Science Policy and the South Slough

Now that you’ve been on the job for several weeks, how has your view of science policy changed (if at all)?  

The boring (but truthful) answer is that my view of science policy has not changed. Given that I worked as a Summer Scholar last year, my knowledge for how the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) and state-run reserve systems has not really increased. Last summer, understanding how NERRS worked was one of my primary goals.

Do you have a better understanding of how policy organizations work?  

Again, I wouldn’t say my understanding has become better because of how much I had already learned last summer. However, being around members of an organization governed by multiple levels of the government helps keep what I learned last summer fresh in my mind. 

Have you had a chance to attend any agency-level meetings?  

Last year I had the chance to attend education team meetings, full South Slough staff meetings, and a NERRS meeting. This year, so far, I have only participated in education team meetings (as those are the ones I can contribute meaningfully in). 

Discuss any tradeoffs you see in your organization between serving the public good and being able to respond nimbly.  

I don’t believe that serving the public good and being able to respond nimbly to different issues are mutually exclusive practices. In some cases they could be, but I believe the trade offs that would occur are very situation-specific. 

On wilderness reserves, there tends to be somewhat of a dilemma between protecting the natural environment and allowing people to enjoy it. In almost all circumstances, the more human traffic there is in an area, the worse off the environment will be. Of course, for a place like the South Slough, there can be a proper balance… but at what point are there too many people walking the trails? At what point is the natural environment being altered in a negative way by human activity? 

Fortunately, too many visitors has not been a significant problem at the South Slough (that I am aware of), but if it became an issue, decisions would have to be made about limiting the number of visitors. In such a circumstance, I could see where serving the public good (allowing more people to experience a beautiful natural setting) and being able to act nimbly (responding quickly to negative environmental changes) could come to a clash. Though, one could also argue that taking the necessary precautions to protect the reserve by limiting visitors would still be serving the public good by preserving the reserve’s beauty for future visitors. Under this belief, serving the public good and being able to act nimbly are complementary actions, rather than opposing.

Do you have a better understanding of how science policy operates in the state of Oregon?  

My understanding of science policy has not changed all that much since last summer. Last summer is really when I went from not knowing much at all to feeling that I had a pretty decent grasp on the basics of science policy in Oregon. 

Does your agency have ties to other states, and/or to national-level organizations?  

Yes, the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve (SSNERR) is tied to the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS). Fun fact: the South Slough was the very first NERR and was designated as so in 1974. Now there are a total of 29 NERRs across the country.  

The 29 national estuarine research reserves that compose NERRS. The South Slough is showcased with the red arrow. This map can be found at

Are you inspired to continue with this line of work into the future?

Absolutely — I am very interested in pursuing lines of work that allow me to work with management of reserve systems and public outreach in the future. I think that getting people excited about the beauty that nature has to offer and protecting wild places work hand-in-hand. Through both informing management decisions with science and teaching future generations how to protect and enjoy the wilderness, I believe that beautiful natural areas can be conserved and restored.


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