Welcome, 2015 Summer Scholars!

Our 2015 Summer Scholars are here! They are attending orientation today at the Sea Grant office in Corvallis, then at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport. These seven undergraduates from around the country have been placed with federal and state agencies for the next ten weeks. In addition to supporting agency programs and initiatives, the goal is to offer students professional skills, agency workplace experience and real-life practice in marine resource science, policy, management and outreach. Check the blog next week for their introductions, and weekly from then on for updates on their progress. You can also follow them at #OSGscholars on Twitter.


The new Summer Scholars during the social media training, smartphones in hand. Yes they were asked to pull out their phones! Apologies for the dark picture

As this is my first blog post from my current position, I’ll introduce myself. I am the Summer Scholars Program Coordinator this year, drawing from my experience as a Summer Scholar in 2013. Since January, I have been helping to set up the program, including advertising, reviewing applications, interviewing, and event planning, among other things. In the fall, I am off to pursue a Master of Science in Marine and Environmental Science at the University of the Virgin Islands. Until then, I will be supporting the students and their mentors throughout the summer, helping them to achieve their goals.

Watch for updates on the scholars and their use of social media, on Twitter at @SarahLHeidmann and/or here on the blog!

L.A.G (Life After Graduation)


The author communing with ocean critters.

For those of you who followed my ten-week journey in the quaint town of Bandon, Oregon as a Coastal Tourism Intern with the non-profit Wild Rivers Coast Alliance, you have some idea of my background.  However, for those of you who are just tuning in, let me tell you some basic facts about myself that will help put things in perspective: I have known that I wanted to be a marine biologist since the age of four when I fell into a manta ray touch tank at Sea World, I graduated this past June from the University of California Santa Cruz with a Bachelors of Science in Marine Biology, I adore slimy odd creatures that provoke a queasy look from most, and if I could eat a doughnut a day and not gain a pound I would.

Post Bandon: Flash forward eight months after graduation, and now instead of spending hours in the library frantically trying to decode physics problems and figure out what exactly the right format for a scientific paper is, my days are filled with making Cappuccinos (and usually scalding myself with 150° milk) and asking the general populous how their day is going.  I have gone from spending 50 plus hours a week in lecture halls and libraries, to 40 hours a week at two part-time jobs: a retail associate and a barista.  Now to some this might seem like an odd progression of events.  I spent (and by I, I mean my lovely parents) thousands of dollars on a University education to ask people if they want room for cream in their coffee?!  This is the reaction I received from many family friends, colleagues, and random strangers when I was asked what my plans after graduation were.  For those of you who immediately understand the reasoning behind my choice, you rock.  However, for those of you who are still a wee bit baffled, let me explain…

Roughly speaking, I have been in some kind of formal education for the past eighteen years of my life.  That’s somewhere in the ball park of 22,610 hours IN school; not counting hours spent in addition to the traditional school day, or extra hours on the weekend.  And for the most part I’ve loved every second!  But as my senior year rolled around, I saw a shift.  While I decided to load on the units so I could fit in all the awesome classes and internships that I wanted to take advantage of before I graduated, many of my friends took numerous GE’s which enabled them to have something called “A social life.”  At first this didn’t bother me because I was a senior, and as such and had put my partying years behind me (visible on my transcript by my two attempts each at Chemistry 1A and Calculus 1).  But it wasn’t their ability to party that had me jealous; it was their ability to go hiking for an entire afternoon, or to take spontaneous weekend trips that didn’t need to be planned around papers or midterms.  I was able to get through my 23-unit final quarter by telling myself “Just wait till after graduation.  Then you can have the whole summer to do nothing and spend time with friends!”  However this wasn’t the case as I was fortunate enough to be one of six students accepted into Oregon Sea Grant’s amazing Summer Scholars program; one of the more awesome things that has happened to me.  So naturally it started two days after, and 631 miles away from graduation.

