Summers End

The rainless, hot days that have accompanied the last four weeks seemed to have lulled me into a false sense of perpetual summer. As I finished up last week I realized as my time at Sea Grant is coming to a close, the summer is likewise drawing nearer to the end. So, I took some time off from working on my project and presentation and decided to take my first trip back home to Portland this summer.  While I grew up there, Portland never seems to stop changing in interesting and delicious ways. I spent most of my weekend eating my way through various neighborhoods and districts, some of the highlights included a gourmet  grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwich stand (the only way I know you can order bacon, cherry jam, jalapenos and peanut butter on the same sandwich), and bleu cheese and pear ice cream from Salt & Straw (seriously, amazing). It was also wonderful to get some much needed back-to-school shopping done, and of course spend some time with my friends and family.

Returning back to the office I am refreshed and rejuvenated, ready to tackle the next week of preparations for our symposium at the end of the week. Preparing my presentation so far has been particularly challenging, I feel like I have never had a presentation that requires as much balancing and specific language as this one does. I feel this is a product partially of the nature and purpose of the workshop, simply because a major topic of the workshop was to identify the most effective ways to communicate these issues to a range of professionals and members of the public, and since part of my presentation requires ‘setting the stage’ for the workshop, I feel it is important to carefully consider the way I am communicating and presenting these issues. This really puts the workshop in perspective with my long term goals of improving interdisciplinary communication, and provides me with valuable opportunity to practice my communication skills.

Beginning the End

This last week it really hit me how my time is coming to a close at Sea Grant. In all the bustle following the workshop I almost forgot that I have my own little project that I have to create! I won’t say too much, but scattered between my work with Roseanne and Melissa on travel reimbursement and budget maintenance, I have been trying to pull together my thoughts about the workshop and also drawing from post-workshop documents in order to synthesize my own ideas and conclusions about the event planning process and what it meant for my own learning experience and also for the broader context of a regional response plan for JTMD-biofouling issues. In addition, I have also been working to pull documents together for a report to give to Stephen and eventually, back to the National Sea Grant office. This involves some amount of communication with people on the east coast, but it seems like nothing compared to what I have done to put together the workshop.

An interesting development since the workshop seems to be the way it has spurned action on more than the intended front. Even at the workshop it was evident that while a major reason for the workshop was to get feedback and discussion going on a few issues that key parties wanted input on, it also allowed state representatives to see what other states and agencies were doing, and able to compare actions and generate ideas. I think many took valuable lessons and ideas back to their states, especially since not all states have had to deal with ‘major’ tsunami marine debris issues like Washington, and especially Oregon has. Some of the ways this has kick-started action is visible in the Sea Grant office. Since the workshop, Stephen and the other West-Coast Sea Grant Directors had a conference call to discuss the role of the West Coast Sea Grant programs on marine debris and invasive species and the potential for another, smaller workshop that would involve 4 or 5 at the most representatives from each West Coast state. From preliminary discussion it seems a major goal would be to build off the discussion held at the workshop, with focused representation from each state. There is still much to clarify and narrow within this proposed scope, but it is a good start!


Workshop Article

Hi All,

If you are interested, a journalist at the workshop just posted this article about the workshop (he might have done a slightly better job explaining it than I did) Take a look!


In other news, after the workshop I have continued to be busy busy as two of my co-workers teach me the fiscal ropes of travel reimbursement and accounting. Not sure this is my favorite part of the summer, but it is new, interesting and useful for sure. So far I have learned that there are a lot of different people in a lot of different places that have to be in the loop when trying to reimburse people for their workshop travel expenses. Also, I have learned much about being diligent in my communications; the travel reimbursement process requires several different forms to be filled out, and because I was not painstakingly thorough in my directions, we received many forms back that were incomplete, filled out incorrectly, the wrong combination of forms, or were missing forms.  I also needed to be very clear where I wanted documents to go, instead of saying “please send all documents back to me” at some point in the email I needed to be clear concise and evident: “ALL forms must be either faxed (fax number here) or emailed directly to me.” Because otherwise, forms were faxed to the main billing and finance office for OSU which makes it increasingly difficult to track and follow-up with people about their reimbursement. My organizational skills are also being put to the test as I must track how has responded with what, what I still need from them, who to follow up with, what forms have been sent to central payables, who still needs an index number, etc. I’m sure you are all riveted, and would love to hear more, but I’ll leave it at that for now.


