Cat Dayger meets Collaborative Independence in Salem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The tumble of morning glories on my walk to work.

The tumble of morning glories on my walk to work.

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

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

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

 

 

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1 thought on “Cat Dayger meets Collaborative Independence in Salem

  1. That’s great to hear that you have settled in well and are enjoying the predictable schedule, relaxing ride to work, and scenic Salem attractions. I am completely sympathetic to your need to have hot tea constantly in the office – how do people function without it? I am looking forward to hearing about the projects you pursue and the people you end up connecting with. How did the Oregon Shellfish Task Force meeting go? Any exciting news or connections made there?

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