Fellowship Reflections

Anthropocene Institute’s ProtectedSeas Program

Monterey Bay (Lover’s Point 3) image taken with GoPro Hero 9.

What did you accomplish with your host organization? What was the impact of your work?

Working for the Anthropocene Institute’s ProtectedSeas program allowed me to help the extraordinary legal team with compiling a database of the legal framework that individual marine protected areas have instituted all over the world.  From Uruguay to South Georgia, I have explored the marine protected area legislation and management plans put in place to protect and conserve the planet’s precious biodiversity.  Working on this project has given me such a unique opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of how various countries govern and manage marine protected areas.  The high seas mapper tool that will be the final product of our work should be incredibly helpful for a large variety of people, businesses, institutions, and various MPA stakeholders around the world.

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Final Reflection

What did you accomplish with your host organization? What was the impact of your work?

The work I undertook at the Anthropocene Institute was time consuming and at times frustrating, but I feel that I made a valuable contribution to the Protected Seas mapping project. I was able to undertake research, analyze legislation and summarize it, before inputting large amounts of data regarding the research I had undertaken. I performed research regarding marine regulations and protections in two different countries.

The work I accomplished this summer will be used to input the data and information for “The Navigator”, a free interactive map that provides regulations on current marine life protections and their boundaries in 75 countries, territories and the high seas. This project is so important because it significantly helps improve access to regulatory information for marine areas. I researched regulations in Brazil and New Zealand, so some of my research and findings will be included for these areas on the map.

Monterey’s Backyard & the best form of distraction: Big Sur

Describe the benefits of this experience for you professionally and personally?

I have very little professional experience as a whole, particularly one of working in a more traditional working environment. Whilst my experience this summer was wholly online, being a part of the general staff meetings and project discussions gave me an insight into the culture of the organisation I was working with. This gave me a clearer idea of what kind of organisational culture might suit me in the future and understanding more of how I operate working collaboratively vs. on my own. I think our coursework at MIIS prepares us very well to work in team-environments given the number of group projects that we undertake in our classes. The majority of my work this summer was solo research and data input. Whilst I think I performed these tasks well, I learned that this is not necessarily something that I would like to do on a daily basis in a job.

I certainly learned a lot about Marine Protected Areas and regulations across the world. It was interesting to talk to the two lawyers that worked on this project and hear more about their opinions on the merits and limitations of marine protection and what could be done more. I certainly learned more about the bureaucracy associated with marine regulations, and that while a regulation may seem worthy on paper, the implementation and reality of these regulations can be a completely different story!

Did your experience provide any unexpected discovery, self-reflection, or epiphany

This summer was certainly a difficult one for me, both personally and professionally. I think that this summer however has been hugely beneficial for identifying what gaps I am missing in my professional toolkit. I became very aware and conscious of what skills I am missing and needing to pursue in a professional sense.  I hope to use the rest of my time at MIIS in developing these practical skills and partnering with local organisations to create tangible projects and actually implement these skills.

It became very apparent early on in the summer that I struggle feeling comfortable in professional environments. Speaking to other MIIS students who have come straight from their undergraduate studies to graduate school, I do not think I am alone in this. I feel much more confident in an academic setting than I do a professional one. I think pursuing IPSS will be hugely beneficial for me to gain more work experience and to learn how to work through imposter syndrome. I need to be able to identify what skills I do possess and create my own personal “professional brand.”

I really struggled with spending so much time online and separated from those I was working alongside. This summer made me realise that I am someone that thrives off the energy of and interactions with other people. I think that I experienced some pandemic fatigue this summer, and the severity of the crises occuring in the world at times became very overwhelming. However, I thoroughly appreciated those working at the Anthropocene Institute for their commitment to address challenges to marine resources and ecosystems.

Whilst this summer was certainly not the easiest, and I am disappointed in myself that I did not make the most out of this opportunity, but this quote from Sylvia Earle is something that I often think back to when all seems hopeless: “It is the worst of times but it is the best of times because we still have a chance.”

The Sun Sets on the Summer

WWF Internship Wrap-up

What did you accomplish with your host organization? What was the impact of your work?

While a remote internship is about as exciting as it sounds, I managed to make the most of my remote work by surfing in between meetings, camping on the weekends, forcing Sam Naujokas to edit my writing, and connecting with fellow interns. I was extremely well supported and involved during my time with WWF, especially by my supervisor Wendy Goyert. WWF implemented a brand new virtual internship program that was incredibly well organized, prioritized our career growth, and provided interns with the networking tools that are necessary to break into the world of conservation. The majority of my work was independent research on participatory processes and governance mechanisms for engaging stakeholders in decision making processes regarding local fisheries. The main goal of my project was to aid the WWF Peru team in constructing a larger document that would be used to inform the Peruvian government on processes which their Mahi Mahi and Giant Squid fisheries could take to engage stakeholders and create sustainably managed fisheries. 

My work wife, always there whenever I need him!