I finally got my head to stop spinning long enough to write this post, so here it goes.


The workshop.


The days leading up to and after the workshop have been some of the most exciting and nerve-wracking yet.  I also think that I could not have learned more in such a short amount of time. We’ll start from the beginning of the madness; approximately one week before the event, at this time all parties involved started to get a little anxious, with the pre-workshop groups still working vigorously on straw documents on communications and management protocols, workshop participants started turning to me to inquire about the status of things. This was in addition to the regular logistics emails from everyone from workshop participants to steering committee members, so before I knew it I was inundated with so many conversations and tasks my usual hand-scrawled to-do list couldn’t quite handle the level of organization I needed to get everything done. Half-way through the week things seemed to settle down,  I was as caught up as I could be while waiting on a final agenda, straw documents, and travel reimbursement documents. and, then BOOM, everything I was waiting for and more came in,  including the seemingly innocuous task of creating name tags.

A very important lesson I learned through this process is not to defer any decision to only one cook. I made the task of creating name tags  infinitely more difficult when I didn’t let every cook in the workshop kitchen put in their two cents about name tags. Some (including myself)  believed a stack of blank stick-on tags would be quite sufficient so that information about name, title, affiliation would be correct given the amount of time left to verify and generate name tag information. However, others believed at least the steering committee and organizers should have pretty printed name tags, and once I approved this plan and sent out a list of names, titles and affiliations to be approved by the rest of the steering committee the plan for name tags was forced to change several more times.  Apparently there is a lot of ways to make name tags: in color, with affiliation and title, with affiliation only, with affiliation and the workshop title, in hanging plastic holders, in clip-on tags, on stickys, printed professionally, printed in our office, and so forth. I’m pretty sure each possible combination was considered given the amount of supplies and time at our disposal.  Eventually, we figured out a way to keep everyone happy and also was within our means to produce, and it only took 4 hours to figure out. Next step was to go to the list and make sure (checked and double-checked) that names and affiliations were accurate. Once this was done, I happily accepted to help of my coworker Linda Larsen to type and print name tags. This was actually very fortuitous as other last-minute and off-the radar tasks came in.

The surge of activity continued into Monday morning as I tried to tie up as many loose ends as possible before heading up to Portland for one last meeting before the workshop Tuesday morning. Loaded down with a box of name tags, flip charts, pens, and registration list I eventually made it to Portland. The event probably wasn’t nearly as stressful as I think it was, but I think it seems that way mostly because of the daily nightmare that constituted my travel in and out of downtown Portland and Portland State University’s campus. Of the 3 times I had to get my way downtown each time I had a printed set of directions, once I immediately got off track and ended up lost, another time my directions lead me in an endless circle of one-way streets to nowhere, and Finally the very last time I made it back to he PSU parking garage where I paid exorbitant prices for all-day parking without any trouble.  I think I can attribute much of the stress I felt those days to these hair-pulling adventures. And then there was the actual workshop, after I scrambled to get a registration table in order, name-tags packed away in their holders I actually got to sit back and watch the days unfold.

Because the 90-some participants came from a variety of different backgrounds and familiarity of Aquatic Nuisance Species and Tsunami debris issues, the first part of day 1 was spent giving introductions to the topics and updates from representatives from each state or province involved. States involved included Alaska, Hawai’i, Oregon, Washington, and California and there also a representative from Canada. This piece in particular was pretty interesting, because despite my efforts to keep up-to-date with all the goings-on in the different states, the ultimately is a big difference in the organization and structure of each state’s responding/involved agencies and this translates in a lot of ways in how apparent their efforts are. It was also interesting to think about how the geographic configuration of each state/province’s coasts has a large impact on any response and monitoring protocol agreed on regionally.

