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Every spring, Oregon State University’s SMILE (Science & Math Investigative Learning Experiences) program, which is part of the Office of Precollege Programs, hosts Challenge events for high school, middle school, and elementary school students. These K-12 students are involved in SMILE clubs all over the state of Oregon. SMILE’s mission is to “increase underrepresented students’ success in STEM degree programs and careers and deliver high-quality teacher professional development” [1].

I am designing an activity for the spring Challenge Events at OSU’s new Marine Geology Repository (MGR) for elementary students (4th and 5th grade) and high school students (9th through 12th grade). Each group of ~25 students will visit the MGR for 1 hour.

I have designed each event with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in mind. For the high school students, I’ve drawn from HS-ESS2-6, which strives to, “develop a quantitative model to describe the cycling of carbon among the hydrosphere, atmosphere, geosphere, and biosphere. [emphasis is on modelling biogeochemical cycles that include the cycling of carbon through the ocean, atmosphere, soil and biosphere (including humans), providing that foundation for living organisms]” [2]. For the elementary students, I’ve drawn from the disciplinary core ideas for 4th graders related to understanding the history of the Earth and how living things affect the physical characteristics of their regions. For all K-12 students, the NGSS seeks to instil an enduring understanding of the scientific method. Thus, my broad objective is for learners to have an enduring understanding of estuarine habitats and their ecosystem services (especially carbon burial) so they can rationally use and advocate for conservation of coastal resources. Another important goal is for students to see themselves as scientists. I will therefore both speak about my pathway into science and also set up the activities to follow hypothesis-based lines of reasoning.

This is a lot to accomplish in only one hour! I’ve been working to design a lesson plan that covers all of these topics in hands-on activities that fit into my limited timeframe. I plan to allocate 10 minutes to welcoming the students to the core lab, describing the MGR, and talking about my path into science. We’ll then have a 10-minute discussion about the carbon cycle, why it’s important for global climate, and where carbon gets stored. I’ll also play our video of how we collect sediment cores.



Students will then be divided into groups of three and the next twenty minutes will be devoted to a hands-on activity assessing carbon concentrations within a sediment core. The cores I’ve chosen for each group will have obvious stratigraphy, with many different layers of sand, silt, and clay (below is an example). Along the length of the core, I will have a timeline so the students can get a sense of the timeframe over which salt marshes record environmental history. Samples from the core that vary in terms of organic matter content will also be set up under stereoscopes for students to look at the core material in detail. The students will have the ability to feel the sediment and look at it using hand lenses, as well. After the students have been able to observe the core, the aid at the table will ask the students to formulate a hypothesis about what kind of sediment from the core will have the highest carbon content. They will then take small samples (~3) and put them in beakers on a hot plate. A little bit of hydrogen peroxide will then be poured over the samples and the ones that bubble the most will have the highest organic matter content. They will then assess their hypothesis and the aid will lead them through a series of follow up questions. For instance, what kind of sediment (mud or sand) stores the most carbon? What other kinds of factors might influence the amount of carbon buried in salt marshes?

CT scan of an example sediment core used in the activities. The lighter portions of the image are more dense, sandy material. Darker portions of the image are less dense, organic-rich sediment. The left side of the core is the top, which is present day.

Following the activity, we’ll all come back together for a short, ~10-min discussion of what they learned, and I will answer final questions from students. In the remaining time, students will be led on a short tour of the MGR.

Throughout this process, I’ve received a lot of helpful advice and support from friends and colleagues. Members of the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences (CEOAS) Science Communication group, including Abby Metzger (the Communication Manager in CEOAS), have provided me with advice along the way and have donated their time to a mock demonstration at the MGR. At the OSU MGR, the education and outreach coordinator, Cara Fritz, and other staff (Maziet Cheseby, Coquille Rex, and Valerie Stanley) have been wonderful sources of knowledge. Cara has additionally graciously agreed to help during the Challenge Events. Additionally, I’m very grateful to the staff at Precollege Programs. I’ve been working with Jay Well, who has been extremely helpful and generous with his time. Outreach takes a village!

[1] https://smile.oregonstate.edu/mission
[2] https://www.nextgenscience.org/sites/default/files/AllTopic.pdf

under: Uncategorized

Posted on behalf of Brittany Harrington

For those of you who have spent time on the Oregon coast in December, you’ve almost certainly heard talk of the commercial crab season opening. These conversations aren’t confined to the docks or a visit to the ODFW office, they can be heard over dinner at any one of the local seafood restaurants, in line at the grocery store, or casually discussed on the city bus.

As the most valuable single species fishery in Oregon, Dungeness crab represent an important source of income to many of the people and communities along the coast. Landings of Dungeness crab have been recorded in Oregon since 1889 and, since that time, three very active targeted fisheries have developed surrounding this species. The fisheries are managed at the state level with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) as the lead agency. However, managers currently face a number of complex management challenges associated with this key resource.

