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The 2015-2016 El Niño event was one of the strongest on record, causing a number of unusual—and some catastrophic—events, from severe rainstorms in Southern California, to thousands of dead animals washing ashore in Chile due to harmful algae. Species such as pelagic red crabs and tuna have been observed much farther north than in typical years as they follow warm water currents up the North American coast.

In light of this extraordinary El Niño season, CalCOFI and the Center for Ocean Solutions co-hosted a science workshop to discuss its potential impacts on the California Current region and the wider Pacific ecosystem. Over 70 ocean scientists and managers gathered at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) in Moss Landing, California on December 16, 2015. Participants exchanged knowledge and perspectives and identified key research gaps and management needs integral to understanding how El Niño events impact the Pacific region.

Ashley Erickson takes notes from group discussion.

Capitalizing on a diverse range of participant expertise, including oceanography, climate modeling, fisheries management and ocean law and policy, the workshop helped generate a broad, interdisciplinary understanding of the current state of the science surrounding El Niño and its ocean impacts. Participants discussed some of the primary barriers to better characterizing the phenomenon (including financial and technological constraints) and ways to overcome these barriers through improved institutional collaboration and data sharing.

In a series of presentations, researchers described forecasting El Niño as challenging because other oceanographic and climate events – such as the recent “warm blob” – often confound climate patterns.

A map of the Pacific Ocean from November of 2015. The red indicates higher temperatures. Photo: NOAA Environmental Visualization Lab. 

As Francisco Chavez of MBARI put it, “No two El Niños are alike.”

Workshop participants discussed ways to strategically mobilize research efforts to better prepare for future El Niño events (e.g., by clarifying priorities for data collection, synthesis and securing funding quickly). They also cited the need to improve understanding of management needs under El Niño conditions and to improve trans-boundary knowledge sharing and collaboration, for example between the U.S. and Mexico.

Full group discussions as well as smaller breakout sessions, facilitated in part by COS staff Ashley Erickson and Larry Crowder, allowed for diverse sharing of ideas. Topics discussed throughout the day ranged from the physical and oceanographic impact of El Niño events to resulting changes in fisheries, harmful algal blooms and the health of coastal habitats.

COS and CalCOFI are drafting a summary report highlighting the key ideas and outcomes generated by participants. This work will serve as a “time marker” of the state of the science in December of the 2015-2016 El Niño year. The hope is that the workshop discussions will catalyze future research collaborations by elucidating some of the key scientific and management priorities related to El Niño impacts in the Pacific region in order to manage the resilience of both natural and human systems in the face of future climate anomalies.

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By Kristen Weiss
 
Thousands of scientists, researchers, policymakers and educators converged in New Orleans from February 21-26 for the 2016 Ocean Sciences Meeting. Among them were six Center for Ocean Solutions staff, plus several more affiliated researchers and visiting fellows, who helped lead a number of successful interdisciplinary events throughout the meeting. The wider Stanford community was also well represented. Faculty from Stanford's Woods Institute for the Environment and Hopkins Marine Station included Kevin Arrigo, Jeff Koseff, Steve Palumbi, Rob Dunbar, Stephen Monosmith and Fiorenzo Micheli,  who presentied on a range of key ocean science topics including coastal hydrodynamics and plankton physiology to climate and acidification impacts on ocean organisms.
 
Throughout the event, COS had the opportunity to demonstrate important achievements in linking science to policy for ecosystem based management, and the critical role of forming interdisciplinary teams to resolve key ocean challenges. We also provided several venues for bringing together individuals from all career stages with a diversity of professional backgrounds, creating rich opportunities for conversation and relationship building. Below are some examples of how COS successfully engaged at this year’s Ocean Sciences Meeting:
 

Rebecca Martone presents in the policy session.