The rest of day one consisted of breakout groups, where different groups were assigned different pieces of the straw communications protocol document or the management straw document to discuss and offer suggestions for clarification or improvement. I served as a note-taker for one of these breakout groups and though that too, was a very interesting role where I had to be quick and efficient, but also be able to synthesize along the way so that my notes were coherent and representative of flow the discussion.

After many more talks and summaries of the breakout group discussions, I was pleasantly surprised and refreshed by a very detailed talk from phycologist, Gayle Hansen, who worked on identifying over 20 different algal species from the dock in Newport and a boat in Cape Disappointment. Her talk was very detailed, as she went into many of the different taxonomic tools and methodologies she used to identify species, some she was at first convinced were novel! This talk in particular, was useful to demonstrate the range of professionals present at this meeting, we had representatives from a range of NGOs, tribes, congressional staffers, and state and federal agencies. In the end, I think this truly was one of the major successes of the workshop, to bring all these people across the region together in one room to discuss these issues, but also more simply, to make each other all aware of who and where people are working on these issues, and how to get in contact with them.  Silly for sure, but in my survey of logistics tasks to take care of I never thought about sending the detailed participant list that I have been working on for weeks out to everyone who attended the workshop. After having several people inquiring and request it though, the list went out during the workshop.

In the end, it is just the beginning however, and just as I thought my work here was done, there is still much to be done. Now the pre-workshop groups are post-workshop groups and they and the steering committee will begin re-drafting documents and deliberating over the next steps to implement a viable regional response protocol.  Only more exciting news on the JTMD-AIS front to come!

Gaining Momentum

As I predicted, progress towards a finalized list of attendees removed a huge barrier from getting all the other logistics figured out, but I found out that the ‘barrier’ was actually more of a dam. This week, I’ve been swinging from conference call to conference call, and from one email deluge to another.  I even set up my own ‘logistics’ conference call, which included sending out the meeting poll, deciding on a time, and writing up a meeting agenda- All on my own! (commence back-patting). This doesn’t sound like much, but for me at least, speaking up on a conference call can be almost as intimidating as any other public speech. This was especially evident after I could barely squeak out my name during the introductions round at a 60+ participant regional tsunami marine debris update call last week.  So I’ve made quick progress, from name-squeaking, to leading a call with the NOAA coordinators in DC, representatives from USFWS, among others. This call also turned out to be crucial for getting the next few weeks tasks in order as we decided what to do with “no-response” invitees, listservs, travel reimbursement protocols, and tracking information among the different agencies involved.

The workshop is shaping up to be pretty interesting, initially it was designed to be a small event, with around 20 participants, and on my last count we have 69 confirmed attendees. Because of the size, the workshop structure is becoming increasingly complex, including 6 breakout sessions where different combinations of scientists, communicators, and people representing levels of response and management can discuss and contribute to workshop items. Another one of my tasks is to make sure we have people to lead (facilitate) these sessions, but also different people to take notes on the discussions and conclusions made in each session. Since we are only just deciding on exactly how many breakout groups there will be, combined with the fact that facilitators and note-takers need to be relatively neutral, and generally non-participants, I’m caught in a bit of a scramble to recruit people to these roles. It was even suggested on my call yesterday that I myself might facilitate one of the sessions (just when I thought conference calls were scary…)

Flying By!

As the July 31st date for the workshop looms ahead, Stephen and I spent the last week trying to balance getting everything done that can be done, without getting ahead of ourselves.  I realized this week  that event planning like this can be verrry circular. This is because there’s a laundry list of things that need to be done (reservations, finalizing the agenda, sending out information on listservs, catering orders, etc), but at some point they are become interdependent and, this week everything was mostly dependent on the list of attendees. We set a registration deadline for July 13th (last Friday) but as I scan my email inbox, I can already tell responses to our invites are still filtering in, slowly but surely. It will take a certain amount of faith for sure, to start dividing those confirmed into breakout groups, and make decisions about seating, coffee, materials, etc when just over 50% of invited people sent responses back. An interesting obstacle to this planning process is the dissemination of information;  it appears that sometimes that because of the number of agencies involved and communications about AIS(Aquatic Invasive Species)/marine debris, I can easily be left out of the loop about who actually will be attending. Often, confirmation of attendance has come to me from someone else, or in an email chain forwarded to me.

