Virtual museum study approach – my dissertation plan B under the Covid-19 2nd outburst

Things are changing quickly especially the impacts of Covid-19 on the research plan. Originally, I planned to start my pilot study in July in Taiwan. And I planned to start my Phase I and II study in early September or mid-December based on Taiwan’s cooperating school’s curriculum. Also, the study in the western U.S. will be conducted in August at Hatfield Marine Center and at cooperating schools after the school year starts (September). Schools in both Taiwan and the western U.S. will be those that cooperate with the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium (Taiwan) and the Hatfield Marine Science Center (US). As for the phase III study, I decided to conduct the interview in December or early January of next year (both Taiwan and the western U.S.). However, the timeline above is under an ideal situation. Because of the pandemic worldwide, my research plan should be flexible to change so the research team has had several meetings to discuss a plan B for my research plan.

Overall, the contexts of the three-phase studies in plan B will stay the same. The only difference is that these studies will be done online. Specifically, we will set up a website consisting of links to the phase I survey, phase II PMM pre-test, local marine issues (e.g., outreach videos, interactive online activities, photos, etc.), and phase II PMM post-test. As for phase III in-depth interview, the selected subjects (the same selection methods in the original research plan) will receive an email asking whether they would be willing to participate in the last phase of the study – in-depth interview – through zoom. The link (or QR code) of the website will be sent to teachers (schools) who cooperate with the museums or aquariums to ask them to share with the potential subjects (i.e., early adolescents) who would like to participate in this research.

Since the mutate Covid-19 is happening now in Asia including Taiwan, I am now setting an online outreach website. I first constructed the website framework and asked the technical team to set it up for me. After the team sends me the sketch of the website, I will discuss it with aquarium curators and educators (especially environmental educators) to see what should be added or deleted on my website. It will be interesting to do an online PMM since the participants could choose different types of marine issues that they would like to learn more about. And this could be a precious opportunity to study cultural impacts on the public’s perceptions and interests on these issues even though some of the issues are not local.

Coastal Hazards Resilience in Oregon

Hi! Like Hailey and Amy, I am new fellow. My name is Felicia Olmeta-Schult and I am the Resilience Fellow for Oregon Sea Grant (OSG). I am in this position since the end of January.

Before joining the OSG family, I was a Washington Sea Grant Hershman fellow with the Washington State Department of Ecology. This is where I started working on coastal hazards resilience issues. I helped improving the Washington Coastal Hazards Resilience Network (CHRN) website. I am grateful to be able to bring some of my experience to OSG and to continue to work on such an important issue. I also work on the side for Coastal News Today and the American Shoreline Podcast Network and I will have my own podcast soon!

Before describing my work at OSG, I would like to share a little more about my background. I am from Corsica, France, and I left my Mediterranean island to study oceanography in Hawaii, marine affairs in Rhode Island, and environmental and natural resource sciences in Washington. I received my PhD from Washington State University Vancouver in 2018. My dissertation investigated the North Coast of California Marine Life Protection Act Initiative by studying how Tribes and stakeholders (e.g., commercial fishermen, NGOs, recreational users) interacted and were involved during the marine protected area (MPA) planning process, and how they perceived socio-economic and ecological effects of MPAs.

As the Resilience Fellow, I work with staff at Oregon Sea Grant and other partners to increase the resilience of Oregon communities to the impacts of climate change and chronic (e.g., sea level rise, coastal erosion and flooding) and acute (e.g., earthquakes and tsunamis) coastal natural hazards .

Since the beginning of my position, I contacted and introduced myself to staff at several agencies and organizations (e.g., Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development, Coos Watershed Association, Oregon Parks & Recreation, Oregon Partnership for Disaster Resilience, and Oregon Coast Visitors Association). This was a great way for me to have an overview of the work on coastal hazards happening at both the state and local level, and to identify potential work collaborations with these groups. I also had the opportunity to have a guided visit on the Lincoln County coast.

Jay Sennewald, with the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD), showed me the damages of coastal erosion this past winter. If you go to Hailey Bond’s blog post, you will see more coastal erosion photos and have a very instructive background on coastal erosion control and policy in Oregon.

You will find below photos I took this April in the same area as Hailey in Lincoln County. I think these photos were taken a couple of months after Hailey took hers. You will notice changes at the landslide site in Gleneden Beach and on Salishan spit. This year, a total of 14 houses applied for emergency permits from the OPRD.

This brings me to my projects as a fellow. For one project, I will identify and create a list of coastal hazards mitigation and adaptation projects in Oregon. For example, one of these projects is the construction of a cobble berm and reinforced foredune to protect Cape Lookout State Park from erosion and flooding (see publication). Our goal is to create an interactive map (i.e., StoryMap) allowing users to see where these projects are localized and to learn more about them via short case studies providing information on adaptation strategies, lessons learned, partners, and grants for example. This effort will be similar to the Washington Coastal Hazards Risk Reduction Project Mapper. However, our case studies, in addition to physical projects, will also include programs, academic research, planning efforts, and local initiatives. We hope this resource will be useful to individuals, communities, and local governments to identify practical approaches to coastal hazards and learn from others facing similar issues in Oregon.

