Environmental Sustainability at Tofurky

As of June of this year, I started my 11-month journey at Tofurky as its Environmental and Sustainability Program Coordinator Fellow. At Tofurky, my role is to not only create an environmental management system (EMS), but also to create a series of programs and practices to create more sustainable culture overall. Given enough time, I may also delve into measuring Scope 3 emissions to help the company to not only record their impacts from our supply chain, but to also set goals to work towards over the next decade. 

I may only be a couple months in, but I already couldn’t have asked for a better experience from this program. From the people I’ve met to what I’ve learned, I have been able to develop my skills, both technically and interpersonally. In this blog I’m going to talk a bit about what I’ve completed so far as well as some of the lessons that I’ve learned during my time.

Starting out:

Hood River

The first couple of weeks felt like I was trying to drink from a fire hose. Adrienne (another OASE scholar) and I were loaded up on everything about Tofurky. We learned all about the history and culture of the company and as well as receiving an introduction to the production floor, where we learned all about the process that goes into making every Tofurky product. All of this information was super useful, but also made the work I needed to do a bit more daunting.

Something that really helped me to get past the daunting feeling of all the work I would need to do was the support of my mentor, Chris. His professional experience has helped guide me to success on my projects, ensuring that I have the support I need while still allowing the work to be my own. During our meetings, Chris always ends up dropping some useful life tips on us. Some of these have even guided how I approach a lot of the work I am doing now. One of the most common tips that we heard was to Keep It Simple Sweetheart (K.I.S.S.). This helped us to not only put the proper amount of time and effort into projects, but also encouraged getting feedback throughout a project rather than only at the end.

I truly began to feel more confident and knowledgeable in my position once I started creating prototypes and showing them to other people. Chris always emphasized the importance of getting something out there. Without it, we have nowhere to start, and that just delays our projects even further. This also encourages failure and growth, showing me that I need input and help from others to truly create a well-functioning tool.

Environmental Management System (EMS):

The overall purpose of an EMS is to have all of our environmentally related data in one place so that we can both track and manage it in an effective way. In turn, this allows us to make data-driven decisions throughout the company. As a mission-driven company and a B-Corp, Tofurky wants to be a leader in the plant-based proteins industry. This means that we want to be able to show others all the things that we are doing in order to either inspire them to do better, or to hold other companies accountable to their responsibilities to the planet.

My first EMS prototype was super rough, but as Chris advised me, it was somewhere to start and would allow us to move forward. To get input on the EMS and to create a pattern of talking about it, I created a monthly meeting with key stakeholders. We spent our first meeting talking about data, how it could be used for analyzing our position, and discussing what people thought about it, where it could improve, and how useful these meetings would be in the future. Although I was pretty nervous going into this, I found that many of the people who I thought would be critical were actually more excited that we were finally looking into all of this again. What I learned from this is that change requires initiative as well as someone to own it. Without these, many things that people may have an interest in will actually go untouched.

Going into my second EMS meeting I was a lot more excited. Not only did we have our 2030 sustainability goals completed by Adrienne, but we had also completed our first waste audit that morning. When talking about the future of this meeting, I could see a process emerging. These monthly meetings would be to talk about data, but we would need more meetings to go in depth on other topics. I could see the web of effort expanding, that we would soon have sustainability talked about throughout Tofurky on a much more regular basis. On top of all of this, I was also excited to talk about our new goals that show our commitment to a better planet.

Waste Audit:

My most recent achievement was the completion of Tofurky’s first every waste sort. Last week, seven volunteers and I went to the Hood River Garbage transfer station to sort through the pile of trash from our compactor at our main production facility. Not only did we get to see all of the garbage that our facility had produced for the last 2-3 days, but we also got to enjoy all the wonderful smells associated with it.

This entire experience was super useful for several reasons. One of the first is that both the COO and CEO of Tofurky were volunteers at the sort. Having them both there was great because it let our top-level management see what our impact really looks like. Doing a waste sort is also great because it creates a platform for change. Because of this sort, I will now be able to show with data how we can divert from landfills, change our process, and overall reduce costs purely through changing how we work with waste.

