And That’s That!

Having perused the previous Summer Scholar’s blog posts when applying for this program, I read that not only will you learn a great deal about yourself, research, and science, you will form connections with people who will serve as role models and friends long after the program ends. At the time, I knew that this would be a great experience, but I was not aware of just how meaningful those students’ statements were until now as I write this final blog post. More on that in a moment; first I want to reflect on the final week of this program. As always, it was full of positive experiences. The final weekend consisted of presenting at the Final Symposium, celebrating the end of the program with the rest of the Scholars, and traveling to Corvallis to see the total solar eclipse. To say the least, that was the most eerie, fascinating experience. The remaining weekdays consisted of finishing up small projects, saying goodbye to the magical Bandon office, farewell dinners, learning quintessential dart games from Miles, apricot ale, making too much noise with Chris, Rowland, and Dustin at our farewell breakfast, packing up all of my belongings, turning in my keys, and driving to Portland for my last night in Oregon. That evening, I visited Powell’s bookstore with a friend from school, which takes up an entire city block. Literally a dream. This weekend, I flew to my hometown of Denver for my mom’s wedding. I didn’t take any pictures because I was too preoccupied catching up with family and friends (my mom has 7 siblings, most of which have kids, some of whom also have kids), and butchering a toast in front of all of them because I was too overcome with emotion and gratitude. But here’s a picture of my mom and her best friend that my sister managed to snap. Seeing her celebrate love with our family surrounding her was one of the most beautiful experiences. 

Now that the craziness has died down, I am finally able to sit down and reflect on this past summer in the sunny, plant filled kitchen of my sister’s home. (Yes, the obsession runs in the family). I’ve previously written a bit about how my research this summer led me to learn how to maintain a strong sense of patience and diligence in the face of discomfort. (I’ve also learned that I have an almost uncontrollable sweet tooth when stressed. A very tangible thing that I will take from Oregon is my newfound obsession with Pepperidge Farm’s chocolate hazelnut pirouettes). In addition to learning about my personal research process, studying environmental interpretation, the tourism industry, and natural resource based recreation has shown me the overall potential to strengthen natural resources through sustainable tourism when collaboration between communities and the sharing of knowledge between stakeholders are the top priorities. There is so much potential for community collaboration, economic recovery, and ecosystem restoration/enhancement in the southern region of Oregon, and I hope more people have the chance to experience the wildness that resides there in the secluded coves, uninterrupted sand dunes, geologic sentinels, and centuries-old forests. 

As for the people I had the privilege of interacting with, saying that I am grateful for them is an understatement. There are so many people that have either offered me their knowledge, time, books, stories, and/or connections with other influential people that have also proven to be invaluable.

Surrogate Oregon parents Rowland and Chris with Dustin. We got scolded for laughing too loud.

Having now completed this program, I feel more motivation, bravery, and excitement for the future. Upon my return to California in a couple of weeks, I plan to complete my last round of classes, resume my role at the Estuary Program, graduate (!!), work at the Marine Mammal Center, and bring in the conclusion of the calendar year with getting my PADI Open Water Diver certification. After that – time will only tell. Within a few years from now, I hope to apply to graduate school, my (tentative) top choice being the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management of UC Santa Barbara to double-specialize in coastal marine resources management and water resources management.

In wondering about what I will end up pursuing, I am reminded of a statement I made in the essay I wrote when applying for this program: “As I approach my graduation in December of this year, and as climatic and destructive threats confront coastal communities, I feel a sense of urgency to seize every opportunity available. My lifelong goals are simple: to always learn, and to contribute to the well-being of the planet. Whether I become a scientific explorer for the National Geographic Society, obtain doctorate degrees in various areas of study, or lead a successful public environmental agency, my ambition is to be in a challenging profession that will further the scientific discovery of the world and augment the protection of our planet’s marine and terrestrial ecosystems.” This program has reinforced those goals and has added/strengthened other passions in the mix, such as marine mammal ecology and the indescribably, critical importance of effective science communication. 