Another project I am working on involves tsunami education and preparedness for the hospitality industry. The Oregon Sea Grant Sustainable Coastal Tourism & Outdoor Recreation Program created the Practical Customer Service (PCS) Training to provide the hotel/lodging and coastal visitor-​industry with a short and free online training. In addition, on the coast, it is important to know the facts about tsunamis and how to communicate them to visitors. Therefore, this training integrates practical customer service with scientific information about tsunamis and the basic safety information we all need to know. At the end of the PCS training there is a link to the Oregon Emergency Management’s Tsunami Safe Training. For this project, we are interested in surveying hotel general managers and staff to have their feedback on the PCS and Tsunami Safe trainings. We also want to identify what hotel management cares about and needs to be successful while keeping their employees ready and resilient when a tsunami hits.

As the other OSG Scholars mentioned, it has been challenging to start a new position in the middle of a pandemic. Thanks to the vaccine, I hope that I will get to meet OSG colleagues and partners in-person soon. In the meantime, my two cats have been very happy with my remote working situation!

I will provide updates on my projects in my next blog. Do not hesitate leaving a comment below if you have any questions!

Thank you for reading!

Erosion Control on the Oregon Coast

Hi! My name is Hailey, and I am one of the new Natural Resource Policy Fellows. My fellowship is with the Oregon Coastal Management Program, which is administered by the Department of Land Conservation and Development. My entire education has been in engineering (I recently finished my Master’s degree in coastal engineering at OSU), but I’m excited to dip my toes into the policy world and make connections between the two fields.

Goal 18 is one of Oregon’s land use planning goals, and it governs the beaches and dunes of the Oregon coast. It limits the construction of hard, protective structures (riprap is the most common example on the OR coast), prevents excessive dune grading, and makes sure development does not occur on beaches or active dunes. The provisions of Goal 18 are relatively simple, but can be difficult to implement. For example, the goal doesn’t contain an explicit definition of “beachfront protective structures,” which are prohibited on properties developed after January 1, 1977. As engineers and scientists continue to study innovative strategies for erosion control, it is becoming less clear which erosion control options fall under the category of “beachfront protective structures.” This lack of clarity on what constitutes a structure is just one example of the need for more guidance on erosion control. For my fellowship, I’ll aim to close this knowledge gap by developing a comprehensive guidebook on Oregon coast erosion control practices for planners, engineers, homeowners, and any other interested parties.

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Riprap in Neskowin.

Part of the reasoning for the limitation on beachfront protective structures in Goal 18 dates back to the 1967 Beach Bill, which provided the public with uninterrupted access to Oregon beaches. The challenge of enforcing this bill is that the location of the beach can change through erosion or accretion without regard to tax lots, private property rights, and other human boundaries. The public is therefore granted an easement onto private property if that property extends onto the beach. This means that while portions of the beach can still be owned by private property owners, the public has a right to use them.

This system works well enough when changes in the location of the beach are small. But the situation becomes direr when erosion creeps towards homes, sewer systems, and other infrastructure. Naturally, property owners turn to engineering solutions like riprap or seawalls to stop the erosion and protect their home. However, these solutions can be problematic. Hard structures that fix the shoreline in place cause the beach in front of the structure to lower and trap sand from entering the beach system. As sea level rises, water levels will reach farther onto the beach, leading to reduced or no beach access over time.

For this reason, 10 years after the passage of the beach bill, Goal 18 included a provision to preserve the beach for the public by preventing the construction of beachfront protective structures and the subsequent reduction in beach width. However, any private development built before the goal was implemented was considered exempt from this rule. Goal 18 is short (only 5 pages, linked here), but has significant impacts because it determines what coastal development can be structurally protected from erosion.

It’s important to note that erosion is not inherently a bad thing. Erosion and accretion of the coast are completely natural processes that are caused by a huge range of factors including long-term weather patterns, creek migration, individual storms, and jetty construction. However, building as close to the beach as possible sets the dynamic nature of the coast in direct conflict with the protection of development.

This winter’s storms and associated erosion threatened coastal infrastructure in a few hotspots on the coast. While the storms didn’t have unusually high wave heights, they were long period (high energy) waves, and occurred during one of the highest tides of the year.

There were several hotspots of significant erosion. On the Salishan spit, a rip embayment caused the collapse of some old riprap, leaving houses unprotected. It was only through quick action by contractors and an emergency permit from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) that the houses were saved.

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Looking south from the top of the emergency riprap on the Salishan spit. Rock from the failed riprap is visible on the sand, and the extent of the erosion is visible under the house on the left.

In Gleneden beach, a large landslide is threatening homes. Some homeowners have installed riprap at the toe (bottom) of the landslide to prevent further sliding.

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Rocks at the base of a landslide in Gleneden Beach. Part of a deck can be seen hanging over the edge at the top left of the photo.

In Lincoln Beach, another rip embayment caused the collapse of a retaining wall structure in front of a house. This property is not eligible for riprap according to Goal 18 rules, and erosion was significant enough to threaten the house. More information is available about this situation in an article by the Newport News times (here). The homeowners, the county, and OPRD have agreed to install a temporary support beam under the house for protection while debris is cleaned up, and to protect the house while the homeowners pursue an exception to their Goal 18 ineligibility. That local goal exception process is a public process that will ultimately be decided by Lincoln County’s Board of County Commissioners.