Now I’m not going to go into detail about my summer experience in Bandon Oregon, for that you can feel free to check out my previous blog posts (which I highly recommend as they contain pictures of cute animals and delicious pastries).  But I will try to put into words what I took away from my experience.  I will start off by saying that my internship was the polar opposite of what I thought I was getting myself into, and I will even go as far as saying that I was a little let down at first.  But what I initially thought was a feeling of being let down, I later realized was a feeling of being slightly confused, and generally lost.  Being a recently graduated marine biology major, I went into this experience with a somewhat jaded attitude and blindly assumed that what I was going to be doing would involve constant action in the field, and my work would have instant applications.  WRONG.  Essentially I was charged with figuring out a way to boost the economy of Southern Coastal Oregon via revamping their ideas of tourism.  This was the exact definition of putting a small fish into a huge pond, or the Pacific Ocean if you will.

I’ve never worked on such a large-scale project before and this was a huge undertaking unlike anything I had done before.  My assignment was not a lab study or research project; there was no hypothesis or conclusion.  In other words, there was no clear path to follow or set steps to go through.  When I first started this internship, I was slightly annoyed that I didn’t have more tasks to do.  As time passed, I realized that part of that was due to the fact that I was working with such an enormous “big picture” idea, and I had no idea of what direction to go in.  Eventually I came to realize that any kind of change (especially on this level) deserves a great amount of time and consideration (AKA., a little more time than my ten-week stay).  Not much in this world is 100% certain.  Sometimes you need to move forward and grab the amazing and unknown opportunities in front of you.

This experience taught me that no one field can stand on its own; for example, for tourism to be successful, the ecological, business, political, and marketing concerns must be addressed as well.  While my experience didn’t necessarily change my career goals, it did drive home the points that: 1). There needs to be better communication between the scientific and non-scientific communities (such that issues and topics are presented in a way that makes them seem approachable) and 2).  There is a growing need to educate future generations on the environmental issues and assets that are right in their backyard, and that if the environment isn’t properly taken care of, lots of money and time will eventually need to go into fixing it (if it can be fixed at all).  It also taught me that any experience is a good experience.  I hope this point resonates with everyone who reads this, whether you are an adult who has been in their chosen field for 20 plus years, or are an undergraduate who is unsure what they want to do with their life. However cliché this sounds, remember that everyone is different.  We can’t all be that person who got all A’s in their undergraduate career, and then went directly into their masters and PhD (but for those of you who did do that, you are more amazing and awe-inspiring than being able to successfully fry Oreos); some of us have to do a little more wandering until we find our path.

A large portion of the reason I didn’t immediately go to gradschool after my internship with Oregon Sea Grant (besides the likelihood that I wouldn’t have gotten into my top choices…) was that I had no idea what I wanted to study.  That unknown was something that I struggled with for nearly my entire college career, and something that at times made me feel quite inadequate.  I feel like it took me stepping away to help me realize what I’m truly passionate about, and what I want to spend the rest of my life doing.  In the next year or two, I will be going to graduate school to get my degree in some mixture of conservation, management, outreach, and elasmobranchs.  And I couldn’t be happier.

I’m not sure how many of you made it through this whole post, and how many of you stopped reading when you realized there were no pastry or cute animal pictures.  If you did reach the end then I hope you took something from this; whether it was as simple as a laugh at my joke (or more likely my attempt at a joke) or an understanding that you don’t always have to have the answer to the rest of you life planned out and ready for the next person who asks.


A marine biologist perfects her foam (too bad it’s not sea foam).

So on that note, I’m off to make some lattes!!


At the end of this week, my year as a Knauss Fellow will be over. For the fellowship, I worked as a Policy Analyst in the Office of Policy at NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries).

In this post, I wanted to focus on sharing some of the opportunities available to me as a fellow. I am including an assortment of links covering a range of topics, as there may be materials that are of interest to some of you. This post focuses on work I contributed to through my office and some of the events that I was able to attend. In an upcoming post, I will include links to some additional events, reports, etc. that you might find useful.


