Wrapping up my fellowship

It’s hard to believe that I have less than two weeks left for my fellowship! I am currently wrapping up all final reports and there’s one in particular I am most excited to see finalized: A Situation Analysis for Oregon’s Emergent Seaweed Aquaculture Industry.

The report explores the restorative benefits seaweed aquaculture can provide, species options, production methods, high potential locations and co-location opportunities, market opportunities, and policy and regulatory considerations. The final stages of edits have involved working with a graphic designer to incorporate some images and a professional layout.

Cover page for the report. Cover photo courtesy of Sara Hamilton.

I have also been working with our graphic designer and OSG’s communications specialists to ensure that the public report meets federal accessibility requirements so that we may post it to the NOAA Central Library. This has largely involved making sure that the final PDF will be machine readable, which includes alt text for images that can be read aloud to users by screen reader software.

Overall I want to give a BIG thanks to all co-authors, reviewers, contributors, and our graphic designer for all the help and amazing work they’ve put towards the situation analysis. The report will be public on Oregon Sea Grant’s website in the coming weeks (I’ll follow up in the comments with a link)!

Farewell from the Tribal Federal Consistency Policy and Processes Fellow!

Hello all!  I am writing with the final update on my project to develop procedures for how the Oregon Coastal Management Program (OCMP) coordinates with tribes during federal consistency reviews, as I finished up my fellowship last week. 

To return to the cliffhanger of my last blog post, I am happy to report that our proposal to incorporate additional policies related to archaeological resource protection and Native American grave protection into the suite of policies considered during federal consistency reviews was approved by NOAA.  With this change, the OCMP will be able to further highlight and raise awareness of the state of Oregon’s commitment to the protection of these sites of significance to the tribes.  During a federal consistency review, the OCMP will provide applicants with information to help them learn more about these standards.  This includes resources about inadvertent discovery of human remains on the Legislative Commission on Indian Service’s website and guidance about the issuance of archaeological permits from the State Historic Preservation Office’s guidance on the issuance of archaeological permits.

I am also pleased to say the tribal coordination procedures were distributed to tribes via formal consultation letters at the beginning of October, marking a significant milestone in this fellowship project.  The OCMP’s goal in implementing these procedures is to bring the tribes to the table during federal consistency reviews and management decisions to ensure their voices are heard and their expertise is considered.  To ease implementation and sustainability, the procedures are designed to be simple and common sense, and nested naturally in existing processes.  They are built on a few commitments to standardize communication and coordination which we shared with the tribes: 

Do the “pre-work”

As federal consistency comes with a unique lingo and timelines established by federal regulations, it can be difficult to step into the federal consistency “world” without some orientation.  In February of 2022, the OCMP took an early step in the “pre-work,” to provide some background on federal consistency and how it “works.”  We also provided the tribes with summaries and graphics to describe the process with our formal consultation letters.  Those letters also requested specific information from the tribes to tailor the procedure as appropriate: 1) confirmation that the tribe wants to be informed of federal consistency reviews; 2) types of activities of interest, whether there is particular geographic extent or topic area; and 3) who should be the primary contacts the OCMP should include in our mailing lists.

Early notification

Upon initiation of a federal consistency review, the OCMP will provide notification to tribes.  This will be as early as possible in the process to ensure the tribe has enough time to review.  It will be separate from the public comment period, as the federally recognized tribes are not members of the public – they are sovereign nations.  This notification includes standard and clear information; templates have been developed to support.

Communication and coordination

The notification message specifically requests comments on the project, but we leave the door open for different levels of coordination.  This means that there could be informal staff-to-staff coordination and communication up to formal consultation between OCMP leadership and the Tribal Councils, whatever the tribe requests.  Any comments received would be acted on.  This might mean facilitating coordination between the federal agency issuing the permit or taking the action and the tribe. 


This last commitment is about “showing the work.”  The OCMP is maintaining records of communication with the tribes.  Any actionable comments will be documented in decision letters, though we will be mindful of not including potentially sensitive information.  Copies of decision letters will also be provided to tribes if they provided comment or upon their request.

