The last week of September was a busy one for me. It was my third week as the new Regional Administrator for the Southwest Climate Adaptation Science Center, and I was on the road, visiting the SW CASC team in Tucson and then heading up to Logan, Utah for the kick-off meeting of the Natural Resources Workforce Development Fellowship (NRWD). Meeting the new Fellows and Fellows from previous cohorts was really the highlight of the whirlwind trip.
The new Fellows met for three days on the Utah State University campus. They spent their first two days learning about the intricacies of actually doing science as a team. I was not able to join them the first day, but it must have been a great success. By the time I arrived on Thursday, the new Fellows had gelled and were already working collaboratively in teams to solve real-world problems. They were grappling with how to combine cutting edge science and local stakeholder knowledge to develop a red snapper conservation plan that would maintain a robust fish population, while also maintaining the economic viability of the commercial fishery and opportunities for recreation fishing. As I wandered from group to group, I observed them develop ways to prioritize and value both community relationships and the role of high-quality science. It was also great to see team members actively listen to each other to develop truly thoughtful approaches to a potentially fraught topic. Each group then presented about their question and solution. Every group had a slightly different approach--one team fashioned a striking red snapper hat out of paper--but every group was thinking deeply about their question and about how to work together.
On Friday, the Fellows got a bit of a break. Local scientists, managers, decision-makers and Fellows gathered for a day-long Science Management Policy Exchange. After a welcome from Dr. Nancy Huntly, Brian Steed, the Great Salt Lake Commissioner, introduced attendees to the stressors facing the Great Salt Lake and the conservation work being done. Panels and individual speakers addressed a range of Utah water and wetland topics. Teams of Fellows from two earlier cohorts also presented about their water-related projects. I appreciated the opportunity to learn about conservation issues in Utah.
It may have been a whirlwind trip, but it was well worth it to meet our new team of Fellows!