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Support beam protecting the Lincoln Avenue house from damage due to erosion.

After a very erosive winter, erosion mitigation and Goal 18 are hot topics on the Oregon coast. My project feels exciting and timely, and I hope my final product will be useful in addressing some of these challenges on the coast. In a time when all my work is remote and I haven’t met anyone I’m working with in person, it is especially meaningful to see the relevance of my work. I’m looking forward to providing updates on my project and developments on the coast throughout the rest of my fellowship.

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Me at the Oregon Dunes National recreation area.

What’s the plan?

I am currently a second year Master’s student studying Fisheries Science under Dr. Scott Heppell at Oregon State University. When it comes to my research project, I have not started collecting or analyzing data yet (a global pandemic did get a bit in the way in that regard). However, I have put together a research proposal and successfully completed my “research review” (which is a formal meeting that confirms the organization of your thesis committee and allows for everyone to review and sign off on your proposal) in December, which certainly has helped me to feel more accomplished and like progress is being made!

The idea behind the project…

Fisheries monitoring is an important aspect of fisheries management, used to assess populations and determine sustainable harvest. In the commercial fishery there are several means of collecting this data (fish tickets, at-sea fishery observers, electronic logbooks, and various electronic monitoring technologies). In Oregon, however, there is currently only one way that we collect data on the recreational fishery, port samplers. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) conducts dockside interviews, counting landed catch (all fish caught) and interviewing anglers regarding discards (released fish) via the Ocean Recreational Boat Survey (ORBS). Of the recreational charter fishery alone, ORBS samples an impressive 30%. Yet, compared to the commercial fishery, there remains a significant lack of monitoring data.

Dockside sampling via ODFW’s Oregon Recreational Boat Survey
Photo credit: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

Which is why I am proposing an alternative form of electronic monitoring of the recreational fishery on the Oregon Coast. In collaboration with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) and the California Collaborative Fisheries Research Program (CCFRP), my master’s project will test a stereo-video system onboard recreational charter vessels. Utilizing photogrammetry (the science of obtaining reliable measurements using photos and/or videos), I will identify and quantify recreational catch data off the Oregon coast and compare it to sampling data collected by state port samplers via standard sampling techniques. Both the ODFW Marine Reserves team and CCFRP conduct several hook-and-line surveys every year (targeting groundfish). These surveys are conducted both inside and outside of marine reserves and all fish caught are brought on board, identified, measured, and recorded by ODFW or CCFRP trained volunteers.

Volunteer anglers with the California Collaborative Fisheries Research Program (CCFRP) assist in conducting fishery-independent hook-and-line, catch and release surveys.
Photo credit: California Collaborative Fisheries Research Program

I will simultaneously collect stereo-video data on as many surveys as I can tag-along on in 2021. Which means I can then compare the length measurements I collect via stereo-video to the length measurements collected by hand during these surveys. Additionally, this is a unique opportunity to collect previously unobtainable data of the bycatch typically discarded on recreational charter boats. With this sampling design, I can make various comparisons that would shed light on whether electronic monitoring could be appropriate in recreational fisheries. Additionally, I will compare current reported data (collected via port samplers) to my own, with the ability to assess the accuracy of current reporting techniques and propose a cost effective, low maintenance alternative.

Given the current pandemic and potential for other disease outbreaks, I can imagine that in this new world of social distancing, an alternative form of port sampling may be necessary in the future. The stereo-video technology utilized in my project could be integrated into kiosks located at filet stations in all major Oregon ports. Thereby allowing the continued collection of recreational catch data without placing ODFW port samplers in danger or managing large absences in data.

Stereo-video systems are traditionally used in this manner (underwater) to identify and measure fish in a non-invasive way. I will be using this same technology and software ABOVE water and on the deck of a charter vessel.
Photo credit: Pilbara Marine Conservation Partnership

The second half of my research project, entails investigating further into the uncertainty associated with bycatch data in the recreational fishery. Retained catch can be measured directly at the dock, but accurate monitoring of bycatch requires (1) anglers accurately identify released species and (2) remember what they released. Due to event recall biases and variability in species ID skills, this can introduce a high degree of uncertainty in recreational fisheries data. The main source of bycatch data for the recreational fishery in Oregon are in-person interviews conducted by port samplers. To supplement this, three at-sea observers sample a portion of the sport charter vessels for species composition, discard rates and sizes, location, depth, and catch per angler as part of ODFW’s Sport Groundfish Onboard Sampling Program (SGOSP). My objective is to determine whether current average bycatch values are accurately represented in port sampler collected interviews. To assess this uncertainty, we will compare data currently being collected by ODFW via ORBS port samplers to data collected by at-sea observers via SGOSP. By comparing these data, I will determine if bycatch recall values reported by recreational charter boat captains are in line with the same data documented by at-sea fisheries observers.

That’s the plan anyway. As the sun starts to peak out from the clouds more frequently, plans begin to form and pressure begins to build for my upcoming field season. I have a few updates I would like to share soon, so stay posted!

California Collaborative Fisheries Research Program (CCFRP). Video put together by volunteer angler Matt Michie.

How could distal influence in Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory affect one’s perception and learning experiences on ocean acidification free-choice learning?

I am a new scholar and since this is my first post, so I’ll start by introducing myself, my background, and then briefly talking about the research topic and the theory as well as paradigm that frame my research.

