MSI Advancement Awardees

The Marine Studies Initiative (MSI) Advancement Award will support cultivating transdisciplinary collaborations, including through focus on human dimensions of the ocean and coasts; expanding and enhancing educational opportunities at the coast; and further strengthening inclusive excellence in marine-related programs.

View the MSI Advancement Awardees who received funding in 2023 and learn more about their projects below.

Congratulations to the selected MSI Advancement awardees for the 2023 calendar year!

Creative Coast Project

Leaders: Michael Boonstra and Andrew Myers

Creative Coast is a four-credit, five-day intensive experiential learning studio art course that focuses on the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, the Hatfield Marine Science Center and the surrounding Central Oregon Coast. The places will serve as outside studios and the people, history, ecology, and immediate sensory experiences the inspiration for creating site responsive artworks. Five days and four nights will be spent camping on site at Cape Perpetua, interacting and learning from the people and places associated with the area with the goal of creating artwork informed by these immediate site-based interactions. Guided by USFS rangers and others through talks and walks through the area, we will learn about and explore the unique ecosystems consisting of rocky intertidal zones and old growth forests, while also considering the history of human interaction with the landscape. Visiting artists, scholars and scientists will join us throughout the week.

As part of the experience, each student will produce a portfolio of site observations through sketches, photography, video, sound recording and/or writing as well as a final project. Final projects must use the landscape as a creative catalyst for idea generation and be suitable for presentation at the State of the Coast Conference the following fall.

This course is open to all creative disciplines including but not limited to: Studio art/photography/video, Music, Writing, Performance, Digital media.

Indigenous Ocean and coast class

Leaders: Natchee Barnd

Award-winning experiential, cooperative education course with long weekends at the coast: Offered this past spring, Indigenous Ocean and Coast (ES 360) was a 4-credit course designed by Natchee Barnd, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies in College of Liberal Arts, School for Language Culture and Society. This intensive course explored the Indigenous ocean and coast relationship by working directly with the Confederated Tribes of Siletz on coast related projects, all using hands-on learning and application methods. In its first offering, twenty two students from a range of degrees joined this amazing experience: Liberal Arts’ Marine Studies, Political Science, Psychology, and Spanish; Forestry’s Natural Resources; Engineering’s Computer Science; Earth, Ocean, Atmospheric Sciences’ Environmental Sciences; and Agricultural Sciences’ Botany and Environmental Economy and Policy. Natchee Barnd was recently awarded the OSU-Community Partnership Award from the Office of Engagement for ES 360 in Spring 2023, highlighting Natchee’s extraordinary commitment to community engagement.


Collaborating for future ocean social science in oregon retreat

Leaders: Kelly Biedenweg

We will lead a two-day retreat for coastal social scientists at Oregon state universities (Oregon State University, University of Oregon, Portland State University) to share prior research and build collaborations toward future research. Moreover, we will provide two graduate student fellowships to participate in the collaborative science networking who will create a final public-facing website that will serve to easily link people from the public, government, and academia to existing Oregon coastal social science research and researchers.

Sarah fitzsimons exhibition and engagement

Leaders: Michael Boonstra

Sarah FitzSimons, Associate Professor of Art at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will be holding an exhibition for her work at the Fairbanks Gallery in Corvallis as well as the Gladys Valley Marine Studies Building during the State of the Coast conference. The primary work in these exhibitions is her Ocean Quilt project. A monumental quilt of the Pacific Ocean that was a multi-year endeavor. Sarah’s artwork has served in many ways as a dialogue between herself and the ocean as she’s been landlocked for many years in Wisconsin. Having her work in two different locations will echo this experience, creating a visual dialogue between Corvallis and Newport, the valley and the ocean. An exhibition that cannot be seen in its entirety at once, much like the ocean itself.

