Meet Sam Cheplick, Natural Resource Policy Fellow with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

Greetings! My name is Sam Cheplick (He/Him) and I am currently a natural resource policy fellow with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Marine Reserves program. I’m based at the ODFW marine resource programs South Beach office in Newport. A little bit of background on Oregon’s five marine reserves. The reserves range from Redfish Rocks on the southern Oregon coast to Cape Falcon on the northern coast, while the three other marine reserves are situated across Lincoln County on the central coast. They were phased in starting in 2012 until 2016 to conserve a variety of marine habitats while minimizing negative impacts to ocean users and coastal communities. Oregon marine reserves are unique in that they are mandated to monitor both the ecological and human dimensions of protecting nearshore ocean ecosystems, without negatively impacting coastal communities. In my role as a fellow, I’m working with ODFW staff to continue monitoring socioeconomic impacts to communities living in proximity to marine reserves along the Oregon coast.

In 2022, a team of academic scientists conducted a legislatively mandated decadal review of marine reserves that aimed to synthesize existing results and provide recommendations to be considered over the next decade. The primary objective of my work focuses on 1) supporting the development of an updated human dimensions monitoring plan, 2) developing tools that can be integrated into an adaptive management framework for monitoring marine reserves; and 3) assessing the economic impacts of nearshore resource management both within and outside marine reserves. What interests me most about this opportunity is the transdisciplinary nature of marine reserves. Approaches in ecology, economics and social science come together to answer broader questions of the role of protecting marine areas that informs management in the face of increasingly variable ocean conditions.

 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!

Surprise! The Marine Reserves Bill is Back for Round Two

Hello everyone!

Just like the marine reserves bill, I’m back in Salem for the 2024 session.

This time around, things are going to be a little different. Though the Legislature convenes every year, on odd-numbered years we hold a “long session” that lasts about five months while on even-numbered years there’s a “short session” that only lasts about five weeks. Last session, I wrote a blog post that used the journey of the marine reserves bill (then HB 2903) to provide a high-level overview of the legislative process. Seeing as we just entered the abbreviated short session, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to continue to use the marine reserves bill (now HB 4132) to do a rapid-fire deep dive into the legislative process. Since I’ve covered it before, I’m not going to rehash what this bill is about and why it’s so important in this post, but if you want to dig into that check out my first blog post here.

Picture of the State Capitol Building in Salem Oregon
State Capitol Building in Salem, Oregon; Credit: RG –

Here’s the plan: each week I’m going to focus on a different step in the legislative process – from policy development to a signature from the Governor (fingers crossed the bill makes it that far). In this post, I’m going to cover everything that went into preparing this bill for the 2024 session during the five-month session interim. Let’s get into it!

July – September: The session interim is a time for brainstorming and policy development. First things first, you need an idea. These ideas can come from anywhere, from legislators to staff to advocates to constituents. Once you have an idea, you need to translate it into a bill draft. Typically, this involves forming a working group of advocates, experts, people with lived experience, and other legislators and staff. In our case, a lot of the policy development was informed by conversations with individuals at conservation organizations like the Oregon chapters of Surfrider, Oceana, and the Nature Conservancy as well as community-based organizations affiliated with each of the marine reserves.

Since this working group was formed prior to session last year, we entered the session interim ready to hit the ground running. The moment the 2023 session ended the group began dissecting why the bill didn’t pass and what issues needed to be addressed to set us up for success in 2024. Since our bill relates to a program within the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), we also spent time communicating with ODFW leadership and staff to nail down exactly what resources were needed to address the proposed mandates. After all these conversations, we arrived at the conclusion that the best path forward was to run the exact same bill as last session.

October – November: Once October hit, it was time to start working with Legislative Council (LC). LC is essentially the legislature’s law firm, responsible for drafting every measure and amendment you see during the session. It’s typically the goal to have your bill introduced on the first day of session. In that case, there are several presession deadlines you need to be aware of, one of which is the LC draft request deadline. This deadline typically falls in September for the long session and November for the short session. The moral of the story here is, if you want to work with a legislator on a policy concept, start doing so early. Once these deadlines have passed, especially during the short session, there’s not a lot your legislator can do to address your request until the following session.

Lucky for us, working with LC was a painless process, largely because we were recycling language from the previous session. In no time, LC provided us with a legislative concept (confusingly also abbreviated as LC), which is essentially a formal bill draft with a number and everything.

December: In December, our working group kicked things into high gear, developing outreach materials and lobbying tools designed to build a broad coalition of support for the marine reserves bill. Representative Gomberg’s office also began having conversations with the Chair of the committee our bill would likely be assigned to: the House Committee on Agriculture, Land Use, Natural Resources, and Water. Though each of these steps are always important, the former is particularly critical during the long session when there is more time to drum up support while the latter is crucial when entering a short session when you need the Committee to schedule your bill for a public hearing during the first week of session.