Over the past three months, I have had the opportunity to closely observe many of the conversations about Dungeness crab between fishery managers, industry members, and the broader coastal community. In December, I was brought on to work alongside staff from ODFW’s Marine Resources Program (MRP) to develop a Fisheries Management Plan (FMP) for the Dungeness crab fisheries in Oregon. My position is supported by the Nature Conservancy, who shares the goal of developing FMPs that allow for equitable access to marine resources while promoting the sustainability of fishery species.

I have a degree in Marine Resource Management from OSU and have spent many hours learning about different principles and practices in fisheries management, but I was particularly excited about this fellowship because it would allow me to be a part of the process and experience the practical applications of those topics that I knew largely from textbooks. I looked forward to learning from the many years of experience of the fishery managers that I am working with and from the complex interactions between stakeholders. What I had not anticipated, was how much I would learn simply from living in the town of Newport and exploring my new coastal community.

So far, the list of experiences that I’ve had in this position have been extremely diverse and rewarding. I’ve been able to dive into research on historical and existing policies surrounding the commercial and recreational crab fisheries in Oregon. I’ve assisted with hold inspections and dockside sampling which allowed me to interact with fishermen in a variety of positions and on different vessels ranging from small boats that fish for several hours and hold less than 1000 lbs of crab, to those that spend two weeks at sea and return with 150,000 lbs. I’ve attended meetings of the Oregon Dungeness Crab Advisory Committee (ODCAC) which has provided me a glimpse of the unique needs and perspectives within the commercial crab industry that we will strive to encompass in the crab FMP.

However, I would add to that list that I have also eaten in restaurants eagerly anticipating the influx of fresh crab that draws crowds of locals and tourists alike. I have witnessed the community mourning the loss of their own after the tragic death of three crab fishermen in the capsizing of the Mary B II in January. And I frequently walk along the working waterfront in Newport and observe the many indirect ties between crabbing and other local businesses.

Given the suite of emerging issues and changing ocean conditions related to this fishery, a fisheries management plan for Dungeness crab will not only provide an important, comprehensive tool for managers, but will also help to support a fishery that is central to the culture and identity of the Oregon coast. I look forward to learning more as I continue to become a part of the Newport community.

Trying my hand at recreational crabbing back in 2017 with former OSG Fellow, Deanna Caracciolo, and my husband, Cole (note: we did, in fact, get some crab that day!)

Much to my dismay, I have yet to take the obligatory headshot holding a crab for use in all work-related presentations, so instead, here is a picture of me and my pup, Charlie, enjoying a beautiful day exploring our new home!”

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Oregon Sea Grant Sponsored Study Looks at Improving Communication About Environmental Conditions Between Scientific Experts and Oregon’s Natural Resource Managers

It was the beginning of 2016. Unusually warm seawater named “The Blob” collected in the North-East Pacific Ocean. A massive harmful algal bloom formed in Oregon’s coastal waters. High amounts of a marine biotoxin called domoic acid resulted in closures of the recreational razor clam fishery. Almost 5,000 people along the North Coast (where the majority of recreational razor clamming occurs) stayed home because of this closure. “…You can imagine the lost economic opportunities,” said the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Shellfish Program Manager. “People don’t come out and rent vacation homes or they don’t go camping, they’re not eating in the restaurants, state parks are not filled; all those kinds of things occur because we’ve made this decision to not allow harvest.”

This is just one example of how changing ocean conditions are affecting Oregon’s coastal communities. Now, researchers at Oregon State University are evaluating a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) webinar called NOAA West Watch. Specifically, they are seeing if the webinar can be changed to communicate these extreme environmental conditions to Oregon’s natural resource managers. Currently, NOAA West Watch communicates information about abnormal environmental conditions to NOAA scientists.

Specifically, the research team is including Oregon’s natural resource managers in this webinar to improve regional coordination and communication. This could lead to a more ecosystem-based view for problem solving. To do this, the researchers are inviting a variety of Oregon resource managers, local scientists, and non-governmental organizations to watch the webinars and provide feedback on how to improve the webinar for a more manager-friendly audience.

Why do we need a more “ecosystem-based” view and manager-friendly audience, you may ask? Historically, much of our natural resource science and management occurred on a sector-basis. For example, scientists who studied fisheries often didn’t talk to scientists who studied estuaries. The same often occurred with management, as agencies have specific jobs and management roles in the environment. Managers had to find information across many subjects and determine what was important for their decision-making. Over the past couple of decades, management has shifted to an ecosystem-based management (EBM) framework that considers all ecological and human connections within and to the environment. Despite this mentality shift, natural resource science and management is still highly disjointed.

Strengthening connections between natural resource science and management is increasingly important as our coastal ocean changes. Accordingly, both scientists and managers will have to anticipate and plan for changes to our environment and resources. Evaluating NOAA West Watch can determine if this communication tool can support EBM by including a variety of scientists and managers in a setting that is responsive and adaptive to environmental changes on the West Coast.