Now as the registration process comes to a close, we finally can do all of the things that depended on it. I have a feeling that first on my list will be to go through the list of those requesting travel support, and open up a discussion with the steering committee and Oregon Sea Grant’s fiscal officer, Melissa Metz, about the status of funds and who we can afford to send to the workshop. It might be a little but of a scramble getting there, but I’m excited for the workshop and to see my efforts come to fruition!

Workshop Happenings

This last week planning for the upcoming workshop really took off. I soon found out how easy it is to miss an important message or reply in a string of 20 emails, and how complicated collaborating and communicating with people across the U.S. can be.

I spent the first part of the week catching up on the last week’s email communication and keeping my eye on any emerging tsunami marine debris/invasive information, mostly because the entire steering committee still wanted to wait on any word from D.C. about the proposal. As confirmation about its acceptance filtered through, plans to get the formal invites out began.

The second half of my week I worked remotely with a Knauss Sea Grant fellow on amending the invite list, and then with others to draft an invite letter and modify it according to the steering committee’s wishes. After a conference call to nail down some important details, I began work personalizing each of the invites (some 90!). The hope here was to reduce transmission of invite letter around to other non-invitees, simply because while interest in this topic is high, a productive workshop cannot be held with hundreds of people trying to contribute.

The invites are due to go out early this week, and then work keeping track of RSVPs will begin, as well as figuring out the best ways to compensate participants for travel, and also allocate funds for facilities, refreshments, AV equipment, and more!

Week 2: Tsunami Marine Debris

In last week’s post I expressed the possibility that I might work on tsunami marine debris issues, and as it would have it, in the last week the perfect opportunity arose. Earlier this week, I continued working on several tasks  concerning the Heceta Head Coastal Conference and other things related to Oregon State’s Marine sciences webpage. However, early on I was made aware of a proposal intended for submission to the National Sea Grant office to request for funds for a West Coast wide workshop to help West Coast scientists, managers and communicators to form a coherent framework for response, risk assessments, management, outreach, policy, and research relative to the introduction of nonnative species by marine debris. This workshop is tentatively scheduled for the end of July and therefore requires an extensive amount of work in planning and coordination in a short amount of time.

Enter, Melissa. I have been designated (if all goes according to plan, that is) as the person to “to spearhead and keep track of all workshop arrangements/details/logistics.” Immediately, I’m a little intimidated. This simple description requires me to have a  working know-how of everything that’s going on in the seemingly countless number of Federal and State agencies, NGOs, nonprofits and spin-off task forces containing any number of combination of representatives from these groups. Not to mention keeping up to date and making sure everyone who should be included, is, among other pertinent specifics.  While such details and responsibilities are still emerging, I find myself already intrigued by this process. The number of technical workshops I’ve attended in the past is largely limited to non-pressing/impending issues such as marine reserves or spatial planning, so to have a similar process be applied regionally to an issue that is will be of high importance on current and future scales, is very interesting. I am curious to see how necessary protocols will develop.

Heading into next week my agenda includes getting steering committee members and invitees signed up to newly created listservs as well as preparing for a conference call to initiate planning for a resultant pre-workshop working group which will prepare a document regarding risk communication and coordination. Specifically this group will work to “draft a evaluative-based framework for  risk communications , outreach and engagement plan  associated with an overall risk analysis to  more effectively and consistently communicate the threat and engage managers, researchers, policy makers, educators and stakeholders in appropriate planning, reporting  and responses to: a) biofouling organisms associated with the Japanese tsunami marine debris,  b) minimize risks to people, c)  minimize risks from further human-mediated spread, d) integrate risk communications and coordination with risk assessment and”

Many of the aspects covered by the conference for collaboration and communication are very new to me, but have exceedingly important implications for my interests in how scientific and economic principles are integrated and communicated within multidimensional processes, such as responding to an impending threat like invasive species which has the potential to adversely affect everything from our west-coast ecosystems to our economies. I therefore enter the next week excited about gaining new insights about inter-agency workings, but also the implications these have for my broader interests.

