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Archive for Rose Rimler

Here, There, and Everywhere

Posted by: | June 14, 2015 | 1 Comment |

I’m writing today not from the northern Oregon coast—where I spent the last year as a Natural Resources Policy Fellow at the Tillamook Estuaries Partnership—but from Raleigh, North Carolina. It’s different here, of course. From what I’ve seen so far, it’s significantly cheaper and significantly warmer. You can get a plate of hush puppies for fifty cents, beautiful bright red cardinals hop from branch to branch, and strangers about your mom’s age casually call you “honey.” But like Oregon, it’s a lush, green place invested in and dependent on its natural resources, coastal resources included. Sea Grant, the National Estuary Program, and the National Estuarine Research Reserve all have active, large branches in North Carolina. In addition, both Duke University and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill operate marine labs out on the coast.

But I am not here to work for any of these fine institutions. Thanks to a fellowship with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), I will be spending the summer at the Raleigh News and Observer as a science reporter. Every summer for over forty years, AAAS has placed current or recent science graduate students at newspapers, magazines, radio stations, and other media outlets. I am lucky enough to be one of 20 students or near-students (I actually graduated with my Master’s in March of 2014) selected this year.

Although I expect to cover a wide variety of science stories, after a year working for TEP and Sea Grant, I’m curious about the environmental issues faced by this coastal state. Like TEP, the Abermarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership seeks to monitor and restore its watershed and to encourage public participation in that process. In fact, the APNEP Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan reads very familiar. Like TEP, this estuary partnership seeks to rehabilitate an estuary from the effects of “forestry, farming, industry, mining, and development” and is working to improve anadromous fish passage, wetland function, riparian plant communities, public access to waterways, and landowner education about nutrient management. In other words, concerned citizens 3,000 miles away from each other are working on solutions to many of the same problems. Whether or not I am able to write about this topic for the News and Observer, this is the kind of connection I want to highlight in my future career as a writer.

Thanks to Oregon Sea Grant for putting me in action this past year at an agency working to effect change; now I will be reporting on such agencies. I believe my experience as a Natural Resource Policy Fellow will help me become a critical, accurate, curious, and well-informed science writer—this summer and wherever I find myself afterwards.

 

under: Natural Resources Policy Fellow, Rose Rimler

A Fleet of Meetings

Posted by: | January 6, 2015 | 2 Comments |

How do you talk about issues like ocean acidification and habitat preservation and changing land use patterns? Where do you even start? Having now coordinated two such meetings, I can answer that question: Start with a working coffee machine. At the first of these meetings, the snazzy built-in coffee machine provided by the meeting place malfunctioned and flooded so we had to abandon the idea of making a pot of coffee– and the look on people’s faces as they tried to get coffee out of an empty pot can only be described as “crestfallen.” But eventually we got it working, and the meeting took off from there. That first day our topic was water quality issues. During the second meeting, we tackled the larger and somewhat more amorphous category of “habitat” issues.

Why were we meeting at all? As an Oregon Sea Grant Natural Resources Policy Fellow placed at the Tillamook Estuaries Partnership for a year, it is my job to coordinate the revision of the organization’s Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan, or CCMP. The original CCMP came out in 1999, and devotes a chapter each to habitat, water quality, erosion and sedimentation, flooding, citizen involvement, and monitoring. These early meetings are a way to meet with many of the agencies we partner with and get a sense of the issues they feel are most pressing; what they feel has changed since the original CCMP was written; and how these evolving policies can best be implemented.

It’s very satisfying to get twenty people in a room—a feat in itself because of so many busy schedules—and talking about these big issues and the long-term plans for addressing them. For me, this experience has really driven home how important it is to, well, talk to people. Reading and solo research is important, but nothing can quite substitute for the understanding that comes from conversing with the players who have been involved with the issue at hand for two, five, ten years. In fact, some of the meeting participants were involved in the drafting of the original plan back in the mid-90’s. Because they were starting from scratch, that process was much more intense. The people involved met every week for five years.

For the revision, we’re condensing that time frame. We’ll be holding another couple of meetings in February to narrow down and clarify the brainstorming list produced by the first meetings, and then we’ll be holding public information sessions in March to present a rough draft of the management plan and ask for input from the community. In early May, my time at TEP ends. I may not leave with the plan finalized, but I do think I’ll be able to produce a solid rough draft or outline at the very least before I leave TEP. Certainly I’ll leave with a better understanding of the process of planning an organization’s future and a knack for jury-rigging reluctant coffee machines.

under: Natural Resources Policy Fellow, Rose Rimler, Uncategorized

It’s 7 AM on my day off, and somehow I am already out of bed and driving north on Highway 101. The radio is staticky on this part of the coast and all that’s coming in clear is the bombastic finale to some sort of romantic classical piece. I pull off the narrow, two-lane highway at the Tolovana Park exit in the city of Cannon Beach and keep heading north on Hemlock Street. The road curves extravagantly. As I brake to round a bend, the magnificent Haystack Rock suddenly comes into view.

The music on the radio now feels appropriate. Two hundred and forty feet tall, shaped like the pope’s hat and encircled with squawking seabirds, Haystack Rock is a commanding presence on this long sandy beach. The rock itself is nesting habitat for about a dozen species of seabirds, and the foot of the rock is composed of turquoise tide pools that provide a home for countless marine organisms. Thousands of people from all over the country and even the world flock to Haystack Rock every summer. And that’s why I’m here. As a volunteer interpreter, my job is to educate the hordes of summer crowds and also to protect the marine garden and wildlife sanctuary from them.