Taking A Deep (Ocean) Dive into EBM

To determine if NOAA West Watch is a useful tool for supporting EBM, researchers are evaluating the following:

  1. the most useful spatial scale for information;
  2. if it can connect human and natural systems;
  3. if it can serve as a way for discussing competing environmental values and uses; and
  4. if it can be flexible to changes in the natural and human environments.

On a cold, windy day along the Oregon Coast, it can be easy to want to head indoors and forget about the rest of the world. But as a larger ecosystem, Oregon’s coast is connected not only to the surrounding ocean environment, but also to land. Additionally, the coast serves as a place where humans make connections, including providing opportunities for managers and scientists to work together. Scientists and managers are tasked with effectively studying and managing this diverse, changing ecosystem. To do so, they need to understand ecological and human connections that are occurring in the coastal region. “Sometimes we get so focused on what is happening here that we might fail to look at connections that are happening in other places,” said one Oregon resource manager who participated in the study.

The Oregon State researchers think NOAA West Watch may be able to explore these connections. In particular, the evaluation seeks to determine the most useful spatial scale for the webinar’s information. By considering the West Coast as an ecosystem, scientists can communicate changes in large-scale environmental conditions. Managers would then respond to those changes that can impact local environments and communities. An estuary manager who participated in the study shared, “Thinking about those kinds of bigger-picture issues is always helpful. It takes the blinders off so you’re not just looking at your little estuary; there’s these bigger conditions and factors that are influencing what you’re seeing.”

Additionally, the researchers are seeing if NOAA West Watch can help with the reporting of Oregon’s local marine environmental impacts. As community representatives, Oregon’s managers would speak for a local perspective in global environmental changes. Managers can share community environmental observations with NOAA employees during NOAA West Watch. NOAA can then include these observations in future science and policy. Initial results indicate that NOAA West Watch can help communicate human connections in the larger western regional ecosystem.


 Large waves hit Haystack Rock in Pacific City, Oregon Crab pots sit on a fishing dock in Oregon.
Examples of unusual environmental conditions and their impacts to Oregon that were presented in NOAA West Watch. Left, large offshore storms created record high waves along the Oregon coast in January of 2018 that left one dead. Right, delays to commercial Dungeness crabbing along the West Coast resulted in $400 million of direct impacts in January of 2017.


Furthermore, evaluators are determining if NOAA West Watch can bring together a wide range of science and management fields to build communication among competing coastal users. Given the ocean’s limited space, stakeholders need to discuss which ocean uses they prefer. However, it can be difficult to explore costs and benefits of certain uses if information is distributed across natural resource subjects. This research seeks to represent a variety of Oregon’s coastal science and management interest in NOAA West Watch webinars. Broad representation may help promote individual connections to build into institutional partnerships.

Compared to land environments, the ocean is generally not as well understood. Therefore, Oregon resource managers have to be flexible to changes in scientific progress. NOAA West Watch may help improve understanding by quickly combining and communicating environmental condition information; Oregon’s managers could then use that information for decision-making. Frequent webinars may help managers monitor changing physical conditions used to anticipate biological events. For example, managers can keep an eye on conditions that may lead to harmful algal blooms and shellfish fishery closures.

January 2017 clorophyll off in Oregon's coastal ocean. March 2017 chlorophyll off Oregon's coast.
NOAA West Watch webinars present environmental condition information to follow changes in the coastal ocean, such as these maps of chlorophyll concentration which can indicate harmful algal blooms. On the left, January 2017 conditions show a low number of phytoplankton, our marine plants. However, two months later (right), chlorophyll concentrations increase, indicating that a harmful algal bloom may be developing.


Keeping Pace with Oregon’s Changing Environment

With a changing climate, Oregon is expected to have increased droughts, changes in fish distribution, and increased wildfires. Natural resource scientists and managers have to predict and plan for these types of changes. Oregonians have recreational, economic, cultural, or personal interests in ensuring our resources are managed sustainably for long-term public use.

Ecosystem-based management is a framework that managers work under, and scientists can inform. Better communication can help managers understand our changing environment. Results from this NOAA West Watch evaluation suggest that this communication tool can be changed to fit the needs of an EBM management system. It can connect scientists and Oregon’s natural resource managers to promote collaboration and co-management.

As our coastal environment changes, what marine resources are you concerned about managing? [Comment below!]



under: mazurem, Robert E. Malouf Marine Studies Scholar, Uncategorized
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How I Rediscovered My Love of Dirt

Posted by: | February 11, 2019 | 1 Comment |

Believe it or not, my fascination with sediment started at about 10 months old. My first ever word was “dirt” (though my mother hotly refutes my father’s recollection of this milestone as she’s certain my first word was “mama”). Despite this early indication of my future passion, my interest in mud somewhat waned in late childhood and all but vanished in high school, as my science classes focused on human anatomy, physics, and chemistry. Who can guess what career path I would be following today had I not been placed, thanks to a testing error, in advanced calculus during my first semester of college? Quickly realizing I was in way over my head, I switched to the only available course that would fit my schedule – introductory geology. My interest in the natural world was quickly rekindled, this time from a more scientific viewpoint. Thanks to my professors and research projects, I discovered my passion for studying coupled human-environment systems, climate change, landscape geochemistry and, of course, mud. Fast forward to today, and I’m a graduate student studying coastal sediment dynamics within Oregon’s estuaries.

