Catherine Courtier: An Invasive Marine Species in the Sacramento San-Joaquin Delta?

Author: Catherine Courtier
Fellow Type: California Sea Grant State Fellow
Year(s) of Fellowship: 2017
Host Agency: Delta Science Program

“Delta? You mean like the airline? …why are you working for an airline??”

“You do realize there’s no ocean in Sacramento right?”

These were some of the typical questions that I was asked after telling friends and family that I was moving up to Sacramento to work with the Delta Stewardship Council’s Science Program. After some embarrassing Google searches to figure out what exactly the Sacramento San-Joaquin Delta was, I became curious as to just how different the new apple of my eye would be from the marine environments I had spent seven years working in and studying. I would be lying if I said I was not nervous to start this fellowship position. After all, what knowledge did I, a marine biologist, have about delta ecosystems and issues surrounding water resource management?

Well the reality is that while the names of species have changed (I have traded in leopard sharks for striped bass, and kelp for waterweeds) the systems, people, and concerns are remarkably similar.

Over the past seven months I have been lucky enough to attend six extraordinary conferences; some with specific focuses such as West Co­­­­ast aquatic invasive species, and others that cast a wider net, focusing on science and policy advice to support the sustainable use of oceans worldwide. While the theme of each conference was different, the hundreds of professors, researchers, students, policy makers, and communications experts that attended each one was there to learn the same thing. Everyone was there to hear more about the management of a declining resource; they were there not only because of an overwhelming desire to protect this resource, but also because of the fear of not being able to, and a frustration of how to go about it.

Attending six wildly different conferences gave me an interesting perspective on my time as a Fellow working in a field that I have little academic and professional experience in. For me, this past year has been all about moving out of my comfort zone, about being in invasive marine species in California’s inland waters. Instead of this new experience highlighting all the areas where I have a knowledge deficit, it has enabled me to reflect on and hone my transferrable interdisciplinary skills.

So my advice to future Fellows is this: Be open to working with agencies that are outside of your comfort zone; use this unique opportunity to break down the silos that you have created for yourself over the course of your careers, and try something new.

Written by Catherine Courtier