Diving into the intersection of science and policy

Hello again,

I came into this internship wanting to learn more about the policy side of conservation and environmental work and the intersection of science and policy. I can confidently say that after 6 weeks working for ODFW that I have vastly improved my knowledge about the policy side of this work. Aside from the various meetings that I have participated in, I’ve also been able to connect with various professionals one-on-one and follow part of the process of HB3114 that just got signed by the governor this week! In addition, I’ve been able to build many other skills such as graphic design that I never knew would be so useful in this field. 

ODFW biologist surveying shellfish and their habitats which is one of the projects HB3114 will help fund (source: ODFW SEACOR)

Listening and participating in all these meetings has given me an insight into how long of a process it takes to establish a new law, management plan, etc. I had to pleasure to talk to Cristen Don, the Marine Reserves Program Leader, who informed me that it took almost 10 years to establish the marine reserves as it’s a very intensive process. The process of establishing regulations etc. is much more engaged of a process than I had initially thought with steps that include not just scientific research and negotiation but also community engagement. I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of opportunities the public is given to interact with any step of the process. Fishermen, scientists, lawmakers, and everyone in between is given a chance to have their say in the process and collaborate with one another to find the best solution to the issue at hand. I’ve also noticed how far-reaching some of these collaborations can be, for example, the Pacific Coast Collaborative brings together people from California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. On the other hand, there is definitely this trade-off between this long process has it hinders the ability to act quickly to problems as they arise. For example, HB3114, which invests $1 million into the study of ocean chemistry and problems related to acidification and hypoxia, has been in progress for about 2 years and just got signed this week. 

My brother enjoying the water at Haystack Rock

With my current path leading to starting my master’s program in the fall at UC Davis in Environmental Policy and Management, this internship has definitely inspired me to delve further into my studies. I had so many questions going and I accumulate more and more questions as I continue on. I hope to maybe connect with people in the California Department of Fish and Wildlife or non-profits like the California Ocean Science Trust while I’m at Davis and continue working at the intersection of science and policy. 

I will never turn down another survey.

Prior to this experience I did not understand how much work goes into writing and distributing a survey. We have had the opportunity to sit in on several meetings where the content and format of a survey (not the ones we are doing) is being ironed out and it has been eye-opening. So much thought goes into how each question is worded, what order they are presented in, if there is too much jargon or is it too dumbed down.

While the questions and wording are getting dialed in, a whole other conversation is being had. Who gets the surveys? How many need to be sent out? How many need to come back? How much does all this cost? It takes months to get all these ducks in a row before the final product reaches a person and even then, there can still be major issues.

Because so much goes into planning a survey-based study it can make it difficult to get needed information quickly. The survey we are giving out to visitors this Summer is gathering data for a report due next year. After we get everything put in the database, the statistical analyses will begin. I can only imagine the work that goes into deciding what types of statistical operations that will be carried out.

I think this internship has opened my eyes to what actually happens at the agency level of research. While I don’t think I hear social science research calling my name, I definitely want to learn more about the process that takes place on the marine biology side of the operation. 

A map of Cape Perpetua Marine Reserve near Florence OR. This orange pins are the locations of our sample sites: From North to South they are Devil’s Churn, Cape Perpetua Visitor Center, Washburn State Park, and Heceta Head Lighthouse.

Do I see agency work in my future…?


These past few weeks have been a roller coaster of responsibilities, emotions, and experiences! I have attended many Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife agency meetings and better understand the inner workings of their mission and obligations to the public. What I have learned is that there are pros and cons to working for an agency. The collaborative and “team” aspect of agency work seems the most fulfilling. However, the biggest con of working for an agency like ODFW is that as the face of the agency, an employee needs to directly reflect the agency’s mission in all professional actions. To some degree, I would like my future career or professional goals to allow me the freedom to be an environmental advocate or activist. Also, there will always be some level of inefficiency within agency level work at the state or federal government level. I have realized how collaborative ODFW is with other working bodies like Oregon State University, PISCO, and other organizations. 

Beach walk @ Agate Beach with Jessica French and Lisette Perez

I would say I have learned a lot about science policy this summer. Historically, there has been a gap between science and policy communication. I think during my lifetime and beyond, this gap could either widen or narrow and that it is our responsibility as future scientists and policy makers to realize these will always be interconnected. Win/win scenarios can occur with policy and science. It is still a very complicated dilemma, and many of us already realize this from our experiences this summer. I see state level agency work potentially weaving in and out of my future. However, I will always be a steward of the earth and our environment and this will truly be what guides my career direction. 

Visit from a very small portion of my Idaho family.

Overall, I have learned a lot from working with ODFW and have met great people with different educational and career backgrounds. By far, my interactions with the individuals within the Marine Reserves Division of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife have been genuine and sincere. I hope to one day carry that much passion and grit in my future endeavors. 