3-year-old Erin investigating sedimentary beds in an outcrop in Bermuda.

I outline my somewhat serendipitous path into the earth sciences for the following reason: though the natural world fascinated me from an early age, had I not had the dumb luck to switch into a geology course in college, I would not be studying sediment biogeochemistry today. When I applied to Oregon Sea Grant’s Malouf Scholarship, I did so with the goal of providing kids with exposure to earth science research starting at a young age.

Though most children possess a curiosity about the nature they find in their backyards, K-12 students don’t often take their first science course until high school [1], and many schools choose to focus on physical and life sciences. A 2012-2013 study by the American Geosciences Institute found that only one state required high school students to take a year-long earth and environmental science course for graduation, and only six states required that Earth & Space Science topics be covered for graduation [2]. This is despite the fact that the National Science Standards has placed equal importance on Earth and Space Sciences. Many scientific organizations have also called for equal inclusion of earth science education in K-12 science curricula, including the Geological Society of America, which released a position statement on this topic [3]. Recently, environmental education has received more attention through the introduction of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which strives to teach physical, life, and earth & space sciences using inquiry-based course design.

So why is environmental education gaining momentum in K-12 education? Research conducted by eeWorks (a partnership between the North American Association for Environmental Education and Stanford University) found that environmental education improved students’ knowledge in other important fields (including science, math, reading, and writing); emotional and social skills; and academic skills (critical and analytical thinking, and communication). Moreover, it increased students’ desire to learn, environmentally conscious behavior, and interest in civic engagement [4].

Improved knowledge of the earth and natural processes is just the tip of the iceberg for K-12 students who participate in environmental education. Students also showed improvement in other areas [4].

Since beginning my year as a Malouf Scholar I’ve learned a lot about K-12 earth science education. One thing I’ve learned is that there are many others in the state of Oregon who are invested in environmental education beginning in formative years and continuing on through high school. Oregon was one of 26 states nationwide that adopted the NGSS in 2014. Though updates to the Oregon Science Standards has been incremental, the state’s NGSS incorporate disciplinary core ideas related to Earth and Space Sciences that explore environmental science topics related to human activity. The NGSS earth science concepts are now introduced during earlier ages and continue throughout K-12 education. Moreover, NGSS increase student interest in learning by focusing on crosscutting concepts that connect different areas of STEM [5].

Throughout the next few months I’ll learn even more about enhancing environmental education as I finish planning, execute, and reflect on a series of educational events for K-12 students in Oregon. In my next post, I’ll describe the events … Stay tuned!

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/10/science/panel-calls-for-broad-changes-in-science-education.html
[2] https://www.americangeosciences.org/sites/default/files/education-ESS-sec-status-report-2013-09-01-13.pdf
[3] https://www.geosociety.org/documents/gsa/positions/pos4_TeachingEarthScience.pdf
[4] https://naaee.org/eepro/research/eeworks/student-outcomes
[5] https://www.oregon.gov/ode/educator-resources/standards/science/Documents/ngss-fact-sheet—teachers-final-7-27-14.pdf

under: Uncategorized

Hi everyone! My name is Emily Mazur, and I’m one of the new Sea Grant Malouf Scholars. I am currently in my second year of my Master’s program in Marine Resource Management at OSU. I am very excited to continue building my relationship with Oregon Sea Grant and Oregon’s coastal communities!

~My journey to graduate school and Oregon~

Before I dive in to my graduate and Malouf work, I want to introduce myself a little further. Growing up in California’s Sacramento Valley, my experience with the ocean was very different from people’s perception of warm LA waters and surfing. Instead, I grew up exploring the tide pools of Northern California, unaware of the diverse life under the sea until we took a family vacation to Hawaii and I snorkeled a tropical reef.


A young Emily discovering her affinity for the ocean. (Photo credit: Emily Mazur)

It was on that vacation that I fell in love with the ocean and was determined to learn how I could protect it. I attended college at the University of Miami (I wanted to be in as sunny of a climate as possible!), where I studied marine biology with a marine policy minor. As an undergrad, I had a truly transformative study abroad experience in the Galapagos Island, Ecuador. Prior to living abroad, I had  only been exposed to the science and tourism aspects of the ocean. While in the Galapagos, I began to understand and appreciate the essential roles that the ocean plays in all aspects of community life. From that experience onward, I knew I wanted to work with communities as a representative of their voice in science and management of coastal resources.

The Galapagos community loves their marine creates, such as this Green sea turtle! (Photo credit: Emily Mazur)


This is how I ended up here, back on the Best Coast, working with Sea Grant to get an interdisciplinary degree.

