Meet Alyssa Purslow, a 2024 Natural Resource Policy Fellow

Hi all,

My name is Alyssa Purslow, and I am currently serving as a 2024 Natural Resource Policy Fellow, working as a Restoration Project Impact Analyst for Coastal Watersheds with the Tillamook Estuaries Partnership (TEP). Located at the Port of Garibaldi, TEP is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to conserving and restoring tidal wetlands. Our goals include building habitats, reducing flooding, reviving salmon and other native fish populations, supporting the restoration and growth of native plants, and providing education and public outreach to the local community.If you would like to learn more, please visit our website or social media pages listed below.

In Tillamook County, healthy estuaries are vital to the local economy and community. TEP is committed to improving watershed health through scientific methods and community involvement. Our mission emphasizes the importance of clean water in rivers, streams, and bays for current and future generations. As a grassroots, non-profit organization, we focus on estuarine restoration, monitoring, and education. Recognized nationally, we operate under a Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP), supported by partners, volunteers, and board members.

As the Oregon Sea Grant fellow, my role at TEP focuses on visiting and assessing post-implementation restoration, fish passage, and riparian area treatments in Tillamook County. I started with TEP remotely from the Bay Area in California, and for the past three months, I have been temporarily living on the Northern Oregon Coast to visit post-implementation sites. Of the 11 sites listed, I have visited 8, with the last 3 planned for the next two weeks. After completing these visits, I will return to the Bay Area and finish the rest of the work remotely.

I am currently visiting and documenting the success of these projects, which range from 5 to 20 years post-implementation. The sites span 5 watersheds: Tillamook, Trask, Nestucca, Kilchis, and Sand Lake-Frontal Pacific Ocean, 8 sub-watersheds: Middle Fork North Fork Trask River, Upper Tillamook River, Nestucca River, Beaver Creek, Farmer Creek-Nestucca River, Elk Creek-Nestucca River, Little South Fork Kilchis River, and Netarts Bay-Frontal Pacific Ocean, and 11 creeks: Cruiser Creek, Fawcett Creek, Killam Creek, Smith Creek, E. Beaver Creek, Wolfe Creek, Hawk Creek, Maps Creek, and Jackson Creek.

I look forward to posting my progress as I continue to work through the fellowship.

2024 Natural Resource Policy Fellow, Alyssa Purslow

Cheers!

Alyssa

Website & Social Media Links

Tillamook Estuaries Partnership (tbnep.org)

Instagram

Facebook

LinkedIn

Introducing Natural Resource Policy Fellow Maddie Foley

Hi everyone!

I’m Maddie Foley, a fellow in the Natural Resource and Policy Fellowship working with Oregon Sea Grant to expand educational programs centered around the commercial fishing industry. Graduating with a Master’s in Biological Oceanography with a focus on the movement ecology of gulls from Stony Brook University, I found myself drawn to a more policy – oriented career path. Subsequently, I made my way back to the West Coast.

I’m passionate about science communication, accessibility, and sustainability. I believe that one of the greatest ways someone can contribute to sustainability is through their purchasing choices as a consumer. By purchasing from local sources of seafood, you’re supporting an industry that is geared towards sustainability and the people who make plating a fish possible. Knowing where food comes from and understanding the effort that goes into providing it is something that gives me feeling of confidence in what I choose to eat and respect to the environment that provided it. I aim to carry that feeling into my work, more specifically the pilot programs I, Jamie Doyle, Amanda Gladics, and Angee Doerr will be premiering in Charleston, Port Orford, and Brookings. I’m very excited to pilot and lead some tours myself, and can’t wait to see how our pilot programs go.

Discover Oregon Seafood tours are aimed towards anyone who has an interest in learning more about their local seafood industry and the people who are a part of it. Shop at the Dock tours that run in Newport, Oregon during the summer months provided the framework for Discover Oregon Seafood’s tours. The goal is to educate both locals and tourists on where and how they can buy fish when it’s being sold off the docks, how the gear that catches their fish works, and how the fishery itself is managed. If we’re lucky, we’ll be able to chat with a local fishermen, and hear firsthand about the human dimension of commercial fishing! Shop at the Dock will be continuing in Newport and returning to Garibaldi this summer, along with our pilot programs. Dates for Discover Oregon Seafood tours and Shop at the Dock will be announced soon – so keep an eye out!

Fishing boats in Newport, OR.

Natural Resources in the Context of the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians

 Posted on behalf of Kayla Stevenson

Hello again from Seattle! My work with the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians (CTCLUSI) is steadily making progress. In early April, I drove down to Coos Bay to host a writing workshop with the Department of Culture and Natural Resources staff for my work on the Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment. I had prepared topics for us to discuss but left it open to address any issues or complexities that arose relevant to the framing of the Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment. The workshop allowed for in-person discussions and problem-solving and revealed new issues to consider, which I discuss below. 

Something that came up during the workshop was how the area of interest for the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians spans across multiple geographies and encompasses diverse ecosystems, each with its own set of vulnerabilities. In the development of the Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment, it became clear that I needed to consider the interconnectedness of environmental issues across ecosystems.

Salmon in the Pacific Northwest is an example of the complexity of natural resources that span multiple geographies. As an anadromous species, salmon traverse various ecosystems during their life cycle and therefore need to be included at multiple points in the Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment. This led to another question during the workshop: what is the best way to categorize and organize a vulnerability assessment? We looked at different examples from other northwest Tribes and realized that, for the unique context of CTCLUSI, the assessment needed to serve multiple purposes, including a vulnerability assessment of not only natural resources but also how CTCLUSI properties will be exposed to climate change impacts. That said, it became clear that the assessment needed to consider damage protection and resource conservation. How do we safeguard Tribal properties and economic assets while mitigating future vulnerabilities? This necessitated a nuanced approach, considering both immediate concerns and long-term sustainability goals. Related to long-term sustainability goals came the question of how to approach climate modeling in the report. During the workshop, we talked about intergenerational responsibility, specifically from the perspective of planning for the next seven generations. 

One of the main takeaways from the workshop was recognizing the importance of a holistic approach to climate change vulnerability and adaptation. This work requires comprehensive strategies that integrate traditional knowledge with scientific research, braiding knowledge to navigate environmental challenges. The workshop served as a crucial step in understanding the complexities of Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment in the context of CTCLUSI and a way to reflect on methodologies for designing climate change adaptation documents.

 Introducing Kayla Stevenson, Natural Resource Policy Fellow with Oregon Sea Grant

Posted on belhaf of Kayla Stevenson

Hello! I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Kayla Stevenson, and I am currently a Natural Resource Policy Fellow with Oregon Sea Grant. I graduated from the University of Washington with a Master’s in Marine Affairs and a Master of Arts in International Studies in 2023.  I am a Tribal Climate Adaptation Specialist for the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians (CTCLUSI). The purpose of my position is to write a climate change vulnerability assessment for the Tribe. This involves researching current climate change impacts that directly affect members of the Tribe, including issues such as sea level rise, coastal erosion, changes in precipitation, and more. The report includes an assessment of natural and cultural resources that will be affected by climate change. Impacts that I have so far noted are possible obstacles associated with recreation and harvesting, such as harmful algal blooms and toxic cyanobacteria which has the potential to harm people who are interacting with the environment. The climate change vulnerability report will serve as a jumping-off point for future climate change planning for the Tribe, including a climate adaptation plan. 

The climate change vulnerability assessment is a large undertaking and involves becoming an expert in a variety of topics and considering the possible impacts climatic changes will have on the tribe. In this role, it is of utmost importance for me to consider community concerns, as Tribal members are currently and will continue to experience the impacts of climate change. To engage the Tribal community, my supervisors and I crafted a climate change priority survey to assess what CTCLUSI Tribal members are most concerned about regarding climate change impacts. Part of the distribution of this survey included going to Florence to participate in and distribute surveys at the Tribal holiday party in December. It was an honor to be invited to the event. Tribal members sang songs, shared prayers, and enjoyed delicious food. This is a critical part of involvement at a socio-cultural level, as I felt that understanding community concerns about climate change would inform priorities for my research on the Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment. Additionally, it was informative to drive down to Coos Bay and Florence to get a visual understanding of CTCLUSI’s ancestral lands and current Tribal properties. Since I work remotely in Seattle, it was important for me to physically travel to Coos Bay and see the ecosystems that I am writing about. It has been an exciting couple of months, stay tuned for more to come!