Work day = Beach day?!!!

Hello all,

So far working with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has been a great experience. The first few weeks of the job were spent creating codebooks for surveys, hashing out logistics regarding the sampling schedule, and getting out in the field to begin collecting the 800+ visitor intercepts needed for the final project statistics. I also conducted business surveys in Lincoln City and this upcoming week I will be conducting them in Yachats, OR. 

Lisette Perez and I @ Cascade Head conducting visitor surveys.

Usually, my work day begins with much needed coffee and stuffing various things into my backpack to successfully complete a day of visitor surveys. At around 8-9 AM, I began traveling to certain sites along the Oregon Coast’s marine reserves to initiate participation in ODFW’s anonymous business and visitor surveys. At around 3:30-4:00, site surveying is typically complete and the teams meet back up in the office for data entry and other logistics regarding ID numbers for surveys or scheduling. Much of the data collection of this project comes directly from the public. Therefore, a majority of my time has been spent at Oregon’s marine reserves. I check in with supervisors once a week and team meetings happen during these check ins as well. 

I would say that my motivation has come directly from the team members that I work with and support from friends or family. I would also go as far to say that being able to call the Oregon Coastline my office for several hours of the day helps me realize that much of my worries or doubts are unnecessary-I’m in a beautiful place! I am now fully vaccinated and glad that I could contribute to the numbers that lifted the mask mandate. Perhaps my favorite part of the job so far is that while conducting visitor surveys I meet so many dogs or young kiddos ready to play on the beach!

Amanda’s Trail. Yachats, OR.

Week 4 Update at HRAP!

Week four is almost over and my time in Cannon Beach is really ramping up! My project is centered around reviewing the current virtual field trip program at Haystack Rock Awareness Program (HRAP) and then conducting a literature review to make recommendations for how the program can be improved going forward. I personally really love this project because I think that it’s a great way to involve kids that might not have a way to be able to come to the beach or get to see tide pools. 

I have spent the last couple of weeks doing lots of research about both environmental education and field trips. More specifically, virtual field trips. This has been really interesting because it’s a very new field so there isn’t tons of research that has been done and there are still lots of gaps in the field. However, it’s really interesting to see how many different perspectives there are for something as seemingly simple as field trips and how many different considerations there are in where schools go and how they impact student learning. 

Because so much of my work is research and recommendation based, it means that I spend most of my time on a laptop looking up research or writing out my report. This week I’ve also been reaching out to some teachers to see what obstacles they face in engaging with online learning resources and how I might be able to overcome them. 

Since so much of work is done on a computer, I have a really hard time focusing for the entire day and my favorite way to take a break is to get outside! I personally love going down to the beach and getting to talk to everyone that’s visiting. It always pushes me to learn more about all the plants and animals we have down at the beach and I love getting to answer questions and explain things that they might not have known before. It’s a great way to get outside, especially when the weather’s nice and it’s always a welcome break from staring at a screen. I am definitely lucky that I get to be fully in-person for the summer and I really try to take advantage of that by getting involved in as many things as possible and really getting to know the area. For example, today I started my day by spending a couple hours down at the beach where I saw a molting barnacle which was definitely a fun sight and then attended a board meeting for a partner organization of HRAP where I gave a brief introduction of what I’m working on for the summer and how it will benefit the conservation efforts at Haystack Rock. Over the next couple of weeks I hope to continue to do my research as well as get to talk to some teachers about what they would like to see from a virtual format. 

A Goosebeck Barnacle molting it’s cirri (mouth parts)

A Day in the Life of a Virtual Intern

Hello all! Yalin again, I am working with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) this summer researching the effects of ocean acidification and hypoxia (OAH) on our coastal species with a focus on creating a hypoxia infographic.

So far I have read over 100 scientific papers on how hypoxia is affecting our coastal species, and I still have tons more readings to do in the coming week or so. As I am a virtual intern due to COVID, my daily routine has been pretty simple. I get up bright and early to get a nice cup of coffee and a warm breakfast before I settling into my desk for the rest of the day. Typically, my day split up between reading papers, attending seminars, meetings, and starting to figure out how Adobe Illustrator works. I have weekly check-in meetings with my mentor Liz Perotti and Caren Braby, who is one of the co-chairs of the OAH Council. Other meetings I partake in with my mentor Liz include the Pacific Coast Collaborative bi-weekly meetings, the Shellfish Program meetings, and much more. 

