Natural Resources in the Context of the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians

 Posted on behalf of Kayla Stevenson

Hello again from Seattle! My work with the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians (CTCLUSI) is steadily making progress. In early April, I drove down to Coos Bay to host a writing workshop with the Department of Culture and Natural Resources staff for my work on the Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment. I had prepared topics for us to discuss but left it open to address any issues or complexities that arose relevant to the framing of the Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment. The workshop allowed for in-person discussions and problem-solving and revealed new issues to consider, which I discuss below. 

Something that came up during the workshop was how the area of interest for the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians spans across multiple geographies and encompasses diverse ecosystems, each with its own set of vulnerabilities. In the development of the Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment, it became clear that I needed to consider the interconnectedness of environmental issues across ecosystems.

Salmon in the Pacific Northwest is an example of the complexity of natural resources that span multiple geographies. As an anadromous species, salmon traverse various ecosystems during their life cycle and therefore need to be included at multiple points in the Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment. This led to another question during the workshop: what is the best way to categorize and organize a vulnerability assessment? We looked at different examples from other northwest Tribes and realized that, for the unique context of CTCLUSI, the assessment needed to serve multiple purposes, including a vulnerability assessment of not only natural resources but also how CTCLUSI properties will be exposed to climate change impacts. That said, it became clear that the assessment needed to consider damage protection and resource conservation. How do we safeguard Tribal properties and economic assets while mitigating future vulnerabilities? This necessitated a nuanced approach, considering both immediate concerns and long-term sustainability goals. Related to long-term sustainability goals came the question of how to approach climate modeling in the report. During the workshop, we talked about intergenerational responsibility, specifically from the perspective of planning for the next seven generations. 

One of the main takeaways from the workshop was recognizing the importance of a holistic approach to climate change vulnerability and adaptation. This work requires comprehensive strategies that integrate traditional knowledge with scientific research, braiding knowledge to navigate environmental challenges. The workshop served as a crucial step in understanding the complexities of Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment in the context of CTCLUSI and a way to reflect on methodologies for designing climate change adaptation documents.

Cat Dayger meets Collaborative Independence in Salem

Welcome to the first blog post of the 2016-2017 Oregon Sea Grant Natural Resources Policy Fellow! It feels like an impressive title compared to PhD student, the hat I’ve been wearing for the past 5 years. Basically everything about this fellowship is different from what I experienced as a full-time PhD student and I find that I can’t stop marveling at the contrasts.

For one thing, I have a regular schedule. My husband has heard me say a million times “Science waits for no one” to explain why I unexpectedly needed to stay late at the lab, work weekends, and go into the lab early in the morning.

An imposing building to work in to go with my imposing - maybe just long - title.

An imposing building to work in to go with my imposing – maybe just long – title.

Bench science – experiments in a lab – often take more or less (ha! never!) time than expected, which means making plans with friends and family are constantly derailed or postponed. Now, as a Policy Fellow working in the Governor’s office, my schedule is largely confined to regular business hours. There are holidays! I find the more predictable schedule refreshing.

For another, I am surrounded by colleagues excelling in the career I see for myself pursuing. I knew fairly early on in my PhD career that I was not interested in a career in academia, at least not at an institution primarily focused on research. I love doing bench science and field work, and I love the teaching and mentoring I’ve done, but the prospect of packing grant writing and academic service on committees around research and teaching only fills me with dread rather than excitement. I find that I am inspired and focused in ways I haven’t felt in a while because I’m immersed in the field I’m most interested in. I guess I’m also relieved to feel like I’ve made the right choice.

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The State of Oregon coffee (tea) cup I bought the first day at the Capitol.

Not everything is so different though. I still work primarily independently, at least so far. I spend some time working as part of a team on projects with tight deadlines, which I’ve always perversely found enjoyable. And I still drink tea almost constantly at my desk. How do people live without hot drinks?

One of the unexpected surprises of my first few weeks has been the commute to Salem, OR. I was dreading it, frankly, but I’ve been riding the Amtrak train and watching the sunrise over the farm fields recalls to me the time I spent driving through corn fields to feed horses and go to horse shows early in the morning when I lived in Michigan and Illinois. It seems I still have a soft spot

The tumble of morning glories on my walk to work.

The tumble of morning glories on my walk to work.

for early mornings in rural America. I’m also enjoying exploring Salem itself on my lunch breaks. I keep finding this beauty out of the blue that stops me, literally, in my tracks.

