’t even talk about it in a constructive way?

During my time as a John A. Knauss Sea Grant Fellow on “the Hill”, I’ve had the opportunity to inform Members of Congress on topics impacting our oceans, wildlife, and open spaces (see more about my work here). I’ve also gotten a peek into how change really happens in our nation. My host office has been a wonderful place to spend a year as a fly on the wall; these musings are purely my own and do not reflect the views of my host office. Below I share a few insights I’ve gathered from my year as a Fellow:

  1. Elected officials are human – No matter what side of the aisle, each person elected to office is a human, warts and all. They may be very well versed in specific topics and have values of their own – but it’s your job to inform them of topics and values that are important to YOU.
  2. Local elections really matter! – From the hallowed halls of the Capitol to meetings in local community centers, the people that end up as your officials (whether you voted or not) are your voice! If you want to guarantee they hear you and represent you, you have to vote!
  3. Your job is not done once you vote – When we elect an official, they are assuming the role of our voice and are paid by our tax dollars. If something is happening, or not, the best way to voice your support or discontent is to contact them. Every office tracks its constituents in a physical database – and these concerns are depended upon to make real changes. Think your community needs something? Tell your representative, and then tell your friends to do the same. Think you senator should support an initiative? They want to hear from you! Every day, congressional staff meets with groups from all over their district, state, and the nation. These groups represent some, but not all, of your views. Call or email – if the official wants to keep representing you, you will get a response!
  4. Have a topic that’s really important to you? – Local businesses? Community poverty? Elementary schools nearby? International conflicts? There are groups most likely in motion already thinking of those issues, so get involved with them! They will be your best source for information and can help lead the charge to inform and push our representatives in the right direction.

Oftentimes it’s easy to dismiss the discussions, or lack thereof, in the Capitol and our capitals. However, our democracy only works when each and every person utilizes their rights and holds their officials accountable. In the craziness of our lives, democracy can be as easy as picking up the phone.

under: Eva Lipiec, Knauss Fellow

Howdy, everyone!

My name is Daniel Sund, and this is my first ever blog post! I could not be more proud to be doing it for Oregon Sea Grant, an institution so very close to my heart, as a 2016-2017 Natural Resource Policy Fellow!

Seven years ago – when I officially transferred the focus of my academic studies to marine science – I passed along a nascent resume to my favorite oceanography professor in the hopes of gaining some hands-on experience. Low and behold two weeks later, after an out of the blue phone call from his colleague and then an interview I didn’t know I was walking into, I started work as a research assistant conducting a literature review on environmental hypoxia and its impacts on fish.

Since that first experience, which lasted nearly two years, Sea Grant and I have continued to have a long and fruitful relationship. I have had the distinct pleasure of mentoring other students developing their professional experiences in the Sea Grant Summer Scholars program, serving as a part of the interview committee placing students with mentors for the same program, interviewing for a few of Sea Grant’s fellowships myself, and, coming full circle, becoming a full-fledged Sea Grant Scholar.

Before accepting the Natural Resource Policy Fellowship, I spent that last four years as a field ecologist. I have spent endless days on the small bays in the Pacific Northwest looking at burrowing shrimp, juvenile crab, and intertidal habitats and endless nights watching video, making maps, and analyzing data to try to understand the role commercial oyster and clam aquaculture plays in the ever intricate and dynamic ecology of our estuaries. It surprises many people who know me that I have turned in my field gear and floppy old fishing hat for a position where I am at my desk 100% of my workday. My “fieldwork” now consists of organizing workshops, gathering sets of experts in a room to pick their brains, and rending even more time commitments from their busy schedules to inform resource management. All I have to say is that I am extremely happy with the transition.

As a fellow, I have stepped in as the only support staff in the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and am the only person within all of the state’s executive agencies entirely focused on Ocean Acidification (OA) and, on occasion, Hypoxia (OAH). For those of you who don’t know, OA refers to the process by which carbon dioxide (CO2) is removed from the atmosphere by our oceans, where it chemically transitions to carbonic acid (H2CO3), a weak acid, resulting in seawater with lowered pH (acidified) as our oceans remove more and more CO2 in response to increased atmospheric concentrations. Hypoxia (H) refers to an environmental condition of low oxygen dissolved within the water leading to decreased productivity and stress on organisms that respire on one end to massive fish die offs on the other. This focus of my position on OAH means that I am a single issue type of guy granted the unique ability to entirely immerse myself in the realms of science and policy to better understand and inform resource management as they relate to OAH along the Continental West Coast.