Waste sort set-up
The Waste Sort Team

Up Next:

My next few months are going to be jam packed with a ton of work. Not only am I going to be working on processing, analyzing, and reporting the data on our waste audit, but I also have to begin working on our material waste management. A project related to is observing and developing a plan for our production floor to try and help reduce our material waste percentage or to at least help divert more waste from landfills. To do this I will be talking with supervisors as well as employees to try and figure out what will and won’t work. Something that is also exciting is that I will be reaching out to a number of groups to develop end of life destinations within our production process. All of this work combined with looking upstream will hopefully lead to a large reduction of waste produced as well as ending up at a landfill.

Overall, these first few months with Tofurky have been truly amazing, and I’m super excited for the future to see all the new things I learn, the people I meet, and the change I create.

Barriers to Aquaculture Expansion in Oregon

This summer is really flying by, which is fine by me! I am one of many Oregonians without air conditioning and am therefore looking forward to the cooler fall weather. In the past few months I have been focusing most of my time on the needs assessment project which I introduced in my first blog. As I briefly explained there, aquaculture in Oregon is limited to a few species and a relatively low economic value compared to neighboring states. In the past few years, federal legislation and funding have been enacted to increase domestic aquaculture in the U.S. to meet growing seafood demands. This may open up opportunities for aquaculture expansion in Oregon, but there is a lack of information on the current status, interest in expansion, and barriers. The goal of this needs assessment was to address some of these unanswered questions and establish some informed actions. 

For those of you unfamiliar with the term “needs assessment,” NOAA has a great tutorial that I have found very helpful. Essentially, a needs assessment is a study conducted to identify and address a particular issue, usually to inform project planning within an organization. For this needs assessment, we set out to identify barriers to aquaculture expansion and recommend outreach and engagement strategies based on these barriers. In May 2021, I distributed an online survey to all of the stakeholders I could identify in Oregon that are involved in marine aquaculture. This included current growers, prospective growers, agency staff, and researchers. With the help of Oregon Sea Grant’s Social Media Specialist, the survey was also shared through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter posts. The survey was active for about two months and we received 38 full responses. This may seem low, but the aquaculture industry in Oregon is really small so it was challenging to get a higher sample size. 

Even though the survey got a low response rate, the information has still been really helpful. Several people who filled it out left thoughtful comments about their experiences in Oregon aquaculture that have helped me get a better idea of the current status and challenges from multiple perspectives. I learned that there is definitely interest in expansion among current growers, which mainly produce Pacific oysters. They were interested in adding new technologies and adding other species to their operations. There were also prospective growers that want to produce oysters and other marine species that haven’t been produced in Oregon, such as kelp and abalone. 

Header for the Oregon aquaculture needs assessment report that is in the final stages of publication by OSG.

Right now, I am working on finalizing a short report that will highlight the main takeaways from the survey. This document will be available on the Oregon Sea Grant Aquaculture website in the near future, but I thought I would share a snapshot of results here as well. In the figure below, you can see the responses to the question, “What are the major barriers to aquaculture expansion in Oregon?” from different sectors (growers, prospective growers, agency staff, researchers, other). Each respondent was able to choose multiple barriers.

Perceived aquaculture barriers chosen by respondents from each sector that filled out the aquaculture needs assessment survey. Percentages are out of the number of responses within each sector. Other barriers listed: dairy pollution, plat specific regulations about growing/harvesting/planting (current growers): hatchery training, seaweed seed production (prospective growers); available land and water, coastal public perception, ocean acidification (agency personnel); time-consuming process for permits/leases, lack of partnerships between researchers and producers of emerging products (researchers).

The top barrier chosen by respondents was permitting/regulations, which is not surprising. When aquaculture growers want to set up a business, they are required to apply for various permits from state and federal agencies. The process for doing this can be challenging to figure out and because so few businesses are initiated each year, there is a lack of information about how to navigate the laws and requirements. Several respondents shared details about this experience indicating that there is a need for more information and education about going through this process. Creating outreach materials that outline the permitting process may be a good next step to address this particular challenge.

If you want to learn more, check the OSG Aquaculture Page in the next few weeks for the report, or reach out to me at ehrharta@oregonstate.edu.

thanks for the memories!

