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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Interviewing the Stakeholders for Sea Level Rise Planning

After many hours of planning, writing, editing, scheduling, and emailing (not to mention an endless amount of Zoom calls), I have finally wrapped up interviewing key stakeholder groups involved in sea level rise planning and mitigation within the Humboldt Bay region. Our final interview was a conversation with representatives of the grant funder for our study, the California Coastal Commission (pictured above). July and the first week of August were busy as we tried to schedule a one hour virtual sit down with representatives from 19 separate stakeholder groups including the Wiyot Tribe, PG&E, U.S. Army Corps, and local coastal cities to name a few. Eventually 17 groups were able to commit to a meeting with myself and the project team.

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Communicate the wins!

We are halfway done! My internship with WWF started with a project in participatory processes in Peruvian fisheries and continued with work on the communications team. With the help of other team members on the communications team, I interviewed partners at various Fishery In Progress projects around the world to discuss their wins! This was a welcomed assignment as it is always nice to hear of all the great things WWF is doing, not just the horror stories we hear about in the news related to the state of the world. Working with the communications team has been helpful in understanding that good work is being done, even if we don’t always hear about it. I had the chance to speak with our team in Peru, The Bahamas, Ecuador, and the US to discuss what success stories WWF was proud of. I took these interviews with the team and created easy-to-digest “blurbs” to incorporate into the website. The idea is that a general audience can quickly read these blurbs that will cycle through at the bottom of the page and get a small taste of our work. Here is a sweet photo of some IEP ladies and myself working together in the community garden. While internships have been remote this summer, we have been able to have fun and feel like a family.

High Seas Storytelling

My fellowship with Coral Reefs of the High Seas reached an important milestone yesterday, we officially submitted our paper to the journal Marine Policy! The paper focused on the many cultural and maritime uses of the Salas y Gomez and Nazca Ridges between coastal Chile and Rapa Nui to provide further evidence that this area needs protection. Although the negotiations to create the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) treaty have yet to be completed, we are making the case for high seas conservation in preparation for its eventual ratification. Once ratified, the BBNJ will create a legal pathway to protect the Salas y Gomez and Nazca Ridges from ecological damage and this paper is one of many that can provide ample justification for its protection.

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