Clams found at the North Jetty Beach in Florance

As it can get pretty quiet just working alone from home, I try to play music or listen to podcasts to liven up my room a bit. My current favorite podcast is called “Two Hot Takes” which I highly recommend you check out. To give my brain a break between reading papers, I will treat myself to 5 or so minutes of scrolling through TikTok or just people watch outside my window to give my eyes a break from looking at a screen. After the workday is over, I usually take a walk around my neighborhood and say hi to the neighborhood cats if it’s not too hot outside. On the weekends, I try to give myself as much outdoor time and social interaction as I can handle to make up for the hours of being indoors for work. This last weekend, I was cat-sitting for a past professor of mine in Eugene and got to visit a few friends while I was there. We even made a trip to Florance where we found a few clams and saw tons of crabs. 

Friendly neighborhood cats

One of my favorite on-the-job activities so far has been interacting with other interns and getting to talk with other professionals from ODFW and beyond. Last week I got to meet Jack Barth, who is the other co-chair of the OAH Council, and Emily Marrow who is an MSI intern working on an ocean acidification awareness project. We had a great time sharing outreach ideas but also just talking amongst ourself about our interest, thoughts about a certain ocean documentary, and so on. We are hoping to meet up in person sometime this summer in Newport, so fingers crossed that we can make that happen!

Getting in the Groove

Hello All!

In the last couple of weeks, we have really started to get into the groove of surveying visitors to Oregon’s marine reserves. We are nearly done with surveying businesses in nearby towns and will start focusing more time on data entry and analysis. Our day to day schedule varies quite a bit. We usually start with a bit of driving followed by four hours of surveying visitors at different access points to Oregon’s marine reserves. We work in pairs, so whoever is not doing visitor surveys is either surveying businesses or in the office inputting the survey data into an excel spreadsheet.

The one exception from this routine was our trip to Cape Falcon near Tillamook. That particular location is too far to travel to in one day, so Phoenix and I drove up and stayed two nights in Garibaldi. Our one survey location was Oswald West State Park, one of the most popular parks on the Oregon Coast. We were able to complete almost as many surveys in three days as the previous week and a half combined!

We interact with the public quite a bit. Most people are very friendly and happy to take the survey, especially if we mention that we are interns. People really love the coast and beautiful scenery and many are passionate about preserving it. We have gotten a little off track at times chit-chatting with visitors about marine reserves and the goals of the survey.

COVID-19 hasn’t impacted us too much especially in the last couple weeks. We spend most of our time outdoors and since we are on the coast it is usually windy. Many businesses have dropped mask requirements for fully vaccinated people and so we have been able to about surveying like its 2019 for the most part.

We didn’t get much of a chance to explore while we were at Cape Falcon but hope to on our next trip in a couple weeks. Lisette and I did make it to Drift Creek Falls near Lincoln City on one of our days off, we even made it down to where the waterfall goes into the creek. We brought my dog Thistle along and found out that waterfalls are not her favorite and neither are suspension bridges.

It has been a great few weeks and I am looking forward to the rest of the Summer!

Lisette and I on the suspension bridge at Drift Creek Falls.
Thistle before the suspension bridge and waterfall fall.

So much shrimp, I might as well be Forrest Gump

Hey y’all! It’s me, Grace, your resident shrimp scientist! I’m working with the USDA and OSU Fisheries and Wildlife to determine cryptoniscan lifespan and settlement and ground truthing the age/size relationship between Orthione and Upogebia.

I’ve been up to my elbows in shrimp the last two weeks! A lot of my time gets spent in the lab. I usually analyze the shrimp and input their data while my lab partner, Joshua, does the cryptoniscan experiments. Since June 25, I’ve analyzed over 200 mud shrimp! Only about 124 more shrimp from the May sample to go. We plan to go back out in late July to get another big sample. But hopefully not as big as the May sample…We usually work for a couple hours in the morning, have lunch together outside (weather permitting), and work for another couple hours in the afternoon. We have pretty similar tastes in music so we usually put on a fun playlist and sing to each other while we work or listen to cool ecology podcasts.

Large female Upogebia
A large female mud shrimp in my palm for size reference

On Wednesday night, we biked out to the fishing pier with Sarah Henkel and her grad and REU students to do plankton tows. We didn’t get back to the lab until about 1:15am! Thankfully we waited to comb through the samples for cryptoniscans until the next day. We’re planning to go out onto the mudflat behind HMSC on Friday morning around 5am with Brett Dumbauld and his crew to see how they do their annual sampling for USDA. We are also gearing up to go out with them next week to a couple different sites in Washington to look for remaining Upogebia populations. It’s going to be a great but hard working week next week!

Plankton tows on the fishing pier
Joshua and I doing plankton tows on the fishing pier next to Rogue (July 7, 2021)

We usually send our data to our supervisors/research team at the end of each work day and have meetings at least once a week. COVID-19 hasn’t affected us much. In the beginning we wore our masks in the lab, but with the most up-to-date info from OSU we are back to just about normal operating conditions. My favorite activity so far is field work! It feels good to be able to put in some physical activity while doing science. Being in the lab is fun too, mostly because of my great working relationship with Joshua, but it can drive you a little crazy looking at shrimp all day, every day. But it’s all definitely worth it to try and protect our ecosystems and estuaries.

