Sea Grant-funded grad student to help Oregon Legislature with coastal issues


By Rick Cooper

When Oregon’s legislative session kicks off in January, a doctoral student in environmental science will be providing lawmakers with information on marine and coastal issues, thanks to funding from Oregon Sea Grant.

As a recipient of Oregon Sea Grant’s 2019 Legislative Fellowship, Valerie Stephan-LeBoeuf will be assigned to the office of Rep. David Brock Smith, the incoming chair of the Coastal Caucus.

Among her duties, she will organize weekly meetings of the Caucus, research legislation that affects marine resources and the Oregon coast, and report on the progress and outcomes of marine and coastal issues addressed during the session.

Science educator Valerie Stephan-LeBoeuf is Oregon Sea Grant's 2019 Legislative Fellow.

Science educator Valerie Stephan-LeBoeuf is Oregon Sea Grant’s 2019 Legislative Fellow. (Photo by Michaela LeBoeuf)

The Idaho native started her fellowship on Nov. 1 and is based in Salem. She plans to continue her studies during the fellowship, which runs through June 30 when the legislative session ends. She is pursuing a doctorate at the University of Idaho, where she is studying restoration efforts for sea otters along the Oregon coast.

“This fellowship opportunity will not only enhance my understanding of the legislative process in Oregon, but will also provide valuable networking opportunities that will enrich my future graduate studies and professional career,” Stephan-LeBoeuf said.

A former zookeeper, Stephan-LeBoeuf also spent 10 years rehabilitating and releasing wildlife, including bears and cougars. She has also worked as an educator and facilitator for human-wildlife conflict resolution, focusing on humane and sustainable solutions to environmental issues. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in paralegal studies from Boise State University, a master’s in education from Concordia University, and a master’s in environmental science from the University of Idaho.

“I am specifically interested in the management of marine mammals, and in the use of methods that integrate collaboration with stakeholders during policy development and review,” Stephan-LeBoeuf said.

“Valerie’s strong interpersonal skills complement her experience with navigating key natural resource issues,” said Sarah Kolesar, the leader of Oregon Sea Grant’s research and scholars program. “Working with coastal lawmakers will provide her additional experience with marine and ocean topics. Her excellent work ethic makes her a valuable asset for the Caucus.”

Each legislative session, Oregon Sea Grant sponsors one Fellow. The goal is not only to help lawmakers but to help the recipient understand the legislative process and develop skills for collaborating with government and other organizations. Fellows receive a competitive monthly stipend. They do not assume a political position or lobby on any issue.

The next application deadline will be in August 2019 (date TBA). Applicants must be enrolled in a master’s, doctorate, or professional degree program (e.g., law school) in any discipline at an institution of higher education with work physically located in Oregon, or have completed their degree after December 2017. Women and minorities are encouraged to apply.