~My research~

My research focuses on how to communicate science to our coastal natural resource managers. I want you to think about your favorite coastal resource. Is it shellfish that you harvest at the beach? Fresh fish that you buy from a local fish market? Maybe it’s simply just enjoying our coastline – the rocky intertidal tide pools or state beaches. Now I want you to think of the groups that may manage these resources – fisheries managers, the coastal program, water managers. When these managers make decisions about our resources, we trust that they have access to scientific information to make the best decisions possible. However, it has been difficult for scientists to communicate the necessary scientific information required for resource managers to make the best decisions. This is where my research comes in.

I am working with a webinar series called NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) West Watch that takes information about environmental and coastal conditions (and the impacts of abnormal phenomena) on the West Coast and makes it directly available to resource managers. We think that this webinar can be used as a mechanism for scientists and managers to communicate directly, co-creating knowledge in a less formal capacity than meetings and conferences. We see West Watch as a forum where our natural resource managers can get scientific information they need to make decisions, as well have our managers communicate Oregon’s informational needs to scientific experts.

~My first term as a Malouf Scholar~

So what does my life look like as a researcher and Malouf Scholar? I spend a lot of time building relationships with our state’s natural resource managers through direct communication. This includes trying to figure out our manager’s informational needs to see if NOAA West Watch can be adapted to fit those needs. It is important to build trust, and experiencing a variety of science and management perspectives has made me more aware of how people perceive the environment.

This term has given me opportunities to have face-to-face interactions with a variety of Oregon coastal stakeholders. At Sea Grant Scholar’s Day in October, I saw the diverse student research that Oregon Sea Grant funds, and had thought-provoking conversations with students about my research. At Oregon’s State of the Coast conference, I presented my research and gained valuable insight from both our scientists and managers about the challenges we face with science communication.

Chatting with a coastal stakeholder at the State of the Coast conference this past October. (Photo credit: Oregon Sea Grant)

~Moving forward…~

I would love to use the blog as a way to connect with those who are interested in Sea Grant and our coast. To encourage interactions and dialogue, I will be posing a question at the end of each blog post. For this post, I would like to hear from you about….

What are some abnormal things you’ve seen in the Oregon environment recently (e.g. temperature changes, water changes, animal changes, plant changes, fire, etc.)?

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Genetics is a powerful tool in the field of conservation, but the topic of genetics is so large that it can sometimes be overwhelming to begin to even understand. So here is a quick cheat sheet on different methods and genetic markers that are used in the field of biology, ecology and conservation in general.


Using genetics can help us understand the evolution of an organism, assess the status of a population, and conserve a species.  The basis for all of the is DNA, which can be found in every single cell of all life on earth!

Photo credit: Alex Avila. Fin clip sample preserved in alcohol

Photo Credit: Alex Avila. This is a fin clip, this is all you need to extract DNA ( very tiny sample)

Photo Credit: Alex Avila, tools of the trade

DNA helps us in species identification (very useful when two different species have very similar physical characteristics), understanding taxonomic relationship ( this can be important when making natural resource management decisions and guiding conservation/restoration efforts), determination of hybrids, identifying individuals with in a population, determination of parentage, migration of populations, genetic variation and historical size of populations, and also has forensic applications (like tracking down poachers!). As you can see there are many applications for genetics in conservation, and since DNA can be found anywhere, even in poop, it makes it a great tool for scientists and managers in this field to use.


Ok, let’s say I have convinced you that genetics is awesome, but now what? There are so many different methods out there, how do I know which one I should use?

In genetics different methods are known as markers. Which marker you need depends on what you want to learn. Here is a quick reference to what markers to use depending on the questions being asked.

Illustration Credit: Kathleen O’Malley

  • Allozymes: nor really used that much today, but used to be used for population differentiation.
  • RFLPs: were used for population differentiation, DNA fingerprinting, genome mapping and paternity tests
  • AFLPs: used for population differentiation, and genetic mapping
  • mtDNA: also known as mitochondrial DNA is used for population differentiation, phylogeography, phylogenetics, and is only passed down via the mother
  • Y-chomosomes: phylogeography, phylogenetics, and is only found in males
  • Introns: used to study population differentiation, phylogeography, phylogenetics, and selective adaptations
  • Microsatellites: population differentiation, gene flow and migration rates, individual identification, parentage (who’s the daddy), and relatedness
  • SNPs: population differentiation, gene flow and migration, individual identification, parentage, relatedness


As you can see, there is some overlap in the markers. In my case I a m studying China rockfish, and looking at how ocean currents affect their dispersal. To do this I am looking at whether the China rockfish in Oregon are connected, via ocean currents to China rockfish in Washington. I had the option of using microsatellites or SNPs for this. Even though both can provide information on gene flow, parentage and relatedness, I chose to work with SNPs because I am interested in a greater level of detail that microsatellites does not produce.

