Updates from the OCMP: Minding the Federal Consistency Review Shop

Since my last post, the direction of my fellowship has shifted yet again.  I have hinted in previous posts that I have been given a lot of latitude to take the work in any direction I see fit – so the project has grown and shrunk and grown again as I learn more about the system in which I’m working.  This is really my favorite type of environment to work in – I like dynamic work, following random threads, learning new things, and not always knowing what’s next.  That being said… this latest shift was not as welcome because it came as a result of the departure my mentor from state service: over the last three months, I have been taking on a lot of the tasks of the State-Federal Relations Coordinator and minding the federal consistency review shop while the Oregon Coastal Management Program (OCMP) has been hiring my mentor’s replacement.     

Though it has been unfortunate I have not had as much time to dedicate specifically to the further development of tribal coordination procedures, I’ve been leaning into the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of a federal consistency review.  I thought I had a decent grasp, but I’ve found I was just scratching the surface.  (hubris!)  With my new appreciation for the complexity of the position and requirements of a federal consistency review, I feel better positioned to generate procedures that will work for the next Coordinator. 

For example, being in the Coordinator’s shoes has really underlined the importance of developing effective, clear, and fairly simple procedures for involving the tribes.  The reality of the position (and, really, I think this is true for lots of dynamic/ high-tempo professions) is that things sometimes have to fall off the plate.  Therefore, procedures have to be realistic and mindful of varying levels of bandwidth for them to outlast their creator.  So, I have been thinking quite a bit about where I can create efficiencies – generating message templates, simplifying methods to identify who needs to be contacted, and updating checklists that help the Coordinator track where they are in the process.  My appreciation for reasonable and sustainable processes is a common theme throughout my professional career so far, and has probably already come up in a previous blog post…

In other news, I am really happy to report that a major component of my main project has been able to continue during these last months.  Working with one of my Tribal advisors and the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), I have been developing a proposal to add more policies related to archaeological resources into the suite of policies that are considered during a federal consistency review.  Policies must meet certain criteria to be called “enforceable” and be approved by NOAA for inclusion in a coastal management program.  Enforceable policies are the backbone of a federal consistency review – federal permit applicants and federal agencies proposing actions must make a statement that they believe their project is consistent with these policies. The OCMP then concurs, concurs with conditions, or object to the applicant’s determination that their project is consistent based on our independent review and the input of our network partners

For this reason, the inclusion of these additional enforceable policies of importance to the Tribes is a substantial step forward in emphasizing the OCMP’s commitment to the protection of archaeological resources.  I am currently developing letters to distribute to the Tribal Councils to provide notification about the change, discuss the significance, explain the implementation process, and request their feedback.  This is a months-long process that will very likely outlast my tenure with the OCMP, so I am excited to get it moving! 

Abalone Fishery Management Challenges and Intersectional Location Benefits

It is the end of the second quarter of my Natural Resource Policy Fellowship working with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to learn more about applying biological information to an imperiled shellfish fishery and it has been a challenging task so far. The recreational red abalone fishery in Oregon is unique due to its small size of users, limited information about the population level biology of the target species coupled with the intense enthusiasm of users. I have been working on using other fishery management plan frameworks as a guide for forming the hybrid conservation and fishery management plan for red abalone here in Oregon and it has illuminated some major differences between those established management plans and my work-in-progress plan. Mostly, I have found that we have limited quantitative data to work with when attempting to establish Harvest Control Rules, including biological reference points, total allowable catch and spawning potential ratios. This is a challenge I knew was on the horizon, but it does make it difficult to determine an effective strategy for management while still considering the conservation needs of this species. Currently, I am utilizing other frameworks in conjunction with unique fishery management techniques in other similar fisheries with limited data. In its completion, this would look like a limited fishery with established regions that will be managed separately based on index survey efforts and utilizing data from nearby fisheries that have a similar population structure but more established biological understanding and increased funding for monitoring. I am looking forward to creating a completed first draft in the coming months and continuing to further develop this unique management framework.

I am also enjoying the immersive and intersectional experience of working on a campus that connects the academic side of marine biology to the management side due to the close proximity of the University of Oregon Marine Biology campus with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife field station in Charleston. It is unique and helpful to have both entities as well as the fishing industry at the fishing plant Pacific all within one location!

Found a red abalone (Haliotis rufescens) – (look under the rock!) while in the field working with the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology Invertebrates course! Awesome to see the animal I am studying and drafting a management framework for in the field.

