Reserve for Rockfish

Policy and science in Port Orford
In his research on marine reserves, a graduate student taps his experience with both fish and humans.

In his research on marine reserves, a graduate student taps his experience with both fish and humans.

Redfish Rocks is home to a diverse collection of marine species — and to a unique collaboration among fishermen, university scientists and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The jagged reef off the shores of Port Orford, one of two pilot sites in Oregon’s developing marine reserve network, was established by coastal residents who wanted to “have a local say and carve out benefits” for their community. Those are the words of the Port Orford Ocean Resource Team, a grassroots nonprofit launched in 2008 to protect local fish stocks — particularly BOFFFFs (Big Old Fat Fertile Female Fish) — and to engage in scientific research.

That’s where Tom Calvanese comes in. The OSU Marine Resource Management graduate student has studied fish in the Hawaiian and San Juan Islands and California’s Channel Islands, but he also has a decade of experience in some of the grittiest territory in community organizing: mobilizing services for the homeless and for indigent HIV/AIDS patients.

The study of rockfish movements at Redfish Rocks that he is designing with his adviserScott Heppell, assistant professor in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, will not only draw upon his undergraduate research at the universities of Hawaii, Washington and San Francisco State, but will also employ his skills working with disparate actors from multiple disciplines and perspectives.

“Marine reserves are a perfect storm of public policy and science — a contentious issue with a lot of complexity that this work will help to illuminate,” says Calvanese, who recently received a $5,000 Oregon Lottery grant to help support his project. “I see conflict as an opportunity. If we can harness that conflict constructively, it enriches the process and leads to meaningful change.”

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