My internship on the sustainable fisheries team under Wendy was so well organized, even during COVID times. While I was sad not to be in DC working directly with Wendy and playing ultimate frisbee during lunch, I had the chance to explore California and Oregon while also working remotely. 

Weekend trips to local California beauties

Describe the benefits of this experience for you professionally and personally?

School is important, but experience is where the real learning takes place. When you’re in class, you are told exactly what to do and how to do it, but in the field you are literally flying by the seat of your pants. While I felt incredibly supported by WWF, I had to quickly become an expert on all things related to fisheries. I spent several hours a day just learning what the terms I was reading about meant. I found myself starting the day with very little knowledge of the topics on the table, and quickly becoming an expert before the sun went down. This is not the time to be picky, rather the time to use every opportunity as a stepping stone toward my dream career. I won’t get there tomorrow, or even in the next 10 years, but I will learn alot along the way that will all add up to get me where I want to go. 

Surfing every Panda Friday!

Did your experience provide any unexpected discovery, self-reflection, or epiphany?

Studying environmental policy isn’t always the happiest topic. It’s very easy to get depressed or frustrated by all of the factors harming the planet today. However, sitting in on meetings and hearing discussion of efforts taking place, as well as hearing the passion in everyone’s voices, gives me so much hope for a future where people and the planet thrive.  

It’s a terrifying time to be 25, as the world is literally on fire, people are starving, our country is divided, and families all over the globe are fleeing their homes. So many people my age are thinking about their futures with kids and a family, but that’s the last thing on my mind while our world is burning. It’s hard to be hopeful in today’s political climate, but the alternative is not an option. When we stop seeking hope and solutions to the looming climate crisis, we are giving up. My time with WWF instilled a newfound sense of hope that I’ve been severely lacking this past year. 

Working and speaking directly with leaders within WWF such as the CEO, CFO, various heads of departments, and the entire oceans team, has fueled my passion to dive headfirst into conservation. This internship has helped me feel less overwhelmed about the road ahead of me and more inspired about my role in the process of change. It’s exciting to feel like I’m finally in a place where my individual actions really do matter and make a difference.

Exploring Crater Lake in Oregon on one of my many weekend adventures

WWF Final Reflection

While at World Wildlife Fund, I was able to provide significant support to the organization’s engagement with the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, a regional fisheries management organization with jurisdiction over most of the East Pacific Ocean tuna fisheries. My work helped them engage more meaningfully with the rulemaking undertaken by the commission. I was also honored to be included as an official “outside expert” member of the WWF delegation to the meeting. I also completed a small briefing memo on the conservation impacts of bioprospecting in the high seas for the WWF Oceans team.

This was an immensely beneficial experience for me professionally and personally. It made me more interested in working for a large conservation NGO, significantly broadened my professional network, and prepared me well for my current IPSS placement with The Stimson Center Environmental Security program.

My attendance at the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission annual meeting in August was an excellent case study in not only how the policies we study in school have a real world impact, but also in how industry and private actors are so easily to bend fisheries enforcement rules to their liking through lobbyists.

Looking Back on a Summer with IOC

What did you accomplish with your host organization? What was the impact of your work?

My work this summer with the Inland Ocean Coalition (IOC) focused on developing their Ocean-Friendly Farming (OFF) campaign. I was fortunate to have a lead role in designing the entire campaign, from its mission and priorities to its future impact goals. The initial piece of the campaign was creating a list of Ocean-Friendly Land Practices that highlight conservation and regenerative farming practices that have a positive benefit on watershed or ocean health. After developing the list, my team and I created the values and objectives platform to build the campaign’s future advocacy and educational projects. We then reached out to farmers from multiple states to give constructive criticism on the campaign. These farmers are the first members of our developing Ocean-Friendly Farming community, which endorses farmers across the nation who practice Ocean-Friendly Land Practices. 

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Offshore wind and fisheries research…while catching fish

I don’t get seasick. That fact has also been a blessing for my work in the commercial fishing industry — it’s hard to keep a job when you’re incapacitated while working on a big ocean swell or choppy seas. Secondarily, and more to the point of my CBE Summer Fellowship, my lack of seasickness also applies to reading and writing on boats. Over a summer in Alaska — where I started gillnetting for sockeye salmon in Bristol Bay then onto seining for pink and chum salmon in Southeast Alaska and longlining for halibut on the Gulf of Alaska — I read dozens of government and NGO reports, peer-reviewed papers, and media articles on how offshore wind development impacts commercial fisheries.

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Summer Reflection

What did you accomplish with your host organization? What was the impact of your work?

The outreach program for the Humboldt Bay Sea Level Rise Regional Planning Feasibility Study managed to reach over 1,600 people with our project description and contact information. The public surveys garnered 418 complete online responses and 159 complete mail-in responses. This was the greatest turn out for public engagement with the Planning and Building Department in Humboldt in recent memory, which is especially impressive considering the rural nature of the county. A further 86 professionals completed the Coastal Professionals survey. Information from the surveys and our 17 key stakeholder interviews were recently highlighted in a panel discussion on regional sea level rise collaboration at the 2021 Humboldt Bay Symposium.

