All by myself…

Just ten weeks ago Lisette, Phoenix, and I were headed to Otter Rock for our first practice run surveying visitors to Oregon’s marine reserves. Fast forward to today; Lisette headed back to Chicago last week and Phoenix left the week before. It has been a quite week finishing up data entry and checking from home so I have had more time to think about this blog post compared to previous ones.

Throughout these ten weeks I saw how human dimensions research is carried out from survey design to report writing. I sat in on meetings with the team designing and drafting a survey that would be sent out to thousands of recreational fishers, created a codebook for data entry, conducted hundreds of surveys of visitors and businesses, and now I’m starting the report writing phase.

This behind the scenes look has made me feel more confident in my career goals going forward. I have always said that I wanted to work for ODFW or similar agency because I felt that their mission aligned with my personal values. This experience has solidified that for me and, through our mentor Tommy, I have gained some insight into what it takes to get a permanent position at ODFW.

It looks more and more like graduate school is in my future. I have started doing some surface level research into where I could apply and what that process looks like. This is where I feel like I faltered at the end of my previous bachelor’s degree so this all makes me a little nervous. In the next few weeks I will develop more of a plan and set up some meetings with my advisor and others to make sure I’m on the right track.

In the short term I will be staying on with ODFW as a temporary biological science aid. This will allow me to continue helping write the reports for the data we collected this Summer. I’m excited to stick with the project a little longer and to have a job for the rest of the Summer!

Thistle is adjusting to the work from home life.

A truly shrimp-tacular summer

Looking back, this has probably been the best summer of my life! Although it started off rough leaving my family and friends behind, it progressively got better with time. I got to meet so many new and wonderful people, visit places I’ve never been, and experience things that I never imagined for myself. I mean, it was my actual job to go out and play in the mud like a little kid! This summer internship has truly been an amazing experience and I recommend it to anyone looking to get a foot in the door with marine sciences.

Top left: John and me on my very first day out in the field. Bottom left: Exploring a lake in Alaska with Mattias. Middle left: John on the first day of Alaska field work. Right: Phoenix and me at the Bayfront before the program started.

Hearing from my roommates and the other Sea Grant Scholars has helped me to narrow down my future aspirations. I know that my summer experience has been a bit different than others in the program by being more of a scientific research experiment rather than scientific community/policy outreach. Working with Oregon State University and USDA-ARS has given me the chance to work with a real research team instead of a classroom research team. Not only has it led me to meet and work with other students and professors from OSU and CU Boulder, but it has allowed me to visit and make professional contacts in Washington and Alaska. While I would like to work with a government agency in the future, I would prefer to do a similar role as here that has less interactions with the public and more hands-on science.

Left: learning to play the cello with the Banks family. Middle: Joshua and me psyching ourselves up for field work with Brett at 4:45am. Top right: Emily and me with several Alaska mud shrimp. Bottom right: blueberry picking with the roomies.

The next step in life for me is heading off to graduate school for the Marine Resource Management master’s program at OSU in September. At OSU I’ll be continuing working with Brett, John, the Upogebia, and the Orthione for my master’s thesis to try and keep that balance between economy and ecology. I’m thrilled to be a part of a program that focuses on so many of the things that I care about. It will be an interesting transition to go back to school, especially in-person school. No matter what happens, I am extremely excited and nervous to start this next chapter of my life and see where it takes me. 

Top left: last Yaquina Bay field day for Joshua and me. Bottom left: exploring Yaquina Head Lighthouse with Mattias. Middle: a typical day of lab work. Right: a double infested mud shrimp from Alaska.

An end to an amazing summer

It always amazes me how quickly 10 weeks can just fly by. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when I came into this internship, but everything has been above and beyond anything I could have imagined. During my undergrad, I was very focused on building my skills in scientific research which lead me to participate in various research opportunities. However, I felt that I lacked the skills to apply and communicate that scientific knowledge in a way that would make it useful for policy and management. Throughout this summer, after talking with various professionals and participating in a variety of meetings with my mentor, I can definitely say that I’ve gotten a pretty solid grasp on how to apply and communicate science. I’ve learned how to read and summarize scientific papers so that I am only pulling out the major key points. I got to build my artistic skills and participate in creating various outreach materials to communicate the scientific knowledge in a manner that is easier to digest to the target audience. Additionally, I got to see and interact with some of the “middlemen” between the scientific and the policy-makers to firsthand see how science helps inform policy and management. All the skills and knowledge I have gained throughout this summer will definitely benefit me as I continue with my education and solidify my career path.

