6 Weeks In…

I can’t believe I’m over halfway done with my fellowship with the NYC Mayor’s Office of Climate Resiliency. It feels like just yesterday I was anxious about figuring out how to sign into my email and get everything set up. The past few weeks have gone by so quickly, but they’ve been incredibly busy too. I’ve been finalizing my proposal for a long-term flood insurance outreach strategy, which I’ll be presenting to different groups in the office starting next week (yikes!). But besides that, so much has happened in the past few weeks that I feel like this blog could easily be 2,000+ words: as a team we toured a WWTP (Wastewater Treatment Plant) in Brooklyn (maybe TMI, but that’s actually the facility my wastewater goes to which was weirdly fun to know), a rooftop garden, and the Newton Creek Alliance’s WRRF (wastewater resource recovery facility) Nature Walk; the City got some insane flooding from Hurricane Elsa (she really let it go right on top of us); and of course, I developed all the additional material to go alongside my proposal. But since no one wants to read a thesis on wastewater treatment besides me, I’ll keep it brief:

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Remote Office

Protecting the World’s Oceans Through Transparency

The state of the world’s oceans is largely problematic regardless of who you are.  An individual may wish to consume sustainable seafood or go catch enough fish to feed their family.  If I wanted to attempt to do either of these things, I would need transparent information on where I could fish or trust that the fish which I purchased at my local grocery store was properly labeled. This Summer, I have taken on two internships whose goal is to establish a comprehensive lens through which any individual or company may use to know how to sustainably interact with the world’s oceans and the resources it provides us.  

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Social Media and Ocean Climate Advocacy

For my internship, I am working with the Center for the Blue Economy running their social media accounts. This includes spreading relevant news about ocean climate action and the blue economy as well as advocating for any Ocean Climate Action Plan-related policies (currently the Ocean Based Climate Solutions Act). OBCSA was recently re-introduced to Congress by Congressman Grijalva, so I have been creating content to highlight the main points of the bill. I also plan on creating more content to educate our followers on why different points of the bill (e.g. reducing marine noise pollution, increased funding for coastal resiliency projects, climate-adapted fisheries) are important for US climate resilience.

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Internship with World Wildlife Fund

For my internship, I will be working for the fisheries division of the World Wildlife Fund Oceans team to develop a report that looks into participatory processes and governance mechanisms worldwide that successfully help fisheries achieve the Marine Stewardship Council Certificate. The MSC Certificate is the gold standard for sustainable seafood, and this type of label can open new markets for fisheries that can earn the label through better management practices. The report I’m working on aims to aid the WWF Peru team in their consultancy with the Peruvian government on the next steps toward sustainable fisheries and gaining the MSC label on their seafood exports. My job is to gather examples of governments worldwide that have successfully implemented the MSC standard into their fisheries, and the management processes they used to engage with stakeholders. The Peru team will then use these examples to work with the government to develop a more sustainable fishery that will benefit their country both socially and economically. The main goal of this report is to show the Peruvian government the benefits of investing in their fisheries and seeking out sustainable labels like the Marine Stewardship Council Certificate. 

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World Wildlife Fund/Pacific Ocean Energy Trust

This summer, I decided to embark on two ambitious fellowships! I’m splitting my time between the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Oceans team and Pacific Ocean Energy Trust (POET). For WWF, I’m working with Vishwanie Maharaj, Director of the Multilateral Fisheries/Tuna Project to conduct an analysis of how the upcoming Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction treaty can be adapted to better protect tuna stocks and fishing communities, in addition to providing policy development support for other multilateral fisheries discussions at the diplomatic level. This involves working with representatives from several foreign governments’ fisheries departments and NOAA International Affairs to better ascertain current policy gaps in multilateral fisheries discussions.

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Making the case for high seas protection through a cultural heritage lens.

This summer I have been working with the Coral Reefs of the High Seas Coalition, a group of expert scientists, policy-makers, lawyers, and others advocating for the creation of a High Seas Treaty to protect critical marine habitat outside of national jurisdiction. Specifically, my work has focused on two series of seamounts between Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and the coast of Chile called the Salas y Gómez and Nazca Ridges. Both ridges are predominantly outside of national jurisdiction and therefore have no overarching management regime that could create a Marine Protected Area (MPAs) around these ecologically and biologically significant marine areas.