Ground zero groundwater 101: folklore, facts, and futures class

Leaders: Todd Jarvis

Given the mysteries and mythologies associated with groundwater, coupled with the fact that the coastal transition zone is an underexplored frontier in hydrology and geoscience, the groundwater team (pictured) with the Institute for Water & Watersheds will conduct two workshops on the Oregon Coast exploring the coastal underground using an "ant-farm" aquifer model. With the ant-farm aquifer model, They will examine the risks to local freshwater and marine resources by septic systems, including what might happen in the septic systems with sea level rise. This project will be integrated into the Oregon Water Futures Project lead by Rose Poton who recently graduated from the University of Oregon Conflict Resolution Program and was an integral part of the Oregon Water Futures Project and development of the Oregon Water Justice Framework which provides policymakers with a roadmap for centering equity as they weigh the state’s many water needs and community-driven water justice priorities. 


Photo - From left to right:

  • Suraj Jena – IWW Postdoctoral Scholar - Groundwater Modeling 
  • Rose Poton – Oregon Water Futures Team Member and recent UO MS graduate in Conflict Resolution 
  • Utkir Adkhamov – OSU Water Cooperation and Diplomacy Graduate Student and IWW Student Employee. 
  • Groundwater model in foreground.

stakeholder engagement for coastal Community resilience

Leaders: Amina Meselhe

In the US Pacific Northwest, the Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ) poses a risk for a large-scale disaster resulting from an impending rupture and subsequent tsunami impact. The following loss of access to essential services, crucial infrastructure, and social landscapes requires an integrated social-science and engineering approach to understanding community resilience. The goal of this work is to collaborate with key stakeholders and members in coastal communities to integrate critical assets into community-centered approaches for resilience. Specifically, the focus is to provide such a forum that promotes conversations regarding the local and systematic preparations for the isolation or “islanding” that coastal communities will experience following this disruption to their network. The project consists of a series of listening sessions in Brookings (South), Coos Bay (Central) and Astoria (North) coastal communities that will offer the opportunity for stakeholder and community engagement. Herein, discussions will aim to embed local restoration within the context of a larger regional recovery identified in the Oregon Resilience Plan. This outreach altogether hopes to bridge the gaps in communication and knowledge that work to minimize losses and better inform the decision-making process and determination of risks to the Oregon coast by a CSZ event.

Photo: Neskowin by Pat Corcoran

Using photography to gain insight on seabirds and humans on the oregon coast

Leaders: Rachael Orben

One of the major hurdles to increasing our ecological knowledge of coastal birds in Oregon is a lack of specific diet information and how this varies over time. This is particularly relevant for the emblematic tufted puffin. The tufted puffin is visually stunning, with black plumage, a large orange bill, and yellow tufts. The advent of digital cameras and associated technological advances have improved the capacity of photographers to capture elusive animals in motion such as the Tufted puffin. Tufted puffins fly into Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach, Oregon carrying bill loads of prey and are a challenging and striking photographic subject.  This advancement award will consist of a field technician/ intern who will work closely with the project leaders, Morgan Heim and Rachel Orben. They will be tasked with recording field effort, eagle disturbances, and document informal outreach interactions with visitors to Haystack Rock. The photos will be used to document the total number of bill loads delivered and timing.  All of these findings will be put into one photo essay that combines themes of science, art and storytelling to tell the story of humans and the tufted puffins that live at Cannon Beach.


pernot stem academy microbiology summer camp

Leaders: Rebecca Vega-Thurber

The Pernot Microbiology Camp is an experiential learning program for historically underrepresented or underserved students interested in a STEM career. During this week-long immersive science camp high-students will learn about three subfields of microbiology including, Food System Science, Human Health and Disease, and Aquatic Microbiology. Students will conduct microbiology focused laboratory experiments, learn critical science skills, go on field trips, and hear from diverse speakers across the field of microbiology about career avenues and opportunities in science, technology, and education. MSI funding provides us with the opportunity to take students to the Hatfield Marine Station along the Oregon coast where they will see marine science research taking place in real time. Not only will we provide this hands-on experience, but we will also host informational sessions where students can learn how to fill out the FAFSA application, how to look for scholarships or research opportunities, as well as discuss non-traditional paths to higher education.The aim of this camp is to provide students with an introduction to microbiological concepts and laboratory techniques relevant to college level curriculum.