I am completing final edits for this blog posting on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve, a time when many of us reflect upon our last 12 months and gear up for the next dozen. For me, 2019 brought some pretty big changes; including (but not limited to) a Master’s degree, a few moves and a Sea Grant fellowship. In honor of this day, my first blog post will be a reflection on my work as a student and fellow over this past year.
In the spring of 2019, I successfully defended my thesis and graduated from the Oregon State University Marine Resource Management (MRM) MS program. My graduate work focused on how shifts in human, regulatory and natural systems create ripple effects across stakeholders and coastal communities here on the West Coast. After my defense I took a few months of well-deserved soul searching, then began my position as an Oregon Sea Grant Natural Resource Policy Fellow at the Nature Conservancy (TNC) in Portland! This is an organization that I’ve admired since my undergraduate days in Arizona, so you can imagine how thrilled I was to spend a year here!
The mission of the Nature Conservancy is to “conserve the lands and waters upon which all life depends.” The Oregon chapter upholds this mission throughout many layers of terrestrial, aquatic and marine conservation work. TNC uses strategies like direct action, policy and community involvement to conduct a range of projects including acquiring land easements, stewardship programs, involvement in state and federal decision making, water monitoring, and planning for climate change impacts.
Here at the Portland office I work closely with the “Marine Team”, a group of creative, experienced and well connected individuals who approach marine, coastal and fishery-related challenges from a diverse set of perspectives.
The way that I was introduced to this team and their scope of work was a huge highlight of my fellowship thus far: My first two days as a fellow were spent on a “field trip” alongside various coworkers, exploring marine and coastal TNC projects along the Northern and Central Oregon Coast. Under the guidance of project leaders, we explored wetland restoration sites and preserves before boarding a recreational crabbing charter in Newport and trying our hands at pot fishing. While onboard, my supervisor and Brittany (another Sea Grant fellow) briefed the group on TNC’s involvement with the Dungeness crab fishery. Our trip ended with a lunch at one of my favorite restaurants in Newport, Local Ocean, run by a fellow MRM graduate and board member at TNC. This trip offered a perfect introduction to the Nature Conservancy as an organization, who I would be working with, and the projects they are engaged in- all before I had even stepped into the office!
Since that initial “field trip” my work has been largely office-based. I have been able to hit the ground running with a handful of projects that (luckily for me!) relate to, and build upon my graduate work. At the moment, most of my time is devoted to TNC’s involvement with the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s (PFMC) Climate and Communities Initiative. Under this umbrella, I work closely with two teams; a climate-change scenario planning team focused on federal fisheries and a West Coast fishing community vulnerability assessment team. My day-to-day tasks range from conducting literature reviews, to phone interviews, coding qualitative data, assembling white papers and engaging in collaborative brainstorming efforts.
Over the coming months I will be continuing work with the Climate and Communities initiative, and digging my teeth into state-based projects including scenario planning for the Oregon Dungeness crab fishery, and spatial planning work related to the Oregon Marine Reserves. Stay tuned as I continue to share my progress and experiences through blog posts. See you in 2020!