Monica Oey: Invasive Species at State Scientist Day

Fellow Name: Monica Oey
Fellow Type: California Sea Grant State Fellow
Year(s) of Fellowship: 2016
Host Agency: Delta Stewardship Council

Who knew that working in Sacramento, CA could be fun? When I started my fellowship on January 19, 2016, I didn’t think that I would use fun as an adjective to describe by fellowship, but I do!

On my first day of work, as the lone planning fellow for the Delta Stewardship Council (Council), I expected that my fellowship would consist largely of working at the office working on amendments to the Council’s Delta Plan. For the most part, I was right; my day-to-day tasks include synthesizing documents, attending interagency meetings, and preparing documents for Council meetings.  However, one day I got the chance to do something that I didn’t think I was going to do during my fellowship –educate students at the 28th Annual State Scientist Day.

State Scientist Day is a day in front of the State Capitol where state scientists set out activities and booths to showcase their work to grade school students. For the Council’s booth, we decided to showcase different Delta stressors: invasive species, levees, and water. In preparation for the big day, we needed to collect specimens to display at our booth, so into the Delta we went. We started out the day at our downtown Sacramento office and then headed to the Delta. As we drove, my coworkers were my tour guides, pointing out subsided Delta islands, the prevalence of invasive species, and the historical towns that I have only read about. By the time we ended our route, we were in Antioch, 57 miles away, with a slew of invasive plants, clams, and bull frog tadpoles for our display.

On the day of the big event, I was initially scared that our booth wasn’t good enough as I saw students gravitate to Department of Food and Agriculture booth where they became detectives and to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife booth where they practiced casting fishing lines. In comparison our booth seemed dismal, but as students walked by our booth, our display of invasive species drew them in. The students walked up curious about what was in our buckets. Then came the questions: “Is that a fish?” “What is that?” “Can I touch it?” As I let the students touch the bullfrog tadpoles, they squirmed. Some were scared to touch the enormous frog while others dared their friends to touch it. Our booth was a hit! Students loved the hands on aspects of our booth and I enjoyed educating them on why invasive species are issues within the Delta.

Overall, not only was our booth a hit but, my fellowship as well! My fellowship has been an eye opening experience into the world of state politics and water. I have gained lasting relationships with my mentor, coworkers, and the other fellows at the Council. I’m sad to leave soon, but had an amazing time as a Delta Stewardship Council Fellow.

Written by Monica Oey