California Sea Grant State Fellowship
Monthly Progress Report
Reporting Period: June 2019
Name: Pike Spector
Agency: NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary
This month (June) marks my third full month with NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (CINMS) as part of the California Sea Grant State Fellowship. This month, I was able to participate on several exciting field-based projects, webinars, general report writing, collaborative meeting attendance, and the usual office work/housekeeping, and public-interfacing.
Sanctuary Advisory Council Meetings
As there was no SAC meeting this month, my normal duties were delegated to planning the July meeting. However, our two US Coast Guard seats switched over this month, so I joined CINMS staff in welcoming new US Coast Guard member CDR Justin Noggle. I also finalized the key outcomes from the May meeting and submitted them to Deputy Superintendent Michael Murray. Finally, I helped coordinate a session on microplastics with Dr. Clare Steele, assistant professor at CSU Channel Islands, for the upcoming July SAC meeting.
Outreach and Education
The highlight of this month was my participation in the Mendocino Marine Protected Area Collaborative ROV training session. The MPA Collaborative Network is an umbrella organization that represents fourteen collaboratives and carriers out projects that answer local needs regarding MPAs. I have been actively engaging with the Santa Barbara MPAC as part of my fellowship, had through this work I have successfully helped the SBMPAC receive a small remotely operated vehicle (ROV) through the S.E.E Initiative. This grant program, supported by Sofar, makers of small ROVs and open-ocean drifters, provides recipients with two of Sofar’s Trident® ROVs for use in education, outreach, and monitoring.
Because of my engagement with the SBMPAC, I was invited to participate with the Mendocino MPAC’s Trident® training workshop in Fort Bragg, California. We had a great turn out for this event; the executive director of the MPACN was in attendance, as well as partners from California State Parks, California State Lifeguards, the Noyo Center (a local non-profit) and California Reef Check, and Sofar’s marketing director. Although the workshop lasted for only one day, I was able to interface with all of these groups and agencies and helped develop outreach programs that can actively assist in their dissemination of MPA-related projects.
Immediately after returning from Fort Bragg, previous Sea Grant fellow and current contractor with CINMS, Lizzie Duncan and I were asked to give a presentation on behalf of CINMS to the Blue Horizons summer film class. This summer long course gives college-aged students a chance to produce their own short film related to an environmental and/or social issue. CINMS has a long-standing relationship with this course, it was a privilege to present ideas on behalf of the sanctuary to this student group.
Left to right: Zack Johnson (Sofar) briefs participants before the dives; two separate groups of participants get a chance to “fly” Tridents®; CINMS fellow Pike Spector helps “field test” a Trident® in situ along the Mendocino Coast. Photo credit: Nicole Palma (MPACN), Zack Johnson (Sofar), and Pike Spector (CINMS)
After several long months of attempting to be cleared as a NOAA volunteer dive, I have at least been cleared to dive with UC Santa Barbara’s diving safety program on NOAA vessels (under the purview of UCSB diving operations). As such, I was able to participate on a day of roving diver fish counts inside and outside of restored eelgrass meadows on Anacapa Island. This project, part of a long-term ecological study, is jointly supported by UCSB and NOAA. We were able to use a NOAA vessel to support dive ops; in attendance was PI Jessie Altstatt, Julie Bursek (CINMS unit dive supervisor and outreach and education coordinator), and National Marine Fisheries Service habitat biologist Dave Witting.
To say that we had ideal conditions would be an understatement; we conducted one dive in a severely impacted, former eelgrass meadow (now sand flat), and two dives in adjacent restored meadows. During the first dive Julie Bursek and I encountered an abandoned lobster pot full of live lobsters (including three gravid females) and managed to open the trap and free them. On our second dive we counted several small leopard sharks and a California halibut, and on our third dive we encountered not one, but two endangered and protected giant black sea bass.
While I have a background in marine ecology, and have logged numerous dives in California, seeing an ecosystem sustained by the office I work in is essential to maintaining the perspective and motivation required to support this amazing Sanctuary.
An amazing day of diving on Anacapa Island. Clockwise from top right: a mid-sized giant black sea bass makes a special appearance during fish counts; a small leopard shark hides in the sea grass; divers Julie Bursek, Jessie Altstatt, Dave Witting, and Pike Spector pose between dives.
No new developments this month, although we have begun drafting our Notice of Intent, which we will eventually share with the public.
A vital component of my fellowship year is to actively update CINMS’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. These activities help engage the community and increase awareness around the Sanctuary’s goal of protecting the Channel Island’s natural and cultural resources. This month I have increased the amount of posts on both Facebook and Twitter and have boosted CINMS’s social media presence. I’m still grappling with post content and timing; some posts receive disproportionate support/attention on social media. As such, I am trying to dial in a recipe for social media success.
Working with a federal agency has taught me about the snail’s pace of government work. I have been working with Julie Bursek to coordinate a White Abalone Workshop for members of the local urchin fishery and ideally local dive clubs as well. After several long discussions, and near-endless back and forth’s with agency partners, I was able to coordinate a call with partners from California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Southwest Fisheries Science Center. Things are still moving slowly, but this call was very productive. Aside from coordinating this call, and taking care of general office “housekeeping”, I was able to participate in several exciting webinars, two of which were facilitated in part by California Sea Grant and/or current CA Sea Grant fellows.
Pike Spector is currently a Research Operations Specialist with Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary