Working with the data you have

Amid the chaotic nature of this summer with COVID-19, protests, wildfires, and an upcoming election, I have managed to seamlessly transition into my second year as a Natural Resource Policy Fellow with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). Over the next year, I will continue to evaluate the impacts of marine reserves on coastal communities, communities of interest (e.g. commercial fishers), and ocean users (e.g. tourists).

Over the last year working on this mandate I have discovered that there are no perfect data sources to answer this question. Data often have errors associated with insufficient sampling in small communities, issues with changes in methodology, or are simply not available for the years or communities of interest. However, we can’t let these issues stop us. Therefore, we are gathering and analyzing relevant data from as many sources as possible while documenting the limitations of the data.

One source of data we have used are ODFW’s one- through seven-day fishing and shellfishing license sales. Implementing marine reserves closes off any extractive activities within that area. Therefore, we might expect that daily fishing and shellfishing license sales in communities located near marine reserves would decrease following reserve implementation. However, we also need to control for the historical trend in license sales on the coast. If license sales are decreasing in towns located near reserves, but also decreasing across the entire coast, then this reduction may be caused by something other than the reserves, such as a change in culture.

License sales are just one example of the data we are using to analyze marine reserve impacts. While we don’t always have perfect data to work with, using the best data available from multiple sources should be sufficient to understand if and how marine reserves have impacted communities.

Reflections of a remote intern

As the end of my internship encroaches I am feeling like I have accomplished my goals and completed my tasks. I learned a lot this summer and as I reflect on my last 8 weeks I am very happy with who I have met and worked with, and what I learned from them. I am also happy that I got to learn a little bit more about myself and how I might respond to a remote position in the future.

Our three dogs: Wolf the chocolate brown Pomeranian-Poodle, Kona the merle Pomeranian, and Einstein the white Pomeranian.

I was surprised about how productive I can be at home. There are so many distractions for me to get tangled up in like the pile of laundry in my closet, the dogs (we have 3!), or even the sudden urge to clean out my refrigerator but I was able to manage my needs and get my work done. Some days I was more productive than others and I definitely didn’t work a M-F, 9-5 either. I put in a full eight hours of work some days and other days I didn’t. I was lucky because although my organization operated on standard business hours, I could complete my tasks outside of the work day if I pleased.

Me on vacation last week in North Bend, WA visiting the Snoqualmie Falls on an early morning hike.

If I could start the summer over again before the internship, I would have dedicated a space for me to complete my work. This summer I worked on the back patio, the living room couch, my bed and even in the basement. Having a desk where I can keep my computer and notes would have been ideal to keep me focused for a longer period of time. I would also have planned my vacations after the internship because although my internship was remote, it was a little difficult to stay on the computer while everybody else is relaxing!

A future in Science Policy

Learning about science policy is one of the main reasons I applied to the Oregon Sea Grant Summer Scholars program. I am so happy that I was selected to work with the Oregon Coastal and Oceanic Information Network (OCOIN) because bringing science to policy makers and natural resource managers is what they do!

The OCOIN network is a series of partnerships and just to name a few, they work with Portland State, Oregon State, Oregon Coastal Management Program and a new partnership this summer with the PNW Consortium on Plastics. The network also has a large variety of politicians, natural resource managers and researchers.

Working with OCOIN has taught me two very important things. The first is that policy makers actually use published science to help inform policy and second, there isn’t enough (especially oceanic) research published and/or distributed to policy makers. OCOIN tries to make the research as accessible as possible to decision makers and other researchers. 

I have had the opportunity to attend agency meetings with the Institute of Natural Resources (INR), the Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) Ocean Management Program (OMP) and the Oregon Marine Reserves (ODFW). One of my main goals this summer was to learn about as many different careers in natural resource management as possible and with at least 8-10 people in agency meeting all specializing in different work, I think I achieved my goal!

Science Policy and the Organization of the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve

Before I get to the real substance of this blog post, try saying “South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve” five times fast… It takes some practice, so good luck!