 

Meeting sessions—how science can impact policy

COS Assistant Director for Law and Policy Ashley Erickson co-chaired three sessions at the Ocean Sciences Meeting, all of which highlighted projects that are focused on linking ocean science to policy decision-making, particularly through an ecosystem-based management lens. Both the session chairs and the presenters represented a range of disciplines and backgrounds, emphasizing the interdisciplinary nature of ocean management. Many of the presenters showcased innovative approaches to solving environmental challenges, from banning microplastics in the Baltic Sea to re-designing shipping lanes off the coast of California.
 
In the first session, COS Visiting Fellow Whit Saumweber presented with Erica Goldman of COMPASS on the current political climate surrounding national ocean policy and ways forward to implementation. COS Assistant Director of Science and Research Becca Martone presented COS’s EcoPrinciples Connect, a tool co-produced with a California government agency to incorporate ecological principles into coastal management.
 
Many of the presenters stressed the importance of good science communication (targeted both at policy makers and the public), co-production of solutions with key stakeholders (e.g., agencies, industry representatives) and an integrated, interdisciplinary approach to science and management.
 
The session co-chairs have recently completed a summary of these three sessions that will be published in the upcoming ASLO Limnology & Oceanography Bulletin as a way to share the knowledge exchanged at the conference with those were unable to participate.

COMPASS Science & Policy Roundtable and Reception

COMPASS hosted a Science & Policy Roundtable on February 25th as a side meeting to take advantage of the great gathering of science and policy representatives gathered in New Orleans for the Ocean Sciences Meeting. Five COS staff members participated in this invigorating, all-day Roundtable whose goal was to identify clear opportunities and pathways for emerging science to inform ocean governance. Attendees included academic and federal agency scientists as well as agency managers and policymakers.
 
By the end of the day, the roundtable participants had highlighted a number of key points of entry for science to influence ocean policy at the federal level, and discussed next steps for strengthening connections between scientific researchers and policymakers. That evening, COS and COMPASS co-hosted a Science & Policy reception, welcoming the roundtable participants as well as presenters from the Ocean Sciences Meeting sessions described above and other colleagues working in the science-policy interface. COS Science Director Larry Crowder and COMPASS Managing Director Karen McLeod gave the welcoming remarks. The reception was a rewarding way to build upon the days’ earlier conversations, providing a chance for guests to mingle and connect in an informal atmosphere. The conversations lasted late into the evening, and we hope that a number of new connections will continue to blossom as a result.
 
In mid-May, Assistant Director for Law and Policy Ashley Erickson was invited to a follow-up from the February roundtable. This Ocean Science Policy Roundtable discussion was hosted by the White House Council on Environmental Quality in Washington, D.C., to further discuss streamlining federal efforts on ecosystems services, ecosystem-based management, and climate resilience. The meeting explored the potential value of integrating these approaches, including ways to incorporate key scientific concepts, such as ocean tipping points, cumulative impacts, and linked social-ecological systems into policy at the federal level.

MARINE Early Career Multidisciplinary Mixer

MARINE (Monterey Area Research Institutions’ Network for Education), COS’s professional development program for emerging ocean leaders, hosted the Early Career Multidisciplinary Mixer which brought together students, early career professionals and seasoned ocean authorities for an evening of dynamic conversation and networking. Facilitated by COS Education Manager Laura Good, the mixer was an instant success—registration filled up completely, and the range of participants was impressive. Graduate students (and even a few undergraduate students, high schoolers, and younger!) represented institutions from across the U.S. and internationally, and professionals heralded from universities, NGOs, federal government agencies and more. It was inspiring to witness the number of new connections and cross-disciplinary conversations that occurred during the event.
 

Laura Good presents at poster session.

Poster sessions

Good and Science Early Career Fellow Mike Squibb both presented posters at the Ocean Sciences Meeting. Good’s poster, titled Engaging Ocean Grads As Interdisciplinary Professional Problem Solvers, focused on the importance of inspiring ocean graduate students to look beyond their academic learning to other opportunities that can help them be better prepared for solving the complex challenges facing our oceans.
 
Squibb presented the poster Quantifying temporal and spatial variability of nearshore processes around a nearshore kelp forest rocky reef  with the KFA cabled observatory which featured the capabilities of our Kelp Forest Array and how it is helping us better understand the physical and ecological processes affecting Monterey Bay.
 