Well, I guess this is it…

It’s hard to believe this is the end of my fellowship. It all happened so quickly, but I am extremely grateful for the experience, opportunities, and friendships made in the process. Since this project will take several years to complete, I am satisfied with the progress we have made so far. Overall, Oregon and Washington are closer to Geographic Location Descriptions (GLDs) for seabed mining, seafood processing discharge, and offshore aquaculture. While some are closer than others, I believe each coastal program is equipped with the tools necessary to finish the product. We also were able to complete a Guidance Document for other Coastal Programs who wish to pursue GLDs in the future.

Geographic Location Descriptions are one of the many tools available to Coastal Programs, including the Oregon and Washington Coastal Management Programs. These documents allow the Coastal Program to review activities outside of the coastal zone for reasonably foreseeable effects to coastal resources. These resources span from recreation and tourism, to fishing practices in state waters. Each of these uses/resources must be balanced with the authorization of an activity in federal waters that is shown to have those effects.

 Seabed Mining

Seabed mining is something most Coastal Programs should plan for, as it is likely to become an emerging use in the future. Scientists have estimated that it is only a matter of time before mining activities shift their focus on the mineral resources found in the ocean. As technology evolves, and the resources found on land become more finite, it can be inferred that seabed mining will be an emerging use. To best prepare for these activities and the reasonably foreseeable effects to coastal resources, both Oregon and Washinton have begun to prepare a GLD for offshore seabed mining. This GLD will ensure each Coastal Program has a seat at the table, as it coordinates with the relevant federal agencies. Under the Coastal Zone Management Act, and its implementing regulations, federal agencies are tasked with coordinating with State Coastal Management Programs to ensure that those federal actions are consistent with enforceable policies located in the coastal zone. In this case, there still needs to be more information known about the technology, but the reasonably foreseeable effects are well delineated. Some of these effects include permanent changes to benthic habitat, water quality degradation, and other natural resource management concerns. This work has been critical to each Coastal Program as they find more information, so much so, that the Washington State Legislature and Governor placed a moratorium on seabed mining activities in the coastal zone. This moratorium is encouraged because it has been put in place before political concerns are taken into account.

 Offshore Aquaculture

As of today, the US has remained focused on developing aquaculture facilities in both the nearshore and offshore. The main goal is to decrease the amount of imported seafood that the US relies upon each year. For this reason, the federal government has remained focused on siting facilities in US waters every four years. A GLD will ensure that concerns for natural resources will be discussed prior to authorization. Some of these things include excess nutrient

input, HABs, OAH, competition with the fishing industry, and other relevant/valid issues with an offshore aquaculture facility. The three main types of aquaculture were considered in developing the analysis of reasonably foreseeable effects of aquaculture siting on natural resources. The three main types of aquaculture are: finfish, marine vegetation, and shellfish. Each of these types of aquaculture have impacts to coastal resources and uses, so the Coastal Program remains focused on coordinating with the relevant agencies on developing the framework for siting these facilities in the future. These impacts will be helpful in starting the conversation, in the same way the BOEM Wind Energy Task Force uses the information in the Marine Renewable GLD to determine what the reasonably foreseeable effects could be.

 Offshore Seafood Processing Discharge

This is probably the activity I spent the most time on. Starting in 2015, the State of Oregon and the EPA began coordinating on a permit for offshore seafood processing discharge on the Oregon and Washington continental shelves. Unfortunately, the two agencies were unable to reach an agreement on the coastal effects of the authorization of the activity. One of the primary points of disagreement was that each agency needed to know a lot more information about the oceanographic currents, where the material is going, what the respiration rate is of the material, etc. During my fellowship, I was able to bring this permit to the EPA’s enforcement division along with creating a coordination process with the Quileute Tribe, Quinault Tribe, the State of Washington, the State of Oregon, and the EPA. This coordination group meets quarterly to discuss the complexities of permit enforcement and how to ensure the reporting information can be used to inform the next iteration of the permit in 2024.