The SCAT and the Hat

Another update from me, Sarah, a Natural Resource Policy Fellow (NRPF) working for the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians (CTCLUSI) on their Tribal Spill Response Plan (TSRP). Last week I had the amazing opportunity to visit the places I had only seen on maps in person, with a tour of CTCLUSI’s water resources in Coos Bay and of their forestry lands. I also completed field training for oil spill response, along with members of Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, EPA, NOAA, and CTCLUSI. .

SCAT Training using the Shoreline
Assessment Manual at Kelly Point Park.

This SCAT (Shoreline Cleanup and Assessment Technique) training is run through NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration and was developed for 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. This is a replicable method of recording the spill type, cover, any wildlife damage, and cleanup method suggestions. Completing this training in person helped me to envision what a real oil spill may look like (without the potential smells) and apply some of the oil spill response information I have been learning about through my work with the TSRP. It is critical that the SCATers identify both environmental and cultural sites of importance and record those for the cleanup operations. Ideally, there would be a SCAT representative from tribal, federal, state, local and any important stakeholder in the area.

If you are interested in signing up, consider registering with your organization!

After completing the training in Portland, I made my way to Florence, Oregon where I was shown the Lower Smith Tract of CTCLUSI’s Tribal Forest. This tract is in the Siuslaw National Forest and is adjacent to some land managed by Bureau of Land Management (BLM). This was a fantastic opportunity to see a natural resource of great importance to CTCLUSI, that is outside of my career focus in the marine sciences. Everything is connected – land and sea, environment and culture. I also saw some sites of importance in Coos Bay and surrounding areas, including Coal Bank Slough and a lookout north of Cape Arago State Park. This was an awesome opportunity to connect with the people from the Department of Natural Resources at CTCLUSI and to see the land that we’re working towards protecting.

Logging that occurs in the BLM land.
Forest in the Lower Smith Tract of CTCLUSI’s land.

I was also gifted some CTCLUSI gear, including this hat with a logo created by Ashley Russel, the Assistant Director of the DNR. The logo art is based on a historical tale of a sea serpent that comes to shore to hunt for dear. Looking forward to wearing this the next time I’m out in the field!

Working Together Towards Spill Response

Hello!  

Just a quick introduction – I’m Sarah, a recent master’s graduate of Oregon State University where I worked on a project on ghost shrimp in the Benthic Ecology lab.  I have had an interest in both science and policy throughout my education and the Natural Resource Policy Fellowship provided an excellent opportunity to engage in both!   

These past few months since I started my fellowship with Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians (CTCLUSI) have been an exciting time in which I have learned a slew of information on environmental policy at various governmental levels and emergency response. My specific task is to edit the Tribal Estuary Response Plan which outlines policies and procedures related to hazardous materials spills. I recommend checking out the abundance story map available here, which goes over the history and culture of CTCLUSI. There are three separate languages of the people who inhabited the ancestral territory– Hanis Coos and  Miluk Coos (Coos Languages), Sha’yuushtl’a uhl Quuiich (Siuslaw and Lower Umpqua language). While updating the list of foodstuffs and ecological resources, I learned that the name for ghost shrimp of the scientific name Netorypaea californiensis is ‘wayaq’ in Hanis Coos and Miluk Coos and ‘chimws’ in Sha’yuushtl’a uhl Quuiich.  

At the end of February, I was able to virtually attend an annual meeting for the Region 10 Regional Response Team (RRT10) and the Northwest Area Committee (NWAC).   At this meeting, there were members from tribes, federal agencies, state agencies, local government as well as industry. This included people from the EPA, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Department of Interior, Washington State Department of Ecology, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, NOAA, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, Makah Tribe, Yakama Nation, the Stillaguamish Tribe, and CTCLUSI. It was interesting to hear everyone’s input, updates, and perspectives on hazmat and emergency response.   

