The summer is just about over and school is starting again in a couple weeks. But what a summer it has been!

Just after school ended, I had the opportunity to go to the upper peninsula of Michigan to attend the International Symposium on Society and Resource Management (ISSRM). Students and professionals from all over the world were in attendance. I got to go on a field trip hosted by the Keweena Bay Indian Community, who showed us around their fish hatchery, native plant greenhouse and garden, nursery, a restoration area that was a previous stamp mine dump site, and their dance ground. They were very hospitable and answered our (numerous) questions.

There were a lot of talks, on a wide variety of natural resource and human dimension topics, and the keynote speakers were extremely interesting. On the last day of talks we were eating lunch and looked outside; it looked like midnight. Then the wind came. Then lightening. Then torrential rain. I was one of the few (ahem, unwise) adventurers to walk the 10 minutes back to the afternoon talks through the brunt of the storm. I had to wring out my pants and still had my own personal puddle at the end of the talk. Ah, the Midwest. Despite that, we had a wonderful picnic on Lake Superior with one of the local delicacies: meat pasties. It’s like a hearty oblong meat pie, and is delicious.

I got to present my poster at the poster session, and had people from several countries as well as from the local Native American community asking questions. I had a particularly interesting conversation about the differences in the meaning behind “tribe” with a fellow from Africa.

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The rest of the summer was quite busy as well, including helping a couple fellow students with field work, getting my field work off the ground, and a phone survey job that had me asking questions of Oregon residents on their opinions and knowledge of Oregon marine spatial planning and reserves.

Currently, I am traveling back and forth between Portland (my current home) and the Oregon coast conducting interviews with tribal members for my thesis. This is extremely exciting and is going extremely well so far.

The amount of work to get to the point of interviewing tribal members is a lot more than I initially thought. Each tribe is a sovereign nation, meaning in part that they each have different procedures and timing for approving any type of research. This is especially important when the research includes traditional knowledge, which is the topic of several of my interview questions. I have had to draw upon my experience working for a tribe prior to going to graduate school. There are extensive data protections that have to be put in place, as well as a sensitivity when interviewing tribal elders that can only be learned with experience. Nonetheless, I have found the experience to be a great learning experience and I look forward to continuing the project.

Since this is my last blog post, I would like to take the chance to express my tremendous thanks to Sea Grant for accepting me and my project into the Malouf scholarship program. The funding has made my graduate experience much more extensive, with being able to go to several local and one larger conference. The funding also allowed me to get the equipment needed for the interview set-up, as well as the travel up and down the coast for interviews, meetings, and trainings that helped make this project possible. I am also thankful for the connections that Sea Grant has made possible, which has made for a very rich networking experience. I highly encourage students to work with Sea Grant if at all possible for the opportunities this great organization offers.

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  1. I’m so curious now as to the differences in the meaning of the word tribe in Africa compared with how Native Americans interpret it! I have never thought about the technical difficulties in place when attempting to conduct research related to tribes. What are some of the hoops that you’ve had to jump through in order to accomplish these interviews?

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