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Connecting Knowledge to Action

The Pacific kelp forest may be vulnerable to climate change and acidification; courtesy C. Fackler, CINMS, NOAA

Those who know Meg Caldwell, executive director of the Center for Ocean Solutions (COS) and senior lecturer at Stanford Law School, may wonder how many miles she puts on her hybrid car flying between her Stanford office and COS headquarters in Monterey. COS provides a perch from which she can strategically connect new knowledge about the ocean to key actions needed to sustain marine and coastal ecosystems─a knowledge to action hub. For E-IPER PhD students Andy Gerhart, Kristen Honey, Mehana Vaughan (all 6th), Dane Klinger (5th), Austin Becker (4th), Amanda Cravens (3rd), Dan Reineman (2nd), and Katrina ole-MoiYoi and Aaron Strong (both 1st), COS provides an intellectual and physical home for their varied marine interests.

Through its leadership development work with emerging leaders, COS helps graduate students connect the knowledge they generate to action for issues they care about: climate change, coastal adaptation, fisheries sustainability, food security, conflict resolution, and community-based resource management. COS supports their education and professional development through the Monterey Area Research Institutions Network for Education, The Coastal Society, and by involving graduate students directly in COS projects.

With the recent recruitment of Larry Crowder, COS Science Director and Edward Ricketts Provostial Professor, COS is well positioned to make a significant difference in our understanding and protection of the world’s ocean. COS has two goals: to integrate science and technology into ocean and coastal policy and decision making and to educate and equip existing and future leaders with the knowledge and tools they need to be effective decision makers as they take on the major challenges facing the ocean.

As Meg explains, "E-IPER students fit into both goals – they generate cutting edge science and technology that COS can help fast track to policy making and implementation. As they’re building their own expertise, graduate students help link COS to some of the thorniest problems and some of the most promising potential solutions." For example, Dan Reineman’s work on coastal management feeds directly into COS’ climate change adaptation outreach activities with coastal managers. Each project’s findings feed back to other COS projects, connecting knowledge to action and, ideally, resulting in faster implementation of more effective policies.

"Our funders challenged us to harness the expertise, research, and energy around the Monterey Bay Area and to use this incredible talent to effect real change on the ground and in the water. So while California and the Pacific Ocean are our primary petri dish, we’re always thinking globally, considering what can be transferred more broadly," Meg explained. Through MARINE, COS brings together seven institutional campuses around Monterey Bay, extending to Stanford’s main campus, to focus graduate student research and educational efforts around common goals of student professional development and linking knowledge with action. Dan noted, "MARINE is a perfect example of the synergies and cross-pollination opportunities COS fosters." Meg agreed, “COS can be a ‘super node’ for marine graduate students across the campuses because there is such a large and engaged student population."

Asked about the most exciting aspect of her job, Meg immediately honed in on her work with emerging leaders – COS’ early career fellows and students. "That’s where I get energy: developing the contours of a project, teaching, bringing in other stakeholders and experts, then letting the students and early career fellows stretch and run with it as they develop their own expertise."

Meg also lit up when talking about the types of technology projects COS engages. "It’s a really fun, yet incredibly pragmatic, 'nerd fest.' If we want to understand how ocean acidification is and will be affecting near shore kelp forest environments, we design an instrument that will be out there recording ocean chemistry in real time while also allowing scientists to dial up carbon dioxide levels in a controlled 'mesocosm' to see how kelp forest critters respond to intensifying carbon dioxide over time. That’s a contraption called the ‘kelp forest array’ we’re installing off Hopkins Marine Station." If you care about our oceans and coasts, keep an eye on COS and on Meg if you can see her flying between Stanford and the Monterey coast.