Photo Credit: Alex Avila China rockfish

Photo Credit: Alex Avila

So there you have it, next time you are considering working in the field of conservation, maybe give genetics a try! You’ll find it to be a very powerful tool


Here are some really cool examples of real life uses of genetics in conservation:

Wolf conservation: http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-wolf-species-20160727-snap-story-20160727-snap-story.html

Whale conservation: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/14/AR2010041402683.html



under: Uncategorized
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What is Biodiversity?

Biodiversity is the variety of life on Earth (Hooper et al. 2005). It can be studied on many different scales (Oliver et al. 2015). Look out into your backyard and you will see biodiversity; there is grass, there are a few different types of trees, there is a berry bush, there is a vegetable garden, there are birds, there are rabbits, and there are many different types of insects. The variety of plants and animals in your backyard constitutes the biodiversity of your backyard (Hooper et al. 2015). You can also look at biodiversity on a larger scale, such as the biodiversity in your county. In your county, there are many more species of trees, there are several different types of berries, there are many farms growing vegetables, there are many different species of birds, there are larger mammals, there are many types of insects, and there are rivers full of amphibians and fish. In contrast, we can also study biodiversity on a smaller scale; at the genetic scale (Oliver et al. 2015). Consider humans, we are all the same species, but we all look very different from one another. This is because we each have a different set of genes encoded in our DNA which makes each of us unique (Durham 1991). Just like there is genetic diversity in the human population, there is genetic diversity in each of the species we find in our backyard, in our county, or in our oceans (Oliver et al. 2015).


What is Resilience and how does it relate to Biodiversity?

Today, we live in an ever-changing environment. It is important to have biodiversity in our environment because it makes our ecosystems more resilient (Oliver et al. 2015). Let’s think about our backyard again. The trees in our backyard provide us with something that we need and want in the hot summer months, shade. Shade is considered an ecosystem service; it is a benefit that humans receive from the environment (McLeod and Leslie 2009). Now imagine a big storm comes through your area and all the cottonwood trees in your backyard fall over with the high winds of the storm. If the only type of tree in your backyard was cottonwood, then you would no longer have shade in the summer. Luckily, you also have maple trees in your backyard. These maple trees have a much larger root system, so they can stay standing through the high winds of the storm. So, even though all the cottonwood trees in your backyard are gone, there are still maple trees to provide you with shade in the summer. Having biodiversity of trees in your backyard allows your backyard to be more resilient to storms. Your backyard changed, but it was still able to provide you with the ecosystem service that you wanted, shade. The biodiversity of your backyard ecosystem allows for resilience.

Cottonwood Tree

Now let’s look at the biodiversity on the smaller scale, let’s consider genetic biodiversity. Your neighbor has only cottonwood trees in their yard; so, you assume that all their trees have blown over in the storm. Yet, when you look over at your neighbor’s backyard, you see that some cottonwood trees are still standing. Why is this? It turns out that while your neighbor does not have a biodiversity of different types of tree species in their backyard, they do have genetic biodiversity in the cottonwoods planted in their backyard.  Some of the cottonwood trees planted in their backyard have genes that code for a larger root system. These trees make up a genetically defined group of cottonwood trees that are different from the genetically defined group of cottonwood trees that blew over. The genetic diversity among cottonwood trees in your neighbor’s backyard allowed for resilience of not only their backyard ecosystem, but also of the cottonwood trees. You still have shade in your backyard, but now you must sit under a maple tree for shade. Your neighbor still has shade, but they can still sit under a cottonwood tree for shade.


You planted certain trees in your backyard and continued to maintain the health of these trees; this is a way in which your backyard was managed. By maintaining a diversity of trees species or genetic diversity of cottonwood trees, you can make your backyard ecosystem more resilient to environmental effects (Bagley et al. 2002). Just like you can manage your backyard to be more resilient to storms and a changing environment, we can manage other natural resources to maintain a heathy, productive, and resilient ecosystem that will continue to provide humans with the services that they want and need from the natural environment (McLeod and Leslie 2009; Berks 2012; Lester et al. 2010).

Genetic Diversity and Dungeness Crab

In Oregon, fisheries are an important natural resources that provide us with many ecosystem services, including food. Just like shade is an ecosystem service we obtain from the trees in our backyard, seafood is an ecosystem service provided by the ocean. One of the most valuable ocean fisheries in Oregon is the Dungeness crab fishery (Rasmuson 2013). In order to continue catching and eating this natural resource into the future, the fishery is managed. There is uncertainty in what environmental changes or extreme events will occur in the marine ecosystems in the future, but understanding and maintaining the genetic diversity of the Dungeness crab can provide a foundation for a species that has greater resilience to change. It is inevitable that environmental events will negatively impact some of the Dungeness crab along our coasts, but diversity of the population’s genetic composition can increase the likelihood that some of the Dungeness crab will survive. Genetic diversity of the Dungeness crab along our coasts is just one of many aspects of the species that can influence how plentiful the Dungeness crab fishery is along our coasts in the future.

Dungeness Crab

under: Uncategorized

The Quickest Year on Record

Posted by: | August 29, 2018 | No Comment |

The realization that my fellowship is coming to an end has not yet completely hit me yet.

