header image

Archive for sea_day

At the very end of the legislative session, on the very last day, Oregon took a big step in the fight against the impacts of ocean acidification and hypoxia.  Oregon’s Legislative Assembly passed a bill called SB 1039, relating to ocean chemistry. This bill declares state policy on ocean acidification and hypoxia and forms a 13 member council, the Oregon Coordinating Council on Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia. Why are either of those things important?

First, setting state policy demonstrates to the public, neighboring states and the world that OAH is affecting Oregon, that Oregon is a leader in research and monitoring on OAH, and that Oregon is taking the impacts of OAH seriously. Now, to be fair, Oregon has arguably been demonstrating some of these already by participating in regional collaborations to address OAH like the West Coast OAH Science Panel, the International OA Alliance, and the OAH Monitoring Task Force with Federal agencies. Regional collaboration is valuable, but Oregon’s marine resources and coastal communities face specific local impacts of OAH too. Acknowledging that the impacts of OAH are especially profound in Oregon and threatens Oregon’s resources and communities is critical to work towards finding solutions to mitigate and adapt to OAH.

So, how will this bill actually help address OAH in Oregon? Big thorny problems are daunting. No one change in policy or program will solve them. There are pros and cons to almost all ideas to address big problems. Limited funding, capacity and will needs to be focused on the ideas that stand the most chance to make the biggest difference while minimizing the costs. The Oregon Coordinating Council on Ocean Acidification (OA Council) hopes to do just that. By formally gathering representatives from state agencies, academia, fishing and shellfish industries, Native American tribes, and other thinkers and charging them with coordinating the Oregon’s response to the impacts of OAH, Oregon hopes to effectively address OAH in a way that works for Oregon.

The OA Council is charged with identifying research and monitoring priorities to better understand OAH, and recommending priority actions the state could take to address OAH. Maybe those actions include active mitigation, increasing monitoring and research capacity, identifying socioeconomic impacts of OAH, increasing public awareness of OAH or leveraging local work on OAH in coordination with regional and even international efforts. Other states, such as Maine, Maryland, and Washington have taken a similar approach to addressing OAH, forming multi-stakeholder panels to coordinate state action.

Addressing ocean acidification could be contentious because it may involve prioritizing some uses of the ocean over others. For instance, protecting or restoring eel grass beds has been proposed by scientists as a way to help mitigate acidic ocean conditions, at least near the eel grass. Eel grass could help oysters thrive, but can make it harder to harvest the oysters. One method to harvest oysters involves dredging the sediment to collect the oysters, but dredging disrupts eel grass, at least temporarily. So, how to design a program of restoring eel grass to protect the shellfish industry without displacing the very industry we are trying to help? Having extensive stakeholder involvement from the very beginning is the best way to find solutions and broker compromises that can actually be implemented.

My role in the Governor’s office was to support the drafting the language and making sure interested parties were aware of developments as the legislature considered the bill. Much of the work coming up with a concept for the bill happened before I joined the Governor’s office, but I still felt a sense of ownership watching the bill work its way from introduction, through amendments, through Senate and House committees and finally seeing it get passed.

My time in the Governor’s office has now ended and I’ve been reflecting on what I accomplished during my year as a Natural Resources Policy Fellow. I found working on policies to combat the effects of climate change on the ocean was the most compelling and interesting part of my work. The OA Council stands out to me as a concrete step forward to address ocean acidification, one of the repercussions of climate change that is already affecting Oregon’s waters.

 

 

under: Natural Resources Policy Fellow, sea_day

It’s started folks, the 2017 Oregon Legislative Session is here, as of Feb 1. Working in the Governor’s office I could feel the wave building, a collective anticipation of the impending deluge of legislative concerns around the office. I won’t say that folks braced for impact, but there was the feeling of straightening of shoulders and a clearing of decks.

Already one week of the session has passed and I’ve already learned so much about how government works. Before Session, I knew in the back of my mind that bills introduced to the legislature would be posted online, or would at least be subject to public records requests. I hadn’t ever gone looking for what my legislators were up to or what issues where the topic of discussion in the halls of the Capitol. If I came across legislation at all, it was filtered through an advocacy group telling me I should care about it via an email or a petition circulated through social media.

Now, especially given the increased interest in activism since the Presidential election in November, I tell everyone I know to go searching. Until very recently, I was in the position of not quite knowing how to find out what’s happening in the Oregon legislature. Fear not, here are three steps to get plugged in:

Step one: Find out who’s introducing what. Go to the Oregon State Legislature’s Oregon Legislative Information System https://olis.leg.state.or.us. On the top left corner, you can click “Bills” and you can search by bill text (that’s keywords), bill sponsor (that’s which legislator(s) supports the bill by sponsoring it) or by bill number (good for if you’re already familiar with a bill from another source, like a newspaper article). If you’ve read my previous blog posts, you might guess that I searched “ocean” right away and you’d be correct (26 bills with some mention of ocean in the text!).

Step two: Do some research. You can read the bill on OLIS…they often aren’t nearly as dense and unreadable as you might think. You can read about any considerations regarding financial impact on various industries. If the bill has received any hearings in committees* you can read summaries and testimonies. You can even WATCH a video or live feed of the hearing! On the subject of committees, once a bill is introduced (or “dropped” if you’re hip to the lingo), it gets assigned to a committee of legislators with knowledge of the subject area. Figure out what committee your bill of interest is in.

Do an internet search for the bill or the associated keywords and see who’s talking about it. Maybe there’s an analysis or opinion from a news organization, or an advocacy group which you could read critically to inform your opinion. Talk to your friends and family (civil discourse y’all…) and see what they think. Is there a bill that you like or don’t like a whole bunch?

Step three: Tell your legislators what YOU think (find your legislator and their contact info here). Which legislators are on the committee considering the bill? Contact them too. Is the bill up for a hearing? Go testify at the hearing, or if that’s logistically unfeasible or too intimidating, submit some written testimony (on the committee page there is a link to an “exhibit email”).

They listen, truly. I know because I’m now occasionally party to citizens telling their government what they think about the decisions being made. Sometimes folks voice their support for a decision or a bill. More often, folks speak up when they don’t like something. Maybe that’s human nature.

You can do the same thing for the US Congress in Washington, D.C. You can search the bills that have been “dropped.” You can find your legislators in the Senate and House.

Go forth and be informed!

under: Natural Resources Policy Fellow, sea_day

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.

IMG_0045

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.

 

 

under: Natural Resources Policy Fellow, sea_day
Tags: , , , ,

Categories