Another important thing that I learned from this internship is that your degree doesn’t define what your future career is. I was pleasantly surprised to find just how many people working in the policy realm had a scientific background in biology, marine science, ecology, etc. While I originally thought I wanted to get my Ph.D. and only do research for the rest of my life, I soon realized that academia wasn’t really for me. It was comforting to hear just how many paths that a background in the biological sciences could give you and that it doesn’t necessarily have to take you down the path of academia. Talking individually with various professionals has really helped me start to see all the possibilities I can do with my degree. As I continue on to my master’s program at UC Davis in the fall, I will continue to look for interdisciplinary opportunities that will allow me to explore a career in the intersection between science and policy.

One of the grad photos I took at the blueberry farm where I conducted research during my last term at UO.

Last Update!

The majority of my time this week has gone to revising and finalizing my final report that I have been working on all summer. This is the first time that I have gotten to commit so much time to a project that I am working on independently and as I get closer to being able to submit I feel very proud of all that I accomplished this summer. Coming into this I didn’t really know what to expect but I feel like I have gained very useful skills in being able to read complex research materials and distill them down to be more understandable and consumable by the general public. I have also learned that I care a lot more about environmental education than I previously thought. It gives me a way to utilize both my environmental science and education backgrounds and combining those with my experience of growing up with crisis based environmental education has been so rewarding. This summer has definitely taught me so much about environmental education and virtual learning and I am so thankful that I got to have this experience so early on in my academic career.

As this internship wraps up I have been thinking a lot about what I have gained from this experience. As someone who grew up far away from the coast I never really saw marine conservation as something that I would want to pursue as a career. However, being exposed to so many different career paths and having my first experiences with marine conservation has made me realize that it is something that I would want to pursue in the future. 

I am now headed back to the University of Washington to start my sophomore year, and my first year in person on my campus. I am beyond excited to further my knowledge in environmental science and I feel like this experience has solidified the path that I want to take. After getting my degree I think that I might either go to grad school for conservation biology or go to law school to pursue environmental law. 

Various copies of all the different revisions my report has gone through.

What Summer?

This Summer has gone by incredibly quick. I have had to dust off my “nice voice” that I haven’t used since I was taking orders at Texas Roadhouse, and honestly, I will be glad to put it away again. I have learned that most people are incredibly nice and a shocking number are willing to take time out of their day to take a survey. There are other people who are not as accommodating. I forgot how bad it feels for people to avoid eye contact and try to make you go away by ignoring you. Hopefully interacting with this much of the public will not be in my future.

On a more positive note, I have gotten to gain experience with R studio and see some of the innerworkings of what happens to all this data we are collecting. I won’t say I have a great understanding of data analyses but more than I did last week. Early on we sat in on some meetings where a survey was being developed and sample design was being decided. This Summer has given me a more complete picture of the planning, execution, and analyses process that is human dimensions research.

Knowing what I know now I would have tried to get an earlier start on some of the R studio work and tried to be a little more productive with my days off. Time has gone by so fast and there never seems to be enough to get everything done. The next few days will be filled with surveying in Cape Falcon and putting our final presentation together, hopefully the wifi in Garibaldi is working.

Alaska is shrimply amazing

Interning with USDA-ARS and OSU through Sea Grant has been an absolute blast. It made all the difference to have such great mentors and an awesome lab partner. The summer may be coming to an end, but the next two weeks still have a chock-full schedule here in Alaska. Oh yeah, you totally read that right. We’re in Alaska!! I’ve learned so many things from this internship that I honestly can’t remember them all. The most important thing that I’ve learned is how to be a good lab manager. One of my mentors had to be away for an extended period of time and since we’ve worked together virtually since last summer, he left me in charge of the lab. I got to take on and learn more serious responsibilities, such as schedule making, coordinating, and even a bit of mentoring.