January: Once you have your legislative concept and additional communication materials on your bill, it’s time to start looking for Sponsors. Over the month of January, we were able to drum up support on both sides of the aisle and across the House and the Senate. The goal is to bring on Sponsors who can act as champions for your bill in relevant Committees and in the opposite Chamber (in this case, the Senate). During session, members can only sign on to a bill as a Sponsor when it’s in their Chamber. Therefore, it’s important to get these kinds of Sponsors prior to the start of session so you know that you have someone prepared to guide your bill through the legislative process when it moves to the opposite Chamber.

Once you’ve gathered your Sponsors, all that’s left to do is file your bill with the Chief Clerk’s Office before the pre-session deadline. Oh, and then you have to do everything else required during session to get your bill over the finish line, but one step at a time. In my next post I’ll cover the first week of the 2024 session and do a deep dive into the public hearing process. If you want to stay up to date with the movement of HB 4132 through the legislative process in real-time, check out the bill’s OLIS page and click “e-Subscribe” in the top right corner (photo below). This is a great way to stay up to date with this bill and any others of interest to you during session.

Picture of the OLIS webpage with the link to e-subscribe to a bill.

Well, for anyone who made it this far, thanks for reading! I’ll check back in next week.

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!

Wrapping up my fellowship

It’s hard to believe that I have less than two weeks left for my fellowship! I am currently wrapping up all final reports and there’s one in particular I am most excited to see finalized: A Situation Analysis for Oregon’s Emergent Seaweed Aquaculture Industry.

The report explores the restorative benefits seaweed aquaculture can provide, species options, production methods, high potential locations and co-location opportunities, market opportunities, and policy and regulatory considerations. The final stages of edits have involved working with a graphic designer to incorporate some images and a professional layout.

Cover page for the report. Cover photo courtesy of Sara Hamilton.

I have also been working with our graphic designer and OSG’s communications specialists to ensure that the public report meets federal accessibility requirements so that we may post it to the NOAA Central Library. This has largely involved making sure that the final PDF will be machine readable, which includes alt text for images that can be read aloud to users by screen reader software.

Overall I want to give a BIG thanks to all co-authors, reviewers, contributors, and our graphic designer for all the help and amazing work they’ve put towards the situation analysis. The report will be public on Oregon Sea Grant’s website in the coming weeks (I’ll follow up in the comments with a link)!

Razor Clams, Biotoxins, and Outreach

During my time as a Malouf Scholar, I completed my research on the impacts of the razor clam fishery on Oregon coastal communities. After successfully defending, I am officially graduated and working on publishing my findings.

Some of the main finds from the research were that the razor clam fishery is an important fishery to the economy of the northern coast of Oregon. With the recreational fishery bringing in an estimated $1.8 million in 2019. This fishery has also been an important resource to the Dungeness crab fishery, supplying bait to commercial and recreational crabbers. It was also found that biotoxin closures due to harmful algal blooms off the coast of Oregon were the largest issue this fishery faces.

There are still some gaps in understanding this fishery’s importance. For instance, no estimate is available for the commercial razor clam harvesting contribution to the local economy. There is a contribution from commercial clam harvest supplying clams for seafood markets and the bait market, but no way to accurately assess this input without an in-depth economic assessment.

While conducting the research, many participants from the interviews commented on how they wanted to know more about the fishery and biotoxin closures. After hearing these requests, I drafted an outreach document for people on the north coast participating in the fishery. This document goes over the main findings of the research and then talks about what biotoxins are, why they happen, and why the fishery is closed because of them. I hope to have this published in the next couple of months for use by the Oregon Sea Grant and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

I am exceedingly grateful to the staff at Oregon Sea Grant for supporting me during this research. I am so pleased that this project has been able to fill a knowledge gap and produce products that will be useful to the members of the harvesting community.

I look forward to reading about what the next group of Malouf Scholars shares!

All the best,


During my defense presentation, I shared some of the outreach documents that I had made.

Washington Seaweed Learning Tour

This past September I had the exciting opportunity to organize and attend a Seaweed Learning Tour in Washington State. Thus far, my fellowship has predominantly been desktop research to develop a situation analysis that explores challenges and opportunities for Oregon’s seaweed aquaculture industry. While the research has been interesting and I’ve learned quite a bit, I was thrilled to get out on the water and see a seaweed and shellfish farm in person.

Our outing began at a dock in Poulsbo, Washington to board a boat and head over to Blue Dot Sea Farm’s site. With rare blue skies and sunshine we were super grateful for the weather.

Photo 1: Clear blue and skies and Blue Dot Sea Farm upon arrival to the site.

Currently in the State of Washington, Blue Dot Sea Farms is the only permitted open-water seaweed aquaculture farm, although there are several other farms that are in varying stages of the permit process. While it wasn’t grow out season for kelp we did still get to see some seaweed that was still in the water for experimental purposes. We also got to learn more about their cultivation process for Pacific oysters, their main crop.

