Connecting During COVID-19: Research and Communication

Much has changed since last fall! To echo many other recent posts, much of my recent life has been adjusting to the new normal. We are about two months into Oregon’s initial stay-at-home orders. All things considered, I am feeling lucky in my situation. With plans to defend this summer, I am nearing completion of my Master’s research on the adaptive capacity of small-scale fishermen in Baja, Mexico. I am lucky to be able to continue to analyze data and write from home without having to change my research plans.

I have been wondering about the effects of current events on science outreach and collaboration. Although my research wasn’t disrupted, I am bummed about missing out on some outreach opportunities in the spring and summer. Back in February, I presented a poster of my research at the Ocean Sciences Meeting in San Diego. I was also planning to present at the Marine Socio-Ecological Systems Conference in Japan this week, but it was cancelled. I know that many people’s experiences are similar to my own: cancelled conferences, talks, meetings. These missed opportunities can challenge us towards developing new ways of disseminating science remotely. I recently presented via Zoom at the People and Nature virtual seminar here at OSU, and I quickly realized that presenting over Zoom (as opposed to in person) is a new skill in itself! I would imagine that this remote lifestyle affects collaborations too. I observed an (in-person) Marine Protected Area Sizing and Spacing workshop back in March that showed me how valuable it can be to gather experts in the same room to discuss ideas. Running this type of workshop remotely would absolutely still be useful but calls upon a different strategies and skillsets. As I ponder these ideas, I am finding myself continually impressed by the quality and variety of webinars, games, and other online resources that already exist or are actively being created to communicate science. It is encouraging, and it has been interesting to think about outreach and collaboration in this way.

Next fall, I am excited to be continuing on for a PhD in the Geography program here at Oregon State University. Working with my current OSU and NOAA mentors, I will likely be continuing my research into the adaptive capacities of coastal communities by focusing here in the Pacific Northwest. Some questions I am interested in are: How can coastal communities adapt to changes in ocean conditions? and How does collective action of fishing communities result in cooperation or conflict in fisheries? When planning out what my PhD research will look like moving forward, I will consider what is feasible with in-person interview methods that I hope to use. As Brittany mentions in a previous post, studying people recently has become much more complicated.

For now, I’m grateful to be continuing on as planned with my Master’s research and looking forward to wrapping it up this summer. Until the next post, take care!


Hi everyone! My name is Keiko Nomura and I am currently a second-year Master’s student studying Marine Resource Management at Oregon State University. I am a Malouf Scholar this year, and my thesis research focuses on understanding the resilience of fisheries to environmental change. For my first blog post, I want to introduce myself, my path here, and a bit about my work.

I grew up in Southern California, where I was lucky enough to be able to take occasional day trips to the beach. This is definitely where my love for the ocean originated. However, I also remember noticing how people changed the natural environment around them: housing developments, pollution, even habitat restorations both intrigued and bothered me. I became profoundly curious about the interactions between people and their environment, particularly the ocean.

As an undergraduate, I pursued this curiosity by working in marine ecology and toxicology labs focused on anthropogenic impacts to coastal organisms. These early research experiences affirmed my passions for marine science. However, I started to become interested in more interdisciplinary, policy-relevant research questions. Around this time, I studied abroad in Costa Rica taking a class on ecotourism. This time spent abroad broadened both my personal and professional perspectives. I witnessed many impressive conservation and sustainability initiatives. But I also saw the jarring realities of current unsustainable practices – disturbed sea turtle populations, overflowing landfills, displaced fishermen. Each of these issues, and success stories, was more complex than I originally thought, and the important interrelatedness of social, ecological, and economic elements in overall sustainability became abundantly clear to me. I returned home with a newfound drive to seek out broader research perspectives and integrative solutions to marine issues.

Soon thereafter, I discovered the fields of marine spatial planning and policy through an NSF REU internship. I instantly became hooked. It was exactly what I was looking for, and my sights were set for pursuing this sort of work in graduate school. Before entering my current graduate program, I worked in several informal environmental education jobs. I learned to engage with people of all ages about ocean topics ranging from tidepool ecology and oyster restorations to marine protected areas and climate change. After working as an educator, I knew I somehow had to incorporate science outreach into my future research career.

All of this has led me to where I am today at the Marine Resource Management program.  My thesis work focuses on the resilience of fishing communities to environmental change. Global oceans are changing in unprecedented ways. People and society are going to need to respond accordingly to maintain human well-being and healthy ocean ecosystem services. Fishing is one such activity that can help bolster food security and local economies. But changing ocean conditions may alter the health and distributions of fish populations, resulting in fishery closures or delayed starts. Career fishermen and seafood processors in these circumstances therefore have to deal with less work and income. My project seeks to answer the question: When fishermen cannot catch what they normally catch, what do they do? Some options include increasing their fishing effort, fishing for a different species, or, in some cases, leaving fishing altogether. Throughout my time in my graduate program, I have worked on developing methods for assessing the resilience of small-scale fisheries in Baja, Mexico, by using fisheries logbooks and environmental data. I also will create an infographic to communicate these results. Moving forward, I will apply these methods to study the resilience of commercial fisheries along the U.S. West Coast, particularly in Oregon and Washington. I look forward to making progress with these projects and reporting back to share with you all!