Once you have mastered saying “South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve,” you can move on to the remainder of this post.

Okay, games aside… For this week’s blog, I have answered questions related to science policy that can be seen below in bold.

Now that you’ve been on the job for several weeks, how has your view of science policy changed (if at all)?

My views on science policy haven’t really changed, though working for a state-run organization has given me a better understanding of the resources available to organizations like the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve (SSNERR). I’ve also heard more about what it takes to get additional funds through grants for various projects (and it doesn’t seem easy).

Do you have a better understanding of how policy organizations work?

One of my goals for this summer is to have an in-depth understanding of how the SSNERR is run. As of now, I have not had time to learn more about how it works on a macro-level, but I have definitely developed a better understanding of how the SSNERR team works on a micro/local level. I have had the opportunity to work with both the science and education teams this summer; as a result, I feel I have a solid understanding of how similar programs may be organized. I also have a better understanding of what positions are necessary to run a state-guided science organization.

Have you had a chance to attend any agency-level meetings?

I meet frequently with the education team, but have not yet attended an all-staff meeting or meeting of higher status. I will be attending the next all-staff meeting in order to learn about how the meetings and agenda-setting work, though my role at the South Slough (given my limited time) has not made it imperative for me to attend such meetings. I believe I will get to attend a National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) meeting this summer as well, which will help me understand the larger system as a whole. 

Does your agency have ties to other states, and/or to national-level organizations?  

The South Slough was the first location designated as a National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) and is affiliated with the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS). This system functions under NOAA. As seen on NOAA’s website, “The National Estuarine Research Reserve System is a network of 29 coastal sites designated to protect and study estuarine systems. Established through the Coastal Zone Management Act, the reserves represent a partnership program between NOAA and the coastal states. NOAA provides funding and national guidance, and each site is managed on a daily basis by a lead state agency or university with input from local partners.”

Logo for South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve
Our logo at the South Slough!

A Day in the Life of Angela

Succulent planter globe hanging in a window.
Succulent globe I received as a graduation present hanging in my window with my other plants.

Remind us what your project is:

This summer I am working for the Oregon Coastal Ocean Information Network (OCOIN) on outreach projects.

What have you been doing in your first few weeks on the job?

Lately we have been working a lot on the newsletter, annual meeting, and technical updates.

Describe your daily routine in the time of COVID-19 remote (or in person) work:

I usually start my day with a meeting either with OCOIN staff or a another agency. I then break for lunch then work the rest of the afternoon on my projects.

Do you work 8 hours straight?

I definitely try not to work 8 hours straight! I sometimes have to take a mid-day night just to give my eyes a break.

Do you multitask?

I like to listen to a podcast while I work. Some of my favorites are Crime Junkie, This Land, OPB (all things considered section).

Do you have “coffee” with colleagues/co-workers/other interns?

Yes! OCOIN has three interns this summer so meet every Friday morning and talk about our favorite books, our pets, our OCOIN projects and anything else that pops up. We don’t usually set an agenda which is nice because we just talk about what is happening in our lives. The Friday morning meetings help facilitate some of the interactions I would have hoped to have working with a team in the office.

How often do you check in with your supervisor?

I check in with my supervisors at least twice a week. The nice thing about the OCOIN committee is that there area several of them to ask for help or get guidance/advice from!

How often are team meetings?

We have at least one team meeting a week but as we get closer to the annual meeting we will probably have more.

How do you stay motivated (exercise breaks, phone calls with friends, walking meetings…)?

OCOIN uses a platform that organizes all the team members and their tasks which is ironically called Teamwork. This platform is very useful for staying motivated because it provides you with progress reports and details about your tasks at hand. I also take breaks and tend to my plants, I have attached one of my creations but there are many more!

What is one downside or your COVID-19 work routine?

I think the one downside to the COVID work routine is that the screen time is making me very tired when I log off for the day and I don’t stay up as late to do the personal things I want.

What is one upside of your COVID-19 work routine?