 GLD Guidance Document

Due to the gray area involved in drafting GLDs, I was able to help draft a Guidance Document for GLDs. This document discusses the complexities that come with undertaking these projects, especially when the technology is so new. For example, seabed mining is not a practice in the US, so it is difficult to ascertain the types of impacts to key coastal resources without further research. This document should be in publication within the next year.

Final Note

This has been a fantastic opportunity, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I feel better equipped to take on a career in coastal management, and am incredibly excited to see what’s next. In the meantime, I was able to participate in a podcast with Felicia Olmeta-Schult to discuss lessons learned from my fellowship, and other information about coastal management.

Tool to increase coastal hazards preparedness in Oregon

I mentioned in my last blog post that I was working on the development of a tool – a library and mapper of case studies on coastal hazards preparedness in Oregon – similar to the Washington Coastal Hazards Risk Reduction Project Mapper.

This tool will compile and geographically display case studies on alternatives to traditional shoreline armoring (e.g., nature-based designs) and on practical approaches to acute and chronic coastal hazards (e.g., tsunami caches). There, individuals, communities, and tribal and local governments will be able to share their work and learn from each other. I created a list of existing projects and approaches, and I am drafting case studies for the mapper. I also started using the ArcGIS Online StoryMap app to design a mock-up of this future tool.

I would like to clarify that nature-based or soft shoreline armoring aiming to reduce coastal erosion and flooding are not a panacea, and are specific to the local environment (natural and man-made) where they would be located. Resources, capacity, and political and community leadership will also often influence and determine the design and implementation of a project.

In this blog I will introduce you to three local programs and initiatives aiming to increase tsunami preparedness, and one project that used nature-based approaches for shoreline protection to erosion (I briefly mentioned this one in my last post). These case studies will be part of the mapper.

  1. The Emergency Volunteer Corps of Nehalem Bay (EVCNB)

EVCNB is a non-profit organization dedicated to building personal, community and regional resilience, developing programs to ensure readiness, and promoting a culture of emergency preparedness. EVCNB was founded and is run by local community volunteers.

EVCNB was formed in February 2008 following a storm that brought hurricane-force winds, flooding, and a total power outage to the north Oregon Coast, temporarily isolating the three small communities and surrounding areas of Manzanita, Nehalem and Wheeler. Therefore, EVCNB found it critical to have their community members be trained and prepared to respond in a self-sufficient manner.

To learn more about EVCNB, go to https://evcnb.org/.

2. City of Rockaway Beach, Tsunami Resilience Planning Project, Tillamook County, Oregon

The geography, older infrastructure, and human settlement patterns in Rockaway Beach have created challenges for timely evacuation from a local tsunami. Coastal lakes, non-retrofitted bridges, manufactured homes, residents over 65 years of age, and visitors who tend to stay close to the ocean all create evacuation concerns for the city.

The City of Rockaway Beach undertook a risk-based and community-specific approach to tsunami resilience planning, which resulted in a Tsunami Hazard Overlay Zone and a Tsunami Evacuation Facilities Improvement Plan (TEFIP), both of which were adopted into the Rockaway Beach Zoning Ordinance through a plan amendment process.

You can read the Rockaway Beach TEFIP Planning Commission Draft (April 2019) here.

3. City of Seaside, Tsunami Supply Barrel Program, Clatsop County, Oregon

The City of Seaside provides emergency supply caches in high ground areas throughout the city.  The supplies are stored in preparation for the aftermath of a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake and tsunami or other major disaster.  In 2013, with the help of state and federal grant funding and dedicated volunteers, the City filled 119 supply barrels (50-gallon recycled corn syrup barrel) with medical supplies, water purification systems, emergency rations, tarps and radios. Each barrel has enough supplies to last 20 individuals for at least 3 days. They are stored in private residences above the inundation zone in all five evacuation assembly areas throughout Seaside, and will be placed on the curb in the event of a tsunami.  In the summer of 2020, the city restocked the barrels with fresh food, water purification tablets, batteries and medical supplies.

You can find more information about the Tsunami Supply Barrel program here. If you are interested in creating your own community tsunami cache, information can be found in ‘Earthquake and Tsunami Community Disaster Cache Planning Guide,’ a report prepared for the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries and the Oregon Office of Emergency Management.

