A Race to the Finish!

Since last posting on this blog, I’ve conducted another 13 interviews! I’ve been transcribing these conversations as fast as possible and sorting commentary into a list of subheadings so that I can identify themes based on recurring opinions and experiences. This is helping me to recognize elements that make for successful engaged research projects and form recommendations based on areas that could use improvement. I only have two weeks left to finish collecting all of this information and write my final report for the Sea Grant Leadership Team, but it’s coming along well and I’m increasingly excited as I see the final results come together!

Today, I submitted a large format poster that I’ll be presenting at the Summer Scholars Final Symposium this Friday at Hatfield. It contains only my preliminary findings since I’m still making my way through the transcripts, but I’m looking forward to sharing my work and learning about my peers’ projects. (If you click on the image below, you should be able to zoom in and take a closer look on the linked Flickr page.) Look forward to a final blog post next week, in which I’ll talk about my findings and final reflections on engaged research! It’s been a fantastic summer.

Mid-Summer Progress Report

How have I found myself in the middle of week SIX, already? I’m into the double digits with my interviews and have a very full calendar for the next few weeks. My original aim was to have interviews wrapped up by the end of week seven, but I’ve got some scheduling spilling over that deadline. This is making it ever more important that I keep up with interview transcriptions and analysis along the way, since I’ll be presenting a poster at our final symposium in week nine! With a decent number of interviews behind me, now, I’ve begun to see recurring commentary on certain successful elements of engaged research, and have heard some suggestions for improvement echoed by a few people. It’s all starting to come together, although I need to spend this next week better organizing all of this data in a format that will feed into my final report.

I have to give a quick shout-out to Ruby Moon after tagging along to her Shop the Dock program in the past week. It was great to see a program in action, and watch the engagement between community members and local industry through this direct marketing exchange. What a great activity – there was a huge crowd that came out to learn about navigating the docks!

Dock ShopDock Shop I also spent a lot of time thinking about science communication and engagement over the weekend during our mid-summer check-in. Miriah Kelly led an excellent workshop, and I enjoyed round-table discussions that were had throughout the morning. We talked about a lot that day, but here are a few things I jotted down that are good to remember and incorporate into my thinking: (1) Your identity as a scientist is built up through everything you’ve ever communicated and the positions you’ve taken on other research and issues. (2) In communicating your message, recognize and account for the fact that the general public often has stereotyped ideas of who scientists are and what they do. (3) You will often take a role as an information gatherer, generator, provider, or translator in your scientific work, but equally important are your abilities to be a good manager, listener, director, networker, facilitator, behavior changer, and passion generator (love that last one). After the morning workshop, we also had a chance to visit the Newport Aquarium as a group. I realized that this was everything I’d been previously missing out on in my museum and aquarium explorations: when you go with a bunch of other marine scientists, you learn SO MUCH MORE. The information panels are never quite enough to satisfy my curiosities, but I was really happy to hear my co-scholars and mentors share their specific knowledge about the species we were seeing throughout the exhibits that day. We also ended the mid-summer check in well with a barbecue, camping, and incredible sunset at Beverly Beach, just up the coast. And, as you’ll notice in the picture below, only a bunch of marine scientists can be found staring at the ground in front of a such a beautiful sunset :) Speaking of such, does anyone have thoughts on what those pink, gooey clumps are that we found strewn across the sand (see photo below)? We were stumped. Anyhow, it was wonderful to spend time with the other summer scholars and hear about their interests and experiences in marine systems. Newport Aquarium Beverly Beach SunsetWhat are these?

Onward and upward! It should be a crazy but incredibly interesting week as interviews continue.

Weeks 4 & 5

Yikes – haven’t posted for the last week and a half, now! Things have been busy in the best way, though, and this week has seen an explosion of interviews after a long period of time spent emailing and scheduling. In the last two days, alone, I’ve had conversations with seven different people.

Speaking with research personnel has been interesting because I’ve identified a sort of spectrum pertaining to their interests in outreach and engagement. At one end lie the researchers whose work could be called “hard science” that isn’t motivated by public interests and for which outreach and engagement activities don’t come as naturally. On the other end lie researchers whose work is inherently driven by societal relevance and lends itself readily to outreach and engagement work. Talking to people along that spectrum has been interesting in that they have very different experiences to speak to.

