Marine Reserves News: Seabirds, Volunteer Stories, A Short Film, and New Reports

A Deeper Dive

Volunteer Stories

Volunteer anglers aboard the fishing vessel Norwester

In the coming months we will be sharing stories from volunteers who are actively engaging in research and outreach activities at Oregon’s marine reserve sites. From stalwart fisherfolk to intrepid SCUBA divers, from retirees to graduate students, these individuals offer diverse insights from their different forms of volunteer service. Follow along as they share their reasons for volunteering, recount some of their most memorable moments, and share what they’ve learned about Oregon’s marine reserves in the process.

Black Oystercatchers, Volunteers, and a New Publication

Black Oystercatcher photo by Adam Stunkel

Photo by Adam Stunkel

While the Black Oystercatcher has a conspicuous presence on our coast, little demographic information has been collected on this seabird in recent years. Starting in 2015, Portland Audubon and partners coordinated a statewide survey to obtain an updated population estimate and learn more about their distribution at Oregon’s marine reserve sites and along the Oregon coast. This study relied on community scientists, members of the public that have been instrumental in monitoring these birds in the summertime.

“We’re fortunate to have volunteers and partners able to help with data collection,” said Shawn Stephensen, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist and partner on the project.

Karen Driscoll is a volunteer who has been participating in the surveys since 2015. Last year, Karen clocked over 200 volunteer hours participating in the surveys.

Karen said observing and collecting data on Black Oystercatchers at the Otter Rock Marine Reserve and Gull Rock, “has been and continues to be the most exciting community science project of my retirement. Each year refines my knowledge and increases my understanding of this keystone species. My daily monitoring excursions during the summer months provides me joy, excitement, awe and wonder that is alone the providence of nature.”

Karen also noted, “It combines my love of the ocean and science. And, having farmed sheep and lambs there are any number of parenting parallels to be observed between the two species.”

Findings from this study have recently been published in Northwest Naturalist. The study estimates the current population in Oregon to be approximately 500-600 birds, and the breeding population to be small but stable. In addition, the study found Black Oystercatchers are most prevalent on the south coast.

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Annual SCUBA Survey Volunteer Training

SCUBA divers training at the Oregon Coast Aquarium for marine reserve monitoring surveys

In February, we held our annual two-day training for our volunteer scientific divers. These trainings are held with the help of our research collaborators at the Oregon Coast Aquarium and are focused on the SCUBA survey scientific methods our divers use to collect data on fish, invertebrates, and algae. This year we had six new volunteer scientific divers attend the training. All of our marine reserve SCUBA surveys are conducted by these dedicated volunteers. We’ll be sharing stories from some of our volunteer divers in the near future.

“Sense of Place” A Short Film by OSU-MSI Filmmaking Intern

Click here for the short film titled "Sense of Place" by Science Filmmaking Intern Amir Ahmad

Click on the video to watch

This past summer, Amir Ahmad was a Marine Studies Initiative (MSI) Science Filmmaking intern. He collaborated with the ODFW Marine Reserves Program to produce a short film titled, “Sense of Place” highlighting some of the volunteers assisting in the scientific monitoring of Oregon’s marine reserves. This 5 minute film explores some of the different ways that these volunteers identify with and are connected to the ocean and why they volunteer. We invite you to hear their stories and watch the video.

About the Filmmaker
Amir Ahmad is a senior at Oregon State University, majoring in the BioResource Research (BRR) program and specializing in sustainable ecosystems. Coming from Malaysia, a biologically diverse country in Southeast Asia, he is determined to learn about solutions to tackling the environmental problems happening in his country. With a strong determination to create better conditions, Amir combines his passion for filmmaking and conservation science as one of the ways he is contributing to solutions.

Understanding Cape Perpetua Visitors: New Report

Visitor surveys at Cape Perpetua

Beyond the research conducted by the ODFW Marine Reserves Program, the Cape Perpetua Marine Reserve and surrounding area is attracting additional human dimensions research. One example is the recently released report from a two-year, year round visitor survey conducted at shoreside locations along the Cape Perpetua Marine Reserve.

The idea for the study came from the Cape Perpetua Collaborative and was led by the Surfrider Foundation in collaboration with the ODFW Marine Reserves Program and the City of Yachats.

This survey of visitors looked at marine reserve awareness and knowledge, demographics and characteristics, and tourism decisions and opinions. Close to 1,000 visitors took the survey.

The report reveals information of interest and use to local businesses, local municipalities, and natural resource agencies such as why these places are special to people and how local businesses and municipalities may better serve and inform coastal visitors. The City of Yachats was particularly interested in why Cape Perpetua was a destination, where do visitors stay and what types of services might the city or local businesses consider investing in to better serve their visitors.

In addition, this study provides comparisons with previous marine reserve visitor and resident surveys conducted by ODFW and our research collaborators. For instance, we see that awareness of marine reserves by visitors to the Cape Perpetua area is increasing when we compare visitors surveyed at Cape Perpetua in this most recent survey to those visitors surveyed by ODFW in 2012 and 2014.

Graph of marine reserves awareness by visitor to Cape Perpetua in 2012, 2014, and 2019

Check out the report to see additional results, information on the study design, and more.

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Meet Our Newest Team Member: Ryan Fields

Ryan Fields

Ryan Fields officially joined the ODFW Marine Reserves Program in February and is one of our three ecological monitoring team members. He received a Master’s degree in 2016 in marine science at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML) where his thesis work focused on changes in life-history traits of Rosy Rockfish over the past four decades. After graduating, he continued working at MLML in the Fisheries and Conservation Biology Lab assisting with several research projects including the California Collaborative Fisheries Research Program, a hook-and-line fishing research program that helped inform the ODFW marine reserve hook-and-line surveys here in Oregon. Ryan also helped with developing and implementing the use of a new underwater stereo-video lander tool, dubbed the Benthic Observation Survey System (or BOSS), to survey rockfish in deep-water rocky habitats off of California.

Ryan originally hails from Kodiak Island Alaska where he spent his summers commercial fishing for salmon with his family. In his spare time, Ryan can be found outside hiking, reading a good book, or creating fish-themed artwork.

Fish art by Ryan Fields

Update on Spring Field Season

We wanted to share with you that the ODFW Marine Reserves Program has made the decision to postpone our spring field season. This is in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing best practices, and recent Executive Order issued by Governor Kate Brown urging Oregonians to “Stay Home, Save Lives.”

Keeping our volunteers, contractors, and staff safe is our top priority right now. Our current plan is to postpone the field season through May 31st. We will be reassessing in the coming weeks and months to determine if or when we might begin summer or fall field work when it is safe to do so.

From the ODFW Marine Reserves Team
May you be safe, may you be healthy, and please feel free to reach out to us. Our team members are all currently working remotely from home, but you can reach any of us at our state emails.

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