Thank you to Sea Grant; Miles, the Scholars, OSU Extension; Haley; Dustin, Dave Lacey, Anthony, and friends of South Coast Tours; Rowland and Chris Willis; Erik Urdahl; Justin Meyers; Tom Calvanese; Joy Primrose; Gary & The Whale’s Tail; Marine Discovery Tours; The Oregon State Marine Board; Capt. John Blanchard; Dean Finnerty, Frank Burris; Mark Lottis; Sarah Kolesar; Mary Pleasant; and MOTHA EARTH. This has been a beautiful experience. 



I briefly mentioned in my last blog post that a couple of weeks ago I went to the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology in Charleston for one of their summer seminars. NOAA Marine ecologist Robert Pitman of the Southwest Marine Fisheries Science Center was presenting his research on killer whales in the Antarctic, and man, did I learn a lot. I have focused on terrestrial mammals for most of my degree, primarily domesticated species, and therefore have an elementary (if that, even) supply of knowledge about marine mammals. It’s kind of a shame and a bit embarrassing; I have lived in a coastal state for almost four years now and haven’t really realized how interested I am in the ocean and its inhabitants until this past year. It started when I began working for the Estuary Program in Morro Bay, watching the sea otters float past from our office and listening to the sea lions barking on the dock throughout the day. The combination of my insecurity about not having a ton of formal education in marine biology and probably the apprehension of breaking the news to my family (located in a landlocked state) that I might stay in ocean/coastal science forever has prevented me from seriously realizing that this is indeed what I am interested in. And yet, this summer it feels as though I’ve done quite a bit of catching up.

That’s why I was eager to see Robert’s lecture, and it also turned out to be a source of some significant connections with other people in the whale community. I met Joy Primrose, the president of The American Cetacean Society’s Oregon Chapter, mostly because I said I liked her tote bag, which was adorned with a Lisa-Frank-meets-Christian-Lassen style orca pattern. She was telling me about a photographer based out of Portland who has given whale photography workshops and that he just recently did some work out of Port Orford. Upon telling me we should connect, I realized she was talking about Erik Urdahl, one of the photographers that Dustin and I worked with a few weeks ago. Erik started The Spout, an organization dedicated to connecting people with whales and promoting their conservation.

I immediately emailed him asking if he is offering any more whale photography workshops, and he said no, but instead offered to take Dustin and I out to Depoe Bay for a casual whale watching excursion. He kindly lent me his telephoto lens and we took a Zodiac with Gary at The Whale’s Tail out on the water. You have to realize, I’ve never been near a whale. I saw a grey whale spout maybe twice from far away on a boat in Mexico last winter, but that hardly counts. In short, there was a lot of shrieking and profane language, because how else do you contain that kind of excitement? As Erik says, the excitement was up the wazoo. I also got to (yes, my use of the words “got to” are to emphasize what a privileged this was) experience the fragrant scent of whale ‘breath’ for the first time.



That weekend, because I clearly didn’t get enough, I met Joy at the Devil’s Punchbowl lookout/Otter Rock Marine Reserve to help her survey visitors about their demographic information, their awareness of Oregon’s Marine reserves, and their knowledge about whales. Most of the visitors were not from Oregon; in fact, most of the ones I talked to at least were from the Midwest and hadn’t ever seen a whale. Some had never even seen the Pacific Ocean. Thankfully, a lone grey whale spent the majority of the morning meandering between Gull Rock and a large kelp forest a few hundred meters south, and it showed off its flukes many times for a number of excited people. We also may have seen a harbor porpoise! We then visited Depoe Bay and watched 6 or 7 whales surface over and over while they fed on mycids inside the bay. Later that day, we went back to Joy’s house and I bought this book and the most recently updated poster of cetaceans of the world.

The rest of the weekend was spent rushing to Boardman again for the sunset, exploring rivers with the roommates, and meeting some horses. Another unreal week down.





Prepare for rambling to make up for my lacking-in-words-posts in 3..2..1..

I haven’t written much about activities at work besides the action-packed trips we’ve taken thus far, mostly because the majority of my work-related time has been spent in front of a computer analyzing the available outdoor recreation experiences in southern Oregon and attempting to visualize all of the information in a digestible way. After many weeks of analyzing previously collected data, collecting my own data, analyzing that, creating a report, editing that, losing files, wanting to throw the computer out the window into the lily pond outside, and then thanking it for doing things my brain can’t, collecting more data, reviewing, editing, re-doing, reviewing, number crunching, watching obscure excel tutorials (thanks youtube), having dreams about formatting, editing, and so on (and that description is still probably an understatement) Miles and I have finally agreed on the project’s status as being tentatively finished.