The investment of COS’s interdisciplinary expertise and resources in this year’s OSM lead to rewarding outcomes. The engagement was a great opportunity to create new connections and strengthen existing ones while making the case for the importance of taking an interdisciplinary approach to environmental problem-solving.

 

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By Kristen Weiss

Beneath the soothing sway of kelp fronds and meandering fish, tables with white cloths and flickering candles create an inspiring atmosphere in the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s kelp forest exhibit hall. People start to enter, mingling and chatting excitedly amidst the tables as the crowd grows.

Before long, dozens of the best and brightest ocean leaders have gathered, and for good reason—this impressive group has converged in Monterey to celebrate the recipients of the 2016 Peter Benchley Ocean Awards, often called the ‘Academy Awards for the Ocean.’  Each year, the Awards honor ocean heroes in several categories for their ingenuity and dedication to protecting the ocean. This year’s Awards Ceremony was held at the Aquarium on May 20th, followed the next day by an Ocean Leadership Forum featuring talks by many current and past Benchley awardees.

Barbara Block particpates in the Benchley Awards Leadership Forum panel on the future of fisheries with Chris Costello.

Barbara Block, marine biologist and Charles and Elizabeth Prothro Professor in Marine Sciences at Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station, received this year’s Benchley Award for Excellence in Science. Block, an affiliated researcher with COS, joins a prestigious list of past honorees including Steve Palumbi (Director of Hopkins Marine Station), Daniel Pauly and Steve Gaines, among others.

Block was recognized for her groundbreaking research focused on understanding the physiology and ecology of migratory marine animals such as white sharks and bluefin tuna. Using satellite tagging data and innovative tracking techniques, Block and her team have discovered previously unknown migratory ‘super highways’ and hot spots that are the local feeding grounds for these species. Armed with this knowledge, Block stresses the importance of using this science to create larger and more dynamic protected areas to reduce human impacts (e.g., commercial fishing) on vulnerable species like bluefin tunas.

“We have to think bigger than sanctuaries,” Block said during her talk at the Leadership Forum. “We need to protect entire ocean highways, like the California Current, and migratory pathways that stretch across the north Pacific.”

She cited the wide-ranging migrations of animals such as Pacific bluefin tunas that criss-cross the Pacific ocean as juveniles and adults, leatherback sea turtles, many of which travel from the beaches of Indonesia to Monterey hot spots to lunch on jellies, and seabirds that travel from New Zealand to the North Pacific. Block also described the impressive diversity of marine life drawn to Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary’s rich ecosystems.

“Monterey Bay truly is the blue Serengeti,” she said. “Many people don’t realize we have something as special as Kruger National Park right here in the Bay. We need to be doing more to protect it.”

Chris Costello of UC Santa Barbara, this year’s Benchley Ocean Award winner for Excellence in Solutions, has also dedicated a large part of his career to researching fisheries and working to make them more sustainable—both for fish and for people’s livelihoods. Costello and Block led a conversation at the Ocean Leadership Forum focused on sustainable fisheries and how the latest science and technology can help us improve fisheries management.

Costello and Block joined a cohort of impressive awardees for 2016, including Palauan President Tommy Remengesau Jr., Ocean Champions Co-Founder David Wilmot, New York Times reporter Ian Urbina, French non-profit research group Tara Expeditions, Imperial City Mayor Serge Dedina and Georgetown undergraduate Daniela Fernandez, winner of the Christopher Benchley Youth Award.

Other issues discussed by the awardees during the Leadership Forum ranged from climate change and political campaigns to how to engage millennials in ocean protection. While the group acknowledged the severity of the challenges facing our oceans, there remained a sense of cautious optimism throughout the two-day event.

Perhaps Sylvia Earle, Master of Ceremonies, said it best: “We are racing towards tipping points, but it’s not too late. We are here to celebrate hope. We have the power.”

If the accomplishments of the current and past Benchley Ocean Awards recipients are any indication, there surely is reason to have hope for a bright future for our oceans.

