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It’s 6 am. We’ve just arrived at Cascade Head, which is one hour north of Newport. This is when the intertidal of this ODFW marine reserve is exposed to the marine mist. With sleep deprived eyes I witness one of the reasons why the reserves are in place–to preserve and study the rich biodiversity of the Oregon coast.

I have so many memories I would like to share with you. I feel lucky. It’s only been three weeks since I arrived at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, OR, but they have been filled with rich moments. Most of these I have shared with my fellow scholars in Newport (Taylor, Dani, Abby, and for just last week Alexa) immersed in the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. But I have also spent a significant portion of my time digging deeper into the psyche of those that call the Oregon coast home.

As described in my last blog post, I am working in the Human Dimensions Project of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) Marine Reserves Program. This means that I am learning how to conduct research and think like a social scientist about environmental policies. For the past two weeks I have been hard at work coding nearly 800 open-ended responses to a comprehensive subjective well-being study conducted in part by my mentor Tommy Swearingen. This systemic survey captures how people think, their moral frameworks, their sense of place, personal and community resilience, and what people believe contributes most to their well-being, among other things. The robust data set also reveals how coastal residents respond to hypothetical changes to the community–such as an expansion or contraction of the marine reserves. The possibility of change prompted many respondents to voice their opinions.

The result was hundreds of insightful explanations into what constitutes a good quality of life overall. I had the privilege of looking at the world through the lens of people with disparate opinions than my own, and was surprised on more than one occasion by the complexity of their worldviews. For the most part, people get that balancing economic needs with the environment is a difficult trade-off to maneuver. Many of the towns up and down the coast rely on the commercial industries of fishing and logging to survive. People think on the scale of the individual to the community; often, when faced with these changes, they worry about their neighbors who work in these industries and might lose their jobs because of regulations. They fear the loss of their culture, their way of life. Some responded to the survey in all caps, telling the government to back off. History has disappointed them, and they prefer autonomy over future mistakes. People on the other side of the coin also fear. They are worried that we will further degrade our public lands, that their grandchildren won’t have access to a high quality environment. Most everyone is concerned about personal or community financial security. In this inflammatory age of politics, we often categorize people by the political party they stand behind, of which there are only a handful. What I realized when coding this response is that what is more important than ideology are the values that motivate it.  If we seek to understand each other on this level, we might start to feel for one another again.

I’m in the process of developing a technical backbone for social science coding though this work. But inadvertently, the empathy I hold for my fellow human beings is expanding the more I listen.

Firefighter training high above the rocky intertidal of the Cape Falcon marine reserve.

This is not the only work that I am poised to do during my summer scholar experience. In fact, it is secondary to my role as an interviewer of local fishers. However, as many projects go, our timeline did not proceed according to plan. Because this type of work has ethical considerations for human subjects, such as confidentiality, every detail of my involvement had to be cleared with OSU’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) within the Office of Research Integrity. I was left hanging, feeling like the firefighter to the right for a short period of time before knowing what might impact my involvement in this work. At the present moment, most worries have been smoothed over, and we are proceeding onward with the project. So fingers crossed that next time you read my post in a couple of weeks I will be speaking of an entirely new and exciting adventure!

Since my work revolves around the marine reserves, I have also made an attempt to see what they are about with my own eyes. Even if this required waking up at extreme hours to see the intertidal. My fellow summer scholar in the ODFW annex, Taylor Ely, has already woken up around 4 am to complete her work in the field, and will likely have many more mornings like this. But as far as I have seen, the reserves are worth it.

My first encounter with one of the reserves was Otter Rock. It is the smallest reserve and is situated just outside of Newport. Once the sun broke over the cliffs, rays of light were punctuated by fantastic rock formations. At low tide anemones dripped from the rocks reaching toward the water, and we could walk right into Devil’s punchbowl–which is a churning mass of water when the tide rushes in.

Sun breaking over the cliff at Otter Rock

Otter Rock in the distance behind a wall of dripping anemones.