In terms of my role in the Office of Policy, here are some of the activities I was involved in:

  • Organized 3 breakout sessions for a national workshop to further evaluation and regional implementation of electronic technologies for fishery-dependent data collection
  • Helped develop, revise, and incorporate comments into a new NOAA Fisheries guidance document and national policy on electronic monitoring and reporting
  • Served as rapporteur and drafted proceedings for a session on fishery sustainability at Managing Our Nation’s Fisheries 3, a national conference resulting in 128 findings applicable to fishery and ecosystem policy, regulation, and Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization
  • Maintain a portfolio of policies, spanning multiple NOAA Fisheries offices. NOAA Fisheries’ policies and procedures can be accessed from the Policy Directive System page.
  • Assisted in drafting, editing, and reviewing Congressional testimony
  • Provided secretariat support to the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee (MAFAC, a Federal Advisory Committee to the Secretary of Commerce on all living marine resource matters) and the NOAA Fisheries Leadership Council

Outside of my role at NOAA Fisheries, there were many other opportunities I was able to take part in or attend. (Note to future fellows: attend as many events as possible!) I am still amazed at the array of events in DC that are open to the public, if you just have (or make) the time.

Senate and House Hearings on Fisheries Management

During the fellowship year, I attended two hearings in the U.S. Senate and one in the House of Representatives.

Senate and House hearings are typically streamed and, after the hearings, webcasts are made available. Additionally, written testimony from panelists is posted the day of the hearing.

Council Coordination Committee Meeting

Shortly after I started my fellowship, the Council Coordination Committee (CCC) met in Silver Spring and I was able to sit in on quite a bit of the two-day meeting. The CCC is made up of top leadership from each of the eight Regional Fishery Management Councils. Attending their meeting was a great way to be exposed to some of the similarities and differences in the issues facing each of the regions.

Capitol Hill Ocean Week 2013

Capitol Hill Ocean Week (CHOW), hosted by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, focuses on high priority ocean and coastal issues. The CHOW website includes videos and presentations from the 2013 event.

Consortium for Ocean Leadership’s 2013 Public Policy Forum – Economies of a Changing Ocean

Among the speakers at this event were U.S. Senators, U.S. Representatives and, of particular note to Oregon State readers, Mark Abbott and George Waldbusser served on a panel focused on ocean acidification. The website for the event includes videos.

Feel free to reach out if you have any questions. As I mentioned, more links will be coming…

Final Week

I made it back to Michigan safely. It took three days, they were long days of driving.
I left Oregon through the gorge, the same way I arrived.  It was beautiful, as always; I can still see it in my mind’s eye.
From 84 I couldn’t see Bonneville dam but I was told though that the sea lions have already begun to return, as of three weeks ago.  It’s funny for me to think, had I not come to the dam last December I probably never would have come to Hatfield either.
I hope they’re all well, I miss them all already. I also miss the way the ocean smelled sometimes in the morning.
While at Hatfield I learned that being a practicing natural resource manager is a tough job.  I can see how it would suck the life from you over time.  Just like any hard work really, but doesn’t allow for the same rejuvenating connection to nature the way field biology does.  It’s an important job though and I’d like to thank those who do it.
Though I don’t think I will be pursuing a permanent position in outreach, I feel I am better equipped to actively integrate outreach and communication techniques into my research and other future endeavors.  Over the course of my summer I was exposed to three distinct forms of outreach and engagement; policy from Dr. Lubchenco’s speech at di Vinci days, public engagement at the da Vinci Days booth and outreach at the agency.   I was asked if I find myself drawn to one of form over the others and if I had to choose I would have to say public engagement at da Vinci days.  I liked being outside and teaching people, excited to learn new things.


Back to Wisconsin

Greetings from the heart of America’s dairy land, Madison, Wisconsin!  The past few days have been a whirlwind. I landed late in Milwaukee on Saturday night, and after a few days at work and a doctor and dentist appointment, I find myself back at the University of Wisconsin!

I am so glad to be back here in Madison, but I find myself already missing my friends and all the beautiful places from the west coast. It really was an experience that provided me with so much knowledge and lifelong friendships; two things that will serve me well in the future.


