Another week has gone by and, again, I am wondering how it went by so quickly. I think the holiday weekend has thrown me off a bit. Nonetheless, while last week went by fast, there were some interesting things that happened at the job. The most notable experience was traveling up to Portland on Friday for a regional meeting on Obama’s new priorities for ocean policy.
My day started at 5 am when I got up early to get ready to hit the road no later than 6:45 to Portland. I carpooled up with my boss, Jenna, and two other graduate students from OSU that I knew previously from a Coastal Law course that we took together. By 9 am, we were sitting in a jam-packed room full of people in Portland.
The purpose of the meeting was to provide a venue for stakeholders to receive more background and information on Obama’s priorities, as well as voice their opinions or concerns about how these priorities are being carried out. As of now, most of Obama’s priorities are still in initial phases of planning. Not too long ago, staffers for the National Ocean Council produced interim “Strategic Action Plans” (SAPs) for all the priorities which outlined background information, outcomes, and milestones to making each priority a reality. The meeting was primarily focused on these SAPs and getting public input into their development so far.
During the first portion of the meeting, there were a series of talks done by individuals involved in national marine policy, such as Jane Lubchenco (head NOAA advisor and former OSU marine ecologist) and WA Senator Kevin Ranker. After that, there were a series of “comments” from some OR politicians and tribes and a Q&A session on the SAPs. By around 11:30, the meeting adjourned into poster breakout session. Each SAP priority had a poster and at each poster there were representatives to speak in greater detail or answer questions about that priority.
I enjoyed the meeting and some of the contacts that I spoke with; however, I’ll be honest, I felt like the meeting wasn’t worth all the effort we took to go up there. The information presented was basically a duplicate of the national meeting that I sat in on. Also, before the meeting I had already read all the SAPs in detail, so I did not find the background information useful. Because the SAPs are not fleshed out in a lot of detail, most of the answers that the panel gave to the audience’s specific questions were vague and overarching because they themselves did not know quite how the SAPs would specifically pan out. The National Ocean Council has a huge feat before them in developing the specifics of these plans, especially in light of having little to no additional funding to spearhead the process.
Going to the meeting in Portland was a nice personal affirmation that I grasp and understand the material in my field well. I also have enough experience and knowledge in marine policy that I am able to think critically and provide feedback to the SAPs too. It’s nice to know that I am capable and knowledgeable enough to contribute. Too bad most jobs require me to have a MS or PhD in order to be consider “qualified” to give valuable input and assist the policy process.
Hope you had a good fourth of July! I’ll be back Friday for a short recap on this week.
You are lucky to have time to thoroughly read all those background documents. I’d be interested to hear more about the poster session – were you able to get some deeper insight into the priorities?
The poster session was ok. I did not necessarily gain any deeper insight other than affirming the fact that a lot of individuals are unsure about the specifics of how things are going to be carrier out.
For example, for the priority for CMSP, which is what I’m working in, I asked the woman at the poster session about data standards for CMSP in each region. There are a variety of platforms and computer tools to do CMSP and if each of the 9 national coastal regions choose different tools to use, it could potentially create problems for sharing data or collaborating on a national level. The woman I spoke to said that data standards have not been set and recommendations for which tools to use have not been advised either.
I did not visit all of the priority stations, but of the ones I did visit, I ran into similar situations where the questions I asked were returned with a “Well, I’m not sure about that.” At somepoint, someone has got to be sure because right now it seems like everyone is talking in broad terms and is not sure how to answer the question.