Cascade Head was equally as impressive. Biodiversity filled each and every cranny, and at one point while helping the ecological team survey starfishes, we found over 170 sea stars (predominantly Pisaster ochraceus, but also the six-legged sea star Leptasterias) in a single transect! That was within an area no larger than a typical living room.

Me at center within the rocky intertidal of Cascade Head. At points we were down on our stomachs face first in invertebrates such as starfishes, anemones, and the occasional nudibranch.

The rocks at Cascade Head. Though we were conducting survey work with ODFW, we were not the only people exploring the rocks at daybreak. Recreation is an important past-time for people living on or visiting the coast–both for enjoyment and as a key part of the modern economy.

The little Leptasterias starfish that I found. It was the first and only one of the day!

Though I still have Redfish Rocks and Cape Falcon on my bucket list to visit, I have most recently explored Cape Perpetua–and from an entirely different view. Instead of viewing nature through a macro lens, up close and personal, I took a step back. Within the easily accessible old growth forest there are a multitude of trails. We took one that led to a 550 year old Sitka spruce, and another that gave us a sweeping view of the shoreline. It was worth the effort of climbing 800 feet above sea level to see the land (and even a resident gray whale). Cape Perpetua is also where you can watch the spouting horn and Thor’s well, which in action convinces the viewer that the ocean is breathing. With each ocean swell the divot in the volcanic rocks fills with water only to expel it in a massive exhale. Breathing in, the water recedes from Thor’s well, exposing thousands of mussels which cling to the water’s edge. And this repeats, indefinitely.

The land and the ocean are violently alive. And the people–they are right here to endure it all.

700 feet above sea level and counting. Cape Perputua down below.

Thor’s well on a mild day.

under: Madison Rose Bristol, Summer Scholars
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This weekend I got to drive down the same winding road that opened my horizon to the Pacific Ocean for the first time. This time, on my way back from an adventure to Portland, the coast felt more familiar. It was a place comprised of new memories and a coast that I now knew harbored an abundance of natural resources. One of these resources is the rockfish, a genus of fishes highly sought after for being both a delectable piece of seafood and hefty game fish. Rockfish, by the nature of how they reproduce– not mating until 20 years of age and producing very few offspring– are prone to overfishing. Understanding and assessing their population statuses are essential for conserving this ecologically vital species and managing its associated economically important fishery.

Studying their populations is easier said than done. Because many of the rockfish on the Oregon coast live in deep reefs and rocky habitats, the traditional benthic species stock assessment method of trawling cannot utilized; it would destroy both the habitats and the equipment. As a result, ODFW has been faced with the challenge of coming up with a new way to conduct stock assessments of Oregon rockfish. Instead of sending nets below, ODFW has suggested dropping cameras, known as benthic landers, instead. Benthic landers consist of two standard handheld video cameras sealed in a waterproof housing attached to a large metal frame. The landers are secured to a long piece of line and deployed over the side of a boat until they hit bottom. Once at the seafloor, the cameras record the surroundings for 15-20 minutes, and, fast forward a few steps, the footage eventually ends up on a computer server for ODFW scientists and interns, like me, to review.

A yelloweye rockfish, Sebastes ruberrimus, captured by a benthic lander

An average day in the office consists of me reviewing lander footage and identifying the species of rockfish, as well as any other benthic fish, that pass in front of the cameras. At the end of a video review, I go back and mark the frame in which I saw the most of each species; this is called the MaxN frame. The MaxN data is what I will be analyzing statistically in the future, specifically in regards to comparing daytime lander footage to nighttime lander footage. The implications of my research is to show empirically whether time of day affects surveying and answer questions in regards to when lander deployments should be done. The ODFW marine resources research team’s long-term goal is for landers be used as a surveying tool across the entire Oregon coast and provide accurate fisheries-independent data for rockfish stock assessments. Before then, many practicality and methodological questions must be answered. My research works to answer one of those questions–maybe more in the coming weeks– and help develop a safe, cost-effective means of assessing rockfish populations in Oregon and beyond.