Once back on shore, the team was gifted Blue Dot Kitchen’s Seacharrones – a tasty seaweed chip! I was particularly excited to note yet another seaweed gift for friends and family. Blue Dot Kitchen uses kelp from their own farm for the chips and also purchases seaweed from farms in Alaska and Maine because their farm doesn’t produce enough kelp for the scale of production the Kitchen is aiming for. The Kitchen is very interested in purchasing more locally for their product and we were excited to hear of another potential market for prospective seaweed growers in Oregon.

Photo 3: Seacharrones kelp puff snack. The chips/puffs are made from dried kelp powder.

Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Glider Deployment

Hello Everyone!

With summer coming to a close I wanted to share a great experience I had earlier this month tagging along with researchers from OSU for the deployment of an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Glider (“glider” for short) off the coast of Washington. Not only was it good to get out of the office a bit, but it was also a wonderful opportunity to learn first-hand about some of the advanced oceanographic monitoring and research that is being done off the coast. It was also great to meet Dr. Jack Barth in person, he is the director of the Marine Studies Initiative and professor of Oceanography at Oregon State University, and someone who I’ve been meeting with (virtually) over the last 9 months in the OAH technical workgroup.

Glider Basics

Underwater gliders, which look like small rockets with wings, use pumps to transfer seawater in and out of a holding chamber in the nose, causing the glider’s density to change (either sink or rise). With the help of the attached wings this vertical movement in water is translated to forward motion. What results is a series of dives, where optical, CTD (conductivity, temp, salinity), and oxygen sensors collect data at one second intervals. Numerous dives are strung together into segments and punctuated by trips to the surface to transmit data back to the lab. Gliders can be deployed for weeks at time and can be used for a wide variety of research and monitoring applications. Glider research has evolved dramatically over the last couple of decades and is now considered a foundational piece of modern oceanographic observation systems. More information on the integration of glider monitoring into the national Integrated Ocean Observing Network (IOOS) can be found here.

Loading the glider at the Westport WA bayfront. Photo by Jack Barth

Glider Deployment Trip

Our outing began at the bayfront in Westport Washington, where I met up with Dr. Barth and Dr. Steve Pierce, as well as an OSU student assisting with the deployment. After loading the glider onto the charter boat, we motored offshore for a little over an hour. Once we reached the deployment coordinates Dr. Pierce conducted some tests to make sure the glider was communicating properly with the lab before it was launched. Once in the water the glider performed a test dive to make sure everything was functioning correctly before it was sent it on its 2-week deployment. As a special bonus, two grey whales decided to pay us a surprise visit at the deployment location, it was an excellent sighting and we saw some great fluking before each dive!

Preparing to deploy the glider. Photo by Jack Barth
Fluking Grey Whales. Photo by Kaegan Scully-Engelmeyer

Glider Data and DEQ Water Quality Assessment

As gliders collect continuous data while moving across a large spatial area, they generate datasets that are fundamentally different than most continuous monitoring data currently assessed from Oregon’s water quality monitoring network, which is generally collected at fixed locations. This difference complicates the use of raw glider measurements in the existing data processing/assessment framework at DEQ. There is some guidance on the state and federal levels outlining protocols for using and assimilating this type of data into water quality assessments to identify impaired waters required by Clean Water Act. For example, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEQ equivalent in that state) implemented a glider monitoring program and developed quality assurance procedures to monitor and assess hypoxia in the state’s marine waters. Going forward it will be interesting to explore ways to integrate glider data into nearshore OAH water quality assessment protocols to help identify impaired waters.

Goodbye Oregon Coast ☹

Hello everyone,

I’ve had an incredible summer working with SEACOR (Shellfish and Estuarine Assessment of Coastal Oregon) at ODFW. I feel so grateful to have gotten the chance to work on such a dedicated and passionate team. 😊 This internship has been so valuable! For example, I knew prior to this summer that I enjoyed fieldwork, but I had never worked in a marine setting. Being able to spend 5+ hours in the water each day was a dream! Even though it can get tiring, it was so fun and cemented what I want to pursue in the future.

This summer has also redefined my career goals. I thought I’d want to work in completely marine settings, with ecosystems such as coral reefs or kelp forests. While I still think these would be amazing to study, I’ve become really interested in estuary work. Estuaries are so important no matter what lens you’re looking through—environmental, economic, and/or cultural. It has felt super rewarding to study and work with them this summer.

I’m very excited to share that I’ll be working at the Smithsonian Marine Station in the Benthic Ecology Lab in Florida starting in September! The research project’s focus is on characterizing the little invertebrates that live at the bottom of an estuary called Indian River Lagoon. The estuary has suffered biodiversity loss caused by many different threats, including harmful algal blooms, development, and excess freshwater input. For 15+ years, the Benthic Ecology Lab has used invertebrate biodiversity as a measure of ecosystem health! I’m incredibly excited to continue my scientific career focused on estuary work and am interested to see how I can apply what I’ve learned in Oregon down there!

Photo 1. Emma Chesley holding a cockle clam on a mudflat in Tillamook Bay. Photo taken by Summer Henricksen on 8/13/2022.

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