Hello! My name is Hilary Polis, and I was a Sea Grant Summer Scholar last year. I ran into Sarah Kolesar the other day and she asked me to write a blog update, because my summer scholar internship turned into a job opportunity! Last summer I worked for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Marine Reserves Program as a socioeconomic analyst assistant. I was essentially collecting data on how people use the ocean at marine reserve sites, so that we can monitor this use over time. My work involved doing a lot of field work at the beach so that I could count and interview visitors the the reserve areas.
I continued my internship with ODFW in the fall, this time for class credit. My data collection in the fall consisted mostly of interviewing recreational fishermen to collect information for the state about how the behavior of these fishermen may change over time as new regulations are put in place. I was lucky enough to receive a job offer to work for the ODFW marine reserves program full time as a socioeconomic analyst, after my mentor from last summer left ODFW for a different job and they needed someone to temporarily to cover her position until they can hire a new project leader. I feel very blessed to be given this opportunity and I feel like I may be in a bit over my head at times, it has created a tremendous opportunity for me to learn so much in a very short period of time.
My primary duty now consists of writing up all the research that has been done on the “human dimensions” or social side of marine reserve research since the program began for two sites: Otter Rock and Redfish Rocks. This write-up is now a 120+page report that will be published for the state when it is complete. I am finding that I am enjoying putting all the pieces of this work together. My favorite part of my job is reading studies that ODFW has contracted with researchers at OSU to complete. I am finding that many of user knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions of marine reserves from the OSU studies is matching up with the data I gathered while doing surveys on the coast last summer.
I have also been asked to do a regional economic impact analysis on the impact of research to Port Orford, Oregon (Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve). This consisted of setting up interviews with anyone that has ever done research at Port Orford and asking them questions about their spending in the region, then summarizing the data so that an economist can plug it into a model. It was fascinating to learn about all the research that is going on in the area, but also how well this community involves all of their different ocean stakeholder groups to create this collaborative form of management. It has also given me a better perpective about the number of people and spending that occurs to support research beyond just researchers themselves.
So while I don’t get to go out into the field as much and I don’t have as many stories about crazy encounters with the public, I was ready for a bigger challenge. This is such an amazing opportunity and I couldn’t have done it without my experience as a summer scholar last year!