4. Cape Lookout State Park (CLSP) dynamic revetment, south end of Netarts Spit, north of the Cape Lookout headland, Tillamook county, Oregon

The Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department, in partnership with Oregon State University and the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, constructed in 2000 a dynamic revetment or cobble berm and artificial dune in response to extensive erosion of the primary dune, which separates the beach from a campground located immediately landward of the eroding dune. State Park’s officials rejected the idea of a “hard” structure in the Park, a high mound of rocks between the campground and the recreational beach.

Gravel was extracted from the natural cobble beach in areas where it was believed that more than sufficient volumes were present to protect the dunes and where no park infrastructure was present. The artificial dune was overlaid with a jute coconut fiber cloth, on which native grasses were planted. The sand for the reconstructed dune came from an area south of the park, where there had been problems with sand blowing onto the roadway.

Since its construction in 2000, the CLSP structure has withstood multiple large Pacific Northwest winter storms. However, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) has had to add additional cobbles to the dynamic revetment at least three times in the decade following the project completion.

The choice of a cobble berm backed by an artificial dune for shore-protection in the eroding state park proved to be cost effective, the expense being a small fraction of what it would have cost to construct a revetment or seawall. The construction was also simpler than that of a conventional revetment, and the material used more readily available than armor stones. In addition, the completed cobble berm and artificial dune are nearly indistinguishable from their natural counterparts on the Oregon coast, such that the visitors have little or no notion that these are in fact shore protection structures.

If you want to learn more about this project, read the report ‘Design with Nature” Strategies for Shore Protection: The Construction of a Cobble Berm and Artificial Dune in an Oregon State Park’ written by Paul Kolmar, Oregon State University, and Jonathan Allan, Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries.

We need your help!

Do you know of projects, programs, initiatives, and research in your area I could add as case studies in this mapper? If you do, please contact me at olmetasf@oregonstate.edu. I am also looking for any existing projects and initiatives taken by individual homeowners/landowners.

Other work

Regarding my other tasks for the fellowship, I completed the design of the training needs assessment survey for the lodging industry and I am currently piloting the survey. This needs assessment asks questions about overall training needs and logistics, but mostly focuses on two trainings: the new OSG free online 30-minute Practical Customer Service Training, and the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) free online 30-minute Tsunami Safe Training. I aim to distribute this survey in the coming month. We waited for the busy summer season to be over so hotel managers would have more time available to complete the survey.

We are taking small steps with this project and decided to start with Curry County and the City of Seaside before expanding it coastwide. We may also expand this survey to other sectors in the hospitality industry.

I also continue my efforts in reaching out to tribal, state and federal agency staff, university researchers and staff, local government staff, and hotels to let them know about the Oregon Mapper and the lodging industry needs assessment projects, and to discuss their needs and how OSG could support them. So far, I had Zoom, phone, and email exchanges with a little over 50 people across Oregon State and a couple in Washington State.

I hope you enjoyed reading about this brief update on my main two projects! Do not hesitate contacting me at olmetasf@oregonstate.edu if you have any questions and suggestions.

Final Lessons from Oregon Sea Grant

Working as an Oregon Sea Grant Summer Scholar these past ten weeks has been a blast! I learned so many lessons that will be applicable throughout the entirety of my career in science. My favorite parts of my internship were all the times I was able to interact with other people interested in the Oregon seafood industry. I loved Fridays when I could join my mentor, Angee, at the Newport docks. I also enjoyed the interviews I had with industry leaders up and down the Oregon coast. Overall, I felt the most connected to the coast when I could interact with people who had deep connections with it. 

This feeling is something I hope to carry into my next step as a scientist. I am currently living in Guam working towards getting my masters degree in coral restoration genetics. While working here I plan to establish a relationship with community members and other scientists. By learning from people who have lived with and studied this area far longer than I have, I should be able to deepen my respect for corals and integrate a diverse range of disciplines into my work. In addition to expanding my community here, I plan to continue making science education videos and posts. Instead of posting about Eat Oregon Seafood, I will shift to posting about coral restoration research. I also hope to make some videos that may help demystify graduate school for students who don’t initially see themselves belonging there.