In my interactions with people, there continues to be a lot of discussion about terminology. Last week, someone introduced me to the importance of collaboration versus cooperation in research planning processes with the “general public”. Additionally, someone else outlined the differences between outcomes and impacts, related to the products of engagement activity. And, of course, everyone keeps asking me what I mean when I introduce my project as an “engaged research evaluation” because of the breadth of that terminology. Some of this doesn’t come naturally to me in the way I speak with people, but those that have focused their energies on these subtleties and differences in their own work have helped me work through some of them and, in the end, try to make myself more clear when interacting with people across the board.

After a long week, I’m looking forward to our Summer Scholars Mid-Summer Check-In tomorrow in Newport! And then I think the rest of my weekend will be occupied playing transcription-catch-up seeing as we’re almost halfway through the summer–whoa!

Finally, a quick note on Oregon life outside of work in the last week: I had the opportunity to go surfing for the first time and had a great day out at Otter Rock! I also met with the low tide at the end of the day and got to check out some of the marine gardens at that site. I was especially excited to see my first chiton, I don’t know that I ever saw any of those on the central California coast, growing up. It was a great day and I’m looking forward to future opportunities to explore the coast. The biologist in me has been missing some of that, but I’m armed with an identification guide for next time!

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Getting Started

It’s Monday morning of Week 4, already! Last week was cut short by the three-day weekend that came with Independence Day, but it was productive nonetheless. On Thursday, I hooked a ride to Newport and spent the afternoon on my first interview, at a CV workshop, and attending the weekly seminar at HMSC. It was a great day, all around, and I was happy to see a few of the other scholars, again, and to be able to attend the afternoon talk from Laurie Weitkamp on salmon in the Pacific Northwest. Today, I’ll be spending some time listening to and transcribing portions of the conversation I had on Friday, and trying to figure out what I can do to improve my next interview. I’m waiting to hear back from a number of people I emailed at the end of last week, so my calendar should continue filling up!

NewportAlthough I’ve been over to Newport three times, already, it has always been for work and I haven’t seen much outside of HMSC. I finally got the chance to explore the coast a bit more this weekend when my family came up from California for Independence Day! We went up to the top of Mary’s Peak–the highest point of the Coast Range, at 4,097 feet–and then spent the afternoon just north of Newport, exploring the beach and some impressive geological features at Devil’s Punchbowl State Park. Agate Beach was incredible that evening, as well, with its dunes on the upper beach and the flats sloping off into infinity at low tide. One of my goals for the summer is to read two natural history books on the Oregon Coast; seeing more of the coast this weekend got me excited, and I’m hoping to find some good reads at the library this week. Mary's Peak Devil's Punchbowl State Park

Devil's Punchbowl State Park



Week two effectively started to push me outside my comfort zone. After a week of background reading to get myself acquainted with the history, organization, and workings of Sea Grant, I found it was time to jump into the task at hand. That is, I needed to start figuring out who to talk to this summer, what information I’m interested in, and how to effectively compile that data.

I say that this has pushed me outside of my comfort zone because my background and undergraduate training is in natural science from the academic perspective. The type of reading I’ve done is biological primary literature, and the type of work I’ve done is field monitoring and lab research. To plunge into the matter of collecting qualitative information through interviews and grapple with evaluating that data to produce an evaluative report is a totally new endeavor for me. I feel both excited and terrified (don’t worry, the terror is wearing off with each work day).

In my reading this week, I have found the literature on engaged scholarship and evaluation to be both interesting and helpful. Some of the conceptual flow charts and evaluation matrices I’ve come across are helping me build a framework for moving forward. Additionally, I had a long conversation with a friend of mine who has a background in anthropology, ethnography, and the collection of information through oral interviews. Her perspective, advice, and excitement was really helpful and gave me a big boost in confidence!