Because my project is remote I have enjoyed making my own schedule so that I can take care of things for myself and still get a days work in. I think most work a modified schedule right now which is super cool because you could email someone at 10 pm and they might get back to you right away!

Update on Current Research and Reflections on the 2020 Census

While I had hoped that this summer would be full of trips to sunny, salty, sea lion filled Newport to mentor ODFW’s Summer Scholars, unfortunately everyone is still working remotely. Though I have heard from my Newport-based coworkers that this pandemic is not stopping the hordes of tourists from flocking to the coast for celebrations such as the recent 4th of July.

One of the main projects that I’ve been working on this summer while stuck in Bend (there are worse places to be stuck!) is understanding if marine reserves have influenced socioeconomic conditions in communities located near them. To investigate this, I first had to gather information on the socioeconomic conditions of coastal communities over time. I used the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey 5-year estimates from 2010 to 2018. While accessing data prior to 2010 would be ideal, the first 5-year estimate summary tables were only released in 2010, so we work with what we got.

After collecting all of these data, the exploratory analyses began, as did the true test of what I can remember from those statistics courses long ago and how far my R coding skills can take me. These exploratory analyses include tests and visualizations such as correlation plots, non-metric multidimensional scaling plots, bubble plots, vector analyses, principal component analyses, PERMANOVAs, the list goes on. When working with complicated multivariate data, I have learned that exploration is key to understanding what is really shaping your data.

I have also been trying to figure out what my control and treatment communities should be. With this first approach, I am considering treatment communities as those that are located <15km from a marine reserve. Control communities are therefore all coastal communities located >15km from a marine reserve. Since the marine reserves were phased in over time, I have three separate treatment groups. The 2012 group includes communities located near Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve and Otter Rock Marine Reserve, the 2014 group near Cape Perpetua Marine Reserve and Cascade Head Marine Reserve, and the 2016 group near Cape Falcon Marine Reserve. While this approach is a good first step, I will likely need to consider if other groupings or controls would be more appropriate. One method I am currently researching is creating a synthetic control by weighting non-treatment communities based on socioeconomic similarities to treatment communities prior to marine reserve implementation. But I won’t get too into the weeds with that statistical discussion here for everyone’s sake!

As I’ve been working with these census data, I’ve been thinking about the unfortunate timing of the decennial census this year. The Census Bureau conducts a survey every ten years with the goal to obtain a comprehensive snapshot of households in the United States. Unfortunately, the census this year coincided with a massive pandemic leading to significant economic loss and unemployment and the consequences that follow that loss. When future researchers use the decennial census to look at change over time, they are going to see data from 2020 that is not representative of the previous ten years, which will likely impact their analyses. I’m assuming that this data issue will lead to many footnotes in future papers. Luckily I will only be using data through 2019 (once it is made available) since the 2020 data will not be made available until after the marine reserve synthesis report is due.

Planning an Annual Webinar with OCOIN

I am one of the three selected interns to work for the Oregon Coastal Ocean Information Network (OCOIN) this summer. I am very excited to get some experience managing large project and its moving parts. OCOIN hosts an annual meeting to bring together partner agenicies, researchers and decision makers. My main tasks this summer will be to assist the OCOIN planning committee in completing and managing tasks related to planning an online conference.

I hope to be a very vital team player this summer. Planning the annual meeting takes a considerable amount of time and collaboration and I hope to help by taking on some of the tasks that committee members would usually have completed.

I think providing the most successful annual meeting possible is one of the best ways to achieve OCOIN’s and the Oregon Sea Grant’s vision and mission statements. OCOIN was created to bring scientists, decision makers, and partners together for the objective of effective coastal management and conservation which compliments the goals of the Oregon Sea Grant very nicely!

Oregon marine reserves evaluation – what about the people?

These past three months I have been serving as the Natural Resource Policy Fellow (NRPF) with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (ODFW) Marine Reserve Program. My position is focused on understanding the effects marine reserves may be having on coastal communities and visitors.

