Starting out as Malouf Scholar, ODFW Marine Team, and deep-sea research on the Okeanos

Every day I get to go out on the Ocean I feel like the luckiest person in the world!

I was in Portland OR, attending the Ecological Society of America (ESA) meeting, when I first heard the good news that I had gotten the Malouf Marine Studies Scholarship! I could not believe it, and was so exited. I ran all over the Oregon Convention Center, trying to find my adviser to tell him the good news! I finally had the funding to start doing field work and begin my PhD research.

During September I had my first chance to go out with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) Marine Reserves Team, and learn how their Hook and Line survey methods works. A method I plan to use as part of my research.  I learned so much those few days I was out there with ODFW’s David Wagman (also known as Wolfe, bottom left). He is a really good mentor and gave me great suggestions on how to improve my proposed research.

Photos: Alex Avila, Participating in ODFW’s Hook and Line Surveys

Photo: Alex Avila. Wolfe measuring fish

Unfortunately that was the last outing of the season. I need to finish writing all my permit application in the winter in order to be ready to hit the ground running next year.

NOAA scholarships have given me the opportunities I would have never even dream possible. Just like Oregon Sea Grant is part of NOAA Sea Grant College program , so is another scholarship that has greatly impacted my life, the Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship, from NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. I’m currently serving aboard the NOAA ship Okeanos in the Gulf of Mexico, as part of a program collaboration opportunity that was given to me as a Dr. Nancy Foster scholar. I’m here to serve as in data logging and samples processing. At the end of the expedition I will be writing a report that will help prioritize data for researchers, ensuring that the data can be efficiently used.

Photo courtesy of NOAA Office of Exploration and Research (OER)

Photo courtesy of NOAA Office of Exploration and Research (OER)

The  NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer expedition is running from November 29 through December 21 2017, and is investigating deep-sea habitats and the associated marine communities in the Gulf of Mexico basin. Through the Okeanos expedition,  other researchers and I, are exploring and discovering vulnerable marine habitats and investigating areas relevant to resource managers, submerged cultural heritage sites,  and marine protected areas. Okeanos is equipped with telepresence, meaning people on shore – whether scientists or the general public – and anyone can watch the remotely operated vehicle (ROVs) dives live in real time (click here to stream video).  In fact, next week, we will be conducting a Facebook Live event from the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer in the Gulf of Mexico this Tuesday, December 12th 2017 at 11:00 am PST  (2:00 pm EST). Science Co-lead Dr. Diva Amon, Expedition Coordinator Brian Kennedy, and I will be there to answer everyone questions! Check out Diva’s, NOAA’s OER and my twitter profiles for daily updates from the Okeanos!

Left to right: Diva Amon, Brian Kennedy, Alex Avila. Photo courtesy of NOAA Office of Exploration and Research (OER)

 

 

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About Alex Avila

Alexandra M. Avila is a Fisheries Ph.D. student, a Oregon Sea Gran Malouf Scholars, and a NOAA Dr. Nancy Foster Scholar at Oregon State University’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. Her research will examine the effects of nearshore currents and upwelling patterns, on the dispersal of larval rockfish of rockfish (genus Sebastes spp.) from Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Oregon and Washington Coast including the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. For this she will determine if larvae contribute to population stock and genetic diversity of the marine reserves and whether there is a detectable spillover effect into the surrounding non-reserve areas; she will also help in the development of oceanography-based larval dispersal models and recommendations for the use of oceanographic data to improve the design and formation of future marine reserves. Alex has always loved anything and everything having to do with water, whether it’s the ocean, rivers or lakes. This has led her to work in many coastal areas in the United States and in Ecuador. She has studied the genetic diversity and conservation of the misty grouper (Hyporthodus mytacinus) in the Galapagos Islands, conducted environmental impact research in the Amazon, researched the oyster (Crassostera virginica) and blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) populations in the Chesapeake Bay with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC), and helped in assessing the salmon habitat in Oregon with the U.S. Forest Service. She has also done wildland firefighting. Alex is really excited to be here for it has been a dream of hers for a long time and she is truly grateful for this unique opportunity to work with people who are as passionate about protecting our oceans as she is. Alex Avila graduated with a B.A. in Biology from Hood College in Maryland, with two minors: Coastal Studies and Environmental Science and Policy. She obtained her M.Sc. in Ecology at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ) in Ecuador.

1 thought on “Starting out as Malouf Scholar, ODFW Marine Team, and deep-sea research on the Okeanos

  1. Exciting work, Alex! Thanks for sharing your Nancy Foster Scholarship supported events and research. I am sure both aspects of your research inform one another. I would love to learn more about “submerged cultural heritage sites.” I guess I’ll have to tune into the FB live event!
    Fingers crossed on your permit going through!

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