To say the least, it’s been a bit grueling. I’ve never conducted a research project outside of school that didn’t involve sampling methods in a context that I’m already familiar with, i.e. field data collection, lab work. etc. I’ve also never been responsible for writing the final report for the research. I’ve felt a bit stir crazy having to create this project entirely from a desk, but lemme tell ya, does it feel GOOD to see it all laid out in colorful, organized graphs, trends, and a few pretty pictures of the coast to complement the data. To briefly explain its purpose, I’ve added a few paragraphs from the report here.

“This research project was conducted to fill a gap in the knowledge of guided fishing charters and outdoor recreation tours along the coast. Data on the number of and type of operators, how well they are marketing themselves online, the products they offer, and especially the price of services is not readily available. This research was conducted in order to identify guided fishing and outdoor recreational tour businesses that were successfully marketed online so that a search for the specific service offered in the targeted community would appear as a top result in a basic online search. A limited comparison of these results against other inventories of or estimate of the number of operators would then be possible. Collection of price data helps to understand the economic impact of these businesses and potentially to help identify new growth conducted annually to provide long term trend data. In addition, the model is one that could be reproduced for other coastal communities in different states and countries.

The data collected will provide a basis upon which a guide training program will be developed to aid guided tour operators in obtaining the knowledge, skills, and resources to better market themselves, reach customers, sell experiences, and attract more sustainable, experiential, and interpretive tourism to the southern coast of Oregon.” 

During this process, I’ve learned a lot about basic data analytics and visualization, interpretive communication, and how to create a project/write instructions that are clear enough to be successfully repeated by others. We have already shown the report to a couple of guides in the area and they are quite pleased with the information. In the fall, Miles will be sharing these findings with the Adventure Travel Trade Association World Summit in Argentina to present the Wild Rivers region of Oregon as a pilot location to implement a guide training development program based off of the needs assessment information we have been collecting. For the amount of time we’ve spent working with this data, it’s going to be a lot of fun keeping in touch with Miles to see what comes of this summit and where he is able to take his ideas. I just wish I could still be here to help make it happen! 10 weeks is just too short.

Now that the core project is finished, I’ll be spending the last couple weeks of the summer interviewing a few guides about their operations to get qualitative assessments of their operations, needs, and perspectives. In addition, I am making videos for the guide training program and working with Dustin to compile literature (about southern Oregon ecology, wildlife, tourism, sustainable business, interpretation, marine reserves, psychology, etc.) to use in the program.

Crabz on the docks in Bandon

In other news, it’s been yet another fun week outside of work. Dustin and I went crabbing with one of the photographers we hired and although most were just shy of the legal size, or female, it’s a pretty great feeling to put in almost no effort (you just throw the pot into the water with some chicken attached) and barely any time to then pull up the pot and there’s nine crabs scuttling around.

That same evening I attended a lecture at the OIMB given by Robert Pitman, a marine biologist of NOAA Fisheries who studies killer whales in the Antarctic. It was a great learning and networking experience; stay tuned for what’s to come of that.

This weekend, Dustin and I got to tag along on a kayaking tour out of Port Orford with South Coast Tours (perks of being a buddy of Dave’s).

Our foggy launch site

The trip was definitely a highlight of the summer. We got to see an unbelievable amount of sea stars, which was incredibly encouraging. I did a kayaking/intertidal survey a few months ago in Morro Bay, CA where I work with the Estuary Program, to write a piece about the sea star wasting disease that’s been heavily impacting populations all along the Pacific coast. I only found one sea star that day, but during this trip there were definitely more than I could count and some were the biggest sea stars I’ve ever seen. We also saw two river otters and a number of harbor seals, pelagic cormorants, black oystercatchers, pigeon guillemots, and a peregrine falcon. We also saw a huge gumboot chiton, which is somehow just a ridiculously fitting name for such a creature.

Later that day, I hiked with my roommate and her boyfriend from Sunset Bay to Cape Arago and back, after having scouted the perfect hammock locations along the trail the evening before.


