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Archive for Madison Rose Bristol

1060 miles

20 hours

14 interviews

And one day to say everything I need to say.

How could I possibly, in a five minute presentation, communicate the nuances of the 14 conversations I had with fishers up and down the Oregon coast? How could I make sure that they weren’t being misrepresented by my words, since some voices would disagree with others? Would the audience–which I knew would mostly be comprised of people in the biophysical sciences–understand the relevance of this type of work? These were the doubts rolling through my mind leading up to Friday, August 17th–the Oregon Sea Grant Summer Scholars Final Symposium and, coincidentally, my 22nd birthday.

Never before have I designed a scientific poster, let alone present my scientific work in front of people who weren’t my peers or professors. As a dancer, I have been on stage hundreds of times. I know that chemically in the body, the feelings of excitement and anxiety are essentially the same. Cortisol levels spike. Your heart races. The last thing you want to do is wait. The only difference between these emotions is whether you are interpreting the situation in a positive or negative light. These feelings are not unfamiliar to me, but they caught me by surprise last Friday. All thirteen scholars–who I have come to adore over these past 10 weeks–were coming together one last time. My work, which was shared and understood within a small circle, was finally going to take the stage. I was exhausted from traveling long distances and preparing my materials. And I had high expectations for myself on this significant day. But I would not have it any other way. Excited and shaky, I took the floor in front of a standing room only audience.

My final symposium poster, which provides an overview of the projects I have been involved in and their context within the Human Dimensions Project of the ODFW Marine Reserves Program. Click the picture to view the poster in detail. If you have any questions about my work, feel free to comment below or message me at mbrist96@uw.edu

I briefly explained the place of human dimensions research in environmental policy. In my words, it boils down to analyzing a particular situation through multiple social sciences lenses at different units of people. Economics, anthropology, sociology, and psychology all contribute to a holistic understanding of the world. I explained how my research dealt with individuals rather than groups of people or geographical regions, and what that looked like. I remember hearing a few empathetic gasps when I said I reviewed 785 written responses to a well-being survey four times over. And exclamations of surprise when I showed them the complex framework I used to assess how people think and what they value. I explained that being trained to think this way set me up perfectly for what I was brought to Oregon to do in the first place: to interview fishers on their perspectives of the marine reserves. For if you can’t get to the root of what people care about, you lose all potential to find common ground.

Looking over Astoria–the northernmost point in my journey–toward my home state of Washington.

At this point in the presentation I felt myself balancing the need to stay on script for the sake of time with the desire to deviate into stories. I drove over 1060 miles this summer for interviews–which is the equivalent of driving the Oregon coast three times over. I conducted interviews from Astoria along the Columbia River to Brookings, which is nine minutes from the California border. Each and every person I talked to had distinct backgrounds and countless stories, and were more than open to talk about their lives as fishers, challenges related to fisheries management, conservation, and the marine reserves. I can honestly say that my perception of fishers has changed radically since coming to Oregon. They are highly satisfied with their lifestyle and are in tune with the natural environment that their business depends upon. Many of them wish to collaborate with scientists and managers to create policies that serve the greater good, so long as their input is not used against them. These insights are just a snapshot of what I ascertained from 20 hours of conversation.

But what I couldn’t tell the audience was about everything that happened in between these conversations. Moments punctuated by extensive beaches, meeting new people, and exploring the Oregon coast. Places referenced in interviews that I had the privilege of seeing with my own eyes. And the coastal cultures that my mentor Tommy introduced to me–I got to feel those firsthand. Traveling as a part of the Human Dimensions Project helped me understand the people of the Oregon coast more so than reading could ever do.

Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach, where I stayed for three days while conducting interviews on the North Coast.

For example, when I spent one weekend traveling to the North Coast, I was introduced to fellow Summer Scholar Dylan Rozansky’s work environment at the Haystack Rock Awareness Program (HRAP). On Cannon Beach, a whole community comes together to educate visitors on the ecology of Haystack Rock and to ensure its protection for the future.

The Historic Bayfront of Florence, one of my favorite places on the Oregon coast. However, it’s a really hard call to pick favorites. I feel so lucky to have traveled the entire coast this summer, and to have been exposed to so many different, beautiful places.