Our first field day in Guam
Corals located right behind the University of Guam Marine Lab

I will spend three years here in Guam completing my masters (and I can already tell they are going to be three of the best years of my life). Afterwards, I plan to pursue a PhD in coral science (and maybe even dive a little into policy as a Knauss fellow – who knows!). I am positive that I will continue to appreciate Oregon seafood management from afar and use everything I learned this summer to look at my current work from different perspectives. Big thank you to Oregon Sea Grant, my summer mentors, and everyone else who made this summer possible!

All good things must come to an end.

It is bittersweet knowing that I have to say goodbye to this amazing opportunity, but I was ready to return home. For the final weeks of the internship, we continued to survey, entered date into excel, and then created the final presentation. It was great to meet new people and learn about everything everyone was doing. I was really happy I took this awesome opportunity. I am happy that I accepted the position with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and was granted the honor of being an Oregon Sea Grant Scholar. I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. I met some great people, gained lot of professional skills and experiences. The west coast was defiantly something different. I would love to visit the west coast, but for vacation purposes. The scenery is so beautiful and I was honored to be on the ancestral lands of the Umatilla, Coos, Siletz and many more tribes. It is with gratitude that I had the opportunity to work there. Thank you. The Oregon Coast is unlike anything I have ever experienced, I am glad I had the opportunity. My favorite part was the scenery and will include one of my favorite photos that I captured while conducting surveys. It is in Otter Rock. Until next time.

Processed with VSCO with c9 preset

Summer in Review, and Next Steps

To echo the words of my mentors in a meeting yesterday, “it’s been 10 weeks already?!” My time at the Oregon Coastal and Ocean Information Network (OCOIN) has absolutely flown by. Beyond a doubt, my personal growth and learning over the course of this Summer is due to the amazing network of people within OCOIN and Sea Grant. I felt supported by my mentors who both helped me become an expert in ESRI software, like survey123, and supported my own curiosity and innovation while working on OCOIN’s tools this summer. I also want to recognize my fellow Oregon Sea Grant Summer Scholar, Joshua, whose collaboration allowed me to be a better team member and always challenged me to learn more skills and organize efficiently. 

This internship confirmed that after I graduate in 2022 I want to continue exploring the ways mapping and spatial data can be used as a research method and a vehicle for science communication. I plan on taking a year to work before pursuing a graduate degree in the geospatial data science realm, and I feel confident the skills I’ve learned at OCOIN will help me with both endeavors. Beyond software, my expanded confidence in troubleshooting and the  design and implementation of user-interface updates I gained while working on OCOIN’s tools will be invaluable while searching for jobs. 

Last day on the job selfie, featuring the Oregon Sea Grant hat!

Finally, I would like to say a heartfelt thank you to the Oregon Sea Grant, my mentors in the CEI program, and the entire team at OCOIN. It was a pleasure to work with everyone and I know we will be in contact in the future!

Ten Weeks Packed Full of Learning

I can’t believe that my time as a Summer Scholar is already coming to a close. Working with the Oregon Coastal and Ocean Information Network (OCOIN) has provided an amazing opportunity to see what my professional life will be like after I finish school. Within the OCOIN network, I have been able to gain a broader view of organizations working to provide for Oregon’s coast and have built connections with professionals within these networks. It has been a confirming experience working with people with common interests, with whom I can see myself working well with. 

My view this week, finishing up our updates to OCOIN’s Coastal Research Explorer.

While I don’t feel like I have a better understanding of what exactly I would like to do after school, I do feel more comfortable with the options before me. With OCOIN, I have seen a greater variety of professional tracks working within the environmental science realm. I have also learned valuable skills that will help me when it comes time for my job hunt. My biggest goal as a Summer Scholar was to learn ArcGIS, and I have gotten a deeper understanding of it than I thought was possible in just ten short weeks. Before this summer, I knew nothing about ArcGIS, but over my internship, I have completed many tutorials, had hours of hands-on training, been able to put my skills to use working on OCOIN’s Coastal Research Explorer, and have even had my share of troubleshooting to really gain a deep learning of this valuable skill. 