under: Daniella Hanelin, Daniella Hanelin

Trees of Coastal Oregon

Posted by: | July 8, 2018 | 6 Comments |

One of my favorite things about being a Sea Grant Scholar is having the opportunity to spend time outside getting familiar with the native wildlife. The Pacific Northwest is well known for its plentiful coniferous trees that stay green all year long. When I first got to this part of Oregon, I assumed all the trees were just one same dominant species. Little did I know that although there are a few different species of trees that make up the coast, there are three main conifers that can be easily distinguished from each other.

They are the firs, pines and spruces. The main fir in the area is the Douglas Fir. This can be identified by its softer needles that stick out in all directions from the branch. Its cones have three pointed bracts pointing out, which resemble a mouse tail and two feet from a myth. The pine here is the Shore Pine. It has dark green pokey needles that come in pairs, and even its cones have spikes on it. Finally, the spruce in this area is the Sitka Spruce. Spruces are mostly known as being Christmas trees, but the Sitka Spruce is a little different. It has very sharp points and the bark is layered and scaly looking. The cones are very papery.

Although they all look similar to the untrained eye, once you know the distinguishing differences between these common conifers, you can identify them anywhere. It’s so fun to hike around the area and identify the local trees, plants, birds and other animals. I’m excited to expand my knowledge as the summer continues!

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My experience at NOAA Fisheries has been extremely educational thus far and I continue to learn new insights about the work daily. NOAA Fisheries is a very large organization and could not accomplish the daunting work that is needed without its regional branch offices. We work within the West Coast Region which covers Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and California. Within our office we have four divisions: The Office of Law Enforcement, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Protected Resources Division, and the Operations and Personnel Management. My position is nestled within the Sustainable Fisheries Division (SFD) which is largely responsible for the sustaining of salmon fisheries in the Colombia River. The SFD handles National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) permitting when NOAA Fisheries wants to take an action such as making a fisheries management change, funding a hatchery project, or allowing special harvest of threatened species.
I would argue that salmon are essential to most life on the west coast. They serve an important role in connecting the food webs between our oceans and land as well as cycling important nutrients into forests. Most salmonids are anadromous meaning that they live part of their life in fresh water and part of their life in salt water. A fish that spends the majority of the life history in salt water falls into NOAA Fisheries jurisdiction. Because many populations of salmonids are threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, NOAA Fisheries has an obligation to work to get those populations delisted. Using hatchery programs for decades has allowed fisheries (a term used to describe an area where fish harvest is happening) to continue without driving native populations to extinction.
My project has focused on how to incorporate literature on climate change into the analysis of NEPA documents. Most of us are well aware of the risks being faced by increasing temperatures, rising sea levels, and more severe weather that is a result of climate change. These risks will continue to cause problems into the future and organizations like NOAA Fisheries must consider this when making management decisions for protecting fisheries. I hope that through my work NOAA Fisheries will be better equipped with the tools needed to make sound decisions into the future.

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Hello Everyone!!! My name is Fatima Molina and I am from the beautiful city of Flagstaff, Arizona. I am beyond excited to be a part of the 2018 Oregon Sea Grant Summer Scholars cohort this summer and for all of the experiences that are bound to happen! I have never been to the state of Oregon before, but as soon as I step off the airplane in Portland I fell in love. I was used to having the San Francisco Peaks and ponderosa pine trees in my backyard growing up in Flagstaff, but during my time at the University of Arizona in Tucson I was surrounded by the hot desert filled with spiky cacti and poisonous animals (although Tucson did have some stellar sunsets).