I don’t have much to report on the actual work I’m doing yet. I’m still getting on all the right people’s radar so they know I’m the person to contact about ocean and coastal issues. Today, I look forward to attending the Oregon Shellfish Task Force meeting where they will finalize their recommendations to the legislature. I’ve been hearing about the progress of Shellfish Task Force for more than a year from Kessina Lee, my predecessor and PSU Biology colleague, so it’s exciting to see the product of all that work.

Next time, I hope to be able to outline the projects I’ll be working on and maybe highlight some of the neat architecture and sculpture I get to walk by every day working around the Oregon State Capitol.

 

 

Welcome to the GNRO

Hello again! For everyone who has been following this blog over the past year, welcome to the official “re-branding” of my blog-spot as an Oregon Natural Resource Policy Fellow in the Governor’s Natural Resources Office. For those who have yet to read this blog, a little background: I am a recent graduate of the Masters of Environmental Management program in the Department of Environmental Management at Portland State University in Portland, OR. My graduate research focused on evidence-based decision making in coastal and marine management and policy in the Pacific Northwest. At a high level, this work tested a 2 phase methodology for bridging the gap between academic research and policy and management practice: The 1st phase included an interviewing process to gather primary qualitative data and determine scientific data needs of ocean relevant decision makers. In the 2nd phase, I conducted a workshop to bring together academic scientists and decision makers to disseminate phase 1 findings and begin to foster the development, communication, and use of policy relevant research. I have resolved to continue focusing on understanding how best to bring scientific knowledge into policy action through my career in coastal and marine policy creation and management implementation.

My graduate research was funded by the Oregon Sea Grant Robert E. Malouf Marine Studies Scholarship, and I feel very fortunate to continue to work with Oregon Sea Grant as well as other Sea Grant scholars over the next year. I anticipate gaining an incredible wealth of knowledge over the next year working in the Oregon Governor’s Natural Recourses Office. As a neophyte walking around this Office, I often find myself with eyes open wide and full of excitement. Oregon Sea Grant has provided me this incredibly rare opportunity to be placed in the heart of ocean and coastal policy in such a critical coastal state, and I intend to take advantage of every moment. I welcome you to follow me along this journey over the next year!

Closing Remarks

It’s hard to believe that this will be my last blogpost as a Malouf Scholar. The past year has been amazing, and would not have been possible without the support of Oregon Sea Grant. I have completed my graduate research, compiled the findings, and graduated from Portland State University this summer. Through my research I proposed and tested a method to overcome institutional barriers and build cross-sector communication capacity between decision makers and scientists that mutually benefits those involved while promoting their respective roles in society. Preserving and protecting critical coastal and marine resources becomes ever more important as climatic, land use, and socio-demographic shifts occur. Doing so will require effective and efficient policy and management schemes that include the best available science, i.e., evidence-based decisions. My research engaged decision makers and scientists to begin a collaborative approach to extract, design, and integrate relevant information into evidence-based policy and management practices. This integrated approach maximizes use of information to prevent, and in some cases reverse, the negative effects of human practices.
Though, I want to emphasize that this work has been just the start in a long and sustained process. Further workshops, dedicated interactions, and the stimulus from funding agencies should all be used to sustain the connection between decision-makers and scientists. A clear linkage between decision makers and scientists, electronic networks, decision support tools, and ecological models can all support long-term engagement as well.
Increasing communication between scientists and decision makers results in an impressive return on monetary investments, generating greater value for research dollars spent by developing more effective research. By enhancing social capital through communication, decision makers can better protect natural capital. Since there are real economic and ecological costs associated with continued consumption of finite resources, the interactions established during my research (and ideally beyond) should be a high priority for decision-makers and scientists alike.
While I have recently accepted a Natural Resource Policy Fellowship with Oregon Sea Grant at the Governor’s Natural Resources Office (and my attention will naturally shift to this program’s requirements), I intend to continue to follow-up with the work I have done with evidence-based decision making. Fortunately, there is a strong desire in the Governor’s Natural Resources Office to do just that! I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to continue these efforts, and embrace new ones in my role, as well as continue to work with the amazing caliber of people at Oregon Sea Grant. As I move on to this next stage, and pass along the torch to the next cohort of Malouf Scholars, I look forward to reading about what fascinating and promising research they conduct! Stay tuned everyone!