Alaska Views
Top left: views of Alaska from the plane. Bottom left: some sea stars from the mudflat. Right: views from the mudflat

A really interesting thing that has surprised me about this summer has been learning about all the other people and projects that are involved in the mud shrimp system. I mean, it makes sense, this has been a 10+ year project with lots of collaborators. John and Brett have folks all over the world (like Colorado, Japan, Russia, and Australia) who have worked or are currently working with Upogebia and Neotrypaea. A completely unrelated thing that completely surprised me however, is the fact that using the yabi guns (slurp guns, as I call them) hurts my back waaayyyyy more than using the sediment/clam cores to obtain shrimp!

Alaska field work day 1
Top left: me wearing my field work vest from University of Colorado, Boulder (CU). Bottom left: Joshua and our new CU collaborator. Top right: everyone checking out our first mud shrimp in the field. Bottom right: John and our CU collaborators analyzing shrimp in our “Alaska Lab.”

Knowing what I know now, I would only do a couple of things differently if I could restart my summer. First and most importantly, I would have things a bit more organized and set-up at the beginning of the summer. It was mostly fine, but I feel having a slightly more detailed schedule would be beneficial and less stressful. Next, I would make sure there was allotted time to go to the Art in Science meetings. As it was, I was travelling for field work both times. And finally, I would have made Joshua come to movie nights sooner with my awesome house mates, Lisette and Phoenix, so we could have all finished watching She-Ra together.

Lessons Learned: Week 8 at HRAP

The most important thing that I have learned during my time at Haystack Rock Awareness Program (HRAP) is just how important setting a schedule and sticking to it is. Because I was working so independently on my project I was fully responsible for the timeline and pace that I was working at. As someone who is used to having timelines fully set up by school or work this was a big change and it definitely took me a few weeks to get settled into but now I feel like I’ve gotten the hang of how I spend my time to make sure that I am getting everything done in a timely manner. I have also gotten to learn about grad school and the various career paths in environmental science that I hadn’t really had much exposure to before this summer. Getting to meet and talk to so many different people that all got where they are by taking so many different paths definitely really opened up my view of how I can get to the career that I want in a variety of different ways. 

One of the most surprising things about working at HRAP is that everyone has an opinion on education. Every time I talk to someone about my project whether they work in education or not, they always seem to have some sort of feedback or information about educational techniques or what they would want to see. Initially I was really surprised that everyone had so much to say but then I realized that every single person is a stakeholder in education. We all go to school and then people send their kids to schools so it is actually not surprising to see that everyone cares about how we are teaching kids. This also reframed the way that I thought of education as a much broader part of our daily lives. 

I think that if I could redo this summer the only thing I would do differently is to incorporate more interviews into my project. I only ended up doing two interviews with teachers but I feel like they both had really valuable input and having the chance to talk to more teachers would’ve given me a different perspective that would have strengthened my overall project.

A collection of things found during a field trip by walking in Cannon Beach including a shore crab, squid eggs, and sand dollars

An Enriching Summer

I can’t believe we’re about to finish week 8 of this internship program. Time has been going so fast and I’ve gained so much knowledge in the past few weeks. 

This internship has definitely let me build skills that I would have never gotten otherwise. The main one being graphic design skills which I never thought I would gain from a marine biology internship. Adobe Illustrator was definitely frustrating to figure out at first, but once I got the hang of it I’ve really enjoyed delving more into my artistic side. When I was a freshman in high school I thought that I wanted to be an animator but slowly lost passion for that over the course of high school. While I no longer have the desire to pursue a career in art, this internship has allowed me to rekindle my artistic side while combining it with my scientific side. 

Some of my old artwork from high school. The bottom one I submitted to the Tri-Valley Art Show where it won for Mixed Media!

On the science side, I have definitely learned how to better read scientific articles. During my undergrad, reading scientific articles was often a daunting task, especially during my thesis project. Much of the language was so complex and sometimes hard to interpret. But after spending about three weeks reading over 100 scientific papers, they are no longer as intimidating as they once were. Interestingly, it even restarted my interest in reading books.  

Another important thing that I have learned about is informational interviews and how helpful these can be. I’ve always had anxiety around asking for help, especially if it requires a meeting as I am worried about bothering people. But with all my conversations with ODFW employees, I have been pleasantly surprised as to how open people are to speaking with me to talk about their paths and provide advice. I always appreciate the enthusiasm they bring to our conversation and the genuine interest that have in helping me in my career path. Even within the CEI program, I’ve been surrounded by people to ask for advice and to help me build connections with others. Networking is definitely a huge part of any career path and I’ve learned to be less afraid to build those connections. 