As I wrap this up I want to say thank you to everyone at the Department of Land Conservation and Development and the Oregon Coastal Management Program for the opportunity to work on this project!  It has been a real privilege to be able to dig into these issues and develop some processes that will hopefully work in the long-term.  

Post Fieldwork Reflections: The Summer of Sharks

Well, after a whirlwind summer, I am officially finished with my first field season of shark sampling. All in all, I sampled from a whopping 71 sharks and tagged 20 of them with acoustic tags. I’ll have another field season next year, but until then I’ll be sorting through samples and thinking of ways to make my research go smoother and easier. One way I’ll be doing this is redesigning our shark sling — currently, it’s like a U shaped piece of fabric that is 8 feet long (we also like to call it the “shark taco” if that helps you picture it, but you can also watch a video of a shark release below). It does great at holding the shark in place but with the winds and currents in Willapa Bay, however, the sling often turns into an underwater sail, swinging out or pulling the boat around. So, with that in mind, I’ll be creating a “version 2” which will hopefully be able to restrain the shark AND stay solidly in place next to the side of the boat.

I also spent a lot of time talking with fishermen this summer, which is always one of my favorite parts of research. Walking the docks in Willapa Bay allows me to meet with people face-to-face and talk to them about the things they see on the water….particularly because they spend a lot more time out there than I do (unfortunately!). Some of my favorite interactions were with 2nd or 3rd generation fishermen who didn’t know that there were sharks in Willapa Bay at all. Most of these fishermen were oyster farmers and therefore never use gears to catch these large animals. Still, being able to talk about some of the top predators in their local waters is a great opportunity to spread awareness and understanding about the impact that sharks have, particularly in a positive light.

I wouldn’t have been able to conduct this research without the generous support of Oregon Sea Grant, and I just wanted to thank the amazing team of people there who answered questions, connected me with resources, and have continued to inspire me to make the greatest impact possible.

Jess Schulte and Dr. Taylor Chapple, head PI of the Big Fish Lab, release a broadnose sevengill shark back into the waters of Willapa Bay after collecting samples.
Jess Schulte holding a sevengill shark in place for sample collections.
Jess Schulte handlining for sevengill sharks in Willapa Bay, WA.

Razor Clams, Biotoxins, and Outreach

During my time as a Malouf Scholar, I completed my research on the impacts of the razor clam fishery on Oregon coastal communities. After successfully defending, I am officially graduated and working on publishing my findings.

Some of the main finds from the research were that the razor clam fishery is an important fishery to the economy of the northern coast of Oregon. With the recreational fishery bringing in an estimated $1.8 million in 2019. This fishery has also been an important resource to the Dungeness crab fishery, supplying bait to commercial and recreational crabbers. It was also found that biotoxin closures due to harmful algal blooms off the coast of Oregon were the largest issue this fishery faces.

There are still some gaps in understanding this fishery’s importance. For instance, no estimate is available for the commercial razor clam harvesting contribution to the local economy. There is a contribution from commercial clam harvest supplying clams for seafood markets and the bait market, but no way to accurately assess this input without an in-depth economic assessment.

While conducting the research, many participants from the interviews commented on how they wanted to know more about the fishery and biotoxin closures. After hearing these requests, I drafted an outreach document for people on the north coast participating in the fishery. This document goes over the main findings of the research and then talks about what biotoxins are, why they happen, and why the fishery is closed because of them. I hope to have this published in the next couple of months for use by the Oregon Sea Grant and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

I am exceedingly grateful to the staff at Oregon Sea Grant for supporting me during this research. I am so pleased that this project has been able to fill a knowledge gap and produce products that will be useful to the members of the harvesting community.

I look forward to reading about what the next group of Malouf Scholars shares!

All the best,


During my defense presentation, I shared some of the outreach documents that I had made.

Washington Seaweed Learning Tour

This past September I had the exciting opportunity to organize and attend a Seaweed Learning Tour in Washington State. Thus far, my fellowship has predominantly been desktop research to develop a situation analysis that explores challenges and opportunities for Oregon’s seaweed aquaculture industry. While the research has been interesting and I’ve learned quite a bit, I was thrilled to get out on the water and see a seaweed and shellfish farm in person.

