What I learned and gained from spending a summer with OST

By Heidi Waite

I was acting as a “fly on the wall” and listening intently to the discussion unfolding in the Zoom room during an OST project meeting. Halfway through, I realised the team was made up of all women! I was overwhelmed with emotion. I felt so lucky and excited to not only work with these amazing women, but to have the chance to intern with OST. I’m so grateful for the mentorship I recieved at OST and to work alongside such an incredible and diverse team.

This summer, I was UC Center Sacramento’s summer GOLD Fellow. As part of the fellowship, I interned with Ocean Science Trust. I’m a PhD student at the University of California Irvine studying the impacts of climate change on California’s intertidal invertebrates. While working on my PhD, I realized I wanted to explore the policy side of ocean protection and learn about the role of scientists in this process. Hence, I sought out this fellowship. I remember reading OST’s mission statement and thinking, this is it. I was intrigued by OST’s role as an intersection point between scientists, decision makers, and community members.

As an intern, I spent the first week or so sitting on meetings, reading up on OST’s current and previous projects, and getting to know the team through one-on-one meetings. I was then added onto a few projects including assessing the human dimensions of sea otter reintroduction, blue carbon, and an engagement strategy for the Ocean Protection Council’s Science Advisory Team. I started routinely sitting in on those project meetings and witnessed all the behind-the-scenes hard work. To support the sea otter project, I helped conduct a literature review to identify socioeconomic factors commonly assessed in reintroduction feasibility studies. I also helped draft a letter to key federal agencies outlining California’s climate action efforts related to oceans and highlighting CA as a model for how science can be used to guide decision making.

Through participation in all these projects, I developed and strengthened many skills that I’ll take with me as a scientist and hopefully, apply to a career in science policy. I also gained insight into the landscape of California policy actors (i.e., agencies, nonprofits, academic institutions) and the essential background relationship-building required.

Above all, I’m most appreciative that I got to meet and work with such talented scientists. It was my favorite part of the internship! I’m especially thankful for Anthony’s mentorship. My time with OST has been pivotal in my professional development and career trajectory. I can’t wait to take these skills I’ve learned and apply them to a future career in science policy!

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