This summer I am stationed on the Oregon State University (OSU) campus, where I am helping OSU faculty develop a Native American College Readiness Program for students from the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, as well as, for other Native American tribes around the country. Part of my role is to investigate similar programs established at other post-secondary institutions and to build a correspondence between their administrators and OSU faculty. I will also be working with OSU faculty to develop an IRB-approved survey and protocol for interviewing focus groups to identity barriers to high school graduation and college enrollment. I am super excited to be helping OSU develop this important program to reach out to Native American communities around the country and to further increase diversity and inclusion on the OSU campus. As a Native American myself, it is always fantastic to witness higher education institutions take the initiative to recognize, form communication bridges, and help Native American students receive their Bachelor, Master, and Ph.D. degrees. I am also excited to learn more about the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians in the Pacific Northwest and the history of their tribes. There is a Pow Wow in early August that I would love to attend and if anyone is interested in joining me that would be great! Just let me know!

In the meantime, I will definitely be taking advantage of the local opportunities here on campus, in Corvallis, and throughout Oregon. This past weekend I visited a superb bookstore in downtown Corvallis and walked along a chill bridge across the river. I am not exactly tech savvy so I failed at uploading photos with this blog, but I will try to figure it all out by the next one! Thanks for taking the time to read about me and my project! :D

under: sea_mol, Summer Scholars
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So much to do.

Posted by: | June 25, 2018 | 3 Comments |

I am blessed to be an Oregon Sea Grant Summer Scholar. This summer I’ll be learning about the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and how it applies to Salmon and Steelhead hatcheries. Using what I learn I will develop educational programs to help better understand the beneficial and detrimental effects of hatcheries.

This summer I’ll be living in one of Portland State University residential hall. It is located near a bus route where I can hop on and start exploring the different parts of Portland. So far this weekend, I was able to explore the North and East parts. There are many more parts of Portland I haven’t explored. I still want to see and explore the rest of Portland and Oregon before the end of my summer here. Another thing I love about Portland is the variety of food places and food cart. Some blocks are filled with food carts. The food was amazing. I can’t wait to try them all.

In addition, every Saturday there is a huge farmers market right by campus. They sell a lot of local produce, from fruits, pastries, flowers and many more. It is never dull in Portland. There are events all over town.

I love to get lost and wander around Portland. There are so much things to see. I look forward to trying more food and learning more about the endangered species act.

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Almost any avid golfer knows that Bandon Dunes is regarded as the “Mecca of American Golf”. With its miles of beautiful rolling green hills overlooking the ocean, it’s easy to understand why. Many celebrities, pro athletes, and golf enthusiasts like to escape to the resort for a few days, and some even refer to it as “man camp”. But what many don’t realize is that there so much more to Bandon Dunes than golf.

Mike Keiser, the owner of the resort, saw the needs of the community and the positive impact clean tourism has on the area. He founded the Wild Rivers Coast Alliance (WRCA) to fund triple-bottom-line projects in the community. The net proceeds made from the Bandon Preserves course goes towards the WRCA, which then goes into grants for other organizations serving the Sothern Oregon coast. Even the course itself emphasizes the beauty of the area, featuring the endangered and protected plant species silvery phacelia. Some organizations that had projects funded by the WRCA this past year include the Oregon Coast Visitors Association, Beaver Slough Drainage District and community members in fighting against the invasive species gorse. The WRCA and the Bandon Dunes Resort are prime examples of tourism as it should be; providing visitors with an experience of a lifetime while highlighting features of the area and putting profits back into the community and environment.

As an Oregon Sea Grant Summer Scholar, I am working with OSU extension and WRCA to develop curriculum for training guides and outfitters on the Oregon coast. I’ve loved getting to explore Bandon and learn about everything the tourism at the resort has done to help the community. It’s been an amazing experience so far learning about the impact tourism can have on communities, and I look forward to learning much more as the summer continues.

under: Sophia Troeh
Mission:  To inherit the knowledge of every place and people I call home. 


There’s a first for everything. First job, first road trip, first time meeting the people you now cherish. Being a Summer Scholar promises to be full of firsts: this will be the longest that I have been away from home (Seattle, WA), is my first time doing human dimensions research, is my initiation into the world of working for the government and policy-related work, and is my first internship. I am incredibly grateful that the Oregon Sea Grant in association with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife trusted me to do this work and brought me to where I am today.