PSA and lesson of the day: Do not let the presence of fog discourage you from a sunset expedition!

It was a gorgeous trail and we again saw some harbor seals, which always remind me of cookies and cream ice cream. We also saw the massive colony of sea lions located off the coast of Simpson’s Reef. It was crazy how loud they are, and how many there were. At cape Arago, we sat for 40 minutes timing the intervals between spouts of what I’m pretty sure was a grey whale. It was the first whale I’ve seen while here, and there’s really nothing like it. The perfect day filled with so many cool animals was ended with a beautiful sunset as we hiked back to the car.

Film Frenzy

It’s hard to believe that there are only four weeks remaining in this program. It definitely doesn’t help when there has been so much going on. For this week’s blog post, I want to use the space to update y’all and show you what’s been going on instead of blabbering on. I’ve taken too many pictures to know what to do with, so they’ll likely serve more than words today. I promise this isn’t a cop out, pictures are just better.

To start, here are some of my film pictures from the photography trip a couple weeks ago that I recently got back…

Samuel H. Boardman State Park. Can’t get enough of that place. This specific area is called the (not so) Secret Beach. This is where we saw the bait ball.


Thunder rock cove, featuring some Columbia lilies.


A blur but a beaut. Erik, Justin, and Dustin on the way to catch the sunset at Thunder Rock cove.


Sunset on the other side of Thunder Rock cove.


Port Orford.


And here are some film pictures from the bright and early Fourth of July Bandon trip. On a hike a few days later, I tripped over literally nothing and one of my cameras popped open. I was devastated, because there were only two pictures left, so the entire roll was exposed. That is the risk you must take with film. I really need to learn to not be so emotionally dependent on my pictures turning out because half the fun is realizing you may not get anything. That’s fun, right? Right?

Anyway, somehow most of the roll turned out. I have no idea why. Thank you light gods. Look and these DIVINE leaks:




Some kitchen sink photos…

Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.


Bastendorff beach.


Finally, Andy visited me from CA this weekend. It was a blast showing him all of my favorite places and eating lots and lots of food. And ice cream. (The rest of these are digital).

Gorgeous and windy hikes with Rowland and Chris at Blacklock Point, the Sixes River, and Cape Blanco, the westernmost point in the contiguous United States besides Cape Alava, WA.


Getting soaked!


More south coast beauty.




That’s all for now. I shall be sending four more rolls to the land of developing later this week. Stay tuned.

No Hurry in Curry

I cannot take credit for that phrase; unfortunately, as it is quite commonplace here in Curry County. As it should be, though – this place encourages a relaxed-yet-somehow-also-adventurous lifestyle with its numerous hiking trails, secret coves, breweries, thriving rivers, and gorgeous sunsets. As stated in my last post, Dustin and I are here staying at the Port Orford Research Station to shadow two photographers from Portland, Justin and Erik, as part of the South Coast’s media asset building project. South Coast expert Dave Lacey (owner of South Coast Tours) took us around to his favorite spots to partake in various outdoor activities for Justin and Erik to photograph. We essentially ended up being their outdoor recreation models while also shadowing them throughout the trip. It was a fantastic learning experience, as we got to ask them all the questions we liked about photography and the industry, equipment, freelance work, life, etc., all the while paddle boarding in the clearest creeks and over bait balls in the ocean, jumping off boulders into the Chetco river with steelhead fry swimming underneath us, catching newts, tide pooling, drinking local beer, and chasing sunsets. It was definitely one of the best experiences I was fortunate enough to have. I ALSO SAW A RIVER OTTER FOR THE FIRST TIME ON THE VERY FIRST DAY OF SHOOTING. The trip could’ve ended there and it would have been a-okay.


Staying at the Research Station has been fantastic as well. There is something special about staying in a place that is primarily used by scientists, especially one on the coast near a marine reserve. To put it simply, this is the kind of thing I signed up for. For example, there are rockfish illustrations adorning the walls and books about Oregon coast hiking and marine biology filling the bookcase in my room. There’s also a frozen marbled murrelet in the freezer that has, according to Erik, been there waiting for an Audubon guy to pick it up since Erik was there last. Gross, but it honestly warms my heart. For science, right?