Week 1: Acclimation

While I might not have traveled far to reach the Sea Grant office in the same campus I spent the last four years roaming around, this last week was no short of surprises in the town I call home.

The Sea Grant Office is located in the Kerr Administration building on OSU’s main campus, and in my first week I not only became familiar with the bustling office, but also some of the other Sea Grant affiliated spaces on campus, including a top-secret video editing room where the Sea Grant sponsored videos are put together, and also another extension office in Ballard Hall where invasive species expert Sam Chan works, among others.

After getting acquainted with all of the different Sea Grant people and places around Corvallis, I got settled in at my cozy desk in the heart of Sea Grant’s main office. As a Marine Science and Policy intern, I was originally selected to work on marine science and policy event planning during the course of the summer, but I soon learned that my projects could become diversified because of a recent buzzing issue in the office.

In the wake of the hardly inconspicuous arrival of tsunami marine debris on the West Coast, I found myself getting in on the action as state and federal agencies continue their efforts to decide what to do in order to prepare researchers and the public to deal with eminent debris. On my first day in the office, I got to sit in on a conference call between Corvallis Sea Grant and those at Hatfield Marine Science Center (HMSC) while topics related to marine debris were covered, ranging from how the public has been responding and what types of misconceptions they might have; to research proposals being submitted to Sea Grant by various researchers who want to take advantage of this opportunity to gain insights into oceanographic dynamics and invasive species. This call was exciting to listen to, especially because it gave me an important look into how agencies such as ODFW, NOAA and Sea Grant communicate within and between themselves, and how action plans are developed in response to issues that affect multiple spatial and temporal scales simultaneously.  This call also brought up many important points about the challenges in educating the public in such a short amount of time about how to respond to these types of issues. In the call it was brought up that at least one member of the public interpreted the recent arrival of the dock to mean ‘bad science’ on behalf of NOAA researchers and other scientists who predict(ed) most debris to arrive in October. I was surprised to hear this interpretation and I, among others, were curious what other misconceptions about marine debris the public might have, and consequently,  how to address these misconceptions. Instantly, an idea for a  research project began to brew. Fortuitously, just as my wheels began to turn, during the call two of my mentors Jenna Borberg and Sarah Kolesar mentioned that there was at least one eager intern willing to work on this, or related projects this summer.

While Sea Grant and the other agencies continue to hash out who’s doing what and when, I began work on some of my other event planning projects, namely the Heceta Head Coastal Conference (HHCC). The opportunity to work on this event in particular was one of the original reasons I was interested in this position, since I was able to attend last years conference and was particularly compelled by the unique Oregon-specific and interdisciplinary approach. Even though I attended last year’s conference, I first spent some time familiarizing myself with the programs from previous years. Next, I began work on a Facebook page for the conference ( where Oregonians and beyond can learn about HHCC, “like” it, or attend this year’s event! I know this sounds unbelievably simple, but between figuring out my desk’s MacBook and finding all the appropriate information, pictures, and PDF conversions, this actually took quite a bit of legwork. After completing this task, I began drafting invitations to potential speakers at this conference. I was especially excited to see a great diversity of scientists, politicians, and economists on the invite list this year. Similar to the facebook page, a seemingly simple task came with a whole new set of challenges. In particular, finding the ‘right’ way to address people from disciplines outside of science was novel to me, as was finding and naming the appropriate credentials to discuss in their letter in order to demonstrate the value they would bring to the event. After I finished the letters and got some feedback from Sarah, we decided they were ready to be reviewed by my mentor, and director of Oregon Sea Grant, Stephen Brandt.

As I prepare for the next week of work, I find myself curious to see what new adventures and surprises this week will bring, because if there’s anything this week has taught me most, is that there is no shortage of opportunities for work in the office and I can’t wait to dive in.