My name is Shu-Min Tsai, and I am the Malouf Scholar for Oregon Sea Grant. I am pursuing my Ph.D. degree in Environmental Science at Oregon State University. I just finished my prelim and now am a Ph.D. candidate. I am now doing my dissertation research in Taiwan, Brazil and the U.S. Graduate school can be hard and a dredge, and it is not an exception for me especially during the pandemic since my dissertation project is mainly based on museum study regarding the environmental issue – ocean acidification perception among the public.

I am from Taiwan, an island country with a diverse ecosystem and culture. Since ocean acidification (OA) is a serious problem to Taiwan’s coral reef ecosystem and fisheries, also, it is having considerable effects on the Oregon coast, I want to understand more how people’s environmental identity (EID) and worldview could affect their learning experiences on this abstract and complicated climate change issue in a free-choice learning setting (i.e., aquariums and museums).

In the real world, although OA has profound impacts to our marine ecosystem and coastal communities and is often thought of as the evil twins of climate change, the acknowledgment, and understanding of OA among the public is low. The reasons is that to most people, OA is irrelevant to their life experiences also most people are not familiar with its chemical reaction that cause harm to the marine ecosystem; so, all of the reasons cause the awareness of OA and its impacts low among the public. What’s more, OA is a complicated issue not just due to its scientific aspects, it also connects to other aspects that involve personal and social factors such as personal worldview, family education, social norms, and national beliefs. In summary, these factors that I’ve mentioned make the engagement with OA concepts in public settings difficult. So how could we solve this problem?

According to several studies, one of the ways to link people with the environment is through environmental education (EE). Several studies have shown that EE and early childhood experiences with nature can help shape one’s EID. Here, I want to clarify that the EID I mention here and in my dissertation is a combination of Clayton’s environmental identity and environmental worldviews.

So again, I have mentioned that the EE and early childhood experiences with nature can help shape one’s EID. And I believe, reciprocally, one’s EID also affects one’s beliefs or perceptions on specific environmental issues, or their willingness to engage in environmental problem solving, and to address specific issues in the public. In other words, I think, this is a process that has a feedback loop that if an individual has effective EE experiences, these experiences could help us construct EID, literacy. And then ideally, we would put more trust and equity to nature, and then this process could strengthen our environmental identity or even refine or reconstruct it.

However, although we have acknowledged the power of EE and how EE helps construct or refine one’s EID, few studies have focused on how one’s EID affects their further environmental learning experiences. Not to mention what role does EID plays in abstract issues education such as OA learning experiences or people’s will to learn. Therefore, I think it would be worth doing such research focusing on how EID affects one’s EE learning experiences, especially in free-choice learning settings.

To sum up, my overall research goals are to evaluate the influence of EID in abstract environmental concepts perception (e.g., climate change & ocean acidification) in free-choice learning settings and hope to provide a forum for researchers and educators to facilitate future museum exhibition designs and interpretation regarding the public awareness on abstract and complex environmental issues.

To access my research goals, I conduct three study phases to answer three different but related questions as follows:

Phase I, identifying one’s relationship with nature using the EID survey

Phase II, investigating one’s perception before and after they visit the museum and what contributes to their perceptions (this includes their childhood memories or past education) through PMM.

Phase III, conducting an in-depth interview to understand what personal life stories contribute to their EID enactment and their learning experiences.

However, before we go deep into my research, I want to first discuss the theory and paradigm that frame this research. To study the relationship between one’s EID and people’s learning in a free-choice learning setting, I think we should consider how one’s EID is constructed and then refined during one’s lifetime. So, I would like to introduce Bronfenbrenner’s ecological system theory to you since Bronfenbrenner’s ecological system theory would be a suitable model for us to think about EID’s construction and refinement.

Specifically, Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory sees child development as a complex system of relationships affected by multiple levels of the surrounding environment, from immediate settings of family and school to broad cultural values, laws, and customs.

To study a child’s development and how a child learns, educators must look not only at the child and his/her immediate environment but also at the interaction of the larger environment as well. And in my study, this larger environment points to the free-choice learning settings, especially museums and aquariums regarding my research topic on people’s understanding of complex and abstract scientific concepts – climate change and ocean acidification.

In my opinion, museums settings are places that meet the criteria of cognitive development in Bronfenbrenner’s ecological system theory – individual’s values and identity (e.g., EID) would be influenced by not only their own life experiences (e.g., education) or family values, but also the history, cultural-artifacts, or even from the community or the society (social norms, national identity, and etc.) In other words, we could expect to observe not only proximal influences (e.g., family values, individual beliefs, etc.) but also distal influences on the individual’s EID and values construction in these settings.

What I want to emphasize is that, in his theory model, media, museums are considered as the distal influence of one’s ID construction. Therefore, I consider it is important to think about how we as museum researchers or educators could influence an individual’s EID from the macrosystem. Or in other words, how we can use these distal influences to affect an individual’s EID construction or promote the public perceptions on OA and even trigger pro-environmental behaviors and stewardship. 