I’m feeling ready to sit down for some conversations! I’m excited about the opportunity I have to talk to a wide range of people this summer–researchers, extension agents, Sea Grant staff, OSU outreach and engagement personnel, and perhaps some community stakeholders. The experiences and perspectives people will share should be varied and fascinating. I’ve already sent out my first batch of emails and am prepared to fill up my calendar and hit the road (whether on foot across campus, or by car to the coast)! I’ve got one meeting set up so far, and lots to go.

Apologies for the lack of media this week–the inside of my office hasn’t changed much since the last post, but I’m sure I’ll have more beautiful things to share in due time. Stay tuned.

A Start to my Sea Grant Summer

One week deep and I already feel more than well-acquainted with all things Oregon Sea Grant! I’ll start by introducing myself to the blog, though. My name is Laura Gray and I graduated from Oberlin College this past January with a BA in Biology and minor in Geology. My academic interests are in estuarine and coastal ecology and conservation, and I have spent time with lots of invertebrates over the past few years (scallops, oysters, an echinoderm collection, clams, freshwater crayfish). After a substantial amount of experience in monitoring and research, however, I’ve been interested in branching out to address more applied aspects of science. I’m keen on learning more about the world of science communication, education, outreach, and engagement as I move forward — so here I am, back on the west coast and working with Oregon Sea Grant!

Oregon Sea Grant

I am an Summer Scholar and have been hired on to work under OSG Director Shelby Walker to help evaluate the effectiveness of the organization’s engaged research efforts. I’ll be spending the next couple of months sitting down for informational interviews, riding along to outreach and engagement activities, and having conversations with research and extension personnel in an effort to put together recommendations for improvement and a toolkit for better developing these programs. Unlike the other Summer Scholars, I’ll be based in Corvallis (where they even gave me a sweet office!) but will have the opportunity to travel around the state a bit. Sea Grant Office

I imagine a big part of this will involve visiting Newport, a beautiful town on the coast just west of Corvallis and home of the Hatfield Marine Science Center. I’ve already had the opportunity to visit twice in the past week, and was excited by a number of things. First of all, it was great to smell the ocean again as we drove in (I’ve been in Ohio for some time, now). This also afforded me my first look at the Oregon Coast, which was incredibly beautiful. And, most importantly, what I’ve seen of the HMSC Visitor Center so far has been fantastic.


We had a sort of meet-and-greet on Monday, where all of the Summer Scholars based in Newport got to meet their mentors and set up camp, while I got to take a brief tour of the facility and meet the Sea Grant staff who are based at HMSC. Newport seems like a neat place with a lot of recreation and commercial activity tied to coastal resources, and I was impressed by the complex of facilities around HMSC, including the EPA, ODFW, USFW, and NOAA. On Wednesday I got to return to Newport during a ride-along opportunity with personnel from the OSU Office of Extension Services as they planned their “Roads Scholars” bus tour and engagement excursion for the fall. This was a fantastic opportunity for an introduction to more extension personnel and to the types of conversations that this type of work involves. I also got to learn quite a bit about OSU programs throughout the day, including Open Campus, eCampus, and Juntos. In Newport, I got to check out the new Lincoln County Extension Office, and receive an excellent tour of the visitor center with Shawn Rowe during which we heard about the free-choice learning lab in more depth. For the latter half of the day, we drove up the (stunning!) coast to Tillamook and sat down for more Roads Scholars bus tour planning before finishing off the day at the Cheese Factory and Creamery — a sweet end to the day!

HMSC Visitor Center, Newport

Tillamook Cheese Factory / Creamery

Ultimately, my first week was filled with a LOT of new introductions – to people, to places, and to the functioning of Oregon Sea Grant. I spent most of the week reading background information, scribbling in my notebook, and taking names. I’m really excited about working here this summer, and am especially happy to have a great team of people helping me out: not only Shelby Walker, but also Dave Hansen (OSG Outreach and Engagement Leader) and Sarah Kolesar (OSG Research & Fellowship Program Leader) who have extended their help and their network of contacts to me.

I can’t wait to report on more developments in the next week as I get going! You can also follow my activity on Twitter @LauraD_Gray and through the #OSGscholars feed.

Until next time.