Our outing began at a dock in Poulsbo, Washington to board a boat and head over to Blue Dot Sea Farm’s site. With rare blue skies and sunshine we were super grateful for the weather.

Photo 1: Clear blue and skies and Blue Dot Sea Farm upon arrival to the site.

Currently in the State of Washington, Blue Dot Sea Farms is the only permitted open-water seaweed aquaculture farm, although there are several other farms that are in varying stages of the permit process. While it wasn’t grow out season for kelp we did still get to see some seaweed that was still in the water for experimental purposes. We also got to learn more about their cultivation process for Pacific oysters, their main crop.

Once back on shore, the team was gifted Blue Dot Kitchen’s Seacharrones – a tasty seaweed chip! I was particularly excited to note yet another seaweed gift for friends and family. Blue Dot Kitchen uses kelp from their own farm for the chips and also purchases seaweed from farms in Alaska and Maine because their farm doesn’t produce enough kelp for the scale of production the Kitchen is aiming for. The Kitchen is very interested in purchasing more locally for their product and we were excited to hear of another potential market for prospective seaweed growers in Oregon.

Photo 3: Seacharrones kelp puff snack. The chips/puffs are made from dried kelp powder.

Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Glider Deployment

Hello Everyone!

With summer coming to a close I wanted to share a great experience I had earlier this month tagging along with researchers from OSU for the deployment of an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Glider (“glider” for short) off the coast of Washington. Not only was it good to get out of the office a bit, but it was also a wonderful opportunity to learn first-hand about some of the advanced oceanographic monitoring and research that is being done off the coast. It was also great to meet Dr. Jack Barth in person, he is the director of the Marine Studies Initiative and professor of Oceanography at Oregon State University, and someone who I’ve been meeting with (virtually) over the last 9 months in the OAH technical workgroup.

Glider Basics

Underwater gliders, which look like small rockets with wings, use pumps to transfer seawater in and out of a holding chamber in the nose, causing the glider’s density to change (either sink or rise). With the help of the attached wings this vertical movement in water is translated to forward motion. What results is a series of dives, where optical, CTD (conductivity, temp, salinity), and oxygen sensors collect data at one second intervals. Numerous dives are strung together into segments and punctuated by trips to the surface to transmit data back to the lab. Gliders can be deployed for weeks at time and can be used for a wide variety of research and monitoring applications. Glider research has evolved dramatically over the last couple of decades and is now considered a foundational piece of modern oceanographic observation systems. More information on the integration of glider monitoring into the national Integrated Ocean Observing Network (IOOS) can be found here.

Loading the glider at the Westport WA bayfront. Photo by Jack Barth

Glider Deployment Trip

Our outing began at the bayfront in Westport Washington, where I met up with Dr. Barth and Dr. Steve Pierce, as well as an OSU student assisting with the deployment. After loading the glider onto the charter boat, we motored offshore for a little over an hour. Once we reached the deployment coordinates Dr. Pierce conducted some tests to make sure the glider was communicating properly with the lab before it was launched. Once in the water the glider performed a test dive to make sure everything was functioning correctly before it was sent it on its 2-week deployment. As a special bonus, two grey whales decided to pay us a surprise visit at the deployment location, it was an excellent sighting and we saw some great fluking before each dive!

Preparing to deploy the glider. Photo by Jack Barth
Fluking Grey Whales. Photo by Kaegan Scully-Engelmeyer

Glider Data and DEQ Water Quality Assessment

As gliders collect continuous data while moving across a large spatial area, they generate datasets that are fundamentally different than most continuous monitoring data currently assessed from Oregon’s water quality monitoring network, which is generally collected at fixed locations. This difference complicates the use of raw glider measurements in the existing data processing/assessment framework at DEQ. There is some guidance on the state and federal levels outlining protocols for using and assimilating this type of data into water quality assessments to identify impaired waters required by Clean Water Act. For example, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEQ equivalent in that state) implemented a glider monitoring program and developed quality assurance procedures to monitor and assess hypoxia in the state’s marine waters. Going forward it will be interesting to explore ways to integrate glider data into nearshore OAH water quality assessment protocols to help identify impaired waters.