Besides Bronfenbrenner’s Bioecological System theory, I use sociocultural theory as my research epistemology. It is because studies have indicated that the important aspect in maintaining and constructing identity is the recognition by others. And for the purpose of this research, I am focusing on both the personal and sociocultural contexts that are both important contexts that construct visitor’s museum experience. Also, since I believe that an individual’s EID is shaped by cultural-historical contexts such as artifacts and ways of thinking passed down from generation to generation, the sociocultural theory will be a good fit for my research since it emphasizes both social contexts and the mediating role of cultural-historical perspectives of the community encoded into artifacts.

Last but not the least, I consider this study will be conducted under the pragmatism paradigm since it acknowledges the importance of social-cultural contexts in human knowledge and worldview construction and refinement. And this claim is complimentary with the sociocultural theory that social and cultural contexts play a critical role in learning. Another reason is that I believe different types of research questions within a specific topic need specific methods to access. And this is what the pragmatism paradigm asserts – “the best method is the one that is most effective in producing the desired consequences of the inquiry.”

I am now collecting data in Taiwan’s museums and aquariums and also in the future in the U.S. and Brazil. I am now excited to see the differences between northern Taiwan and southern Taiwan where has different types of shoreline (sand versus rock), education levels, economic and resources status, etc. Hope you will enjoy my further post on my dissertation research around the world.

State Agency Role in Natural Resource Management

One of things that has surprised me the most, is the difficulty State agencies have in weighing all of the interests involved in authorizing activities off the coast. For my project particularly, there are several State agencies who have authority and expertise over key State resources that may be affected by an authorization of an activity. From working in the non-profit world, I was unaware of how many stakeholders are considered throughout the administrative process.

Marine Spatial Planning, is an interesting field, with several intersections of studies involved. From economics to marine sediment management, natural resource agencies are tasked with weighing each and every use and resource to determine whether certain projects can move forward. While this sounds pretty straight-forward, I have learned that this can become pretty tricky, very quickly.

Like many other coastal states, the Oregon Coastal Management Program (OCMP) follows the networked approach, which allows several agencies to have jurisdiction over marine resources located in State waters. This model allows for each agency to “flex” their expertise while also contributing to strategizing the State plan for coastal management. The Dept. of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) is tasked with ensuring that these needs are met throughout the State, which includes ensuring coastal management is integrated into several other agency work plans. For example, the Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) is tasked with managing the biological resources of the State, including resources found within Oregon’s territorial sea. The OCMP relies heavily on ODFW’s expertise in planning for activities in the territorial sea, and leverages their ability to analyze the effects of certain activities to those resources. In addition to speaking with experts in the agency, OCMP often communicates with the local communities to ensure that their concerns are heard, and responded to (in real time).

Some of the time, these concerns can be at odds with each other, and DLCD is tasked with making the ultimate decision, as to whether certain projects can move forward with the State’s approval.* This dichotomy has been pretty interesting to watch. Over time, I have realized that each of the agency employees have different ways of engaging with these audiences to ensure their voices are heard. For example, one of my mentors has a regular marine policy phone call with ODFW to hear any of these concerns informally. This ensures that the networked partner agency is apprised of potential agency actions, and has the time and space to respond in an unfiltered manner. Hearing these concerns, and coordinating with ODFW has developed into years of a healthy working relationship.

I think learning how to strike this balance has been a great lesson for me, and I hope to implement it as I continue to work in the marine natural resource management world!

*Under the Coastal Zone Management Act, States have the ability to review certain federal permits known to have reasonable foreseeable effects to State resources for compliance with State enforceable policies. While federal government, ultimately has discretion, the State plays a large role in ensuring these concerns are appropriately mitigated by the person pursuing the activity.

Climate change scenario planning for Oregon’s Dungeness crab fishery

In my last post I introduced two scenario planning processes facilitated by The Nature Conservancy (TNC). The bulk of my fellowship position has been in support of these processes. In that post, I offered an overview of scenario planning, and outlined developments in the federal fishery scenario planning process with the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC). In this post, I share progress of the Oregon Dungeness crab fishery climate change scenario planning process.

Scenario Planning for Oregon’s Dungeness crab fishery

TNC launched the Dungeness crab scenario planning process early in 2020, with the expectation of completing the exercise by Summer 2021. This process was modeled off a successful framework used with PFMC, and tailored to fit Oregon’s crab fishery and its socio-economic connections. Throughout the majority of my fellowship, I assisted my supervisor, Gway Kirchner and Scenario Insights (a contracted scenario planning facilitator) to integrate a broad set of representative voices from across the Oregon coast in the process.    

It is important to plan for the future of this fishery because Dungeness crab is (generally) Oregon’s most lucrative single species fishery. It is also one of the only Oregon fisheries that operates in winter months, so it offers employment opportunities and economic relief to natural resource-dependent coastal communities during a slow time of year. The Dungeness fishery has been faced with some big challenges over the past five years, namely an increase in whale entanglements and high bio toxin levels (bio toxin levels are monitored throughout the season, and area closures are implemented as needed to ensure consumer safety). These challenges are symptomatic of early climate change effects, and could intensify as time goes on. A scenario planning process offers managers, fishermen, industry, researchers, markets and communities the opportunity to look into the future at different potential situations. These processes offer a framework to collaboratively brainstorm ideas and decisions that could improve the ability of all relevant parties to adapt to a changing world.  

