Thursday, May 31, 2012

Silver Spring and the Land of the Scots

I’m almost through the fourth month of my Knauss Fellowship working for NOAA’s Restoration Center (RC) in Silver Spring, Maryland.  The RC invests funding and technical expertise in habitat restoration projects throughout the country.  I have a fisheries management background but was drawn to the RC because the program produces tangible results, improving our coastal, marine, and Great Lakes habitats. 

Much of my work focuses on Great Lakes habitat restoration issues.  It may seem daunting to try and restore the Great Lakes given all of the problems Great Lakes ecosystems face, but the RC and their partners (e.g., non-profits, state and local agencies) are making great progress to remove fish passage barriers, construct in-stream fish habitat, and stabilize stream banks and coastlines.  In addition to my Great Lakes responsibilities, my role in the RC has recently expanded to include some time supporting the Community-based Restoration Program (CRP).  The CRP implements habitat restoration projects nationwide but much of my time has been spent working on salmon and trout issues in the Pacific Northwest, California, and Alaska.  The work is bringing me back to where I grew up and where I first got my feet wet working in the natural resources.  Throughout my time, I’ve gained a lot of insight into the federal grants process and also a great deal of experience working with our project partners. 

I’ve also been spending a bit of time learning a software package called IMPLAN.  Ever hear a politician say something like “this will create X number of jobs and have X impact on the local economy?”  Often times, those numbers come from analysis using IMPLAN.  We will be using the software to quantify the economic benefits of NOAA funded habitat restoration projects in the Great Lakes and across the country.  This type of information helps a lot when we are trying to justify funding for future restoration work whether we’re talking to NOAA leadership, Congress, or the public.  This is definitely one of those things I never thought I would be doing when I went to grad school for a degree in Fisheries and Wildlife, but it’s a good tool going forward. 

Now on to one of the best perks of the Knauss fellowship - the travel budget.  The month of May started with a trip to Ohio to visit some Great Lakes Restoration Initiative habitat restoration sites and meet with some of our project partners.  I then spent one night back in DC and it was off to Scotland!  I attended and presented my Master’s research at the World Fisheries Congress in Edinburgh.  This was something I had been looking forward to for some time and the Knauss fellowship made it happen.    The conference was a great experience and broadened my perspective on fisheries management and policy.  In addition to the conference I was also able to stand on the 18th hole bridge at St. Andrews, try much of the local food and drink, hang out with some Scottish Highland cattle, and visit with the chief of the MacMillan clan! That last one probably would not be too interesting to most but I was pretty excited about it.

I’m now settling back into things here in Silver Spring and I’m excited to see what lies ahead.  More to come later on. 

Eric MacMillan
2012 Knauss Fellow

Hello from Lansing!

Hello again from Lansing!

The past 8 months since I started my fellowship with the Coastal Management Program (CMP) and Michigan Sea Grant have been busy! I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to get involved in number of projects with both Sea Grant and CMP staff, attend conferences and workshops, and meet some great people. I am making good progress on my investigation of working waterfronts and am continuously learning. I have the benefit of great mentors and an insightful advisory committee who have really helped to shape my fellowship and this working waterfront project into something meaningful.

A few working waterfront project updates:

While I’ve wrapped up a lot of the data collection I was working on, I find that there is always more to dig up on some of the issues - such as ports, jobs, tourism, industry, dredging, and coastal planning – that relate to and define working waterfronts.

Port Huron Lightship

I’ve started working case studies of a handful of coastal communities to get a better understanding of maritime amenities, waterfront planning, land use, and the geographic distribution of both water and non-water dependent businesses and uses within the Coastal Zone Boundary. It is my hope that this research and my conversations with these communities will help us to better identify some common and unique challenges working waterfronts across the state face, as well as share best practices for working waterfront protection.  

My Sea Grant supervisor Mark Breederland and I continue to participate in the National Working Waterfront Network. Developing case studies and learning more about national trends, issues, and strategies for protecting working waterfronts has helped me to put my research here in Michigan’s in perspective. It’s also been a great learning experience.

Travel and professional development opportunities have been great!

• In March first and second year fellows returned to Charleston, SC for a week to share experiences, participate in professional development sessions, and visit a local preserve. The fellows’ conference was a great experience. I especially appreciated the opportunity to learn about the second year fellows’ experiences and hear how the other 5 fellows in my cohort were doing. I was also excited to see alligators.

• In April I went to the Land and Prosperity Summit held by Michigan State University’s Land Policy Institute. It was one of the best one-day conferences I’ve attended. There was a lot of focus on place making and sense of place, which closely tied to working waterfronts in coastal communities.

OGL staff at Oval Beach in Saugatuck

• In May, I joined the Office of the Great Lakes (OGL) for a day of In-Service Training in Saugatuck, MI. We toured the beautiful Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area, a Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP) project, enjoyed a walk on the beach, and listened to a pannel discussion on issues and opportunities related to tourism, infrastructure, and the harbor and waterways in Douglas and Saugatuck.

Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area

• Last week I was in Traverse City for a Port Collaborative and Lighthouse Conference. The conference was a great chance to have some face-to-face conversations, meet new partners, and learn from leaders about what’s going well and what needs improvement in their communities.

• In a couple days, the NOAA Coastal Management Fellows head to Miami for The Coastal Society Conference. First year fellows will be sharing our work during a poster session. I expect it will be a great conference.

It’s going to be a busy summer of site visits and I am looking forward to getting out and learning more about Michigan’s coastal communities!

Thanks for checking in,
Liz Durfee
NOAA Coastal Management Fellow
(8/2011 – 8/2013)