I’m better at the former than the latter, to be honest. Having spent many hours scrambling over tidepool rocks, picking up snails and starfish, and, yes, even poking sea anemones, it feels hypocritical to dissuade others from these activities. But the Haystack Rock tidepools are visited by tens of thousandsof people every summer, unlike the deserted tidepool spots I’ve visited in southern Oregon. Haystack Rock is visible for miles and easily accessed from the beach– it had no chance of being kept secret.

Luckily I don’t spend too much time in the role of ‘enforcer.’ In the last six weeks or so, I’ve also started writing the program’s weekly nature blog entries. After a couple of hours on the beach, I head to Cannon Beach City Hall, where the group is headquartered, and use staff notes to write up a summary of what the animals of the Rock have been up to during the past week. You can check out the blog here: http://hrapnatureblog.blogspot.com. Lately I’ve been focusing on one, relatively common animal—so far I’ve chosen the brown pelican, hermit crab, and aggregating anemone— and highlighting how surprisingly special and complex it is.

I’ve worked and volunteered at a number of environmental education programs over the years, but the Haystack Rock Awareness Program is perhaps the most impressive I’ve ever been involved with. Born from a grassroots effort to protect the tide pools and nesting habitat, this program puts interpreters—some paid, many volunteer— out on the beach at every low tide during the summer. The group operates out of a clever truck and trailer operation on the beach, where they store signs, binoculars, scopes, and pamphlets. Interpreters roam the tidepools pointing out animals, aiming scopes at birds’ nests, answering questions, and discouraging visitors from trampling the barnacles and anemones on the rocks.

TEP, where I am carrying out my fellowship, also began as part of a grass roots community effort. Recently, I’ve been helping TEP write a report for its 20th Anniversary celebration, which means I’ve been learning a lot about how the organization got started. It’s really encouraging to be involved with not one but two organizations that came into being via the sheer willpower of concerned citizens. Encouraging enough to get me out of bed before 7 AM on a day I’m not working (the coffee and bagels at the Sleepy Monk Café help too.)

More information about the Haystack Rock Awareness Program can be found here:http://www.ci.cannon-beach.or.us/~Natural/HRAP/hrap-program.html

under: Natural Resources Policy Fellow, Rose Rimler
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Field Trip

Posted by: | July 23, 2014 | 1 Comment |

On a recent sunny day, not long after my fellowship began, I found myself waist-deep in a pit of pondwater by the side of the highway.  It was a good place to be. I was spending the day—three days, in fact—at the Miami wetlands restoration site, about fifteen minutes north of the city of Tillamook and just east of Highway 101. Over the past few years, TEP has been working to transform this site from an unused property riddled with ditches and dominated by invasive weeds to a lush wetland. We—me; Scott, TEP’s project manager; Tracy, an environmental consultant; and Katherine, a botanist working for The Nature Conservancy— were there to check up on the willows, elderberry, spruce, alder, cottonwood, twinberry, slough sedge, and other native species that TEP had planted the previous winter and several years before. Although the site is by no means free of invasives—reed canary grass, for example, swayed above my head at many of the sites we surveyed, even when I wasn’t sunk in a hole—TEP’s restoration work is giving native species a chance to take over and turn things around.

This isn’t part of my typical day as a Sea Grant Natural Resources Policy fellow at the Tillamook Estuaries Partnership in Garibaldi. Usually, I’m in the office, working on the update and revision of the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan. What does that look like exactly on a day-to-day basis? Well, that’s something I’m still figuring out. The original CCMP came out in 1999, so the first step is to gather as much existing information as I can about what has happened in the intervening 15 years. That means combing through TEP’s internal documents, talking to staff, and reaching out to the dozens of agencies that TEP partners with.

But it’s fun to get out of the office, and also really valuable to see some of the projects I’ll be writing about. Hopefully I was of some help—I don’t have the plant ID skills that Scott, Katherine, and Tracy have, so I assigned myself the role of pack mule, quadrat-assembler, and picture-taker.  I also made a pretty fantastic human flag pole, if I do say so myself.

Whatever help I was, I certainly learned a lot. I can now identify dozens of plants I would have only vaguely recognized before. I also learned that I have a wicked allergy to reed canary grass. Two tabs of Claritin later, my head cleared enough for me to think about the distinction between working in a ‘wetland’ rather than working in an ‘estuary.’ Despite the “E” in “TEP”, most of this organization’s habitat restoration projects take place on the banks of rivers, in marshes, and in wetlands. It’s not false advertising—those kinds of habitats are vital to the health of the estuary. Because of my experience working in mudflats, my understanding of estuaries before joining TEP was pretty literal: they are bodies of water where ocean water and freshwater meet and mix. But for those interested in protecting them, estuaries are inseparable from the rivers that feed into them and the marshy margins that surround them. Estuarine health is wetland health is riparian health is watershed health.

Or, anyway, that’s what I told myself as I was I scrambling out of that mucky, waist-deep hole. Thank goodness it’s there.

 

under: Natural Resources Policy Fellow, Rose Rimler
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