Planning during a Pandemic

The state scenario planning process is designed for robust input from all stakeholders and to work collaboratively to research, create and deepen the scenarios. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic, which began during the early stages of this process, made it impossible to host in-person programs. Thus, the process was redesigned into a pandemic-friendly, online collaborative format.

By summer, the Dungeness crab scenario planning process had been moved to virtual format and the kickoff meeting, scenario creation workshop and smaller focus groups were successfully held. The virtual format required a lot of flexibility and hard work to connect with relevant parties, plan and conduct meetings, and ensure all voices were heard especially if some participants were unfamiliar with how to operate an online platform. While online collaboration was challenging at times, the process yielded robust results.

Fig. 1: Dungeness crab scenario diagram. Scenario Insights (2020)

I will briefly zoom in on the August 12th scenario creation workshop, because it was a great example of collaboration through an online format. TNC and Scenario Insights were able to offer a truncated, online version of the January 2020 federal scenario creation workshop, complete with speakers and a guided framework design process. Participants, facilitators and the core team worked together to produce the diagram below, which shows four plausible scenarios along two axis: viability of crab fishing in 2040 and variability of stock and ocean conditions in 2040 (fig.1). Similar to the Federal scenario creation workshop, this integrated the experience, knowledge and concerns of managers, researchers, fishermen and other stakeholders. After the scenario creation workshop, two subsequent virtual meetings were held with a scenario drafting team to fill in social, economic, regulatory and ecosystem aspects of each scenario.

Next Steps

After the wintertime rush of the 2020/2021 commercial crab season, TNC will facilitate discussions with a broader diversity of stakeholders to ground-truth the scenarios, examine how individuals see these scenarios fitting into their individual realities, and document potential ideas or applicable action items that emerge from those dialogues. TNC hopes to finish this process by summer 2021.

Fellowship Wrap Up

I am so appreciative of my Natural Resource Policy Fellowship with The Nature Conservancy. Over the past 15 months, TNC site has folded me into a number of dynamic marine and coast conservation projects, including two innovative climate change scenario planning process. This fellowship has been a tremendous opportunity for me to connect my academic background with current climate change resilience work. Not to mention, excellent collaboration and networking opportunities. My position closes at the end of December, so this will be my final blog post. I look forward to bringing my skills in social science, climate change research and outreach to my next career steps.

The photo below shows me holding a Pacific red rock crab during a TNC employee trip to the Oregon coast in October, 2019. Both Red rock crabs and Dungeness crab are often caught in recreational traps (or “pots”) across the Oregon coast. This trip was the first of many highlights from my time at TNC, and an opportunity to share my inordinate love for the Oregon coast with new colleagues. Thank you to Oregon Sea Grant and The Nature Conservancy for offering so many opportunities to grow as an early career social scientist.

Photo Credit: Alli Gardner/TNC
Photo credit: Allie Gardner/TNC

A Progress Report on Federal Fishery Scenario Planning

In my Spring 2020 blog, I wrote about the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) scenario planning process. As an Oregon Sea Grant fellow based at The Nature Conservancy (TNC), I have held a support role in parts of this process, and have observed the exercise since October 2019. In that post I also mentioned the beginnings of an Oregon-specific Dungeness crab fishery scenario planning process facilitated by TNC.

In this entry I will focus on developments in the scenario planning process for the Pacific Fishery Management Council. My next blog (coming very soon) will examine how the Oregon Dungeness crab fishery scenario planning process builds on and deviates from the PFMC process. If you would like to go back and learn more about PFMC scenario planning, please read (or re-read) my previous posting HERE.  

Scenario Planning Overview

Before I share more on the PFMC scenario planning process, I will quickly go over some general history of scenario planning.

Scenario planning is a tool that was first used by the oil industry in the 1960’s, the process was so successful that it has since been adapted by companies, NGOs, financial institutions and government entities around the world. Managers and decision makers use this strategy to avoid tunnel vision when visualizing, and preparing for the future. You can think of scenario planning as a tool used to plan for future uncertainty, and a practice that helps decision makers develop appropriate strategies to meet that uncertainty (Wilkenson & Kupers 2013).

Click HERE for a great read from the Harvard Business Review on the history of scenario planning.

Scenario developers draw upon literature, knowledge of experts and data sets that reflect current conditions, trends and future predictions. They use this information to create a set of plausible and relevant pictures that show what the future could look like. Scenarios must be plausible, but not necessarily probable; a distinction that is important because it is easy default to planning based off subjective predictions or extrapolations of the current state. Using these default methods can be extremely limiting because they doesn’t leave space for divergence from an expected trajectory (Wilkinson & Kupers 2013).

Once formed, “scenarios” are placed on axis. Each axis reflects a scale of no change (or low change) to extreme change of a future system. The number of scenarios developed differs by process, but the PFMC process uses four scenarios. After scenarios are created, plausibility is cross checked with stakeholders, scenarios are researched, then turned into stories that illustrate these possible futures. Managers and decision makers integrate stories and their broader implications into strategy development, strategic planning processes and risk assessments.

Scenario Planning for West Coast Fisheries

The Pacific Fishery Management Council is one of the eight Regional Fishery Management Councils in the United States. PFMC recommends management measures for all federal fisheries conducted off of West Coast states, including California, Oregon and Washington (PFMC). PFMC and TNC are working together to conduct a scenario planning process under the current Fishery Ecosystem Plan: The Climate and Communities Initiative. The goal of this scenario planning process is to identify socio economic, environmental, cultural and biological challenges that fishery stakeholders may face over the next two decades (PFMC 2020 (B)).