This fall, I will be starting graduate school at Portland State University, working towards my Master of Science in Environmental Science and Management. I will be a part of the Applied Coastal Ecology lab with Dr. Elise Granek. One of my goals as a Summer Scholar was to determine what I would like to research. While that is still taking shape, the vision of what it will be is much clearer. Throughout my internship, I worked hands-on with OCOIN’s Coastal Research Explorer, which hosts Oregon’s coastal research projects. This experience allowed me to see what research is taking place on the coast, aiding in my quest to find a research topic. I am grateful for the skills I acquired, the connections I made, and the hands-on experience I gained as a Summer Scholar. 

Saying “goodbye” to the South Slough a 2nd time… but not really


This summer, as the cliché goes, went by “in the blink of an eye.” I had a lot of fun at the Slough, and being there every other week truly felt like going on vacation. I have had a hectic schedule this summer to say the least, but working once again with the South Slough staff was a pleasure. While last summer’s internship largely prepared me to have success right away for this year’s science camps, I certainly became a more confident educator through my additional exposure to leading camps this summer.

High school science campers feeding tide pool critters at the Charleston Marine Life Center in Charleston, OR.

Did this internship affect my future career choices?:

My experience this summer did not affect my career path, but my overall time as an Oregon Sea Grant intern at the South Slough certainly has. I am in the process of applying to Wildlife Ecology PhD programs and hope to pursue a career in academia, research, and wilderness management. My time at SSNERR has also motivated me to pursue educational outreach opportunities in the future, whether that be as a volunteer or through occupational means. I am a passionate student of ecology and animal behavior, which has only been amplified by my past two summers as a Summer Scholar.

Next Steps:

At this time, my next next steps are to complete my undergraduate honor thesis and to obtain funding for graduate school. I have spoken with prospective PhD mentors from various universities this summer and have options that are contingent on either their labs obtaining funding or me obtaining funding. Ideally, if I can win a competitive fellowship award, such as the NSF GRFP, then I will be able to conduct meaningful research under the mentor that I hope to work with. Most of my time is currently occupied with data collection for my thesis (which is a study on how blue fluorescent light affects bee movement and pollination behavior) and polishing my applications for graduate school funding. I am also preparing to take the GRE in September and working in a bird physiology lab, which will hopefully prepare me for some work I hope to do with birds in grad school. I will also be working closely with the South Slough to complete the SWMP water quality exhibit over the course of the next few months.


Thanks again to Oregon Sea Grant and the South Slough for the tremendous opportunities over the past two summers! I will keep in regular contact with members of the South Slough and appreciate all Sea Grant has done in opening new career pathways for me.

All by myself…

Just ten weeks ago Lisette, Phoenix, and I were headed to Otter Rock for our first practice run surveying visitors to Oregon’s marine reserves. Fast forward to today; Lisette headed back to Chicago last week and Phoenix left the week before. It has been a quite week finishing up data entry and checking from home so I have had more time to think about this blog post compared to previous ones.

Throughout these ten weeks I saw how human dimensions research is carried out from survey design to report writing. I sat in on meetings with the team designing and drafting a survey that would be sent out to thousands of recreational fishers, created a codebook for data entry, conducted hundreds of surveys of visitors and businesses, and now I’m starting the report writing phase.

This behind the scenes look has made me feel more confident in my career goals going forward. I have always said that I wanted to work for ODFW or similar agency because I felt that their mission aligned with my personal values. This experience has solidified that for me and, through our mentor Tommy, I have gained some insight into what it takes to get a permanent position at ODFW.

It looks more and more like graduate school is in my future. I have started doing some surface level research into where I could apply and what that process looks like. This is where I feel like I faltered at the end of my previous bachelor’s degree so this all makes me a little nervous. In the next few weeks I will develop more of a plan and set up some meetings with my advisor and others to make sure I’m on the right track.

In the short term I will be staying on with ODFW as a temporary biological science aid. This will allow me to continue helping write the reports for the data we collected this Summer. I’m excited to stick with the project a little longer and to have a job for the rest of the Summer!

Thistle is adjusting to the work from home life.