Day to day, my work duties include drafting emails, editing documents, reading literature, and compiling information. However, at a broader level, I have been an integral part of launching an international collaborative focused on combating OAH impacts across much of the globe (OA Alliance). I have also participated in high-level discussions between state, federal, and international governments. Additionally, I have organized regional-level efforts to understand how state governments are monitoring OAH on behalf of the public as well as started the process of identifying the monitoring improvements necessary to insure resource managers are able to respond threats to our coastal resources and the communities that rely upon them. While it may seem like a lot to have been part of in only two months, this list is far from exhaustive.

Being engaged in work that has tangible products with societal benefit is a very different experience from the academic research I have been a part of up until this point. After working as a technician and research assistant, I often felt that the information and insights we were generating were lost to the annals of a journal or our own filing cabinet. In comparison, this fellowship has placed me “where the rubber meets the road” with regards to being able to use research to create tools used both by natural resource managers and stakeholders. It seems to me that the efforts I am currently part of make a more immediate and meaningful impact than anything I have previously worked on. I look forward to continuing my work here and seeing where it takes me.

under: Uncategorized

With the close of 2016 the Research and Scholars Team at Oregon Sea Grant are now beginning to ramp up for the 2017 Summer Scholars Program. Host applications are due this week and student applications are due next month on February 24th. Spring is always a busy time of year for the Scholars program as we review applications, interview candidates, and place successful applicants with host organizations. In 2016 we received nearly 150 applications, and with our increase in advertising to reach a broader audience, I suspect we will reach at least 200 applications this year. The caliber of applicants is always extremely high, and narrowing the applicants down to just ten Scholars is always extremely difficult and takes plenty of time and a team of diligent people.

Summer Scholars are outstanding undergraduate students or recent graduates from around the nation who come to Oregon to work under a mentor on a marine-related project. Scholars work on everything from analyzing fecal indicator bacteria in the Tillamook estuary to evaluating the impacts of lost crabbing gear to creating identification videos for tidepools. Ten students were placed last year in various positions and all blogged weekly throughout the summer. To find out more about the 2016 scholars experience and projects just scroll through this blog and you will encounter plenty of posts!

If you know of any students (or if you yourself are this student!) that would be interested in a paid summer internship on a coastal or marine project, please visit the Oregon Sea Grant Summer Scholars website.

Summer Scholars 2017 RFA Poster

under: Haley Epperly

Hello Everybody,

It’s been a while since my first blog post, so it’s about time that I follow through with that second entry. As you guys may or may not recall, I am looking at the anti-diabetic pharmaceutical drug, metformin, as a contaminant of emerging concern (CEC) in the lower Columbia River. I know I promised to talk more about metformin as a drug, but I thought I would save this topic for next time. Instead, I am going to give a brief overview of my research methods that I have been busy developing for the past nine months.

In my last entry, I discussed the high incidence of Type II diabetes around the world and the discovery of metformin (the most commonly prescribed drug for Type II diabetes) as one of the most abundant pharmaceuticals being introduced into the environment. Metformin is not metabolized by the human body and excreted relatively unchanged into wastewater. Wastewater treatment does not necessarily target pharmaceuticals so much of the drug ends up in the environment.

My primary goal is to characterize metformin in the lower Columbia River in this environmental state. This means taking water samples and somehow measuring how much metformin is in each sample. So how do I do this? This is the question that I have been wrestling with since I started graduate school back in April. The short answer: Liquid Chromatography with Tandem Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS/MS).

PLEASE DON’T RUN AWAY!! Those words scared me as much as you (unless, of course, you happen to be a chemist who loves chromatography). The LC-MS/MS machine scared me even more than that, until I understood that it is just an over-glorified “sorting machine”. I promise I’ll make this as simple as possible, for both you and me — it’s certainly what I’ve been trying to do since I first started my research. The pictures below sum up the bulk of my research and methods right now.

sampling-poster

In fact, I’ve been participating in the OMSI Science Communication Fellowship to figure out how to simplify these convoluted methods. So far, I have completed three Saturday “Meet-A-Scientist” events where I try to communicate complicated scientific topics to a broad public audience (from kids to adults) by using a visual demo. I built a home-made “sorting machine” by reducing the LC-MS/MS machine to its simplest components. I would argue that I’ve learned more than my audience during this process – not only is my demo similar to the real machine in conceptual function, but it also requires an eerily similar degree of mechanical frustration.

lcms

lcms-model            omsi

(top) The Beast. Real LC-MS/MS requires a very scare machine. (bottom left) The Beast: Part Deux. Pretend LC-MS/MS also requires a very scary machine that breaks a lot. (right) The silver lining: kids love my home-made sorting machine!