On a sunny Saturday morning I interviewed a fisher in Florence–a quaint retirement community an hour south of Newport. I took the time to wander through art shops and happened upon a bead shop called the Waterlily Studio, whose products are based out of appreciation for the natural history of our planet and cultural uses of nature.  I loved everything about the shop, and then got into a conversation with the owner about the future of our world. Our fears with the Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW’s) in the Puget Sound, and what we can do to save them. And I was more motivated than ever to take everything I have learned this summer–about engaging people in conversations and marine policy–to do something about this. When I return home to Seattle this Sunday, attending a public action meeting on the fate of the SRKW’s is one of the first things on my agenda.

A blood red sun in the smoke of California fires. I stayed in Gold Beach on the Rogue River while conducting South Coast interviews.

I am feeling a lot of things in this present moment. It is bittersweet to leave this incredible slice of the world. And already, so many of the Scholars have moved on to the next chapter of their lives–whether that be school or jobs. And I wish them all the luck in the world. Of all the emotions in my heart, I feel grateful to have been entrusted with this work, to have had such supportive mentors, and to have met such an outstanding group of people.

So all I have left to say now is…

Thank you.

My people, my fellow Scholars. Oh how I will miss you. The marine science community is small enough, so I have faith our paths will cross soon enough again.

under: Madison Rose Bristol, Summer Scholars
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On Thursday, July 12th, my mentor Dr. Beth Marino and I joined a virtual meeting. I had high hopes; for four weeks I had been waiting to hear if I had approval to conduct my primary research project, which was to interview fishermen up and down the Oregon coast. The work I had been doing up until this point was constructive for my own understanding of coastal attitudes and was applicable to the broader goals of the Human Dimensions Project of the ODFW Marine Reserves Program, but it didn’t feel like something I could own. Granted, the results of this well-being survey, which no doubt I will outline in my final blog post in a couple of weeks, fascinate me because they get to the root of how people think. They reveal the lenses by which people view the world, and the thought processes they engage in when confronted with change. I invested the time in making sense of these responses, but I was not involved in the initial process of helping those responses emerge.

This distinction is important to me because other than being a scientist, I am also an artist, a dancer. Creating and leaving my own mark on the world is a part of my character. This is why I was itching to get started on what I was brought to Oregon to do in the first place: to help stories be heard.

On Thursday, July 12th, we were virtually meeting with a member of Oregon State University’s Institutional Review Board who would decide if the revisions associated with my involvement in Beth’s project could adequately protect the confidentiality of the interviewees. Already a week delayed, we thought this would be the day. But not quite.

I had an interview lined up for the next day that I had to reschedule (which, in retrospect, was for the better–I wasn’t prepared for a daylong road-trip, despite my eagerness).

So I waited until Monday while Beth meticulously worked at getting the project revision approved. Noon ticked by, and I still hadn’t heard. One fisherman was ready to meet 45 minutes away, and I was just waiting to have the go ahead.

I got the text message at 4 pm. And the rest of my summer began.

Me with my trusty state-owned Ford Fusion, which has helped me travel approximately 200 miles up and down the coast to conduct interviews.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Without hesitation I gathered my recording equipment, hopped into the state car, and was on my way to Depoe Bay. My first interview exceeded all expectations: the fisherman I spoke with was very open about his responses, could see the world from multiple perspectives, and had a rich understanding of both his community and the biological world that his work depends upon. We had conversations about the marine reserves, management practices, conservation, and his life as a fisher…all of which lasted for 1 hour and 40 minutes (for perspective, we anticipate good interviews to last anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours). I drove back home beaming, for I felt like this was the type of work I was meant to do.

The next interview was two days later and 80 miles north of Newport in a beautiful place called Garibaldi. To hear my first impression and thoughts right after rolling up to the coffee shop, watch this video.  Garibaldi is situated in a beautiful slice of the Oregon coast right where the ocean pours into a freshwater valley. The neighboring town is Tillamook, famous for their dairy products, and while driving back I got the chance to briefly check out what the town is so famous for.