When expressing my interest in sperm whales, the station manager, Tom Calvanese (who is also a marine biologist, diver, rockfish researcher, and the Port Commissioner) lent me Bryant Austin‘s book, Beautiful Whale. Austin created the first ever high-resolution, life-sized composite images of humpback, sperm, and minke whales, and the book chronicles the dramatic story of how he did it.


I devoured that thing in one morning (okay, it’s relatively short, but still). I want to include a passage from the book here because it describes my sentiments about the species so precisely. When describing how it feels to meet the gaze of a whale within six feet, Austin says,

“It is disturbing, because this whale is challenging me to reevaluate our perceptions of intelligent, conscious life on this planet. And that which is challenging these perceptions may also disappear in our lifetimes. What compels me most of all is the thought of losing over five million years of evolving culture and communication in the largest brain ever to exist on Earth, and never to have understood it.” (He’s talking about sperm whales, whose brains are the largest of any creature and have been evolving for over five millions years). “Carl Sagan once said, ‘We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.’ We, being the self-aware cosmos, will lose a significant part of ourselves should we allow these creatures to go extinct.”

Tom also told me about a group of whale researchers who will be staying at the research station for the rest of the summer starting tomorrow. They will be tracking whales along the South Coast as part of a larger research project concerning whale excretion, prey, and ocean acoustics; I will hopefully get to meet them this summer. After seeing James Nestor’s Bioneers speech about Darewin and sperm whales a few months ago, I’ve been reading his book Deep and have been very interested in the creatures since. The plan is to someday become a free diver, join James and Darewin, communicate with the whales, and change the world. Just kidding. (But maybe). Also, sperm whales have learned to take sablefish (black cod) off of commercial long lines in the Gulf of Alaska and other places with their extremely dexterous jaws. This depredation is a huge problem for fishermen as black cod is an extremely marketable (and declining) species of fish, and it has caused significant economic loss for fishermen. Watch this eerie video of it happening. The clicks you hear are the whales.

The whales have begun to learn that the acoustics produced by the engine slipping in and out of gear while the fishermen haul the lines up mean that they get a free meal. Southeast Alaska Sperm Whale Avoidance Project is a group of scientists, fishermen, and fisheries managers working together to understand this issue and develop solutions to decrease the interactions while maintaining both whale populations and fisheries.

Being at the research station has been so enriching – learning about whales, getting to know the fellows next door at the Port Orford Sustainable Seafood office, receiving professional and project management advice from Tom (thanks Tom), running early on the beach, cooking delicious meals (thanks fully equipped kitchen), and posting up at sunset upstairs to catch the view.


Above & below: the view from my room.


We also got to know a BEAUTIFUL retired British couple who lives in Port Orford; Rowland is kindly donating some gorgeous wildlife photographs to our project. They took Dustin and I on a wonderful hike and they had us laughing the whole time while they lovingly bickered, told wild stories, and skillfully identified species of plants and insects.

I’d love to live here someday. I didn’t get the chance to see everything, but the people, the views, and Olivia the toothless cat at Tasty Kate’s were enough to get me hooked. Until next time, Port Orford! Here are some more pictures of the adventure (and four rolls of film in the near future. I don’t care what you say Rowly, film is better).





Above, left to right: Justin, Erik, Dustin.



Above: Very tiny Justin, Dave, Mark, and Dustin.

A hodgepodge of plants, photographs, and shout-outs.

MOVE OVER, sword fern. I have a new favorite vascular flowerless specimen: Adiantum pedatum, or the northern maiden hair fern. These babies are moisture loving, deciduous ferns that favor nutrient rich soils and are honestly so cool. I first noticed its unique circular configuration while hiking on a small, conical shaped island in Japan called Yakushima. (For all those Miyazaki fans out there, the magical forest in Princess Mononoke was inspired by this very place). I thought it was the most exotic plant I had ever laid eyes on, and yet, it grows right here in our Oregonian backyard! Of course. I’m telling you – this is a special place in which I have found myself.