This semester promises to be a challenging one but I am looking forward to it. I will be taking physics, two microbiology classes, a biochemistry class, and will be continuing with my mentored research of Lake Michigan. Aside from what I’m sure will be a rigorous class load, I have 7 Wisconsin Badger football games at Camp Randall Stadium to break up my studies. I’ve been itching to get back to jumping around, and singing “Sweet Caroline” along with 85,000 other crazy badger fans.


There is still much to process from this summer. There are lots of notes to go through and I have many things to think about for grad school and my future. While there is much to do, I am so excited to see what my future holds and I know that this past summer was an amazing addition to that journey.

Again, I would like to thank everyone for all their support and guidance this summer. This is my last blog post as an Oregon Sea Grant Summer Scholar, but hopefully I will be able to post some more reflections in the future! See you soon, and On Wisconsin!

Week Ten: It’s See You Later, Not Goodbye

And that is all she wrote, folks. My time here in Oregon is up and I have headed back to the Midwest and have started my classes at Purdue. This summer has been a whirlwind of amazing experiences and opportunities that I will never forget. I have had the privelage to learn so much from some stellar biologists.

In my last week I had a perfect blend of desk work and field work. I spent a good chunk of my week consuming massive amounts of coffee and clacking away at my computer trying to put together my end of summer portfolio for Oregon Sea Grant. But I also had the opportunity to go out into the field with Scott one last time to dig up razor clams that would be sent off to be checked for acids that are not safe for human consumption. We check for this regularly in order to keep a close eye on the fishery.

On our way back from the field we passed Adam’s Point where we stopped to look at a dead sea lion that had washed up on shore. I had never been so close to a sea lion before—dead or alive—and I was thrilled to check it out.

Checking out the dead sea lion that washed up at Adam’s Point.

I also had the chance to go seining with Gary one last time; this time in Bandon on the Coquille River. I now understood my fellow Sea Grant Scholar, Catherine’s, complaints regarding the mosquitos. They were so thick you could see them hang in sheets in the air! The diversity and abundance was lower than in Coos Bay but we did catch a huge male Chinook salmon in our seine which more than made up for it!

A large male Chinook salmon we seined up in the Coquille River!

On Thursday I had to say farewell to Scott and all the other employees of the ODFW Charleston. Thank you everyone at the ODFW for making this summer so great! I was sad to leave, everyone in the office was so great to work with that I hated having to end my stay there.

One last day at my desk at the ODFW Charleston. Ahh, the clutter of a biologist!

That evening, a close friend of mine from OIMB, Theresa, and I drove up to Eugene for a short visit and then headed to Portland. I had never been to either city so it was awesome to get a look around. Theresa is a U of O student so I was lucky enough to get a full tour of the campus!

Visiting Hayward Field where they hold the Olympic trials for running events at the University of Oregon in Eugene!

We spent the evening and part of the next day, before my flight, in Portland and of course it was mandatory that we went to Voodoo Doughnuts!  The culture in Portland is unlike anything I have ever seen before. The people there are so quirky and friendly and the architecture could hold my attention for hours.

Pit stop at Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland: donuts to die for!!!!

All too soon, Theresa dropped me to PDX and I had to say my final goodbyes to Oregon, a place I’ve come to think of as home. This summer I fell head over heels in love with this state and I know that I have not seen the last of it. Hopefully, I can attend grad school or even work there someday; it’d be a dream come true!

A few days after I had landed in Indiana, I received an email from Steven Rumrill who is the head shellfish biologist for Oregon. In this email he stated that the work Scott, Jim, and I had done would be used to settle some debate ongoing with the management of the Pacific heart cockle fishery in Netarts Bay, OR. I was ecstatic to see that work I had done myself being put to use out in the real world. What an opportunity!!

I would just like to say thank you to Sara Kolesar and Eric Dickey and all others involved with this program at Sea Grant! I would not have had this opportunity without you all. Also, thank you to my mentor, Scott Groth, who took time out of his—to say the least—busy summer schedule and for being an excellent and fun advisor. I learned so much from both Sea Grant and Scott this summer which I will carry with me as I finish up my last year, graduate from Purdue, and enter the workforce as a biologist.