The Great Northern Railway stationed in Garibaldi, right outside of the coffee shop where I conducted my interview, with a smokestack in the background.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My second interview was entirely different from the first; this fisherman was a fourth generation fisher, and his sons and grandchildren are continuing the culture. His operation runs from Alaska to California and they catch everything from salmon to Dungeness crab. This hour and 20 minute long conversation, which touched on the same themes as before, went in entirely different directions–especially with respect to conservation and management. Being involved in multiple states, he noted that he felt a difference in how management and policy-making decisions were handled in Alaska versus Oregon. Though the “Oregon Way,” or the culture of public inclusion in government decision-making, is perceived as prevalent in Oregon, this fisher suggested that based on the model of Alaska there is room for improvement. He wished managers had more of an open door to those involved in commercial resource industries.

These interviews are intended to measure the impacts of the marine reserves on people in the commercial and charter fishing community, but this point illustrates how these conversations can be applied to issues beyond the marine reserves. They aim to represent a voice not typically heard, and so long as they are representative of the fishing community as a whole, these words can be used to inform management practices and policy. Local knowledge from fishers about the ocean itself can help scientists design more effective studies.  These conversations can open the door to more constructive dialogues about how we as humans relate to our environment.

Some fantastic rock formations in Tillamook Bay, captured while standing next to the railroad tracks along the waterfront.

So far, these fishers have expressed that they want responsible management. They advocate for science that supports their livelihoods. They want more research. They don’t all see eye to eye on every issue, but as far as I have heard, science is not the enemy.

This is just the beginning for me, and I am sure that I will interview people with more divergent opinions than my own. And it will be a challenge for me to steer the conversation in the right direction, but I am confident that I will be able to do it. Divergent opinions, as long as they don’t harm other people, I believe are healthy for society. I love listening to how other people see the world, with a grain of salt. And sometimes, beautiful narratives emerge.

When I was first being trained by Beth, she was telling me and my other mentor, Dr. Tommy Swearingen, about an interview she had just completed that had brought her to tears. She told me that there is something about the openness of the interview environment that allows people (both the interviewee and the interviewer) to divulge stories that in typical settings wouldn’t be discussed. On my fourth interview in Newport, I experienced a genuine, moving moment like this. I asked him if his life as a fisherman was fulfilling, and as he spoke I could tell he loved his line of work. He said every morning he got up at 4:30 am, made his black coffee, made plans for the day, and couldn’t wait to venture out on the boat. I wish you could have heard him say this, for I could feel his joy and it made my eyes blur. He loves this life.

I get paid to be moved by the stories of others. I cannot be more grateful that this is how I am spending my summer.

The Newport bridge, which I cross on my journeys. I wonder where I will go next?

under: Madison Rose Bristol, Summer Scholars, Uncategorized
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It’s 6 am. We’ve just arrived at Cascade Head, which is one hour north of Newport. This is when the intertidal of this ODFW marine reserve is exposed to the marine mist. With sleep deprived eyes I witness one of the reasons why the reserves are in place–to preserve and study the rich biodiversity of the Oregon coast.

I have so many memories I would like to share with you. I feel lucky. It’s only been three weeks since I arrived at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, OR, but they have been filled with rich moments. Most of these I have shared with my fellow scholars in Newport (Taylor, Dani, Abby, and for just last week Alexa) immersed in the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. But I have also spent a significant portion of my time digging deeper into the psyche of those that call the Oregon coast home.

As described in my last blog post, I am working in the Human Dimensions Project of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) Marine Reserves Program. This means that I am learning how to conduct research and think like a social scientist about environmental policies. For the past two weeks I have been hard at work coding nearly 800 open-ended responses to a comprehensive subjective well-being study conducted in part by my mentor Tommy Swearingen. This systemic survey captures how people think, their moral frameworks, their sense of place, personal and community resilience, and what people believe contributes most to their well-being, among other things. The robust data set also reveals how coastal residents respond to hypothetical changes to the community–such as an expansion or contraction of the marine reserves. The possibility of change prompted many respondents to voice their opinions.