Also, thank you mom, dad, loved ones, and my extended family at the University of Washington for all you have poured into me.

Me on Nye Beach at sunset

Image result for marine reserves odfw

For the next ten weeks I will be working with the ODFW’s Marine Reserves Program on the Human Dimensions Research Project. This type of work is fascinating, but ultimately I selected this project because of who would become my mentors.  Tommy Swearingen is the project leader and is a one man show of expertise, initiative, and charisma. He oversees at least 15 different studies that assess the socioeconomic impacts of marine reserve implementation. He has had a Summer Scholar under his wing every year since he was brought onto the team. Being a mentor to him means more than just supplying interns with work–he wants to understand where they come from, and how he can best help them become fully immersed in the work and contribute to their future goals. He is a researcher, but also a teacher. In only the first week under his tutelage, I have gained a comprehensive understanding of the history of Oregon’s coastal communities and of the scope of the Human Dimensions Research Project.

Fishing vessel at dusk approaching the Yaquina Bay Bridge

To ensure the marine reserves are not adversely affecting coastal residents, Tommy and his associates have collected socioeconomic data on the scale of communities to individuals. Seeing as the reserves only make up 3% of Oregon’s coastal area, these effects are difficult to disentangle from larger trends. This is where studies on the individual level–specifically of well-being, world view, and feelings–become crucial. For this, you need an anthropologist.

Specifically, you need Elizabeth Marino. Beth is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at OSU-Cascades, and every now and then she will be driving down from Bend, OR to conduct interviews on fishers and to mentor me. I am inspired by her outlook, knowledge, empathy, and dedication to her work. Just to give you an idea of her background, Beth is the author of Fierce Climate, Sacred Ground: An Ethnography of Climate Change in Shishmaref, Alaska. This documents her decade-long research on some of the first climate refugees, the Iñupiaq people, who are running out of time while their home is engulfed by the sea. Needless to say, her work has real-world consequences.

I am humbled to be working under these incredible researchers and people. By the week’s end, I now know where I fit into the Human Dimensions Research Project:

  • First and foremost, I will be conducting interviews of fishers on their knowledge of the local ocean–which can span back five generations–and on how marine reserves might be affecting their livelihoods. Giving them a voice just might reveal effects that quantitative data fails to do alone.
  • Secondly, I am already in the process of coding (aka categorizing) open-ended responses of a well-being survey of coastal residents. This converts qualitative responses to quantitative data, which could reveal how geography, community culture, and economic well-being all correspond to people’s feelings. It also speaks to what people value and how much they are willing to give up for these values.
  • Lastly, I will be trained on how to maintain an ongoing database of the economic status of coastal communities.

I am beyond excited to see where this work takes me.

Other snapshots from my first week in Newport, OR, my home for this summer:

(Almost) every OSG Summer Scholar working at the Hatfield Marine Science Center. From left to right: Me, Abby Ernest-Beck (EPA), Dani Hanelin (ODFW), and Taylor Ely (ODFW-Marine Reserves). Not pictured + photocreds: Anna Bolm (USDA).

The expanse of Nye Beach, the first beach I visited upon arriving in Newport, looking at Yaquina Head.

A lush beach-side cliff of salal. Coming from a background in both terrestrial and marine science, I am seeing from daily excursions how the ecology of coastal Oregon is not very different from that of western Washington. It feels like home–except with massive beaches of soft sand.

Some of my new friends on the Sea Lion Docks in South Beach.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse, which we visited the very next day.

Silhouette at sunset. Each day is full here.



under: Madison Rose Bristol
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As I drove down a winding road in the mountains of western Oregon, I saw it for the first time: the Pacific Ocean. From afar, it looked much like the Atlantic, but the closer I got, the more I could see the new adventures each wave was carrying ashore for me. This summer marks my first time on the west coast, and I know for sure it won’t be my last. I grew up around Boston and have always been attracted to the ocean, but the older I’ve become, the more I’ve been drawn to the natural beauty and marine life of the Pacific Northwest. I aspire, upon completing my undergraduate degree, to bring my knowledge and passion of marine conservation to this region and make it my new home.