The Sea Gant Summer Scholars program is truly one of a kind and if you are looking for a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will leave you with lasting knowledge about the field of biology, look no further than this program, you will not regret a single moment.

And with that, I sign off. Here’s to the most amazing ten weeks ever. Cheers!

See you soon, Oregon!

My Last Week in Oregon

Hello everyone! This is the final blog post I will be writing from Oregon! The past ten weeks have flown by in a way I could never have imagined. I’ve had the time of my life living on the Oregon Coast, and have learned an incredible amount of knowledge about estuaries and marine science during this brief time. I am incredibly grateful of everyone at the US EPA, Oregon Sea Grant, and the Hatfield Marine Science Center for all of the opportunities I have been presented with this summer.


Last week, all of the Oregon Sea Grant Summer Scholars presented our research at a symposium at the Hatfield Marine Science Center.  I found it to be very fun to present my work not only to those who helped me with it, but also to my friends and the whole of the Hatfield community.  It was a great feeling to summarize the huge amount of work I have done this summer and teach people about my research in the process. I also greatly enjoyed hearing about the research and work done by my fellow scholars, who are now my great friends.

The Oregon Sea Grant symposium was not the only presentation I gave. Earlier this week myself along with the other interns working at the EPA presented our work to all the EPA employees. After our presentation my mentor, Ted DeWitt, took us out to lunch and gave us a few awesome gifts to congratulate us on our hard work. It was a great way to wrap up my time at the EPA and say goodbye to the new friends I have made from working there.


Aside from presentations, I have been working on my final portfolio for Oregon Sea Grant. Writing our reflection essay and putting together all the work I have done over the past 10 weeks really made me realize just how much I did this summer! It is both sad to see my work finish, but also impressive to look at it as a whole and to reflect on my whole summer experience.

Last weekend was a quiet one spent here in Newport. I went surfing on both Saturday and Sunday and had an amazing time both days. On Saturday we went out surfing in the late afternoon and as we finished up, we were able to watch the most beautiful sunset of the summer while sitting in the waves on our surfboards. That was definitely a moment I will cherish forever!

Tonight is my final night here in Newport and all of the interns will be going out to dinner and celebrating our accomplishments.  The the interns, faculty, and staff here at Hatfield have become a family to me and it certainly will be incredibly sad to leave them. I know that we will all keep in touch and I cannot wait to see where life takes all of the incredible friends I have made during my time here.


I’ve had the time of my life here in Oregon! To any potential Summer Scholars reading this post and wondering if they should apply to the program, DO IT! You will not be sorry! I would like to thank everyone involved in my summer here and I am so grateful for everything!

Week 10: The End

Well, here I am, at the end of the summer. I am sad for it to be over, but looking forward to everything that lies ahead of me. This experience has helped me figure out the myriad of options that are available to me, and given me slightly more faith in my abilities.
I was able to do enough video analysis that yesterday, Daniel and I worked on actually looking at the numbers. It was difficult, because I don’t know enough about R that I could help very much, but I knew the data better than he did, so if errors popped up, I could usually explain them. Every day I get more impatient to learn more about R!
Today, I watched all the Hatfield REU students give their presentations. There were a lot of them, but they were all very interesting, and it was cool to see what had been on the minds of the faces I’d been seeing walking around Hatfield all summer. One in particular that stood out did what’s called stable isotope analysis on the diets of juvenile salmon. I later talked to the girl who gave the presentation, and she said she was really excited about it, and applied to this program specifically so she could do that analysis. I found it intriguing, and intend to learn more about the process in the near future.
So what does my life look like from here on out? After I spend some time visiting my brother at college, and my parents in California, I go back to school for a year. After spending so much time working and learning, I’m really excited to go back to normal classes. At first I found this strange, but I realized that I really love learning new things, and the college atmosphere is perfect for that. After I graduate, who knows what I will do? There are so many doors I could open. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog, and a big thanks to everyone who helped make my summer a success!