 

Photos courtesy of Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and Kristen Weiss

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By Paige Welsh
 
Eric Hartge first joined COS as a research and curriculum development intern in November 2010.  Six years and several promotions later, he is now COS’s Research Development Manager. Eric plays a critical role in our internal organizational management and project portfolio development. He also works with the COS coastal adaptation team, helping decision makers protect coastal communities by advising them on nature-based adaptation strategies. His current coastal adaptation projects include continuing the progress of the Incorporating Natural Capital into Climate Adapatation Planning Project (INCCAP) and creating a tool to help coastal managers prioritize habitats for protection through the Realizing Environmental Innovation Program (REIP) grant provided by the Stanford Woods Institute for Environment.
 
Eric’s passion for environmental science budded from many years spent along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay and other coastal waterways. He received his M.S. in Environmental Sciences and Policy from Johns Hopkins University and his B.S. in Marine Biology from the College of Charleston. In our conversation, I learned about Eric’s professional journey, from conducting tropical fieldwork in the Caribbean to his current role providing policy and management tools to coastal decision makers.
 
Hartge often presents findings from COS's coastal adaptation work at state and national conferences.
 

Was there ever a moment when you knew you wanted to work with ocean issues?

When I was small child I was fortunate enough to go down to where my grandmother lived part of her life in the Bahamas. She and the rest of my family showed me all the beauty of the small island chain, the Abaco Cays. She gave me a wooden bucket that had a glass on the bottom so I could see all the critters and cool things under water. It was very different from where I grew up in the Chesapeake Bay where the water is murky. I was amazed by all the critters that were living down there. I asked her if these were all the same things that were in the Chesapeake Bay and she said, “Well, they’re similar but different. They have different colors and styles.” I asked her why and that was the beginning of finding out why some critters are in one place and other critters in another place. I grew up knowing I wanted to focus on marine ecology or coastal work in some fashion.
 

I saw from your profile that you did work in places like the Leeward Islands and Costa Rica. What were you doing there?

In the Caribbean, I worked primarily in Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. I worked for Sail Caribbean which was a summer-long program where they bring students from America and parts of Europe to learn about sailing and island life. I taught the marine biology program on topics such as coral ecology and human impacts on water quality to high school students for two summers.
 
In Costa Rica, I taught English in a very small community in the mountains near Monteverde. I volunteered for three months teaching English and a little bit of elementary school science as well. I was able to learn the language and the culture. I lived with a family that included the woman who made lunch for the school and was a mother to one of the students. They were farmers who grew bananas and coffee. They talked about how they were in year two of switching to an organic growing approach. They also noted how difficult it was to make that transition. They thought it was the right thing to do, but they weren’t sure because they hadn’t really seen the financial returns on what was promised to them. It gave me an impression of some of the broader impacts of sustainability work and the human aspects to environmental progress. Ultimately, my experience in Costa Rica is what motivated me to go to graduate school to have a broader impact.
 

What kind work have you done in the field?

As an undergraduate student, I went on a program called Sea Education Association. It was a very pivotal moment for me in which I sailed from Saint Croix to Venezuela, Cuba, Roatan and Key West conducting a carbonate reef formation study. One of my favorite parts of research was the “ah-ha” moment. There was one time when we were filtering sediment and studying a core sample. You take a large core sample of the sea floor in the Caribbean and look at it under a microscope. You see with amazement that what you thought was a grain of sand was actually a very intricate shell that had gently rested on the bottom for thousands of years. But then, once that “ah-ha” moment is gone, you have six more hours of counting. I enjoyed the “romance” of it, so to speak, but I didn’t want to count shells for hours on end for the rest of my life.
 
 
 
Before working with policy, Hartge had exstensive experience at sea.
 
 

How has your promotion changed your responsibilities at the center?

My recent promotion further defines the difference between my content work and my organizational work. I still have time reserved for ongoing projects which are currently focused around coastal adaptation. In addition, I focus on internal strategic decisions for COS. For example, I identify project opportunities, conduct many hiring processes and enhance our organizational structure. This also involves organizing our projects to ensure we’re accurately allocating our resources. I also help identify new funding opportunities for proposals from public or private funders.
 