On that note, I’ve been surprised by simply how many things each person within the organization is working on. Every person I have talked to seems to be working on about 100 projects at once and it just seems to be magic that they still get everything done. Despite their busy schedules, they still find time in their day to meet with me which just makes me that much more appreciative of them. 

Another surprising thing for me was how I haven’t been burnt out by virtual work yet. After a year and a half of doing college virtually and already at Zoom burnout, I have been surprisingly okay with doing the whole internship virtually. Not sure if it’s the change in settings, if I’ve just finally gotten used to the virtual world, or if I just really enjoy the work, but being in front of my computer for 8 hours a day hasn’t been as exhausting as I thought it would be. I even find the energy occasionally to spend an hour or two after the workday to edit a couple of my undergraduate projects for publication.

Some of the gelatinous creatures I found last summer at OIMB while I was working on my thesis project. Left: Clione, middle: Aurelia aurita, right: Eutonia indicans.

If I could do anything differently, it would be to have engaged with people earlier on in my internship. It took until about week 4 or 5 for me to start setting meetings to talk with professionals as I was just finding myself overwhelmed with having to talk with them one-on-one. But these conversations have been so beneficial to my learning, as well as a great break from just sitting alone in my room and working.

~Yalin 🐟

Shrimping in Washington was not a (Cape) Disappointment

The last two weeks have been absolutely crazy! Joshua and I went to Tillamook, OR and Long Beach, WA last Tuesday-Friday for field work. We sampled mud shrimp and ghost shrimp in both Tillamook Bay and Willapa Bay. In Washington, we got the opportunity to go out in an air boat and work with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. At the beginning of the summer, I couldn’t pull up a single core but by the end of last week, I was pulling several in a row! We also had the chance to go to Cape Disappointment and, no, it did not disappoint. It was beautiful!

Tillamook, OR & Long Beach, WA
Biggest oysters I’ve ever seen from Tillamook Bay, OR. “World’s Longest Beach” in Long Beach, WA.

Because my internship has been more of a scientific research project, I haven’t been exposed to much science policy and outreach with the public. Therefore, my view of science policy has not really changed that much. I always knew it was a complicated balance of different group’s needs and wants, but never quite realized just how complicated that process can be. I presume other science policy organizations in Oregon, like me at OSU and USDA-ARS, must find that balance of ecology vs economy. The overarching question in our meetings is always “how can we keep these shrimp that are important to the ecosystem but also manage them for good oyster growing conditions?” That being said, I must be pretty inspired because I am going to start my Marine Resource Management master’s program in the fall where I will learn more about science policy and continue this line of work in my future endeavors.

WDFW airboat & Cape Disappointment
Joshua and I with the WDFW airboat. Inside a giant hollowed out tree at Cape Disappointment.

What I’ve learned about Science Policy

During my time with HRAP I have come to realize that there is so much more to science policy than I originally thought. Before this summer I had thought that I wanted to pursue Environmental Law because that was the best way to make a widespread impact on environmental issues that I cared about. However, after getting to spend time involved in the science outreach and education that HRAP does I am less sure about going into law or policy. I have really come to enjoy the hands-on, local conservation efforts that I am a part of. 

Additionally, I have gotten to see up close how local organizations work and how many people need to be involved to make any sort of meaningful change. I also think that because it is a smaller organization we get to be more in tune with the community and its needs which I think is also very important. For example, last week I worked on a field trip for a group of kids and their parents and getting to talk to them individually about stewardship and how to get involved was very eye opening and I got to feel like I was connecting and making an impact on those people. I also have gotten the opportunity to talk to some people who do work in state and federal level policy positions and something that is brought up frequently is how they have to deal with bureaucracy and often feeling like they are stuck or being slowed down by the bureaucratic systems that are in place. 

Part of the bird station for field trips

I do think that working in science policy would be a very rewarding experience and enable me to be part of the large level changes that I want to see and be a part of, but working at a local level has also shown me how fulfilling working at a smaller scale can be.