My first sunset over the Pacific Ocean

I’ve only been in Newport for a few days, but I’ve already had the opportunity to go to the beach, watch several beautiful sunsets, bike along the coast, and camp in a state park. I arrived a week later than the rest of the scholars due to the finishing of my SEA Semester, a program in which I spent 35 days sailing a tall ship 2,500 nautical miles through the Sargasso Sea and North Atlantic and studying Sargassum phylogenetic diversity and distribution. That means I’m not only adjusting to a new home and a new coast, but I’m also re-adjusting to life on land. While I may have the opportunity this summer to work at sea, the majority of my internship will take place on shore with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). For this job, I will be working with the ODFW fisheries research team to study the efficiency of remote underwater vehicles, also known as stereo-video landers, in developing fisheries-independent surveys of demersal fish populations in Oregon. I will be conducting video reviews of previously recorded stereo-video lander footage to study (1) whether species composition varies between day and night and (2) whether measuring rockfish abundance differs between the maximum number index or the mean maximum number index. In other words, I will be helping evaluate two parameters, time of day and index of measurement, that could potentially alter the results of fisheries stock assessments. Understanding the dynamics of these parameters will help develop more accurate fisheries-independent data for stock assessments.

Throughout my undergraduate career in marine science, I’ve have grown increasingly more interested in fisheries conservation and management. Last summer I interned at the NOAA Southeast Fisheries Science Center, and throughout the past year in the classroom I have learned a lot about fisheries management and economics. I’m excited this summer to experience a different type of workplace, as much of my previous work has been field-based, and to work hands-on in fisheries management. Tomorrow marks my first day in the office. Just as the Pacific Ocean became more scintillating the closer I got, this opportunity with ODFW gets more exciting as the minutes go by. I cannot wait to learn more about the project I get to assist, the marine life that thrives off the Oregon coast, and the ways fisheries science plays a role in marine conservation.

under: Daniella Hanelin, Daniella Hanelin

SSNERR: An Easy Sell

Posted by: | June 24, 2018 | 2 Comments |

A few years ago, the EMU (common building) at the UO was a complete mess. The halls were impossible to navigate and the space was making it harder for student life to flourish, so our government liaison decided to ask for government funding to build a new one. In addition to writing the proposal and going through all of the necessary steps, she held a meeting with the representatives in the EMU. She gave them only the room number, and every one of them turned up late to the meeting after frantically searching halls that more closely resembled mazes. When they finally made it to the meeting, they were greeted by our liaison and a presentation explaining the benefits of upgrading the EMU, which the officials had just experienced first-hand. Her plan worked, and today myself and thousands of other students happily attend events, lectures, and career fairs in a beautiful building that fosters student participation and interaction.

I’ll never forget when I heard that story, because it completely redefined the words “effective communication” for me. Effective communication isn’t just breaking down complicated terms and concepts so that people can understand them, but actually bringing people to the problem and getting them to connect with it. Knowing they would have meetings there in the future, and seeing what campus members were going through, those representatives had a personal stake in the improvement and maintenance of that building, and I hope to have that same impact at the South Slough National Estuarine Reserve (SSNERR) over the next ten weeks.

By connecting people with the SSNERR and the wonderful ecosystem that it protects, I hope to make people see that we all have a personal stake in protecting the environment. Summer camps, seminars, demonstrations, guided tours, research, and monitoring are just a short list of the many ways in which the staff, interns, and volunteers at SSNERR dedicate their time to showing people the magic of the outdoors and the importance of environmental research and protection.

On my most recent hike with one of my mentors, we reached this beautiful clearing and took a moment to take in the view. She told me, “you can kind of think of it like you’re trying to market the South Slough, and really, it’s such an easy sell.”

under: Uncategorized
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