Goodbye Oregon Coast ☹

Hello everyone,

I’ve had an incredible summer working with SEACOR (Shellfish and Estuarine Assessment of Coastal Oregon) at ODFW. I feel so grateful to have gotten the chance to work on such a dedicated and passionate team. 😊 This internship has been so valuable! For example, I knew prior to this summer that I enjoyed fieldwork, but I had never worked in a marine setting. Being able to spend 5+ hours in the water each day was a dream! Even though it can get tiring, it was so fun and cemented what I want to pursue in the future.

This summer has also redefined my career goals. I thought I’d want to work in completely marine settings, with ecosystems such as coral reefs or kelp forests. While I still think these would be amazing to study, I’ve become really interested in estuary work. Estuaries are so important no matter what lens you’re looking through—environmental, economic, and/or cultural. It has felt super rewarding to study and work with them this summer.

I’m very excited to share that I’ll be working at the Smithsonian Marine Station in the Benthic Ecology Lab in Florida starting in September! The research project’s focus is on characterizing the little invertebrates that live at the bottom of an estuary called Indian River Lagoon. The estuary has suffered biodiversity loss caused by many different threats, including harmful algal blooms, development, and excess freshwater input. For 15+ years, the Benthic Ecology Lab has used invertebrate biodiversity as a measure of ecosystem health! I’m incredibly excited to continue my scientific career focused on estuary work and am interested to see how I can apply what I’ve learned in Oregon down there!

Photo 1. Emma Chesley holding a cockle clam on a mudflat in Tillamook Bay. Photo taken by Summer Henricksen on 8/13/2022.

Perspectives on coastal climate work

The first half of my fellowship has been such an incredible experience of working with experts in conservation science and policy and learning how science can support policy and vice-versa. My fellowship project is a general exploration of how blue carbon pathways operate in Oregon’s coastal ecosystems, how they may contribute to the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals, and who is currently doing the work. Blue carbon as a climate mitigation strategy is a fairly recent development, and the research is still in its early stages in the Pacific Northwest. My fellowship work will hopefully help inform how blue carbon can fit into Oregon’s natural and working lands.

To be honest, it’s hard to think about climate change daily without having to manage some amount of climate anxiety. The crisis we face is at a scale bigger than comprehension, and at times it’s hard to imagine blue carbon alone having a large enough impact to offset—let alone reduce—carbon emissions to have a positive climate effect. At the same time, defeatism is less than helpful, and it’s simply incorrect to believe that nothing we do can mitigate climate change and its effects. There will not be one solution. It will take a lot of people working in lots of ways to tackle the challenge, to change systems and turn the tide. Natural climate solutions (NCS), including blue carbon, is one tool we have to approach climate and biodiversity issues. NCS use conservation and restoration strategies to enhance climate benefits but does not elevate carbon reduction above ecosystem function. This is one aspect that I appreciate about NCS—it does not look at nature as a technology to maximize carbon sequestration but instead values ecosystem health and function for multifaceted benefits.

I had struggled initially because carbon crediting seems to focus simply on the most ‘productive’ estuarine systems that build carbon-rich soils However, many of the people working on blue carbon do not think of carbon projects as simply carbon farms that are separated from ecosystem function. There is deliberate consideration of the inherent value of coastal and nearshore ecosystems alongside the many ecosystem services, of which carbon is one. This attitude shared by my new colleagues is really a heartening one, and I’ve been supported in considering the role of complex oceanic ecosystems (like kelp forests) that are critical Oregon coastal habitat and sequester carbon.

Aequorea among bull kelp

A Summer of Growth

Hello everyone!