Update from the OCMP: Tribal Coordination Procedures Development

Since my last post, the scope of my project has shifted to developing tribal coordination and consultation procedures for the entire Oregon Coastal Management Program (OCMP), rather than just for federal consistency reviews.  In part, this is because it was proving difficult to separate the activities of the federal consistency review program from those of the larger OCMP.  The project team also recognized that the strategy for tribal engagement during federal consistency reviews is somewhat limited by nature.  As my recently departed (and sorely missed) mentor, Deanna Caracciolo, likes to say… the federal consistency review is usually the “caboose” of a federal permitting process.  By the time the OCMP initiates its review, the federal agency and any OCMP network partners with permitting responsibilities (i.e. state agencies) may have already communicated with potentially impacted Tribes about the proposed action.  Therefore, to limit duplication of effort and respect the limited resources of our partners – including the Tribes – the OCMP will aim to “complement” any previous tribal engagement efforts and offer an opportunity for a final double-check for any emerging concerns.  This strategy roughly mirrors that of our neighboring coastal management program in California.  As this is a fairly common sense and straightforward solution, there is fortunately bandwidth in the scope of this project to branch out to the wider OCMP!

As I move forward in this project, my approach to the development of the tribal coordination and consultation procedures is to:

Use the existing Department of Land Conservation and Development policy for government-to-government relations as the framework: This policy is required per Oregon Revised Statutes 182.162 through 182.168.  My project is essentially implementing the policy through the development of procedures specific for the OCMP.  It is an important – and complex – distinction that the requirement is to set up a program that promotes positive relations between the state and the Tribes through cooperation and communication.  Big “C” consultation (formal consultation) is part of it, but the wider focus on cooperation recognizes that ongoing opportunities for collaboration and coordination between the state and the Tribes are critical to developing the underlying relationships.

Normalize communication:  Establishing a fairly standardized cycle of routine communication and coordination helps with the building of relationships and pathways for information flow.  These relationships and pathways can then be leaned on as the need for non-routine communication arises or when there are emerging issues.  More frequent communication also means more opportunities to get feedback and adjust, as needed.  In setting up this communication cycle, it is my goal to leverage existing processes to maximize sustainability and not create more work than is necessary.  For example, each agency is required to submit an annual report to the Legislative Commission on Indian Services regarding the previous year’s tribal engagement activities: we are aiming to set up reporting and monitoring forms that can easily be fed into the annual report.

Clarify roles and responsibilities:  Part of this project has been seeking to understand what the OCMP is currently doing when it comes to tribal engagement – identifying who is currently coordinating with the tribes and any future opportunities for coordination.  We don’t want to fix anything that isn’t broken and want to build on whatever is already working.  Ultimately, the goal is to develop a structure of roles and responsibilities internal to the OCMP for monitoring and advocating for tribal engagement opportunities.  Again, we want to make this as painless as possible – so we are proposing relatively simple solutions like a standing agenda item at the all staff meeting regarding tribal engagement to keep this at the front of everyone’s minds.

Develop robust but flexible procedures: Uncertainty can be a hurdle to efficient and effective communication, so we are developing procedures and best practices to help staff determine what type of coordination is appropriate for different types of activities.  For example, the process of initiating formal consultation through letters to the Tribal Council can feel a little stressful.  We want to get in front of this (and the possible stress) by identifying the types of activities that are generally suitable for staff-to-staff coordination.  These procedures will also capture communication strategies and roles and responsibilities.

We shared our proposed framework for procedure development with the Tribes during a workshop in late February 2022.  We were extremely grateful and excited that representatives of seven of the nine federally recognized Tribal Nations in Oregon were able to attend.  This was an opportunity to share more information about the OCMP, its authority, its programs, and federal consistency reviews and get some feedback from the attendees.  The workshop was advertised as the first of many opportunities to communicate and coordinate with our tribal partners.  Over the next few months, I am looking forward to facilitating further conversations between the OCMP and tribal staff to learn more about the Tribes’ interests in the coastal zone and ensure the procedures we are developing meet their needs.  