What do people not know about climate change that you wish they did?

I don’t think that people are fully aware of the severity of the issue. It may seem like there is slow onset to climate change, but there is a rapid projected rate of change. The real, large impacts are within our lifetime and will last for generations. We, at the Center, can work on thoroughly identifying the role climate change will play on the shifting dynamics in the ocean and the ways humans interact with ocean ecosystems.
 

I’ve been told you carry around a spice mix to add to your food on the go. Care to tell me about that?

The spice mix is “Old Bay” which is a very popular seafood seasoning from the Chesapeake Bay. I’ve eaten it my whole life. It was always salt, pepper and Old Bay at my house. When I used to sail on long voyages, I always had a little smell and taste of home. I could be off on some island in the Pacific, and I would have this aroma that would bring me back to my porch at home.
 

I understand that one of your hobbies is Ultimate Frisbee?

I wouldn’t say hobby—I would say lifestyle. I started playing in college, and I wanted to travel and compete so I started a team. I got introduced to the great culture of the sport. I continued playing after college. Anytime I moved, I knew I could find good people playing Frisbee. Then, I got into some competitive teams. Many years ago, while playing a tournament in Italy—the World Beach Ultimate Cup—I met my wife as she was playing for the Chinese team. So, that was a great outcome! Right now I help organize a team in San Francisco with my wife where we play together. We compete regionally, and we love it.
 
It’s a great way to focus all of my intensity. I’m a very, very, very competitive player. I may not be the best in the world, but I really want to be the best player I can be in every single game. I think it has helped me balance my focus and my composure.
 
 
Hartge competed recently at the US National Beach Ultimate Championships in 2015 and 2016. Photo: Ultiphotos.
 

What is it about the culture that you enjoy?

It has a strong culture of internal refereeing. The calls are made by players on the field. I think it’s a really good way to think about governance as well. The onus is on the individual and not an external oversight group.  
 

If you could be anywhere right now, where would you be?

I would definitely be on an island in the tropics. If I could find an island community with access to high level Frisbee and with a big enough city for my wife to also have a job, I would be there. For the coming years, San Francisco will do. My “go-to” place is my great uncle’s waterfront shack in Man-O-War Cay, in the Abacos. It is a peaceful place to detach and get back into the rhythms of the sea.

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Moroccan Artisanal Fishing Fleet. Photo Credit: Mike Markovina, Marine Photobank.

By Paige Welsh
 
Small-scale fisheries, characterized by their smaller vessels, relatively low-tech gear and low operating costs, comprise the vast majority of fishing employment in the global supply chain and are present on coastlines around the world. In addition to contributing to coastal economies and livelihoods, they are also critical to food security and poverty alleviation. Yet, many small-scale fisheries management decisions are made with limited scientific information or without consulting the people who will be impacted.  Too often, these oversights create fishing practices that sound good on paper but become unsustainable in practice. With the support of the Walton Family Foundation, the Center for Ocean Solutions is working to address this challenge by creating a decision support tool that will guide best practices for managers, practitioners and funders working towards sustainable small-scale fisheries. To ensure the tool is timely and relevant, COS assembled experts from various sectors of fisheries governance (NGOs, government, funders, academics, fisher collectives) from all over the world to co-develop project ideas. COS early career fellow Elena Finkbeiner and COS research analyst Elodie Le Cornu brought together many of these experts in the first COS-hosted Small-Scale Fisheries Workshop in February 2016.
 
“Small-scale fisheries are facing a critical juncture right now because a lot of them are being impacted by marine resource and habitat degradation through climate change and heavy fishing,” explained Finkbeiner. “It’s not just an environmental sustainability issue; it’s a human rights and justice issue.”
 
The workshop provided a venue for productive, and often difficult, discussions around social, economic and environmental sustainability. According to Finkbeiner and Le Cornu, workshop participants converged around key ideas, particularly issues of equality, marginalization and social justice need to be at the forefront of fisheries management and conservation decision-making. 
 