I have only a few weeks left working as a member of the SEACOR (Shellfish and Estuarine Assessment of Coastal Oregon) team! ☹ This summer has been instrumental in my personal and professional growth. Before this internship, I thought I would want to pursue a career in academia. However, this summer has shown me there are so many other paths I can take while still doing exciting scientific work. I can totally see myself pursuing a career with a state or federal agency now. Being able to communicate our data so readily with the public is what sparked my interest in pursuing this different path.

A professional development opportunity arose to work on an independent data project. So, I’ve also taken time this summer to learn how to code in R, which is a programming language for statistics that is often used in ecology. We’re looking at habitat associations between the different clam species in Tillamook Bay. I’m still working on the project, but I’m excited to present my findings at the symposium next week! Coding is completely out of my comfort zone, but it’s such a valuable skill to have in this field. I’m hoping to continue my R learning after this internship.

The biggest thing that surprised me this summer is I don’t mind getting up at 4:00 AM to go sampling. Who would’ve thought?!

Photo 1. Emma Chesley cooling off in a dry suit in Tillamook Bay. Photo taken by Mo Bancroft on 8/4/22.

A Day in the Life of a Shellfish Biologist

Hello everyone,

Four weeks down like that! Working on the SEACOR (Shellfish and Estuarine Assessment of Coastal Oregon) team has been incredible. We are collecting data on the four major bay clam species in Tillamook Bay to inform shellfish catch limits. This project involves lots of fieldwork on the tide flats of the bay, digging up clams, crab, and shrimp!

There’s no typical day for the SEACOR team. We work on the ocean’s schedule and try to go out during low tide so we can sample the most sites. This means some days start at 4:00 AM while others not until 9:00 AM! We have a variety of sampling methods, RAM (Rapid Assessment Method), DAM (Detailed Assessment Method), and Megacoring. Each site is RAM sampled which involves recording habitat data and collecting eelgrass, then raking about 15 centimeters (six inches) looking for clams (Photo 1). Some of our sample sites are further examined using the DAM method. This involves digging approximately 30 centimeters (12 inches) down. Some sampling sites are covered by too much water for us to DAM sample, so we use a giant pump to “megacore”. The megacoring pump basically acts as a vacuum that traps all the shellfish in a mesh bag and spits out the sediment (Photo 2). Species such as cockle clams are found at the surface whereas others such as butter clams and gaper clams are found at deeper depths, which is why we like to use a variety of sampling methods. The last few hours of our day are spent measuring all the shellfish we collect.

Photo 1. SEACOR biologists (Emma Chesley, Armand Martinez, Maddie Farmer) RAM sampling on an eelgrass bed in Tillamook Bay. Photo taken by Morgan Bancroft on 6/28/22.
Photo 2. Maddie Farmer (left) and Emma Chesley (right) megacoring in Tillamook Bay. Photo taken by Summer Henricksen on 6/24/22.
Photo 3. Burrito from La Providencia in Tillamook. Photo taken by Emma Chesley on 6/29/22.

Since we are living in a hotel in Tillamook during the week, we all get tired of microwave meals pretty quickly. That’s why we go out for a team dinner at least once a week! We’ve become loyal customers of “La Providencia,” a Mexican food truck in Tillamook (Photo 3). During downtime, I love to facetime my friends and family back home.  

While I really enjoy the work, my least favorite part is stripping eelgrass of epiphytes (Photo 4). Epiphytes are organisms that grow on plants. Algae and eggs are usually the epiphytes found on eelgrass. It’s a real time-consuming process that can feel tedious. However, it’s a job that must be done for accurate data on eelgrass biomass!

Photo 4. Blade of eelgrass stripped of epiphytes (left) vs. blade of eelgrass covered in epiphytes (right). Photo taken by Emma Chesley on 7/7/22.

My favorite part of the job is simply working in the ocean. It’s been a dream to work in this ecosystem that’s been inaccessible to me growing up in the Midwest. While I spent so much time reading and learning about marine ecosystems back home, it’s remarkable to learn first-hand with so many intelligent biologists on the SEACOR team! (Photo 5).

Photo 5. Emma Chesley (front) and Armand Martinez (back) recording habitat data. Photo taken by Morgan Bancroft on 6/28/22.