In a way, this year will go on record as the quickest year I’ve ever experienced.  I’ve had the opportunity to gain more hands on experience in my field (Marine Resource Management) than during any other chapter of my life and it has been an absolute honor to work alongside the amazing staff at the Oregon Coastal Management Program.  So in wrap up, and for my final Oregon Sea Grant blog post I thought it was only fitting to share just a tidbit of what I have learned, things I have discovered about myself along the way, and what I see in my future.

BUT FIRST:  It goes without saying, but I couldn’t have come this far in such a short year without the opportunity to be an Oregon Sea Grant Natural Resource Policy Fellow.  The OSG team is a well oiled machine that does the work of an office twice their size.  It’s not often that you find such a supportive and knowledgeable group of individuals.  I’m truly grateful for this experience and I only hope the end of my fellowship is not a goodbye, but rather a see you soon to the Sea Grant family that has embraced this loud and salty New Yorker for 2 years of graduate research and 1 year of professional development.

Image may contain: Deanna Ester Caracciolo, smiling, outdoor and nature

That’s a Wrap

I know..how cliche, but I’ve truly learned more about myself as a professional and the field of resource management in the last 12 months than I have throughout my 6 years of environmental higher education.  For full transparency, I wrote this post partially outlining what I have experienced and learned, but have also somewhat directed it to myself a year ago-

Start things off right:  All mentor-fellow relationships are different, but starting off on the right foot can ease any early concerns.  Sit down and discuss your expectations of one another.  Coming directly from grad school can cause you to accept one-sided interactions (your adviser asks you to do something and you stop the rotation of Earth on it’s axis to make it happen).  Fellowships maybe a step in between school and a permanent position, but communicating clear expectations and realism will be necessary long after the fellowship has ended.  So don’t be afraid to go home at the end of the work day and do something for yourself without feeling guilty.  Your tasks will still be there tomorrow and your boss should understand.  That brings me to the next point-

Work-Life Balance is real!:  For those that knew me in throughout my college career – sorry if you just had a mild aneurysm hearing that come from me.  This realization was one of the hardest for me to come to.  As a certified “yes-girl” I thrived on calendar filling, blood-shot eye causing, CV building experiences.  Yet this fellowship has taught me that although those experiences helped me to get where I am today, sometimes being a “maybe-girl” or a “I’d rather stay in and watch every 2-star romcom on Netflix with my dog that day-girl” is completely acceptable.  Every hour of your day doesn’t have to be optimized for professional development.  At a point, your mental health and relaxation is worth more than trying to teach yourself a new skill at 10pm on youtube because a professor back in freshman year statistics said it was a great way to get a job one day (true story).  Although I never did full grasp that specific skill, this year was still filled with new personal and professional development – I’ve learned how to sew my own cloths, weave a basket, and have even spent some time reading FUN BOOKS!  Overall, it’s great to be thirsty for professional development and bettering your career path, but no candle can burn at both ends forever – so treat yourself!

Don’t hesitate to ask:  Slightly contradictory to my last bullet, but still important.  I began my fellowship expecting to work on the Territorial Sea Plan – Rocky Shores Management Strategy, and I have, but I knew I wanted to do more with my time at the Department of land Conservation and Development.  Luckily my mentor is a super busy guy, so he was more than open to letting me help on a multitude of other projects.  This has allowed me to further work on skills like meeting facilitation, internship supervision, group logistics, grant writing, web development, tribal relations, policy drafting, commission briefings, and so much more.  At the same time I have also started work on an evaluative component to Sea Grant scholar opportunities.  Moral of the story – want experience doing something? Just ask! Most of the time somebody wants help doing something too!

Looking toward the future 

My long and short-term goals have definitely evolved and grown throughout my education and fellowship.  If you would have told me as a brash young undergrad with my sights set on a PhD, 1,000 publications, and a life filled with chaining myself to trees, that I would be working in government and facilitating policy writing surrounding coastal management I would have laughed and gone back to reading Silent Spring (nerd alert).  But overall, here is where I stand today-

  • Short-Term Goals:  I was honored to partner with the Coastal program to apply for and receive a NOAA Project of Special Merit grant ($225k) to continue the work on the TSP.  I’m now actively competing for the position that was written into that grant which will extend my position for another 18 months. – Fingered crossed!  Additionally, I’d like to go back to school part time and obtain my project management certificate.
  • Long-Term Goals:  Although I haven’t completely ruled out a life filled with chaining myself to trees, I hope to also continue building my skills as a facilitator and project manager while aim to pursue a law degree part time along the way.   I like the idea of working for state government or a non-profit like the Nature Conservancy as a marine projects/policy coordinator.  In a perfect world I would find a home with Sea Grant as an extension agent, project/division coordinator/etc, but regardless of my position title, wherever I end up, I’d like to be in a supervisory role filled with learning and logistics (who doesn’t love a good spreadsheet?).

Lastly, wherever I go and whatever I do, I’m thankful to have the best support system a girl could ask for <3  I can’t thank my amazing friends and family, as well as Jake and Timber for always having my back through one adventure after the next.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing, mountain, sky, outdoor and nature

Image may contain: Deanna Ester Caracciolo and Brittany Harrington, people smiling, sky, ocean, outdoor, water and nature   Image may contain: Julianna Pronesti, Deanna Ester Caracciolo, Corin Harmon and Dan Yell, people smiling, people standing, night and indoor

Love & Waves,





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Closing Up with Camp

Posted by: | August 23, 2018 | No Comment |

Finishing up this internship with the last week of Summer Science Camp could not be more appropriate. For 9 weeks I squeezed into vans, followed groups of kids on hikes, ran with them on the beach, crafted shirts and art projects, explored with them, all the while catching someone’s first time holding a crab, someone’s first hike down to the Slough, someone’s first beach cleanup. I got to be there for so many moments, working to capture them in just the right way so I could weave them into our digital story. For my final week, I get to simply enjoy their growth and enthusiasm as a camp counselor.

Every group of kids is so different and so unpredictable. Some groups have proven to be a worthy test of my patience, others offered a refreshing worldview. In all cases, I feel so privileged to be able to participate in this program and I’m so happy that so many staff members and parents have already watched my video and told me what it captured for them.

As I finish up my final report and type this last blog post, I find myself struggling for the correct words to sum up these 10 weeks. Today, after the last camper was picked up, I trudged up the steps to the interpretive center, desperate to close my eyes and rest my aching head from a long day with 19 kids. I plugged in my camera to see the shots I took and found myself smiling, feeling better, remembering each moment as I scrolled past it. On the drive home, I found myself thinking of how much energy, patience, and attention it requires to foster a child’s learning and ensure their time in nature is productive. As our society becomes busier and busier, I hope we continue to protect programs like Summer Science Camps and that we keep investing in our children because the results speak for themselves (Youtube: South Slough Summer Camp Cultivating Wonder)

Campers race to the top of the dunes at John Dellenback.





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Goodbye Oregon!

Posted by: | August 21, 2018 | No Comment |

Living in Oregon was a whole new two-month life. I’ve thought for a while now about leaving for somewhere where I’d know no one and nowhere to challenge myself and call it an adventure. This wasn’t a difficult challenge. This isn’t because I’m comfortable everywhere I go and am an adaptation queen, but that I am extremely lucky. I am lucky that I loved my position working with ODFW. I am lucky the people I got to work with became mentors professionally and friends personally. I am lucky to have lived in a beautiful and quaint coastal town. I am lucky that my dorm hallmates were genuine, fun, and loved talking about and collecting plants. I am lucky that every single 2018 Oregon Sea Grant Summer Scholar is a wonderful person to know, and the lovely ladies who ran this program did a heck of a job. For all these things I feel lucky for, I am thankful.

As I write this I am sitting in a study room at my college, Virginia Tech. I’ve jumped right back into my normal life, it’s been a hectic transition. As I placed my few Oregon keepsakes on my shelf last night I had a lot of fun telling my college roommates about them. I have a small stuffed bear dressed as a park ranger I bought during our midsummer camping mishap that left us to eat at a local restaurant that had a cute gift store. I have posters of bay clam and crabs I used to refer to every time I measured samples, now I know more than what the posters say. I bought a piece of cement imprinted with a leaf from a day trip down to Bandon I showed them. I gave my roommate an art print of a caribou I found at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. My shelf holds souvenirs of my summer memories.

I had a lot of firsts this summer, I’ll try to list all of them but know after I post this blog I’ll think of even more.

  1. Tried an Oyster that I didn’t like.
  2. Tried a tamale that I did like.
  3. Drove a boat.
  4. Went camping (in a tent, so real camping.)
  5. Went to Oregon!
  6. Went to California!
  7. Saw the Redwoods.
  8. White water rafting.
  9. White water kayaking.
  10. Went into a cave (with a guide and didn’t touch anything of course.)
  11. Dug for clams.
  12. Ate new berries: Huckleberry, Marionberry, Salmonberry, Salal Berry.
  13. Held a live shrimp.
  14. Stayed in a hotel room by myself.
  15. Witnessed smoke from forest fires.
  16. Saw Harbor Seals in the wild.
  17. Saw Bald Eagles in the wild.
  18. Saw a porcupine in the wild.
  19. Saw whales in the wild.
  20. Entered the Pacific Ocean.

I will miss my wild and wonderful Oregon coast adventure with the people who made it so hard to leave.

Bob Mapes, Mo Bancroft, and I are ready to dig a detailed assessment method (DAM) sight to search for clams, crabs, and shrimp.

The 2018 Oregon Sea Grant Summer Scholars! Pictured are also Sarah Kolesar and Anne Hayden-Lesmeister, the Research and Scholars Program Leader and Assistant.

Liz Perotti, Bob Mapes, Tammy Chapman, and I on board “Saxidomus,” one of ODFW’s boats.



under: sea_mai, Uncategorized

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