The result was hundreds of insightful explanations into what constitutes a good quality of life overall. I had the privilege of looking at the world through the lens of people with disparate opinions than my own, and was surprised on more than one occasion by the complexity of their worldviews. For the most part, people get that balancing economic needs with the environment is a difficult trade-off to maneuver. Many of the towns up and down the coast rely on the commercial industries of fishing and logging to survive. People think on the scale of the individual to the community; often, when faced with these changes, they worry about their neighbors who work in these industries and might lose their jobs because of regulations. They fear the loss of their culture, their way of life. Some responded to the survey in all caps, telling the government to back off. History has disappointed them, and they prefer autonomy over future mistakes. People on the other side of the coin also fear. They are worried that we will further degrade our public lands, that their grandchildren won’t have access to a high quality environment. Most everyone is concerned about personal or community financial security. In this inflammatory age of politics, we often categorize people by the political party they stand behind, of which there are only a handful. What I realized when coding this response is that what is more important than ideology are the values that motivate it.  If we seek to understand each other on this level, we might start to feel for one another again.

I’m in the process of developing a technical backbone for social science coding though this work. But inadvertently, the empathy I hold for my fellow human beings is expanding the more I listen.

Firefighter training high above the rocky intertidal of the Cape Falcon marine reserve.

This is not the only work that I am poised to do during my summer scholar experience. In fact, it is secondary to my role as an interviewer of local fishers. However, as many projects go, our timeline did not proceed according to plan. Because this type of work has ethical considerations for human subjects, such as confidentiality, every detail of my involvement had to be cleared with OSU’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) within the Office of Research Integrity. I was left hanging, feeling like the firefighter to the right for a short period of time before knowing what might impact my involvement in this work. At the present moment, most worries have been smoothed over, and we are proceeding onward with the project. So fingers crossed that next time you read my post in a couple of weeks I will be speaking of an entirely new and exciting adventure!

Since my work revolves around the marine reserves, I have also made an attempt to see what they are about with my own eyes. Even if this required waking up at extreme hours to see the intertidal. My fellow summer scholar in the ODFW annex, Taylor Ely, has already woken up around 4 am to complete her work in the field, and will likely have many more mornings like this. But as far as I have seen, the reserves are worth it.

My first encounter with one of the reserves was Otter Rock. It is the smallest reserve and is situated just outside of Newport. Once the sun broke over the cliffs, rays of light were punctuated by fantastic rock formations. At low tide anemones dripped from the rocks reaching toward the water, and we could walk right into Devil’s punchbowl–which is a churning mass of water when the tide rushes in.

Sun breaking over the cliff at Otter Rock

Otter Rock in the distance behind a wall of dripping anemones.

Cascade Head was equally as impressive. Biodiversity filled each and every cranny, and at one point while helping the ecological team survey starfishes, we found over 170 sea stars (predominantly Pisaster ochraceus, but also the six-legged sea star Leptasterias) in a single transect! That was within an area no larger than a typical living room.

Me at center within the rocky intertidal of Cascade Head. At points we were down on our stomachs face first in invertebrates such as starfishes, anemones, and the occasional nudibranch.

The rocks at Cascade Head. Though we were conducting survey work with ODFW, we were not the only people exploring the rocks at daybreak. Recreation is an important past-time for people living on or visiting the coast–both for enjoyment and as a key part of the modern economy.

The little Leptasterias starfish that I found. It was the first and only one of the day!

Though I still have Redfish Rocks and Cape Falcon on my bucket list to visit, I have most recently explored Cape Perpetua–and from an entirely different view. Instead of viewing nature through a macro lens, up close and personal, I took a step back. Within the easily accessible old growth forest there are a multitude of trails. We took one that led to a 550 year old Sitka spruce, and another that gave us a sweeping view of the shoreline. It was worth the effort of climbing 800 feet above sea level to see the land (and even a resident gray whale). Cape Perpetua is also where you can watch the spouting horn and Thor’s well, which in action convinces the viewer that the ocean is breathing. With each ocean swell the divot in the volcanic rocks fills with water only to expel it in a massive exhale. Breathing in, the water recedes from Thor’s well, exposing thousands of mussels which cling to the water’s edge. And this repeats, indefinitely.

The land and the ocean are violently alive. And the people–they are right here to endure it all.