Key takeaways from that meeting include:  

  • The importance of overlap and consistency among regional response plans and local response plans. 
  • The array of spill response methods and opportunities – particularly in industry. 
  • Washington State Legislation SB 5344:  This requires certain vessels transiting in Juan de Fuca to fund an emergency response towing vessel in Neah Bay. I was unfamiliar with this legislation; vehicle towing could be an additional section in our own document.  
  • In the Tribal Subcommittee meeting, the objectives included tribal access, delivery of service to tribal groups, development of outreach and communications, and timely notification of issues and initiatives for tribal feedback. 

These were just a few out of many topics that I learned about from attending that meeting. It was interesting to hear updates from all of the agencies and partners and to see how many people come together to work towards emergency preparedness. I’m looking forward to updating you next time on participating in emergency response training and visiting CTCLUSI on the Oregon Coast! 

A Year of Blue Carbon

It’s hard to believe a year has passed already! I’ve been working with colleagues at The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to write a report exploring the state of the science for Oregon’s Blue Carbon ecosystems. The report gives a broad overview of existing science of blue carbon pathways in Oregon—including opportunities, limitations, and uncertainties—to a stakeholder audience who may not be familiar with the details of blue carbon as a natural climate solution. We found that extensive research has already been done within Oregon’s tidal wetland ecosystems to understand the dynamics of carbon sequestration and storage within estuaries. There are demonstrated benefits of conservation and restoration on maintaining and expanding Oregon’s natural carbon sinks. The remaining questions are focused on the magnitude of climate mitigation benefits at a site-scale and determining restoration opportunities. Nearshore blue carbon, on the other hand, needs more research. We know that our ocean ecosystems like kelp forests are highly productive, but it is critical to determine the likelihood and amount of carbon that ends up in stable ocean carbon sinks. More details can be found within this report, linked here.

Cover page for the blue carbon report. Top photo: Forest and marshland near Warrenton, Oregon. Photo by Browning (2016). Bottom photo: Harbor seal in bull kelp. Photo by Graner (2015).

I’ve had lovely opportunities to share what I’ve learned with several audiences over the last few months. I was invited to speak about the work of NGOs for a conservation biology class of undergraduates at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology. It was a surreal feeling to be on the other side of the classroom since I had been in their seats just a few years prior. I also presented to TNC Oregon’s board about coastal blue carbon as part of the important work we do in Oregon’s estuaries. I felt fortunate as a fellow to be invited into that space to share my work and learn more about high-level functioning and priority setting of an organization like TNC. Lastly, I gave a (long!) talk at the Elakha Alliance’s Sea Otter Symposium where I discussed the details of our blue carbon report and learned about a ton of exciting kelp forest work on the coast.

I’m so excited to continue my fellowship for the next few months and continue sharing about Oregon’s coastal blue carbon and more!

Collaboration is key: Application of Biology to Conservation and Management

While coming to an end with my red abalone conservation and management project with Sea Grant and ODFW, I’ve come to appreciate the resources and reflections I’ve been fortunate enough to have throughout this experience.

In particular, through the collaboration of this fellowship between ODFW and Oregon Sea Grant, I was provided with a unique opportunity that allowed me to utilize my biological knowledge of marine species in the Oregon environment and apply that information in a real and effective way. Creating tangible change in the world of biological management can be difficult to achieve without understanding political boundaries, conservation constraints, and management collaboration. I was fortunate enough to be able to combine information I gathered in my master’s program at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology with a key fisheries and conservation issue facing Oregon’s dynamic subtidal environment. Through guidance by fisheries management personnel, I drafted a conservation and fishery management plan for the recreational red abalone fishery in Oregon.

