I have reached the point where I know exactly what I don’t know.

This being my first blog post, I thought it would be appropriate to start with a little about me. I’m originally from Massachusetts, but find myself in the beautiful state of Oregon working towards a Masters of Environmental Management. I am a candidate at Portland State University under the excellent guidance of my advisor, Dr. Elise Granek. I came back to school after some time working in the solar energy industry in order to better understand how best to bring scientific knowledge into policy action. In doing so, I study coastal ecosystem services knowledge gaps in the policy and management community in Oregon. My research will form a framework for connecting data needs of coastal policy makers and managers with scientific research with matching interests in the near future and long-term. I hope this will provide a methodology for effectively connecting the scientific community with policy makers and managers in other coastal states. I suspect that due to its strong focus on outreach in the marine environment, I was fortunate to be awarded the Robert E. Malouf Marine Studies Scholarship for this work! I look forward to applying my background and education to a career in coastal and marine policy creation and management implementation.
That being said, I’m a year into my work and I’ve hit what seems to be the most critical time, analysis! Since last May I have been interviewing and focus grouping various decision makers on the Oregon coast and have collected a significant amount of qualitative data to work with. Aided by the vast knowledge of Amy Lubitow PhD, an environmental sociology associate professor at Portland State University, and Max Nielsen-Pincus PhD, an environmental public policy and management associate professor at Portland State University, as well as the use of advanced qualitative data analysis software, I will be coding data and evaluating the emergent themes of ecosystem service priorities and research needs in coastal Oregon public policy and management.
Conducting the interviews and focus group research for this project was a learning experience in itself. Every person I spoke with had a unique perspective on marine policy and management practices. Since I was relatively new to this form of data collection, it seemed that the more interviews and focus groups I conducted the better I became at digging deeper into those perspectives. Unfortunately, that also meant that the audio files recording these qualitative data interactions became progressively longer as the project progressed. This made transcribing the data a much more significant task than I ever realized! The length of time required for the transcriptions was longer than I had anticipated, but what’s a master’s thesis without a glitch in the originally planned timeframe?
Now that the transcriptions are finally complete and I have read through them, I am feeling very good about the data that has been collected. The questions are all asked, and the data is all there, now the key is matching qualitative data with questions to come to some conclusions. In short, I am at the stage now where I know exactly what it is I don’t know; but I’m moving in the direction of knowing. This seems to be the most exciting and daunting my project has been since inception.
Where do I go from here? Well, the exact answer to this question depends on the data analysis. Coding and analysis of the data will determine the kinds of scientific informational needs that exist on the coast. From there the synthesis session will, simply put, be planned according to identified needs in order to reach out to the scientific and decision making communities to be the basis for a more iterative process of interactions. However, this is actually not quite as simple as it may sound. There remains a significant amount of work to achieve in a short period of time, but first things first: Analysis!

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About Kaity Goldsmith

I am a recent graduate of the Masters of Environmental Management program, with a focus on Marine Management and Policy, from the Environmental Science and Management Dept. at Portland State University. I am particularly interested in methodologies for creating evidence-based decision making, i.e. translating best available science into management and policy practices. Protecting the amazing and integral coastal and marine resources now and into the future will take creative and innovative thinkers, and I endeavor to be among them. Please join me on my experience over the next year as the Ocean Policy Fellow in the Governor's Natural Resource Office!

One thought on “I have reached the point where I know exactly what I don’t know.

  1. I hear the bugler’s call, Kaity! Charge! It will be interesting to see what the data themes show. I am already curious to know what kinds of questions were asked. I look forward to reading bout your work here.

    Focus grouping, a verb? I like it!

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