Summer Kickoff at Haystack Rock!

It is officially almost the end of my second week with Haystack Rock Awareness Program (HRAP) and I am starting to get a very good idea of their mission and how my project fits into that mission as well as Sea Grant’s vision. My primary project is creating a virtual education center. The education center will incorporate new research surrounding virtual field trips, 21st century curriculum, and NGSS science standards for a variety of age groups. This education center will help reach students all over the country that might not have access to field trips to intertidal zones. This project will accomplish a variety of goals, the main one being to modernize the current virtual field trip option, as well as just being able to reach a bigger group of people. 

Another part of my work here is to assist with their summer camps, in-person field trips, and  occasionally working as an interpreter on the beach. Last week I got to go on a two part field trip to the Ecola Creek Forest Reserve and Haystack Rock with a group of kids. Both of those trips gave me a close up look at what HRAP’s education looks like up close. Seeing the current educational programs gives me a much better idea of what the virtual program should look like as well as build my knowledge of conservation and native species in the area! Last week I saw clusters of squid eggs, a feeding starfish and tons of other cool things. 

A cluster of squid eggs that were found washed up into a tide pool at Haystack Rock

My primary project is directly tied to HRAP’s mission, “to protect, through education, the intertidal and bird ecology of the Marine Garden and Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge at Haystack Rock.” By creating educational programs that are more accessible to a wider range of people, more people are inclined to be interested in marine conservation and be stewards to their environment. Additionally, by incorporating the ideas and theories of 21st century learning I am able to create a virtual program that is more engaging than the traditional video lecture approach. By creating a more engaging program that appeals to kids hopefully they will want to be more involved with conservation, and grow up to be more ecologically responsible. 

This also aids in Sea Grant’s mission to have thriving coastal communities, by serving as a catalyst that promotes discovery, understanding and resilience for Oregon coastal communities and ecosystems. My project aids in this goal by acting as an educational catalyst that promotes both discovery and understanding of a coastal ecosystem.

Me at Haystack Rock!

The Start of a Summer Researching the Ocean from the Comfort of My Own Home


My name is Yalin Li, I am a recent graduate from the University of Oregon and I am working with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) this summer. The project I’m working on focused on researching ocean acidification and hypoxia (OAH) on our coastal species with a focus on the effects of hypoxia, and it affects our coastal communities. It’s nearing the end of week 2 of my time as a Summer Scholar, yet I have already learned and participated in so much in my short time working.

View of all my house plants keeping me company during my long hours at my desk

Oregon was one of the first places to be impacted by ocean acidification and OAH is unique in Oregon as it is driven by the natural process of upwelling that occurs along the Oregon coast. The OAH Council was created to guide Oregon on how to combat this issue of the rising intensity of ocean acidification and hypoxia as it threatens the security and resilience of Oregon’s fisheries, communities, and ecosystem. They created and released an OAH Action plan that acts as a roadmap to address and mitigate OAH with many of the actions being focused around public awareness. 

My main contribution to this project is the creation of an ocean hypoxia infographic to relaying the information from scientific studies to various audiences. I am currently in the process of conducting a comprehensive literature search and reviewing scientific papers to pull out relevant information to put on the infographic. This inforgraphic will show people how the species they care about are being impacted by OAH, and highlight where gaps in knowledge are, so we know what studies need to be conducted to fill in those gaps. In doing so, I will be supporting ODFW’s overall mission to “protect and enhance Oregon’s fish and wildlife and their habitats for use and enjoyment by present and future generations.” Alongside the infographic, I will be participating in various meetings with my mentor Liz Perotti, such as the Pacific Coast Collaborative and Tillamook Bay Clam Advisory Committee (TBCAC) meetings, and aiding in the creation of other pieces of outreach material. 

By participating in the OAH project, I am helping in spreading awareness of the impact of OAH condensing down the current pool of knowledge to make it accessible to managers, legislatures, and the public. This is right in line with the Oregon Sea Grant mission to promote discovery, understanding, and resilience for Oregon coastal communities and ecosystems to achieve their vision of thriving coastal communities and ecosystems here in Oregon. With more support and hands working on this topic, the quicker we can adapt and protect our oceans from OAH so that we and the future generations can continue to use and enjoy Oregon’s thriving coastal communities and ecosystems.

Subtidal collection of clams by the SEACOR Team at Tillamook Bay (source: Tillamook Bay Clam Advisory Committee)

While I might not be able to actively work at the coast this summer, I’m so excited to be part of such an amazing project and can’t wait to see it all come together! ~Yalin 🦑