 

What exactly is LC-MS/MS? Well, let’s start at the beginning: what is liquid chromatography (LC)? Liquid chromatography is just a way to separate something (i.e. a compound of interest) from a mixture. In my case, I use high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) which is just faster liquid chromatography under high pressure.

In its most basic form, HPLC requires a column (“stationary phase”) and a solvent (“mobile phase”) — in other words, two things that will interact with your compound in different ways. The stationary phase column is a tube packed with tiny porous spheres. The mobile phase is a liquid that is pumped through the column with your mixture. The idea is that your mixture is pushed down the column with the mobile phase and each compound in the mixture will stick to the column for a different amount of time. The compounds with greater affinity for the stationary phase will be pushed off later than the compounds that have greater affinity for the mobile phase. The goal is to get your compound off the column without other compounds coming off at the same time. The column can be highly customizable to better separate your unique compound, such as sphere size, column length, and modifications to sphere surfaces. The mobile phase can also be customizable depending on your needs, although it is typically water, organic solvent (e.g. methanol), or a mixture of the two. As you can imagine, half the battle with HPLC is selecting the appropriate column and mobile phase — the selection process can take many months of expensive and time-consuming trial and error (this was the first three months of my project!).

HPLC is the first part of the LC-MS/MS machine. The machine injects the mixture (river water, in my case) onto the column and rinses the column with the mobile phase. My mobile phase is a solution of water and methanol that increases with time. As the methanol concentration increases, the compounds in the river water are “pulled” off the column at different times depending on their unique chemical characteristics.

column

(left) The HPLC column (stationary phase) is a tube packed with tiny porous spheres. (right) The idea behind liquid chromatography. The mixture plus a mobile phase solvent is injected onto the column and the compounds in the mixture separate at different times as they interact with the column and mobile phase differently.

 

The stuff coming off the column is recorded by the computer and represented in the form of a chromatogram, which shows the amount of material coming off the column over time. However, the question remains: how do we know which compound is coming off the column at which time? This is where the second part of the LC-MS/MS machine comes in.

lcms2
The liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) machine consists of two parts: an HPLC machine to perform liquid chromatography (LC) and a mass spectrometer to perform tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS). The computer represents the data with a chromatogram which shows the amount of material coming off the column with time.

 

Mass spectrometry (MS) is essentially just an extra step of “sorting” based on the specific mass of compounds. After your mixture has been separated by liquid chromatography, a mass spectrometer identifies the compounds coming off the column based on their unique masses.

The mass spectrometer first excites (i.e. ionizes) the separated compounds coming off the HPLC so that the machine can use charges to sort and pull the compounds through the machine to the detector. Specifically, the ionized compounds follow a path through an acceleration chamber and into a deflection field produced by two magnets. These magnets will deflect compounds differently based on their mass. Think of it like being shot through a cannon: the light cannonball will go farther than the heavy cannonball; Calista Flockhart will go farther than Mama Cass. The machine can be programmed to only let one specific mass, several masses, or all masses through to the detector. The detector will then record how much of each ionized compound is coming out of the mass spectrometer.

ms

A basic mass spectrometer. The compounds coming out of the HPLC column are ionized and pulled through the system. A magnet deflects compounds differently depending on their mass. In this picture, the mass spectrometer has been programmed to detect all ionized compounds, but it can also be programmed to detect only one or a few masses. (picture courtesy of Khan Academy)

 

In my case, I use tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS), which goes a step further and identifies the structure of the compound. A tandem mass spectrometer is just like a “basic” mass spectrometer, only the ionized compounds are broken into pieces in a modified acceleration chamber. Instead of sorting whole compounds based on mass, the machine sorts the fragments of compounds based on mass. You can then verify the structure of your compound of interest by looking at what fragments are present or not present. This is especially helpful if your compound of interest is in a mixture with other compounds that have similar masses, which is the case for metformin in river water.

ms-ms

Caption: A tandem mass spectrometer (MS/MS). The compounds coming out of the HPLC column are ionized and pulled through the system, just like in the basic mass spectrometer. However, MS/MS breaks up the compound(s) coming off the HPLC column into fragments. These fragments are then sorted by mass, rather than the whole compound. MS/MS can help verify the identity of a compound in a mixture of compounds that might have similar mass (as is the case for my river water samples).