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Fellowship Reflections

What did you accomplish with your host organization? What was the impact of your work?

This summer I worked with the Coral Reefs of the High Seas project which is funded by Conservation International. I spent most of my time researching and organizing historical data for a paper titled “The hidden landscape: maritime cultural heritage of the Salas y Gómez and Nazca ridges with implications for conservation on the high seas”. This paper is pending publication in the Marine Policy journal.

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The Final Post!

Upon moving to Monterey earlier this month, I officially completed both of my summer fellowships! After spending months researching blue carbon for The Nature Conservancy, I compiled the information into a 17-page report. This outlined the key aspects of my research including

  • What is defined as blue carbon and different sequestration rates 
  • Types of wetlands in central/coastal California
  • Effects of sea level rise on blue carbon sinks
  • Incorporating blue carbon projects into existing carbon markets in California
  • Explaining how blue carbon projects will help California achieve its ambitious climate policies
  • Analyzing pre-existing blue carbon studies
  • Understanding how insurance mechanisms can protect coastlines
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Wrapping Up the Summer, but Not My Time on Utila

What did you accomplish with your host organization? What was the impact of your work?

During my time with the Whale Shark and Oceanic Research Center (WSORC), I developed an understanding of the fragile relationship between many of the organisms living on and around the coral reefs of Utila. After learning to identify and understand these organisms, as well as important natural features for coastal protection such as mangroves, I was able to assist in teaching conservation interns both in the classroom and underwater. Throughout the month the interns were here, I could see their understanding and passion for marine stewardship grow and it was incredibly rewarding.

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Final Reflection- EDF’s Ocean Summer Program

What did you accomplish with your host organization? What was the impact of your work?

This summer my internship with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) required me to produce a report on important fish stocks that are likely to, or are in the process of, shifting across Exclusive Economic Zones. I was able to synthesize research on the characteristics of successful transboundary agreements for shared natural resources and summarize case studies of historical instances of past successes or failures. This report will be used as an internal document for EDF projects working in areas of concern—for example the Humboldt Current in South America and the Mid-Atlantic United States. I was also able to participate in some discussions of other interns’ work, namely research on seaweed production and markets.

A Monterey Summer

Describe the benefits of this experience for you professionally and personally?

The biggest benefit of working with the EDF is probably the networking opportunities they provide. It was clear that EDF values their summer interns (apart from just the work we produce) and it was encouraged for us to network with one another (lots of virtual games and ‘hangouts’) as well as with EDF staff. Any time I had a question about a part of my research, my supervisor was almost always able to set up a meeting with an EDF staff who was able to answer my questions. EDF staff was also happy to answer questions I had about professional development and their professional trajectory. These conservations were extremely helpful as I think about my last year at MIIS and my future career.

While I would have loved to be in person and work with the San Francisco team, there were also benefits to working remotely. Working from my home in Monterey allowed me to save a lot of money, and even keep my part-time waitressing job, all of which has helped me pay off school, debt-free. I was also able to continue some of my favorite hobbies in the area, enjoy the summer on the central coast, and do some traveling.

From a research perspective, I found my research in environmental conflict to be an avenue I would like to learn more about, as well as my work helping the Seaweed team with their projects.

Did your experience provide any unexpected discovery, self-reflection, or epiphany?

Working from home was not always easy. I had several times throughout this internship when I questioned if I wanted to do policy-based work that would require me to sit at a desk starring at a computer for 8 hours a day. I began to crave hands-on, practical work. I brought this up several times to my intern supervisor and the staff members I was able to interview, and they assured me that most likely everyone was feeling this type of burn-out, in some way, but also encouraged me to think outside the box of what I wanted to do and the type of work that gave me the most joy. In my past professional experiences, I think I took for granted the joy I get from working with stakeholders and communities directly. In the future, instead of researching climate change and how warming waters are affecting fish globally, I would be more inclined to do in-depth, community-based research on a particular region.

Additionally, as someone who loves to write, I thought that writing my final report would be my favorite part of the internship, instead, I found myself more drawn to data work, including playing around with GIS and R studio, which gave me some creative reprise from reading and writing all day. Writing the report was actually the part of the internship and deliverable I struggled with the most, in terms of maintaining motivation.

End of Summer and Fellowships

The past month has been an absolute grind! Between my fellowship with The Nature Conservancy, the Center for the Blue Economy/MARCO, promotion to Ocean Rescue Lieutenant and planning my move to Monterey, I have been extremely busy. I also had the opportunity to compete in USLA Lifesaving Nationals in South Padre Island, Texas in August adding onto all of the excitement. Having both of my fellowships online has given me a tremendous amount of freedom in where and when I do my work. I have been able to complete work for both fellowships in Maryland, Delaware and Texas this month alone!

Working on my drafts at USLA Surfracing Nationals in South Padre Island, TX
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