A personal project I am planning on completing over the summer is a series of illustrations of the plants I have encountered during my time here. You know the classic, stately illustrations of birds you see in those Sibley field guides and all the botanical masterpieces of Alexander Von Humboldt (my all time favorite naturalist) from his exploration of the Americas? Such an artistic representation of science, biology, life, and color deeply resonates with me, and studying something by recreating it through art is the most enriching learning experience. I hope to also use these illustrations as part of the interpretive guides Miles and I will be creating and distributing to tour operators across southern coastal Oregon in order to encourage the ‘experiential’ aspect of tourism that I discussed in my first post. To start, I’ve taken a few photos of some to which I will reference when I start drawing next week. As part of the development of tourism throughout the South Coast that both Dustin and I’s projects are contributing to, we will be staying at the Port Orford Field Station for a few days next week, during which we will be adventuring with professional landscape photographers from Portland by day and (I will be) drawing overly detailed pictures of plants by night. (Shout-out to Amazon and the postal service – ya’ll are the real MVPs for shipping my Portra 400 film on time). Here are a few samples of the plant photographs so far.





  1. Maidenhair fern
  2. I’m sorry to say I haven’t been able to figure this one out. (But shout-out to Norma at the Extension office in Myrtle Point for the shrub and tree field guides of Southwestern Oregon – I’ll get on this right away…)
  3. Y’all better know this one already.


In other news, Fourth of July is my favorite holiday and this year’s was one for the books. I began the day by waking up at 4am. Now, before you ask yourself, “Why in the world would you get up so early on a holiday,” let me just show you this…


and this…


Need I say more?

This is Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint in Bandon, OR. Probably one of the more gorgeous places I have been (and will have been) in my lifetime. I believe I saw two other people the entire time I was there. There is nothing like enjoying the solitude and wildness of a place like this to celebrate the magnificent landscapes that saturate our country. Happy Birthday America, you are a dime and a half!

Here’s me, enjoying being up so early thanks to momma nature. (Shout-out to the Broncos).


After this adventure, I returned home for the most restful nap and then savored some patriotic grilling with Dustin, Katie (fellow scholar), and her friends from the OIMB. Later that evening we all enjoyed a bonfire and firework show that lasted for the better part of three hours at Bastendorff Beach. Let me tell you, non-sanctioned firework shows are THE BEES KNEES. I thought the finale was happening more than a handful of times and the show extended to both ends of the beach. The best part is, the Surfrider Foundation led a beach clean-up there the next day to ensure that the previous night’s shenanigans weren’t at the expense of the beach’s health.

After the fantastic trips to the beach on the 4th, I was itching for an equally fulfilling forest adventure. I set out for the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest yesterday and got to see the Coquille River Falls in all its gloriousness. Blurry photo, but WHAT MAGIC. (Shout-out to my tripod for being a pal and not falling into the water).

coquille falls

With a few hours left of this weekend, I am off to check out Hanging Rock.



Golf Gorse

Boy oh boy has it been a busy week!

I thought I’d take some time this week to talk about my workplace at the Wild Rivers Coast Alliance (referred to hereafter as the WRCA). The WRCA is the philanthropic arm of the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, and it funds various projects that focus on the conservation, economy, and community of the South Coast of Oregon. The WRCA itself is funded by the net proceeds from the Bandon Preserve, one of the five courses on the resort (more about golf later).

Not only is the WRCA located on a world renowned golf resort, I am convinced that the office I am working in is actually out of a fairy tale.

  • Almost every morning, Dustin (my fellow scholar), Miles (our mentor), and I are graced with the painfully adorable presence of a black-tailed doe and her ~three week old fawn.
  • The stately conference room sports your choice of free tea or coffee (I don’t need much more than that in life) and walls made entirely of glass overlooking a forest of Douglas fir.
  • The window next to Dustin and I’s desks overlooks a pond sprinkled with water lilies and a pleasant walkway lined with a handful of foxglove flowers. (According to Miles, foxglove [pictured below] is called such because the blooms are juuuust big enough for a fox to snick their snouts in).
  • Sometimes we see another doe with TWINS. Seeing two baby deer is way more fawn than one. (Thought we were finished with the puns? Think again…).
  • There is a labyrinth in the forest next to the office. Feel like taking a calming, meditative break to clear the mind after a long day of contributing to the common good of the wonder that is the Oregon South Coast? Do not fret, the WRCA has got you.

Momma doe and baby. Stay tuned for the twins, referred to hereafter as Intern 1 and Intern 2.