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Blue Carbon Research for The Nature Conservancy and Center for the Blue Economy

This summer I chose to take on two fellowships. Although this has proven to be a tremendous amount of work, I am learning so much and the experience has been very fulfilling thus far. Because of the pandemic, I am currently writing this from my ‘office…’ also known as my dining room table in Ocean City, Maryland. The best part about this office is the close proximity to the refrigerator, coffee maker, and the cat and two dogs that come with it.

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Tabitha's Litter Cleanup

Protecting our Oceans from Inland

For my summer fellowship, I am working with the Inland Ocean Coalition (IOC) to develop their Watershed Health Program. As an education and policy-focused advocacy platform, IOC works to build land-to-sea stewardship within inland communities across the nation, showing how they too have a voice in the health and protection of our oceans. The development of the Watershed Health Program will start with projects to create educational content for the public about the importance of watershed health and the implications of poorly protected water resources. The program will then show the public how they can protect their local and national watersheds by participating in creek cleanups and speaking with their representatives to ensure their watersheds’ interests are protected and represented.

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Research Assistant at the Whale Shark and Oceanic Research Center in Utila, Honduras

Utila is a small island, totaling only 17 sq. kilometers, off the Caribbean coast of Honduras. This island is the smallest of the three main Bay Islands. Utila is famous for being a whale shark “hot spot”, a location where whale sharks, the biggest fish in the world, have been sighted year-round. The waters around the island boast a high concentration of marine biodiversity largely due to the surrounding Mesoamerican Reefs that are a part of the second-largest reef system in the world, after the Great Barrier Reef.

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Ocean Science Research Intern at EDF

This summer I have the pleasure of working at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) with their Oceans Program Science Team. I’ve been tasked with analyzing fish stocks that are shifting rapidly across national borders due to climate change and analyzing what policy solutions could help governments handle this shift. The effects of climate change on the health of global fish stocks is a topic that I have frequently touched on during my first and second semesters at MIIS, so I’m excited to continue the work through a different lens. 

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Diving deep into the challenges and opportunities between offshore wind energy and commercial fisheries (from a boat)

Climate change is arguably the greatest obstacle facing fisheries in the United States. We’ve seen this through the spike in whale entanglements in California Dungeness crab gear from 2015-2017 when a climate-related warm water event — known as “the Blob” — pushed whale migration patterns and commercial crabbers into the same waters at the same time. The iconic Maine lobster is migrating north to adapt to warming seas, warm rivers and droughts are causing die offs in Pacific salmon streams, and in tropical areas nearshore ecosystems are fundamentally changing as corals die in bleaching events.

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Regional Sea Level Rise Feasibility Study in Humboldt County, California

For my summer fellowship, I will be implementing an outreach program for stakeholders of sea level rise in the Humboldt Bay region. Humboldt Bay has the highest rate of relative sea level rise on the West Coast of the United States. Humboldt County Planning and Building Department has therefore found itself on the front lines of climate change, with an alarmingly vast array of assets and critical infrastructure at risk to rising sea levels within the next fifty years. In order to properly address sea level rise impacts with the complex mosaic of federal, state, and local jurisdictional boundaries as well as regulatory authority found in the Humboldt Bay region, Humboldt County has undertaken a regional sea level rise feasibility study to develop options for cooperation and a coordinated regional approach to sea level rise policy and adaptation.

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NFIP Outreach + Engagement Research at the NYC MOCR

I’m entering my third week of my fellowship with the NYC Mayor’s Office of Climate Resiliency and I have to say I am loving it! I’ve already learned so much about working in local governments and my knowledge of FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program has grown exponentially since being here. I’m working with the Land Use and Buildings Team within the MOCR and my team is small, but they’ve been so welcoming and helpful.

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Latin America Ocean Observing Systems Researcher at EDF

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

In their commitment to improve livelihoods and safeguard the oceans, the work of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) Oceans Program reflected my values and professional motivations.

My summer internship officially started with EDF on June 8th and I am excited to be working with such a lively and wonderful group of people in my EDF Humboldt Oceans team–Erica Cunningham, Brad Parks, Sergio Palma, Samuel Amoros, Nina Pardo, Ana Suárez, our EDF partners in Mexico and our scientific partners at Chile’s Fisheries Development Institute (IFOP), Peru’s Marine Research Institute (IMARPE) and Ecuador’s National Fisheries Institute (INP). A special shoutout to all of them who welcomed me to the team with overwhelming warmth and enthusiasm.

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