Working with complex and advanced networks of scientists, managers, and administrators came with it’s own set of advantages and complications. One of the most important lessons I learned throughout this process was that effective management can only be implemented through careful consideration of diverse stakeholders, scientific investigation, historical understanding, and contextualization through current socioeconomic factors. A breakdown of any one of these considerations will diminish the long-term application of scientific understanding to conservation and management policies. As an undergraduate at OIMB, I learned a wide variety of biological concepts and processes of marine invertebrates that were fascinating and exciting. However, I rarely considered what the application of these concepts could look like within a social, economic, or historical context. When I began working at ODFW following graduation at OIMB, it became clear that while understanding the biological processes of marine organisms was a vital component of managing resources, it was not useful without proper communication and implementation of this information. In particular, my master’s project focused on increasing the biological and ecological body of information available for a large marine snail that has garnered the attention of divers and fishery participants worldwide, the red abalone. Investigating the history of red abalone presence in Oregon was a particularly fun adventure, as I was able to create a timeline of agency biologists’ involvement with red abalone as a resource and through a changing environment. A favorite of mine was the documentation of an exploratory commercial fishery effort in the late 1950s, in which a series of photos of a biologist at the time, Dale Snow, pictured with a contracted SCUBA diver and a red abalone showed the staging of this particular moment, complete with a pencil behind the ear of the biologist, and a cigarette lit just for the picture in the hand of the diver (see below).

Oregon Fish Commission aquatic biologist Dale Snow (right) and contracted diver (left) posing for a picture with a red abalone (Haliotis rufescens) to document the investigative work of exploratory diving effort performed between 1958-1962 in southern Oregon. Used by permission from ODFW archives, published by Groth and Smith 2022.

Having the ability to look back in time and see the history of work done by agency biologists allowed me to have a deep appreciation for each era of management and science. Moving towards a more ecosystem-based management strategy allows scientists and managers to work together to collaborate on advancing scientific understanding of marine resources and applying that knowledge directly to conservation and management. New technologies have allowed scientists to investigate data-deficient situations, such as the red abalone population in Oregon. I was able to collaborate with scientists at UC Davis in California to add to the body of information on red abalone populations throughout Oregon and California using genetic data. Collecting genetic samples in Oregon required further collaboration with academic researchers, commercial and recreational divers, and agency knowledge from previous biologists that detailed the habitat and presence of the elusive and cryptic red abalone in Oregon.

Utilizing historical understanding, agency management frameworks and advice, and application of modern data techniques allowed me to create a conservation and fishery management plan that relies on the strength of collaboration and inclusion. I have learned how vital positive communication techniques are to the scientific and management process through my Oregon Sea Grant Fellowship with ODFW. I hope to continue to grow and learn more about effective application of biological information through careful communication and informed policy throughout my career. I look forward to continuing to work with Oregon Sea Grant through my next role as a Marine Reserves Science Communications Fellow with ODFW beginning in 2023.

Thank you to all of the incredible collaborators, scientists, managers, and friends that have encouraged me and contributed to this project. And of course thank you to Oregon Sea Grant and ODFW for making this project possible, and the quirky and elusive red abalone in Oregon that I hope to positively affect through this work!

Signing off,

Kendall Smith

Farewell from the Tribal Federal Consistency Policy and Processes Fellow!

Hello all!  I am writing with the final update on my project to develop procedures for how the Oregon Coastal Management Program (OCMP) coordinates with tribes during federal consistency reviews, as I finished up my fellowship last week. 

To return to the cliffhanger of my last blog post, I am happy to report that our proposal to incorporate additional policies related to archaeological resource protection and Native American grave protection into the suite of policies considered during federal consistency reviews was approved by NOAA.  With this change, the OCMP will be able to further highlight and raise awareness of the state of Oregon’s commitment to the protection of these sites of significance to the tribes.  During a federal consistency review, the OCMP will provide applicants with information to help them learn more about these standards.  This includes resources about inadvertent discovery of human remains on the Legislative Commission on Indian Service’s website and guidance about the issuance of archaeological permits from the State Historic Preservation Office’s guidance on the issuance of archaeological permits.