First, a little background on the marine reserves. Oregon’s five marine reserves were phased in from 2012 to 2016 and they currently make up 9% of the territorial sea. The territorial sea just means Oregon’s state waters, which are less than three nautical miles from the shore. There are no extractive activities or development allowed in the marine reserves. However, each marine reserve has adjacent Marine Protected Areas where some extractive activities are allowed. These marine reserves can be thought of as being in a trial phase. The Marine Reserves Program, including the management, scientific monitoring, outreach, community engagement, compliance, enforcement, and funding for the marine reserves, is up for evaluation beginning in the year 2022. The Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) will choose an Oregon public university to prepare a report on the Marine Reserves Program for the Oregon Legislative Assembly.

One of the primary marine reserve goals was to “avoid significant adverse social and economic impacts on ocean users and coastal communities”. This goal was set in 2008 in the Oregon Marine Reserve Policy Recommendations document developed by the Oregon Ocean Policy Advisory Council (OPAC). This is where my position as an NRPF comes in. To determine if there have been any marine reserve impacts, we must compare socioeconomic data prior to marine reserve implementation and after marine reserve implementation. There are many different approaches we are using to achieve this goal both in house and with academic and professional collaborators. For example, we are comparing changes in socioeconomic indicators (e.g. per capita income) in communities near and far the reserves using census data. We are also looking at the potential economic loss to fishers with benthic species mapping, fish ticket data, and logbooks. We are also assessing whether there are any changes to visitor use at the shoreline adjacent to marine reserves with visitor surveys and observation counts. These are just a few of the many examples I could provide.

During this brief time that I have been a NRPF, I have already learned a great deal. I was even tasked with writing a literature review on stakeholder engagement and creating literature-based definitions for the terms stakeholder engagement (in general), informal stakeholder engagement, formal stakeholder engagement, stakeholder, and outreach. This literature review will be used to help evaluate the communications side of the Marine Reserves Program. I am looking forward to continuing to grow in this position while contributing to a project that I consider an important tool for natural resource management. Now, I will leave you with a picture of my dog (Moose – she’s from Alaska, hence the name) enjoying Newport’s South Beach.

Moose the golden retriever at South Beach, Newport

Video Time and Final Symposium

Early August I had to start working on my film that would be put on the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve YouTube channel. I had 2 video ideas that I wanted to to make so I spent some time with Shon Schooler documenting the SSNERR Green Grab and Ian Rogers eDNA project. When documenting the Green Crab project I filmed the team setting traps, collect traps, and marking green crab data entries. I also conducted 2 interviews Shon Schooler and Green crab expert Sylvia B. Yamada who wrote the book “Global Invader: The European Green Crab”. It was truly a fun experience! Later on I shot eDNA project with Ian Rodger collecting samples, discussing protocols, and doing an interview. Both of these topics were really interesting to shadow and film really giving me an true view of the SSNERR projects here.

Ian Rodgers

Fast forward on August 16, 2019 we had our final symposium where each fellow discussed what and how project was for this entire summer. It was really amazing to see all the hard work that each fellow did over the summer and how happy they seem to have learned from their mentors. It is a very bittersweet ending to this fellowship! I hope everyone had a wonderful time and hopefully will be able to see each other in the future… an OSG Alumni Meetup *cough-cough*

Mid-Summer Check In #tacos

Over this last week we had our Mid-Summer check-in! On the first day all the Oregon Sea Grant (OSG) Scholars gather to the Beverly Beach Yurt in Newport to have our picnic. It was really great catching up with everyone since we hadn’t seen each other together over the last six weeks.

Our next day we had our professional development workshop where we learned about the different dynamics of “hard power” at work and how to understand/develop “soft power” during our program and in the future!  And later on that day the OSG scholars and I went to one of the beaches around Newport and had a campfire and watch the sun go down.

Then finally we spent 3 days camping at the Rujada Campground in Dorena, Oregon where we had many burgers, Reese-Oreos Smores, and great laughs! This Mid-Summer check-in was simply amazing!

PS

Whoever many the sour pickles at the OSG Picnic is 10/10 and can you please give send me the recipe!