The Final Stretch

I am in utter disbelief that this is my last week here in Bandon, Oregon…  Week eight involved a lot of small projects, tying up some loose ends, and adding to the research I’ve done on sustainable ecotourism to my portfolio.  A large portion of my time was spent working on my Summer Scholars presentation which I presented last Friday at the Hatfield Marine Science Center.  While I have no problem speaking to a room full of people, like most I still get butterflies in my stomach and have occasionally been known to talk through several slides on one inadequate breath of air.  Thankfully I was the second scholar to present so I had little time to worry about messing up, and the presentation went better than I could have expected!  While my mentors were unable to be there physically, they were patched in via. teleconference so they were able to hear my presentation and be there in spirit.  After my presentation I was free to sit back and enjoy hearing about what the other five scholars have spent their summers doing; I particularly enjoyed this part of the experience because I was able to get a more in-depth idea of their projects outside of what I’ve read about in their blogs.


On Saturday I decided to make the trek to Portland since I thought it would be ridiculous if I spent 10 weeks in Oregon and never made it up there.  I must admit that my desire was more motivated by my interest in the infamous “Voodoo Doughnut” shop than anything…  Upon my arrival I immediately realized that I was back in a land of traffic and bad drivers, similar to that of my beloved Southern California!  Nevertheless I navigated my way around oblivious tourists and questionable street performers until I reached the sanctuary of what seemed to be an air-conditioned parking structure.  So I parked my car, walked the couple blocks that separated me from my personal doughnut heaven, and what should greet me but a line that wrapped around the corner of the building!  But neither rain, nor heat, nor annoying street performer could deter me from a place that sells such sinful treats as Captain Crunch encrusted doughnuts and Bacon Maple doughnuts.  45 minutes later I was in possession of a “Ain’t that a Peach Fritter” doughnut which was easily larger than my face.  From the first bite to the last, it was everything I could want in a doughnut and more, and I’m pretty sure I’m still reeling from the sugar buzz.


With all my main projects completed, I have very little to do in my last week with Wild Rivers Coast Alliance.  However if all goes as planned I hope to get some more work done on a preliminary draft of the Bandon Quest Project and do some more investigation into coastal ecotourism.  Outside of work I have the always enjoyable task of packing my life back into my somewhat small Mazda (affectionately referred to as “The Mazzy”); I’m sure this event will provide entertainment for anyone watching since my possessions seem to have an uncanny ability to expand to fill the non-existent space.  Friday is my last official day of work, so my journey back to Altadena, California begins Saturday morning!  Since the drive is a bit long (around 18 hours) I will be making stops in Humboldt, Santa Cruz, and Santa Barbara to visit friends.


Stay tuned for one last blog post!


Week Nine

So my presentation was last Friday.  It was nice having the chance to see Catherine and Sam, the Sea Grant Scholars working at Bandon and OIMB.  I must say everyone did an amazing job presenting.  What surprised me though is I wasn’t nearly as nervous as I normally get before presentations.  I feel that everything went smoothly during it as well.  A few things I know I could improve upon include looking up at the audience more.  Shelby, one of my REU neighbors was in the audience taking pictures during my presentation and I don’t think there was one where I was looking up, though I know I didn’t just stare at my notes the whole time.  Also I feel like I could have spoken with more inflection in my voice.  Once I had finished I really felt that I was sounding rather flat.  This will likely change though with additional practice and connecting with audience more.  I did receive a packet of feedback forms, which I haven’t looked through yet.
Otherwise I am mostly tying some loose ends and packing.  Packing is what I have been looking forward to the least.  I drive a tiny Honda and I have an entire house full of things with me from living in the gorge. Not only do I have to get all my things to fit but my father is flying out to drive back with me, so there has to be room for him as well. I’m looking forward to seeing my father though.  It’s been a long time since I’ve seen anyone from my family.
Hatfield really has been good to me; I took it granted at times.