Hi everyone! My name is Keiko Nomura and I am currently a second-year Master’s student studying Marine Resource Management at Oregon State University. I am a Malouf Scholar this year, and my thesis research focuses on understanding the resilience of fisheries to environmental change. For my first blog post, I want to introduce myself, my path here, and a bit about my work.
I grew up in Southern California, where I was lucky enough to be able to take occasional day trips to the beach. This is definitely where my love for the ocean originated. However, I also remember noticing how people changed the natural environment around them: housing developments, pollution, even habitat restorations both intrigued and bothered me. I became profoundly curious about the interactions between people and their environment, particularly the ocean.
As an undergraduate, I pursued this curiosity by working in marine ecology and toxicology labs focused on anthropogenic impacts to coastal organisms. These early research experiences affirmed my passions for marine science. However, I started to become interested in more interdisciplinary, policy-relevant research questions. Around this time, I studied abroad in Costa Rica taking a class on ecotourism. This time spent abroad broadened both my personal and professional perspectives. I witnessed many impressive conservation and sustainability initiatives. But I also saw the jarring realities of current unsustainable practices – disturbed sea turtle populations, overflowing landfills, displaced fishermen. Each of these issues, and success stories, was more complex than I originally thought, and the important interrelatedness of social, ecological, and economic elements in overall sustainability became abundantly clear to me. I returned home with a newfound drive to seek out broader research perspectives and integrative solutions to marine issues.
Soon thereafter, I discovered the fields of marine spatial planning and policy through an NSF REU internship. I instantly became hooked. It was exactly what I was looking for, and my sights were set for pursuing this sort of work in graduate school. Before entering my current graduate program, I worked in several informal environmental education jobs. I learned to engage with people of all ages about ocean topics ranging from tidepool ecology and oyster restorations to marine protected areas and climate change. After working as an educator, I knew I somehow had to incorporate science outreach into my future research career.
All of this has led me to where I am today at the Marine Resource Management program. My thesis work focuses on the resilience of fishing communities to environmental change. Global oceans are changing in unprecedented ways. People and society are going to need to respond accordingly to maintain human well-being and healthy ocean ecosystem services. Fishing is one such activity that can help bolster food security and local economies. But changing ocean conditions may alter the health and distributions of fish populations, resulting in fishery closures or delayed starts. Career fishermen and seafood processors in these circumstances therefore have to deal with less work and income. My project seeks to answer the question: When fishermen cannot catch what they normally catch, what do they do? Some options include increasing their fishing effort, fishing for a different species, or, in some cases, leaving fishing altogether. Throughout my time in my graduate program, I have worked on developing methods for assessing the resilience of small-scale fisheries in Baja, Mexico, by using fisheries logbooks and environmental data. I also will create an infographic to communicate these results. Moving forward, I will apply these methods to study the resilience of commercial fisheries along the U.S. West Coast, particularly in Oregon and Washington. I look forward to making progress with these projects and reporting back to share with you all!