 

THAT’S IT! LC-MS/MS is so simple, right?! Needless to say, the method development for LC-MS/MS is an extensive process. Nine months later, and I am just starting to realize this.

I am currently working with the OHSU Core Lab to fine-tune their LC-MS/MS machine for separation of metformin (and its primary breakdown product, guanylurea) from river water. I have a ton of Columbia River water samples from this fall that I am eager to run, so hopefully I will be able to start collecting data soon! In the meantime, I will try my best to separate any LC-MS/MS frustration from my mixture of scientific curiosity that brought me to this amazing graduate program!

Wish me luck!

under: Uncategorized

Intro and First Quarter Update

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

Hi, my name is Will Fennie and I am a Robert E. Malouf Scholar. I am working on my PhD at Oregon State University and really interested in the early life history of rockfishes. Rockfishes, like many marine organisms, have a planktonic larval phase where their young drift offshore and develop in the pelagic waters off Oregon’s coast. As they develop, these young fish must feed, grow, and return (or recruit) to nearshore reefs. Rockfish face many challenges during this journey. My research aims to understand how the oceanographic conditions young rockfish experience affect their growth. In addition, I want to study how rockfish early growth contributes to a juvenile rockfishes ability to survive the journey to nearshore reefs.

Sorting pelagic rockfishes during the 2016 NOAA Pre Recruit Survey. Photo Curt Roegner.

To study how ocean conditions affect juvenile rockfishes’ growth, I have to collect juvenile rockfish during their pelagic life stage. To determine how early growth determines recruitment to nearshore reefs, I need to collect juvenile rckfishes during their pelagic life stage, their settlement stage (right before they recruit to nearshore reefs), and their poste-settlement stage (once they have settled to reefs). Because the ocean off Oregon’s coast is so wild, I’ve needed to team up with some amazing people to get on the water and collect rockfishes. I was fortunate enough to meet Dr. Ric Brodeur a year and a half ago and because we shared similar interests, he allowed me to come on his NOAA research cruise to collect pelagic juvenile rockfishes.

Next, my lab mate Dani Ottmann paved the way for OSU students to work with Dr. Kirsten Grorud-Colvert at OSU and with scientists at Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (ODFW). OSU and ODFW scientists have developed a nearshore groundfish recruitment monitoring program. These scientists deploy moorings offshore of Oregon’s nearshore reefs witha standard monitoring unit for the recruitment of fishes (SMURF) to collect setttlement stage fishes. SMURFs are plastic garden fence mesh cylinders that mimic the kelp canopy habitat juvenile fishes recruit to. The Oregon Coast Aquarium and ODFW provide vessels to reach these moorings. Once there, snorkelers jump into the water to retrieve SMURFs and collect juvenile fishes. Finally, I have to SCUBA dive on nearshore reefs to collect juvenile rockfishes that have settled to benthic habitat.

 

Left: Dani and I retrieving a SMURF in Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve. (Photo: Kelsey Swieca) Right: Dani displaying a SMURF with Redfish Rocks in the background.

Left: Dani and I retrieving a SMURF in Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve. (Photo: Kelsey Swieca)
Right: Dani displaying a SMURF with Redfish Rocks in the background.

Thanks to all the help I’ve had, I have enough samples to start my research. Through my collaboration with Ric Brodeur, I have access to pelagic juvenile rockfish samples of several species from the last 12 years, and access to the early life stage of black rockfish. Thanks to OSU and ODFW’s SMURF project, I have access to several hundred settlement stage black and quillback rockfishes. Thanks to several OSU dive buddies, I was able to collect settled juvenile black and quillback rockfishes on Oregon’s nearshore reefs.

Next quarter I will be busy working up these samples. Stay tuned for information on how to measure the age and growth of juvenile rockfishes.

under: Uncategorized

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.

OSGFinalSymposiumMtg2016

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

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