700 feet above sea level and counting. Cape Perputua down below.

Thor’s well on a mild day.

under: Madison Rose Bristol, Summer Scholars
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Mission:  To inherit the knowledge of every place and people I call home. 

 

There’s a first for everything. First job, first road trip, first time meeting the people you now cherish. Being a Summer Scholar promises to be full of firsts: this will be the longest that I have been away from home (Seattle, WA), is my first time doing human dimensions research, is my initiation into the world of working for the government and policy-related work, and is my first internship. I am incredibly grateful that the Oregon Sea Grant in association with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife trusted me to do this work and brought me to where I am today.

Also, thank you mom, dad, loved ones, and my extended family at the University of Washington for all you have poured into me.

Me on Nye Beach at sunset

Image result for marine reserves odfw

For the next ten weeks I will be working with the ODFW’s Marine Reserves Program on the Human Dimensions Research Project. This type of work is fascinating, but ultimately I selected this project because of who would become my mentors.  Tommy Swearingen is the project leader and is a one man show of expertise, initiative, and charisma. He oversees at least 15 different studies that assess the socioeconomic impacts of marine reserve implementation. He has had a Summer Scholar under his wing every year since he was brought onto the team. Being a mentor to him means more than just supplying interns with work–he wants to understand where they come from, and how he can best help them become fully immersed in the work and contribute to their future goals. He is a researcher, but also a teacher. In only the first week under his tutelage, I have gained a comprehensive understanding of the history of Oregon’s coastal communities and of the scope of the Human Dimensions Research Project.

Fishing vessel at dusk approaching the Yaquina Bay Bridge

To ensure the marine reserves are not adversely affecting coastal residents, Tommy and his associates have collected socioeconomic data on the scale of communities to individuals. Seeing as the reserves only make up 3% of Oregon’s coastal area, these effects are difficult to disentangle from larger trends. This is where studies on the individual level–specifically of well-being, world view, and feelings–become crucial. For this, you need an anthropologist.

Specifically, you need Elizabeth Marino. Beth is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at OSU-Cascades, and every now and then she will be driving down from Bend, OR to conduct interviews on fishers and to mentor me. I am inspired by her outlook, knowledge, empathy, and dedication to her work. Just to give you an idea of her background, Beth is the author of Fierce Climate, Sacred Ground: An Ethnography of Climate Change in Shishmaref, Alaska. This documents her decade-long research on some of the first climate refugees, the Iñupiaq people, who are running out of time while their home is engulfed by the sea. Needless to say, her work has real-world consequences.

I am humbled to be working under these incredible researchers and people. By the week’s end, I now know where I fit into the Human Dimensions Research Project:

  • First and foremost, I will be conducting interviews of fishers on their knowledge of the local ocean–which can span back five generations–and on how marine reserves might be affecting their livelihoods. Giving them a voice just might reveal effects that quantitative data fails to do alone.
  • Secondly, I am already in the process of coding (aka categorizing) open-ended responses of a well-being survey of coastal residents. This converts qualitative responses to quantitative data, which could reveal how geography, community culture, and economic well-being all correspond to people’s feelings. It also speaks to what people value and how much they are willing to give up for these values.
  • Lastly, I will be trained on how to maintain an ongoing database of the economic status of coastal communities.

I am beyond excited to see where this work takes me.

Other snapshots from my first week in Newport, OR, my home for this summer:

(Almost) every OSG Summer Scholar working at the Hatfield Marine Science Center. From left to right: Me, Abby Ernest-Beck (EPA), Dani Hanelin (ODFW), and Taylor Ely (ODFW-Marine Reserves). Not pictured + photocreds: Anna Bolm (USDA).

The expanse of Nye Beach, the first beach I visited upon arriving in Newport, looking at Yaquina Head.

A lush beach-side cliff of salal. Coming from a background in both terrestrial and marine science, I am seeing from daily excursions how the ecology of coastal Oregon is not very different from that of western Washington. It feels like home–except with massive beaches of soft sand.

Some of my new friends on the Sea Lion Docks in South Beach.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse, which we visited the very next day.

Silhouette at sunset. Each day is full here.

 

 

under: Madison Rose Bristol
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