Howdy folks. I’m now about 5 months into my SeaGrant fellowship and lately I’ve been taking advantage of all the perks of being a Fellow. Supported by Oregon SeaGrant and ODFW, I recently attended the 17th Western Groudfish Conference (WGC) in Seattle. My Natural Resources Policy fellowship includes a handy educational budget good for travel to conferences, and the folks organizing the WGC were also hugely supportive of my attendance.
As I’ve been working with ODFW’s Marine Reserves program and spending a lot of time thinking about groundfish (marine reserves are expected to benefit rockfish, lingcod, flatfish and other “groundfish” and a host of other marine species), I decided to attend the WGC. I was particularly interested in learning about how other groups were approaching the monitoring of fish relative to their research or management questions and accompanying complications. At ODFW, we’ve been wrestling with how to approach monitoring of Oregon’s marine reserves in the near-term and long-term and recently held a workshop in Corvallis to solicit expert advise. The workshop featured over 30 scientists from west coast universities, non-profits, and agencies, and provided ODFW with valuable suggestions on future monitoring. A summary of the workshop can be found at www.oregonocean.info.
I helped to plan and design materials for this meeting and found it to integrate nicely with WGC. I was able to build on workshop introductions at the WGC and connected with a wide variety of people interested in west coast fish. Having spent the better parts of the last two years thinking about marine invertebrates (oysters!), the WGC was a great crash course in west coast fish management and research issues. Some of my favorite talks included ones on the use of a jetski (with a giant aircraft-style propellor on the back) to map areas of the coastal ocean inaccessible to boats (R. Kvitek); seasonal habitat use by copper rockfish in coastal BC (J. Marliave); constraints on sandlance burrowing (J. Bizarro); innovative reduction in halibut bycatch (M. Lomeli); and a nostalgia-inducing talk on correlating haddock sound production and reproductive maturity (I once worked as a deckhand on New England fishing boats; F. Juanes;). My friend Tom included a good presentation on his project studying home ranges and movement behaviors of fishes of Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve (http://www.fishtracker.org) and another talk has ODFW Marine Reserves wondering if some sandy areas punctuated with large scour depressions might be valuable juvenile fish habitat (Oregon marine reserves have lots of sandy bottom).
The WGC was relevant to what I’ve been working on and was hugely informative. Plus, it was fun–I ran along Puget Sound with a view of the Olympics every day and met dozens of interesting people. I’m looking forward to pursuing other educational opportunities before my time here is up, and in the meantime, ODFW is keeping me busy. Between analyzing video data, providing GIS services, an ongoing community profile, and pending field work, I’ve got plenty to do and its great to be working in the field I just finished studying 5 short months ago.