I am also pleased to say the tribal coordination procedures were distributed to tribes via formal consultation letters at the beginning of October, marking a significant milestone in this fellowship project.  The OCMP’s goal in implementing these procedures is to bring the tribes to the table during federal consistency reviews and management decisions to ensure their voices are heard and their expertise is considered.  To ease implementation and sustainability, the procedures are designed to be simple and common sense, and nested naturally in existing processes.  They are built on a few commitments to standardize communication and coordination which we shared with the tribes: 

Do the “pre-work”

As federal consistency comes with a unique lingo and timelines established by federal regulations, it can be difficult to step into the federal consistency “world” without some orientation.  In February of 2022, the OCMP took an early step in the “pre-work,” to provide some background on federal consistency and how it “works.”  We also provided the tribes with summaries and graphics to describe the process with our formal consultation letters.  Those letters also requested specific information from the tribes to tailor the procedure as appropriate: 1) confirmation that the tribe wants to be informed of federal consistency reviews; 2) types of activities of interest, whether there is particular geographic extent or topic area; and 3) who should be the primary contacts the OCMP should include in our mailing lists.

Early notification

Upon initiation of a federal consistency review, the OCMP will provide notification to tribes.  This will be as early as possible in the process to ensure the tribe has enough time to review.  It will be separate from the public comment period, as the federally recognized tribes are not members of the public – they are sovereign nations.  This notification includes standard and clear information; templates have been developed to support.

Communication and coordination

The notification message specifically requests comments on the project, but we leave the door open for different levels of coordination.  This means that there could be informal staff-to-staff coordination and communication up to formal consultation between OCMP leadership and the Tribal Councils, whatever the tribe requests.  Any comments received would be acted on.  This might mean facilitating coordination between the federal agency issuing the permit or taking the action and the tribe. 

Follow-up

This last commitment is about “showing the work.”  The OCMP is maintaining records of communication with the tribes.  Any actionable comments will be documented in decision letters, though we will be mindful of not including potentially sensitive information.  Copies of decision letters will also be provided to tribes if they provided comment or upon their request.

As I wrap this up I want to say thank you to everyone at the Department of Land Conservation and Development and the Oregon Coastal Management Program for the opportunity to work on this project!  It has been a real privilege to be able to dig into these issues and develop some processes that will hopefully work in the long-term.  

Perspectives on coastal climate work

The first half of my fellowship has been such an incredible experience of working with experts in conservation science and policy and learning how science can support policy and vice-versa. My fellowship project is a general exploration of how blue carbon pathways operate in Oregon’s coastal ecosystems, how they may contribute to the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals, and who is currently doing the work. Blue carbon as a climate mitigation strategy is a fairly recent development, and the research is still in its early stages in the Pacific Northwest. My fellowship work will hopefully help inform how blue carbon can fit into Oregon’s natural and working lands.

To be honest, it’s hard to think about climate change daily without having to manage some amount of climate anxiety. The crisis we face is at a scale bigger than comprehension, and at times it’s hard to imagine blue carbon alone having a large enough impact to offset—let alone reduce—carbon emissions to have a positive climate effect. At the same time, defeatism is less than helpful, and it’s simply incorrect to believe that nothing we do can mitigate climate change and its effects. There will not be one solution. It will take a lot of people working in lots of ways to tackle the challenge, to change systems and turn the tide. Natural climate solutions (NCS), including blue carbon, is one tool we have to approach climate and biodiversity issues. NCS use conservation and restoration strategies to enhance climate benefits but does not elevate carbon reduction above ecosystem function. This is one aspect that I appreciate about NCS—it does not look at nature as a technology to maximize carbon sequestration but instead values ecosystem health and function for multifaceted benefits.

I had struggled initially because carbon crediting seems to focus simply on the most ‘productive’ estuarine systems that build carbon-rich soils However, many of the people working on blue carbon do not think of carbon projects as simply carbon farms that are separated from ecosystem function. There is deliberate consideration of the inherent value of coastal and nearshore ecosystems alongside the many ecosystem services, of which carbon is one. This attitude shared by my new colleagues is really a heartening one, and I’ve been supported in considering the role of complex oceanic ecosystems (like kelp forests) that are critical Oregon coastal habitat and sequester carbon.

Aequorea among bull kelp