January Workshop

In my aforementioned, post I described the January scenario planning workshop held by PFMC and TNC, facilitated by the consulting firm Scenario Insights. This workshop included 80+ fishermen, managers, tribal members and scientists in a brainstorming session that examined the question: How will climate change impact West Coast species and communities over the next 20 years? (PFMC 2020 (B)). The workshop produced a set of four scenarios, organized across two axis: Climate and ocean conditions and species abundance/availability (Fig 1.). Post meeting, scenario components, axis and scenario descriptions were sent to researchers, the council community and other relevant parties. these groups conducted further research, validated plausibility, and added details, data and further scenario illustration.

This presentation, created by Jonathan Star of Scenario Insights, illustrates the scope of the January workshop:

Fig. 1: https://www.pcouncil.org/documents/2020/03/g-3-a-supplemental-cci-workshop-presentation-1-follow-up-from-a-workshop-co-sponsored-by-the-nature-conservancy-and-pacific-fishery-management-councilin-support-of-the-fishery-ecosystem.pdf/

Scenario Development

On August 2, 2020, the PFMC Climate and Communities Core Team released the set of fully developed scenarios for West Coast fisheries in 2040. This document includes:

  • Information on projected future environmental conditions, demographics, ocean uses, technology, economics and societal values, policy environment
  • Four refined scenarios (see Fig. 2)
  • Descriptions of each scenario
  • How each West Coast federal fishery may look under a given scenario.
Fig. 2: https://www.pcouncil.org/documents/2020/11/scenarios-for-west-coast-fisheries-climate-and-communities-initiative.pdf/

Next Steps

The PFMC Climate and Communities Core Team will begin meetings with stakeholders in early 2021 to review these scenarios ground-truth their contents. The core team will examine perceived challenges and opportunities related to the future of fisheries, and actions needed for commercial fisheries to remain profitable in the future. The core team is also interested in stakeholder thoughts on how existing successful conservation benefits can be maintained in the future, and what needs to be done to avoid future overfishing or habitat degradation. The Pacific Fishery Management Council will likely take final action during their March or September Meetings. Ideally actionable items will be identified during this process, and a work plan will be developed to ensure sustained momentum towards a future of climate-smart fisheries on the West Coast.

Sources

Wilkenson, A., Kupers, R. (2013) Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2013/05/living-in-the-futures

Pacific Fishery Management Council. Who We Are And What We Do. (Website) https://www.pcouncil.org/about-the-council-2/

Pacific Fishery Management Council (2020) (A). Supplemental CCI workshop presentation 1: Developing future scenarios for climate change in the California Current Ecosystem (presentation). https://www.pcouncil.org/documents/2020/03/g-3-a-supplemental-cci-workshop-presentation-1-follow-up-from-a-workshop-co-sponsored-by-the-nature-conservancy-and-pacific-fishery-management-councilin-support-of-the-fishery-ecosystem.pdf/

Pacific Fishery Management Council (2020) (B). Follow up from a workshop co-sponsored by The Nature Conservancy and the Pacific Fishery Management Council in support of the Fishery Ecosystem Plan Climate and Communities initiative. https://www.pcouncil.org/documents/2020/03/g-3-a-supplemental-cci-workshop-presentation-1-follow-up-from-a-workshop-co-sponsored-by-the-nature-conservancy-and-pacific-fishery-management-councilin-support-of-the-fishery-ecosystem.pdf/

Pacific Fishery Management Council’s Climate and Communities Core Team (2020). 2040: Scenarios for West Coast Fisheries. https://www.pcouncil.org/documents/2020/11/scenarios-for-west-coast-fisheries-climate-and-communities-initiative.pdf/

Fellowship reflections

As Oregonians once again prepare for the start of the ocean commercial Dungeness crab season, I am wrapping up my second year as an Oregon Sea Grant fellow. And what a year it has been!

I left the office back on March 6th for a long-awaited trip to Morocco. My husband and I were planning to travel around the country for two weeks including a solo road trip that would take us from Marrakesh to the Sahara Desert and countless incredible spots along the way. A few days in to our trip and just before that road trip was set to begin, we found ourselves frantically searching for options to get home due to the new COVID-19-related travel bans being issued which were quickly closing off many of our options for traveling back. As we stood in the Marrakesh Airport amidst thousands of other travelers in the same situation, I sent an email to my supervisor letting her know what was going on, and that I’d likely need to quarantine for two weeks and figure out a way to work remotely when I get back. After taxiing two hours to Casablanca, we managed to get seats on one of the last available flights before all international travel in and out of the country was restricted. When we finally arrived back in Newport, I settled in for what we all thought would be a few weeks of working from home. I never would have believed that I’d be sitting in my kitchen-office writing this nine months later, having just spent several days preparing a full Thanksgiving meal for only two people.

