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

A Summer of Growth

Hello everyone!

I have only a few weeks left working as a member of the SEACOR (Shellfish and Estuarine Assessment of Coastal Oregon) team! ☹ This summer has been instrumental in my personal and professional growth. Before this internship, I thought I would want to pursue a career in academia. However, this summer has shown me there are so many other paths I can take while still doing exciting scientific work. I can totally see myself pursuing a career with a state or federal agency now. Being able to communicate our data so readily with the public is what sparked my interest in pursuing this different path.

A professional development opportunity arose to work on an independent data project. So, I’ve also taken time this summer to learn how to code in R, which is a programming language for statistics that is often used in ecology. We’re looking at habitat associations between the different clam species in Tillamook Bay. I’m still working on the project, but I’m excited to present my findings at the symposium next week! Coding is completely out of my comfort zone, but it’s such a valuable skill to have in this field. I’m hoping to continue my R learning after this internship.

The biggest thing that surprised me this summer is I don’t mind getting up at 4:00 AM to go sampling. Who would’ve thought?!

Photo 1. Emma Chesley cooling off in a dry suit in Tillamook Bay. Photo taken by Mo Bancroft on 8/4/22.

A Day in the Life of a Shellfish Biologist

Hello everyone,

Four weeks down like that! Working on the SEACOR (Shellfish and Estuarine Assessment of Coastal Oregon) team has been incredible. We are collecting data on the four major bay clam species in Tillamook Bay to inform shellfish catch limits. This project involves lots of fieldwork on the tide flats of the bay, digging up clams, crab, and shrimp!

There’s no typical day for the SEACOR team. We work on the ocean’s schedule and try to go out during low tide so we can sample the most sites. This means some days start at 4:00 AM while others not until 9:00 AM! We have a variety of sampling methods, RAM (Rapid Assessment Method), DAM (Detailed Assessment Method), and Megacoring. Each site is RAM sampled which involves recording habitat data and collecting eelgrass, then raking about 15 centimeters (six inches) looking for clams (Photo 1). Some of our sample sites are further examined using the DAM method. This involves digging approximately 30 centimeters (12 inches) down. Some sampling sites are covered by too much water for us to DAM sample, so we use a giant pump to “megacore”. The megacoring pump basically acts as a vacuum that traps all the shellfish in a mesh bag and spits out the sediment (Photo 2). Species such as cockle clams are found at the surface whereas others such as butter clams and gaper clams are found at deeper depths, which is why we like to use a variety of sampling methods. The last few hours of our day are spent measuring all the shellfish we collect.

Photo 1. SEACOR biologists (Emma Chesley, Armand Martinez, Maddie Farmer) RAM sampling on an eelgrass bed in Tillamook Bay. Photo taken by Morgan Bancroft on 6/28/22.
Photo 2. Maddie Farmer (left) and Emma Chesley (right) megacoring in Tillamook Bay. Photo taken by Summer Henricksen on 6/24/22.
Photo 3. Burrito from La Providencia in Tillamook. Photo taken by Emma Chesley on 6/29/22.

Since we are living in a hotel in Tillamook during the week, we all get tired of microwave meals pretty quickly. That’s why we go out for a team dinner at least once a week! We’ve become loyal customers of “La Providencia,” a Mexican food truck in Tillamook (Photo 3). During downtime, I love to facetime my friends and family back home.  

While I really enjoy the work, my least favorite part is stripping eelgrass of epiphytes (Photo 4). Epiphytes are organisms that grow on plants. Algae and eggs are usually the epiphytes found on eelgrass. It’s a real time-consuming process that can feel tedious. However, it’s a job that must be done for accurate data on eelgrass biomass!

Photo 4. Blade of eelgrass stripped of epiphytes (left) vs. blade of eelgrass covered in epiphytes (right). Photo taken by Emma Chesley on 7/7/22.

My favorite part of the job is simply working in the ocean. It’s been a dream to work in this ecosystem that’s been inaccessible to me growing up in the Midwest. While I spent so much time reading and learning about marine ecosystems back home, it’s remarkable to learn first-hand with so many intelligent biologists on the SEACOR team! (Photo 5).

Photo 5. Emma Chesley (front) and Armand Martinez (back) recording habitat data. Photo taken by Morgan Bancroft on 6/28/22.

Day In the Life of a Phytoplankton Researcher 🔬🛥

Hello everyone! My name is Alex Ang, and this is the first of many blog posts detailing my experience as a 2022 Oregon Sea Grant Summer Scholar. After graduating from Macalester College in May, I packed my bags and flew out to the west coast for the first time in my entire life. For the next ten weeks in Newport, Oregon, I’ll be working with the Newport Hydrographic Line Team at NOAA Fisheries and Oregon State University. I will be examining harmful algal blooms on the Oregon coast, specifically looking at the diatom, Pseudo-nitzschia. Though I’ve worked with harmful algal blooms (HABs) many times before, this is my first time working with this species and bloom dynamics on this side of the world. My experience with HABs was limited to laboratory growth experiments, never looking at the organisms in their natural environment. I will also be dipping my toes into studying the toxin they produce, domoic acid. I will use both field surveys and processing water samples to inform my research about patterns in toxin production when different environmental drivers are present. 

I arrived on campus at the perfect time, just as my team was getting ready to test drive an autonomous sailing vehicle, known as the Triton, capable of collecting offshore water samples for HABs. In a huge collaborative effort between the University of Washington, Oregon State University, the Northwest Association of Networked Ocean Observing SystemsNOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center, and the Olympic Region Harmful Algal Bloom Partnership they hope to significantly enhance HAB forecast accuracy and sampling capability. Being on the water was a lot of fun, as I rarely got to do any type of field work in my previous research experiences. I learned that when out in the field, I have to be prepared for anything, since the weather can be unpredictable and research plans often change. Though not every week will look like this (testing out an autonomous vehicle!), it was amazing to have an opportunity to see a sampling vehicle in action. 

When I’m not on a boat, my days will consist of processing a backlog of water samples from 2021 with enzyme-linked immunoassays (ELISAs) to detect particulate domoic acid (pDA) as well as extracting chlorophyll from preserved samples. I will look at these data in tandem with conductivity, temperature, and depth profiles to examine patterns in toxin production and Pseudo-nitzschia abundance. Through helping the Newport Hydrographic Line Team process this backlog of data, I am contributing to a broader understanding of PN toxin production that could help inform recreational/commercial shellfish management. 

While the research is a huge part of my project this summer, I am also invested in working on adding a science communication aspect to it. At the end of the summer, I will produce an exhibit in the Hatfield Marine Science Visitor Center about the Newport Hydrographic Line and its research efforts. With my display, I hope to increase awareness of the Line and get the public interested in the various research that is being completed. Leveraging my experience with community outreach, I will also contact local boat tours about incorporating wording about the NHL. My project’s interdisciplinary approach aligns with Oregon Sea Grant’s mission of promoting discovery, understanding and resilience to Oregon’s communities and ecosystems. As a STEM and Humanities major myself, it has been quite the journey to bridge the gap between my two disciplines. 

Next week, I’ll be jumping into more lab and field work related to my project. I will begin to uncover the patterns of pDA production and drivers of Pseudo-nitzschia blooms on the Oregon coast. Stay tuned and follow me through my summer journey!