Chasing Carbon on the Oregon Coast

Hi all! My name is Joanna and I’m excited to join the community of Oregon Sea Grant Scholars for the 2021-2022 Natural Resource Policy Fellowship. I matched with The Nature Conservancy as my host organization to explore Blue Carbon in Oregon. Blue Carbon refers to any carbon stored within soils or biomass in coastal and marine ecosystems: think salt marshes, eelgrass, and kelp forests, for example. There has been recent focus on protecting and restoring these habitats, in part because they are so good at absorbing and sequestering atmospheric carbon and can be part of the solution to mitigate the effects of climate change. (Although, of course, the greatest reduction effects would be seen from drastically reducing fossil fuel consumption.) Natural Climate Solutions—including Blue Carbon—provide this essential service in addition to myriad co-benefits that support coastal biological and human communities.

Much of Blue Carbon science has been conducted in the tropics and typically framed in terms those tropical ecosystems. Salt marshes and seagrasses are common to both the tropics and the Pacific Northwest, but mangrove forests—understood to be the most effective carbon storage ecosystem—do not occur in the PNW. We do, however, have Sitka spruce swamps which tolerate the salinity of tidally influenced wetlands and store incredible amounts of carbon in soils and woody biomass. Additionally, many of the oceanic sources of Blue Carbon are not well incorporated into our understanding of carbon pathways in Oregon. My project seeks to understand the potential role of Blue Carbon to reach Oregon’s carbon reduction targets and to finance restoration through carbon credits.

The first few months of this fellowship have been a whirlwind of learning about Blue Carbon science, meeting many of the amazing people who work and are interested in this space, and changing the way I think about science and the ways it’s applied in the world. My background in marine science led me to approach problems using a fairly rigid framework—formulating research questions, deriving hypotheses, constructing methodologies—but working in applied science and policy has certainly challenged the way I think about approaching projects. Scientific rigor is, of course, still needed as the foundation for effective climate policy, but I’ve learned to put more emphasis on human elements—relationships between people and the lands and waters on which they depend, and connections between partners and stakeholders to implement change. I’m excited to continue exploring established and frontier Blue Carbon pathways, and connecting with partners and policymakers during the course of my fellowship.

marsh-overlook
Looking over the wetlands at Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge

Finding the Conservation-Management Balance

Hello everyone!

My name is Kendall and I am a new Sea Grant scholar, a 2021-2022 Natural Resource Policy Fellow, stationed in Charleston on the south coast. I was matched with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife at the south coast field office to work with management to develop a conservation and fishery management plan for a currently closed recreational fishery.

It has been a hectic and rewarding start to my fellowship so far! I have been researching conservation and fishery management plans and working with my fellowship host to build the framework for the imperiled red abalone (Haliotis rufescens) fishery. I already had a background in fisheries and particularly with the history of the red abalone fishery in Oregon, due to my position at ODFW as a shellfish biological aide prior to graduate school. What I did not have was a familiarity with the difficulties in creating a new type of management plan that considers multiple objectives and viewpoints that might counteract one another.

The most interesting revelation I have had so far during this process is that writing a conservation and fishery management plan is not common for fisheries, and is quite different from a typical fisheries management plan. The most imperative way it differs has to do with the concept that this management plan does not mean that there will be a fishery. Instead, there are two simultaneous objectives that could naturally be seen as opposites. The first objective is to protect and conserve the species in question, and the other objective is to develop a fishery for that same species. Working through this process so far has been a unique exercise in recognizing, appreciating and applying different stakeholder perspectives. Often it seems that agencies, organizations and individuals view these objectives as contrary to one another, and further, that one objective and perspective nullifies the other. My main task is to take each perspective and goal and find ways to merge the two together to benefit the red abalone population in Oregon, as well as honor the cultural, social and economic importance of the resource. I look forward to learning more about each perspective and working towards a common goal to create a sustainable, socially and biologically conscious fishery while continuing to explore the specifics of conserving an elusive and fascinating invertebrate species.

thanks for the memories!

Well, I guess this is it…

It’s hard to believe this is the end of my fellowship. It all happened so quickly, but I am extremely grateful for the experience, opportunities, and friendships made in the process. Since this project will take several years to complete, I am satisfied with the progress we have made so far. Overall, Oregon and Washington are closer to Geographic Location Descriptions (GLDs) for seabed mining, seafood processing discharge, and offshore aquaculture. While some are closer than others, I believe each coastal program is equipped with the tools necessary to finish the product. We also were able to complete a Guidance Document for other Coastal Programs who wish to pursue GLDs in the future.

Geographic Location Descriptions are one of the many tools available to Coastal Programs, including the Oregon and Washington Coastal Management Programs. These documents allow the Coastal Program to review activities outside of the coastal zone for reasonably foreseeable effects to coastal resources. These resources span from recreation and tourism, to fishing practices in state waters. Each of these uses/resources must be balanced with the authorization of an activity in federal waters that is shown to have those effects.