Like so many others, the ongoing pandemic and other unprecedented events taking place in our country have shaped so much of the last year for me. On the one hand, my ill-fated Morocco trip is just one of many missed opportunities from the last nine months. And yet, as so many others have noted throughout this blog, this time has shown me how incredibly resilient the people around me are. Meetings, conferences, and workshops have transitioned to virtual platforms, seemingly without skipping a beat. In my own work, all three West Coast states are making substantial progress towards drafting Conservation Plans (CPs) to reduce the risk of whale entanglements in Dungeness crab gear. While I hope that it is safe to resume in-person work in the somewhat near future, I’ve been inspired by the immense capacity for adaptation and the ways that people have found to “come together” while staying apart.

As my fellowship comes to a close, I’ll be transitioning to a limited duration position with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife working through June 2021 on finalization of both Oregon’s CP and Dungeness Crab Fishery Management Plan (FMP). For the CP, this will involve drafting the remaining sections to ensure a statutorily complete draft which will be submitted to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) as part of the state’s Incidental Take Permit application under Section 10 of the Endangered Species Act. Following submission, NMFS will initiate their formal review process including National Environmental Policy Act evaluation, a Biological Opinion, public comment, and the resulting permit issuance determination. For the FMP, a complete draft has been developed and is being reviewed internally. There will be an opportunity for public input when the draft is released later this winter, prior to being presented to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission for potential adoption. I’m looking forward to being able to see each of these plans through to completion and continuing to be a part of ODFW’s Dungeness crab team.

I’m also incredibly grateful for my two years as an Oregon Sea Grant fellow. Not only has it exposed me to all of the interesting and important work taking place within the Oregon Dungeness crab fishery, it’s also provided invaluable connections within the Oregon Sea Grant community and professional development opportunities which will serve me well as I continue working on issues which affect Oregon coastal communities and ecosystems. Finally, of all the things that I’ve gotten out of my time as a fellow, this might be the most exciting… In my very first blog post, I wrote that I had yet to take the obligatory headshot of myself holding a crab to use in work-related presentations. Well, I can officially report, that is no longer the case!

Thank you!

Navigating Imposter Syndrome & Research Anxiety

As I wrapped up my year as a Malouf scholar, I reflected on whether or not I was able to meet the goals of the award. A mixture of everything going on in the world, created the perfect storm for uncertainty and doubt to creep into my mind, and I struggled with a bout of imposter syndrome. I revisited my Malouf application and was reminded that this was not the first-time uncertainty appeared. In my personal statement I asked myself “why would I be a good fit for this scholarship, and why is my research valuable to the Oregon Sea Grant community?” My response was “why not? The Malouf Scholarship aims to support graduate students who combine societally relevant research with education and public engagement, and that is exactly what my research aims to do. To educate people on underrepresentation in marine and fisheries science, and to engage the public and science community in a conversation about diversity and inclusion.” Reading through my statement I was quickly reminded, that although I had not accomplished all of my goals, I was able to make progress on many of them.

Navigating Research Anxiety

In addition to dealing with imposter syndrome, I also dealt with research anxiety related to my work and the increased attention on diversity, equity and inclusion in STEM fields this summer. For a while, it seemed like every other day I was receiving an email about the topic, which was encouraging, but I also felt a sense of pressure to get my research out. I wondered if I was missing an opportunity to capitalize on the amount of attention the topic was getting. However, while it seemed like a reasonable idea from publication perspective, it did not sit well with me on a personal level. I had to remind myself why I decided to pursue my research in the first place; because I believed in the importance of shedding light on underrepresentation in marine and fisheries science. At the very least, I felt that I owed it to my research participants to put the time and dedication into my data analysis and results. The fact that I was dealing with research anxiety made me realize that it might be best to take a break from my research.

Redirecting my Attention to a Virtual Internship

The perfect opportunity to pause my dissertation research presented itself this summer. Prior to Covid-19, I was scheduled to go to Seattle for an internship with NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center. Unfortunately, instead of an in-person internship we decided that a virtual one would be best, which I began in September. The timing of the internship worked out perfectly and provided a valid justification for taking a break from my dissertation research and focusing my attention elsewhere. The research project I’m working on with NOAA looks at the ecological and social drivers of salmon restoration projects in Oregon and Washington and has an environmental justice component, which I am excited to explore. While the internship required me to shift my focus to a new project and new methodology, I think my qualitative data analysis will benefit from the pause. Hopefully, I will be able to look at my data with fresh eyes and less research anxiety.

Self-Care

As I reflect back on the year, one thing that stands out is the importance of self-care and finding what works best for you. It was definitely hard to stay motivated this year. The task of continuing “business as usual” seemed wrong. For my first few years of graduate school, I was able to find a happy balance by taking regular trips home for an academic and mental break. Not being able to travel as much as I would like has required me to seek new ways to find a balance and practice self-care. I admit, I’m still not the best at it. One of the highlights of the past few months has been having video calls with my 9-year old cousin, talking about Roblox and TikToK (both of which I still don’t understand) and finding similarities in our struggles to navigate virtual learning. She’s much better at it than I am. Our calls are reminders that it’s okay to forget that I’m a graduate student and disconnect from the academic world every now and then.

Advice for Future Scholars

One of the biggest lessons I learned over the past few months and the best advice I could give to future scholars is to remember, it is okay to not be okay all the time. Life is hard. Work is hard. School is hard. However, we all have something to bring to the Oregon Sea Grant community and we all deserve to be here, even if we don’t always feel that way. So, continue to be great! Best wishes!