“Our work is bridging different disciplines. People have been thinking about small-scale fisheries issues as ‘how do you fix stock decline,’ but a lot of it has to do with larger societal problems,” said Le Cornu.
 
 
Interdisciplinary experts, including the Center's Ashley Erickson (far left), gather for a small group discussion at the workshop.
 
Often, management decisions are made without the fishers. As a result, the policies can have low compliance or generate other unintended ecological or social consequences. For example, instating a marine protected area in an over fished habitat may protect fish. However, if local fishers are not consulted, the policy may harm their livelihoods or spur more illegal fishing all the while leaving them feeling disenfranchised.
 
COS and its small-scale fisheries collaborators hope to address these issues by co-producing academically robust and practically sound advice. The guidance will be specifically tailored to fisheries managers and funding communities that work toward both environmental sustainability goals and human well-being.
 
“The thing that we’re not trying to do is to make policy prescriptions. The way I envision it is as a policy process tool. How is the problem defined? Who is involved? What are your desired outcomes? What are the barriers?” said Finkbeiner.
 
Part of the research will mean thoroughly studying as many past fishery case studies as possible to look for explanations of success and failure across different policy implementations.  Already, the small-scale fisheries team has examined 172 case studies. A key lesson from the findings so far is that the specific policy approach itself is less important to explaining the difference between success and failure than the process by which it is implemented. For example, when Baja’s abalone fishery was on the brink of collapse, the Mexican government reached out to the fishers. Together, they created a system where fishers have exclusive rights and stewardship responsibilities to specific areas of the ocean. As a result, the habitat became healthier and the fishers' livelihoods became more secure.
 
“A lot of people write off fishers as the bad guys, but the more that you get to know them, the more you realize that they care a lot about their resources. They have a very deep knowledge, but this hasn’t yet been fully integrated [into fisheries science or decision making],” said Finkbeiner.
 
Finkbeiner, Le Cornu and the COS small-scale fisheries team plan to conduct additional surveys and interviews with small-scale fisheries practitioners around the world and glean lessons learned that are not available in published literature. Results will help to inform a decision support tool aimed to better address issues of equity, marginalization and human rights in fisheries policies while hopefully fostering healthy and sustainable fishing communities around the world.
 
 

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By Kristen Weiss
 
Maps are valuable, data-rich sources of information that showcase everything from geographic features and driving directions to climatic, biophysical, or human development patterns across the globe. However, while maps can be an effective way to communicate geographic research data, they can also be daunting to interpret and digest. 
 
To solve this problem, ESRI (the developers of ArcGIS mapping software) developed Story Maps, a platform that combines mapping visualization with narrative text, images and multimedia. Story Maps help map developers distil key messages about their maps in an engaging story to better engage their intended audience.
 
COS’s Lisa Wedding, research associate for spatial ecology and analysis, and Winn McEnery, geospatial research assistant, are harnessing the power of Story Maps in several COS projects including Coastal Adaptation and the Ocean Tipping Points Hawai'i’i case study.
 
“Story Maps are an exciting, place-based science communication tool that allows us to combine our data, scientific findings and embed the story around our research team and study site in a way that engages and informs the reader,” explained Wedding.
 
 
The Ocean Tipping Points project uses a story to map to demonstrate its goals. See it here.
 
Wedding and McEnery have also co-developed training materials for a series of Story Map training workshops and organized and taught two workshops to date in collaboration with Mimi D’iorio of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Nadine Golden of the US Geological Survey. Their goal is to inspire scientists and other map developers to tell effective stories about their map data and to equip them with the tools and knowledge to do so.
 
“The Story Map platform has come a long way since its conception by transforming into a tool that is easy to learn and use,” added McEnery. “Consequently, more users and broader audiences are being engaged by thought-provoking story maps.”
 