 Seabed Mining

Seabed mining is something most Coastal Programs should plan for, as it is likely to become an emerging use in the future. Scientists have estimated that it is only a matter of time before mining activities shift their focus on the mineral resources found in the ocean. As technology evolves, and the resources found on land become more finite, it can be inferred that seabed mining will be an emerging use. To best prepare for these activities and the reasonably foreseeable effects to coastal resources, both Oregon and Washinton have begun to prepare a GLD for offshore seabed mining. This GLD will ensure each Coastal Program has a seat at the table, as it coordinates with the relevant federal agencies. Under the Coastal Zone Management Act, and its implementing regulations, federal agencies are tasked with coordinating with State Coastal Management Programs to ensure that those federal actions are consistent with enforceable policies located in the coastal zone. In this case, there still needs to be more information known about the technology, but the reasonably foreseeable effects are well delineated. Some of these effects include permanent changes to benthic habitat, water quality degradation, and other natural resource management concerns. This work has been critical to each Coastal Program as they find more information, so much so, that the Washington State Legislature and Governor placed a moratorium on seabed mining activities in the coastal zone. This moratorium is encouraged because it has been put in place before political concerns are taken into account.

 Offshore Aquaculture

As of today, the US has remained focused on developing aquaculture facilities in both the nearshore and offshore. The main goal is to decrease the amount of imported seafood that the US relies upon each year. For this reason, the federal government has remained focused on siting facilities in US waters every four years. A GLD will ensure that concerns for natural resources will be discussed prior to authorization. Some of these things include excess nutrient

input, HABs, OAH, competition with the fishing industry, and other relevant/valid issues with an offshore aquaculture facility. The three main types of aquaculture were considered in developing the analysis of reasonably foreseeable effects of aquaculture siting on natural resources. The three main types of aquaculture are: finfish, marine vegetation, and shellfish. Each of these types of aquaculture have impacts to coastal resources and uses, so the Coastal Program remains focused on coordinating with the relevant agencies on developing the framework for siting these facilities in the future. These impacts will be helpful in starting the conversation, in the same way the BOEM Wind Energy Task Force uses the information in the Marine Renewable GLD to determine what the reasonably foreseeable effects could be.

 Offshore Seafood Processing Discharge

This is probably the activity I spent the most time on. Starting in 2015, the State of Oregon and the EPA began coordinating on a permit for offshore seafood processing discharge on the Oregon and Washington continental shelves. Unfortunately, the two agencies were unable to reach an agreement on the coastal effects of the authorization of the activity. One of the primary points of disagreement was that each agency needed to know a lot more information about the oceanographic currents, where the material is going, what the respiration rate is of the material, etc. During my fellowship, I was able to bring this permit to the EPA’s enforcement division along with creating a coordination process with the Quileute Tribe, Quinault Tribe, the State of Washington, the State of Oregon, and the EPA. This coordination group meets quarterly to discuss the complexities of permit enforcement and how to ensure the reporting information can be used to inform the next iteration of the permit in 2024.

 GLD Guidance Document

Due to the gray area involved in drafting GLDs, I was able to help draft a Guidance Document for GLDs. This document discusses the complexities that come with undertaking these projects, especially when the technology is so new. For example, seabed mining is not a practice in the US, so it is difficult to ascertain the types of impacts to key coastal resources without further research. This document should be in publication within the next year.

Final Note

This has been a fantastic opportunity, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I feel better equipped to take on a career in coastal management, and am incredibly excited to see what’s next. In the meantime, I was able to participate in a podcast with Felicia Olmeta-Schult to discuss lessons learned from my fellowship, and other information about coastal management.

Differences I observed going from academia to government

As I transitioned from academia to a government agency, I noticed some similarities between the two. In both places I have worked with an incredible lab/team that are always willing to help figure out why some R code isn’t working or review a paper. Also, in both places I have been constantly learning new things and testing my skills. On the other hand, I have noticed many differences between my experience as a graduate student at the University of Florida and as a fellow with the Marine Reserves Program at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW).