The conference room – I feel important when I sit in there.

Digitalis purpurea; foxglove.

Don’t tell the folks at the golf resort this (it might put a wedge between them and I), but be-fore working here, golf seemed boring to me. This week though, Dustin and I were fortunate enough to play a whole round on the Preserve, and it was a blast. I’m very lousy at golf, but the jaw-dropping views and my entirely-founded-in-luck Par 3 let me putt my overall embarrassing score behind me.

Not pictured: the ruthless, highly flammable, invasive bush that is Gorse. Before the resort existed, stands of this plant stretched as far as the eye can see and encroached on native wildlife habitat. Seeds of this plant can lie dormant for over 50 years…I sure hope this view won’t transform from a golf course into a golf gorse…

My “I got a Par 3 but I don’t know how and it’ll likely never happen again” face.










In other news, I have been continuing my exploration of this region and have found my go-to sunset spot. My roommates and I have started a tradition of getting DQ blizzards (hello, childhood) and posting up on a beach so aptly named: Sunset Bay.

Sunset bae

I am both settling into this place and becoming more excited about it as the days go on. It has become a daily routine for me to stop, think, and take a moment to acknowledge how grateful I am to be here with this program. Thanks for reading!


This place is ferntastic!

Yes, we are starting with plant puns, in dedication to my guzmania bromeliad – who unfortunately did not survive the move to Oregon. The 100 degree wind blowing through my air conditioning-less CRV for the greater portion of 13 hours did a number on the tropical-turned-houseplant that prefers gently filtered-through-understory sunlight and a slight misting in the morning. “You brought plants?” my fellow Sea Grant scholars chuckled. Beleaf it or not, I did. There’s no need to read between the pines…I just like plants.

Polystichum minutum. Golden and Silver Falls Natural Area, June 2017.

My first week in southern Oregon has indeed been ferntastic. Having never visited the state, I am pleasantly surprised by its breadth of diverse vegetation, which significantly differs from the dry, Mediterranean climate of where I attend school in San Luis Obispo, California, and the semiarid climate of my hometown of Denver, Colorado. A favorite plant encountered here so far is the sword fern (Polystichum minutum). Many other understory plants I have become familiar with include vine maple (Acer circinatum), salal (Gualtheria shallon), and pacific rhododendron (Rhododendron macrophyllum).

Having only ever lived either near central Californian coastal areas or landlocked mountainous areas, I have been most excited to encounter a subspecies of lodgepole pine: P. contorta var. contorta, or shore pine.

P. contorta var. contorta. Source. 

These trees have specially adapted to living conditions too harsh for their fellow lodgepole cousins. They are therefore the dominant species here in their northern range, growing in rocky sites and sandy soil and surviving powerful salty winds. The unique shore pine is of keen interest to me as it is a symbolic representation of why I feel quite at home here: coastal Oregon = forests + the ocean. The southern Oregon coastal mountains support highly diverse plant species because the region is a transition zone between the Coastal Range and the Klamath/Siskiyou Mountains.

Ecoregions of Oregon. Source.

Learning the ecology of the places you visit creates a special connection between humans and nature. Instead of just aesthetically experiencing the views, fresh air, and songbird calls, the species of plants and animals around you become familiar as you learn their names. For those of us who are particularly ecologically inclined, this is much like seeing old friends*.

This type of outdoor experience is known as experiential tourism, and it is what I will be working on this summer with the Wild Rivers Coast Alliance for Oregon’s Southern Coast. Much like interpretation, experiential tourism encourages the visitor to learn about the contextual and ecological meaning of what they are experiencing in order to form a long-term, transformational relationship between visitor and environment rather than a distant, transactional relationship. This type of interaction with nature creates personal meaning in the tourist and not only provides an understanding of the species’ names, it also encourages a deeper understanding about the species’ important role in its balanced and complex greater ecosystem.

Our project aims to build a sustainable, experiential tourism program for this region that enhances the resilience of the South Coast’s livelihoods, people, and ecosystems through economic, community, and conservation initiatives. We then hope to create a tourism development training program to help other coastal communities throughout the country prioritize ecosystem health and economic opportunity in environmentally sensitive and significant places. Stay tuned for more!

Silver Falls, June 2017.