Their first workshop, Communicating Science through Story Maps, was held in March and introduced participants of the Monterey Bay Marine GIS User Group meeting to the Story Mapping platform. D'Iorio led the training, providing an introduction to the capabilities of the Story Mapping platform and showing several examples of how they’ve been used for diverse purposes and audiences.
 
“Story Maps are easy-to-use tools that help us to express data in more creative, meaningful and imaginative ways, making our science more accessible, memorable and impactful to the global online community,” said D’Iorio.
 
In the most recent workshop, Wedding and McEnery introduced COS staff to the purpose and potential uses of Story Mapping, how to effectively communicate key ideas and spent some time in a hands-on session working on their own Story Maps. Because Story Maps allow users to explore map data in a number of ways as well as watch videos and follow links for more information, they are a powerful tool for both synthesizing data and interpreting it for broad audiences.
 
 
McEnery (farthest left) gives hands on assistance to COS staff at a recent story map workshop.
 
“At COS, most of our project work is place-based, so Story Maps have allowed us to communicate effectively about the important and unique qualities in each of our study sites,” said Wedding. “We can use Story Maps to combine our spatial data sets, information, images and video to tell a more holistic place-based story about our latest research.”
 
COS plans to release several Story Maps in the coming months to help tell interactive place-based stories about our research in Hawaii and California, so be sure to keep an eye out on social media and our website.
 

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By Paige Welsh
 
We are pleased to welcome two new early careers fellows to the center team: Collin Closek as our new early career science fellow, and Jesse Reiblich as our new early career law and policy fellow. Closek has a research background in molecular biology and ecology. He completed his B.S. in Biology at the University of Georgia. His doctoral research focused on tropical coral diseases, reef health, and changes in associated microbial diversity. 
 
“I wanted to be a marine biologist since I was little,” said Closek, “During college, I got the chance to work in two marine research labs and the opportunity to go on a 30-day research cruise in the Atlantic, which made me appreciate the interdependence and symbiosis with other organisms. That was when I decided the focus of my scientific work needed to be on the health marine organisms and the ocean.”
 
Closek poses just before a dive.
 
He began his doctoral studies in California at UC Merced and completed his Ph.D. at Penn State. Afterwards, he was a joint postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington's School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences and the University of Maryland's Institute for Marine and Environmental Technology working on Sea Grant-funded projects to study oyster and abalone diseases in California. Closek hopes his work will continue to improve eDNA technology, bringing it closer to being a low cost and accurate method for monitoring biodiversity in ocean environments.
 
“This is an area where policy and science often overlap and I hope our research can inform better policy measures,” said Closek.
 
Reiblich, our new law and policy fellow, will use his background in environmental and land use law to further the Center’s projects around adapting the coast for climate change and sea level rise.
 
“In my time here, I hope to contribute to the Center’s mission as much as I can, carve my own niche in ocean and coastal law and policy, publish several articles and develop professionally as much as possible,” said Reiblich. 
 
 
Reiblich, a world traveler, will further our coastal adaptation projects.
 
After spending his formative years in Arizona and Florida, Reiblich earned B.A. degrees in Philosophy and English and minored in Environmental Studies at the University of Florida. Jesse went on to earn his J.D. at the University of Florida Levin College of Law where he earned a Certificate in Environmental and Land Use Law. Reiblich is an avid traveler and completed an around-the-world trip prior to starting law school.  He visited Asia, Europe and Central America. Finally, Reiblich earned his LL.M. degree in Environmental and Land Use Law, also at the University of Florida, through a grant from the Florida Climate Institute.
 
“It was gradual, but hoping to work on environmental law and policy informed my decision to attend law school,” said Reiblich about his journey, “Reading about Surfrider’s [a foundation devoted to coastal conservation] work litigating ocean and coastal cases also informed this decision.”  
 
During law school, Reiblich interned with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 4 and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission where he worked on issues relating to fisheries management and endangered species protection. He has published several law review articles on subjects ranging from legal protections of surf breaks to climate change.
 
The Center is excited to welcome both Closek and Reiblich aboard to the team. We are certain that their skills and enthusiasm will be invaluable in our mission to link science to policy.

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