One major difference between the two places is how I speak about my research. As a student I was allowed to be an advocate. I could speak about wanting to expand protected areas and conserve all species to my heart’s content. It was practically expected of me to have these strong opinions about conservation and discuss them openly. Working for a state agency, the expectation is exactly the opposite. I now must be impartial in my word choice both in person and in writing. Though I work for the Marine Reserves Program, I am not an advocate for marine reserves. I am simply studying how the marine reserves may have impacted communities and presenting these results in a straightforward manner. If I take a strong position on marine reserves, the public may lose trust in my ability to conduct unbiased research. If the public loses this trust, they are less likely to support the agency and follow agency regulations. This trust is crucial, but also fragile.

Another difference between academia and government is the type of research being conducted. In academia, the focus is more on what is interesting and would advance the field. In government, the focus is on achieving the mandate. Therefore, our research options are limited and must be strictly applied research rather than theoretical. We also must be transparent about our research and where funds are going since we are a largely tax-funded agency. This is another important component of building that trust.

Government agencies typically work on projects with larger scale timeframes than what graduate students are involved in. While long-term monitoring projects are typically considered boring and unpublishable in academia, these types of data are the bread and butter of ODFW reports. We are constantly monitoring fish stocks, commercial fishing pressure, license sales, oceanographic conditions, etc. Most of these data are written up in annual reports and used to inform management. While long-term monitoring is generally not considered “sexy” research, it is extremely useful to have these historical datasets to understand how things have changed over time. I am using many of these historical datasets in my current work looking at how marine reserves may have impacted factors like recreational anglers’ Catch Per Unit Effort (CPUE), commercial fishing employment, and coastal communities’ socioeconomic conditions.

Lastly, one of the best changes I experienced when going from academia to government was an increased focus on having a work-life balance. In graduate school I was applauded for staying in the lab late and working on weekends. In my current position, I am expected to only be working 40-hour weeks and taking weekends off. We spend time in our weekly meetings discussing general life announcements that aren’t marine reserves related in the slightest. We even share good places to hike, mountain bike, snowshoe, camp, etc. because we know we will all have time to do these fun hobbies.

These are some of the major differences I observed in my life going from academia to government. These are solely based on my personal experience and are likely not applicable to everyone that made this transition.

How do we know if marine reserves influence recreational fishing communities?

We’ve almost made it! The year 2020 is just about to end and 2021 is right around the corner. Though many issues that were highlighted in 2020 won’t be going away in 2021 and need to continue to be addressed, there are some things to look forward to. Just this month, healthcare workers started receiving the first round of the COVID-19 vaccine. As more and more people get vaccinated, we will hopefully see the end of strict quarantine measures in the near future. Maybe we will even be able to spend the 2021 holidays with family without a mask in sight! 2021 will also bring a new administration with climate change as a top priority, which will likely influence ocean policies and management. So, while 2020 was an important year and we should not forget what we learned in it, here’s to hoping that 2021 doesn’t throw us any detrimental curveballs.

Now that you’re up to date on some of what’s happening in the USA, let me update you on what I’ve been working on. In my last blog post I outlined how I’m using the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (ODFW) daily angling license sale data to determine if marine reserves have influenced recreational fishing. Since people are no longer able to fish in the marine reserve sites, we might expect this to result in fewer licenses purchased in towns near the reserves post implementation. This might also be observed by an increase in licenses purchased in towns further from the reserves.

However, whether or not people decide to go fishing is just one aspect of measuring a potential reserve effect on recreational fishing communities. For those that do decide to go fishing, how much they catch and over what time period is another crucial component. This metric is referred to as Catch Per Unit Effort (CPUE). For our analysis, we calculate CPUE by dividing the total number of fish caught by the number of anglers aboard the vessel and by the number of hours fished. This creates a standardized metric whereby we can compare fishing trips with varying numbers of anglers and hours fished. Specifically, we can compare CPUE reported at docks near marine reserves pre- and post-marine reserve implementation. We might expect that marine reserve site closures could increase effort, thereby decreasing CPUE, by forcing anglers to spend more time traveling further to avoid the reserves. On the other hand, we might expect site closures to increase catch, thereby increasing CPUE, due to spillover effects whereby a greater abundance of fish inside the reserves leads to a greater abundance of fish outside the reserves.

Lucky for me, ODFW has been collecting the information I need to calculate CPUE through the Ocean Recreational Boat Survey (ORBS).  This is an annual survey of Oregon’s marine recreational fishery that estimates both catch and effort at the top 10-11 ocean access points. This survey was first developed in 1979, but the original focus was on generating accurate salmon estimates in a timely manner. The ORBS survey has since expanded and provides valuable data on stock abundance and health for many species, which is used for management purposes.

By looking at both daily angling license sales as well as CPUE on charter boats, we should be able to uncover any potential marine reserve effects on the recreational fishing community. Of course, there are many covariates to take into account that could influence CPUE, such as catch regulations and environmental variables. I won’t dive into this right now, but maybe another blog post detailing the difficulties of finding downloadable historical buoy data without huge gaps is in order. Signing off for now, happy New Year!

Working with the data you have

Amid the chaotic nature of this summer with COVID-19, protests, wildfires, and an upcoming election, I have managed to seamlessly transition into my second year as a Natural Resource Policy Fellow with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). Over the next year, I will continue to evaluate the impacts of marine reserves on coastal communities, communities of interest (e.g. commercial fishers), and ocean users (e.g. tourists).

Over the last year working on this mandate I have discovered that there are no perfect data sources to answer this question. Data often have errors associated with insufficient sampling in small communities, issues with changes in methodology, or are simply not available for the years or communities of interest. However, we can’t let these issues stop us. Therefore, we are gathering and analyzing relevant data from as many sources as possible while documenting the limitations of the data.

One source of data we have used are ODFW’s one- through seven-day fishing and shellfishing license sales. Implementing marine reserves closes off any extractive activities within that area. Therefore, we might expect that daily fishing and shellfishing license sales in communities located near marine reserves would decrease following reserve implementation. However, we also need to control for the historical trend in license sales on the coast. If license sales are decreasing in towns located near reserves, but also decreasing across the entire coast, then this reduction may be caused by something other than the reserves, such as a change in culture.

License sales are just one example of the data we are using to analyze marine reserve impacts. While we don’t always have perfect data to work with, using the best data available from multiple sources should be sufficient to understand if and how marine reserves have impacted communities.

Update on Current Research and Reflections on the 2020 Census

While I had hoped that this summer would be full of trips to sunny, salty, sea lion filled Newport to mentor ODFW’s Summer Scholars, unfortunately everyone is still working remotely. Though I have heard from my Newport-based coworkers that this pandemic is not stopping the hordes of tourists from flocking to the coast for celebrations such as the recent 4th of July.

One of the main projects that I’ve been working on this summer while stuck in Bend (there are worse places to be stuck!) is understanding if marine reserves have influenced socioeconomic conditions in communities located near them. To investigate this, I first had to gather information on the socioeconomic conditions of coastal communities over time. I used the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey 5-year estimates from 2010 to 2018. While accessing data prior to 2010 would be ideal, the first 5-year estimate summary tables were only released in 2010, so we work with what we got.

After collecting all of these data, the exploratory analyses began, as did the true test of what I can remember from those statistics courses long ago and how far my R coding skills can take me. These exploratory analyses include tests and visualizations such as correlation plots, non-metric multidimensional scaling plots, bubble plots, vector analyses, principal component analyses, PERMANOVAs, the list goes on. When working with complicated multivariate data, I have learned that exploration is key to understanding what is really shaping your data.

I have also been trying to figure out what my control and treatment communities should be. With this first approach, I am considering treatment communities as those that are located <15km from a marine reserve. Control communities are therefore all coastal communities located >15km from a marine reserve. Since the marine reserves were phased in over time, I have three separate treatment groups. The 2012 group includes communities located near Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve and Otter Rock Marine Reserve, the 2014 group near Cape Perpetua Marine Reserve and Cascade Head Marine Reserve, and the 2016 group near Cape Falcon Marine Reserve. While this approach is a good first step, I will likely need to consider if other groupings or controls would be more appropriate. One method I am currently researching is creating a synthetic control by weighting non-treatment communities based on socioeconomic similarities to treatment communities prior to marine reserve implementation. But I won’t get too into the weeds with that statistical discussion here for everyone’s sake!

As I’ve been working with these census data, I’ve been thinking about the unfortunate timing of the decennial census this year. The Census Bureau conducts a survey every ten years with the goal to obtain a comprehensive snapshot of households in the United States. Unfortunately, the census this year coincided with a massive pandemic leading to significant economic loss and unemployment and the consequences that follow that loss. When future researchers use the decennial census to look at change over time, they are going to see data from 2020 that is not representative of the previous ten years, which will likely impact their analyses. I’m assuming that this data issue will lead to many footnotes in future papers. Luckily I will only be using data through 2019 (once it is made available) since the 2020 data will not be made available until after the marine reserve synthesis report is due.