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Staff Profile - Miranda Wecker

Miranda Wecker is the Marine Program Manager for the Olympic Natural Resources Center, located in Forks, WA, and jointly managed by CFR and the College of Ocean and Fishery Sciences. Miranda came to ONRC in 1995. She says, "More than a few people ask me how someone from a tough part of a big city (in my case, Chicago) ended up in one of the more remote rural areas of Washington State. Most are also puzzled by my credentials (two law degrees from the UW School of Law). How is it that a lawyer is in charge of a marine research program on the Olympic Peninsula? And what is a marine research program doing in CFR? It's a long story, but don't worry, it won't be all here!"

The shape of Miranda's life has been a zig-zag course spent in places metropolitan to primitive. Born in the city, she spent a few formative childhood summers in northern Wisconsin canoeing the Flambeau Flowage and the Manitowish River. After graduating with a degree in psychology from Pomona College, she went off with a friend to see some of the rest of the world by sailboat. The two sailed for three years on a 40-foot sailboat called Odyssey. Beginning with explorations up the inside passage and around the outside of Vancouver Island, they gained cruising skills and found they were tolerant of long periods of isolation. So they pointed the boat southwards and spent a year along the Baja Peninsula in the Sea of Cortez, another year in Polynesia (Marquesas and Society Islands, Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa) and six months in New Zealand. Says Miranda, "That's how I used up much of my twenties. Ready to get a real life and make a positive difference in the world, I flew home to the U.S. to spend several years in the Olympic National Forest slash burning, trail building, and cedar salvage, and reentering, in a gradual way, the tempo of modern life.

During these years, I was immersed in the physical challenges, the exotic surroundings, and the total fascination of living for months with people from different worlds. But I was also aware of the almost embarrassing privilege that this experience represented. My childhood in the city was a mix of the shelter of decent, good-spirited, hard-working, and adventurous parents and constant exposure in the neighborhood to harder facts of poverty, racism, and discrimination. I was always aware of the luck of the draw because so many of my classmates were not lucky at all. This consciousness of injustice and unfairness demanded that I do more than have a life of pointless adventure. To gather the skills to make the world more just and fair, I went to law school. After completing my law degree and passing the WA State Bar Exam, I decided to build on my international experience and love of the sea. I spent one more year at the UW Law School completing an advanced law degree in Marine Affairs and Law. Following law school, I accepted a job in Washington D.C. with a non-profit organization formed by senior U.S. diplomats to promote the development of international laws to reduce conflicts over the use of the world's oceans. For six years, I worked for the Council on Ocean Law, advising and commenting on various multilateral treaties and serving on U.S. delegations to a number of conferences."

Over time, the hurly-burly abstraction of the international orbit lost its enchantment, and Miranda returned to the Pacific Northwest in 1991 to work at the most local level as a consultant. For the past ten years, she has lived in coastal WA and worked on the natural resource issues of most importance to local communities. She says, "The rewards are palpable. The issues are complex but solvable. Each day I draw on the trail mix of my experience in social sciences, law, policy, lobbying, outreach, public education, fundraising, and administration."

At present, Miranda is working on two major research initiatives launched by ONRC. The first is aimed at control of the invasive species Spartina that is rapidly altering key estuarine habitat in the region. Her research is focusing on bio-control. She says, "I have raised about $1.5 million over the past several years, allowing ONRC to support the successful completion of bio-control feasibility studies, applications for release permits from state and federal authorities, as well as importation, mass rearing, release, and monitoring of the bio-control insect. The project recently was awarded a two-year $300,000 grant from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for research into the ecological impacts of the release program and studies of ways to improve the efficacy of bio-control. I have also been directing ONRC GIS staff in the development of a GIS-based dynamic model of Spartina spread and a user-friendly decision support tool for agency managers and citizens involved in control efforts. In the coming year, I will lead a consultative process in which the utility of landscape management strategies developed for use in forest settings will be tested in relation to long term Spartina control planning.

My second major project for ONRC is aimed at developing a regional capacity to predict and mitigate harmful algal blooms (HAB). Biotoxins produced by periodic phytoplankton blooms have caused economic disruption in coastal communities dependent on recreational razor clam seasons. Repeated previous efforts to raise funds for HAB research on the West Coast had failed. I assembled a regional coalition among state agencies, tribes, industry, academia, and other stakeholders to bring together technical expertise and political clout. As a result of the cooperative effort, the Olympic Region Harmful Algal Bloom (ORHAB) group entered into a five-year partnership with NOAA that will bring $2.5 million to HAB research on the West Coast."

"And," says Miranda, "to appease the repressed urban self and its appetites (fine art, experimental theater, and Shakespeare), I regularly visit `home-sweet-home' Chicago."

 

Staff News

A welcome to Greg Brazil, hired as Administrative Coordinator, effective August 15, 2001. Greg previously filled this position as a temporary employee. He will serve as a CFR building coordinator and will provide administrative support for the Dean's Office.

Michael Case is a new Research Aide at CFR, hired on July 1, 2001.

Kevin Ceder was hired as Senior Computer Specialist, effective June 17, 2001. A 1999 graduate of CFR's forest management program, Kevin is working with the Rural Technology Initiative.

Pack Forest regretfully announces the departure of Donna Chapman. Donna developed new outreach programs for Pack,
including collaboration on "Where the River Meets the Forest," a Project Learning Tree program, and an educator's guide to Pack Forest that trains teachers to use and interpret the forest. Donna is moving to Eugene, OR with her husband and two children.

Bob Coon, facility and education program manager at ONRC, is now pursuing his long-planned retirement ambition, volunteering with the National Park Service as a campground host and interpreter.

A welcome to Georgiann Crouchet and Shirley Johnson, newly hired as Cooks in the Pack Forest dining hall, effective August 1, 2001.

Duane Emmons has been appointed to a permanent professional staff position at Pack Forest. Duane now holds the working title of Forester and will be responsible for
forestry activities and outreach as well as technical computer support and development of information systems and websites.

Randall Hitchen and Monica Ravin attended the annual meeting of the American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta, in July, in Denver, CO.

Phil Hurvitz and Luke Rogers attended the 21st annual ESRI (GIS) User Conference in San Diego, CA on July 9-13, 2001. Phil gave a presentation on the WA State Institutions of Public Higher Education implementation of a statewide site license for ESRI GIS software. The conference was attended by over 10,000 GIS professionals from around the world.

The College welcomes Karen Russell as College Administrator, effective September 10, 2001. Karen comes to CFR from the Department of Economics, where she also served as Administrator.

Barbara Selemon, Arboretum/CUH plant propagator served on the program/host committee for the annual meeting of the Western Region of the International Plant Propagators' Society held on the UW campus, September 5-8th, 2001. Meeting participants toured CUH, where some of the meeting sessions were held, as well as the WPA and other local sites of interest.

Lou Stubecki, WPA Arborist, recently completed 10 years on the staff. Lou was the first WPA Arborist hired, to ensure the health and safety of both the Arboretum's visitors and its collections. Lou is a member of the International Society of Arborists (ISA) and has been instrumental in bringing other ISA-affiliated arborists to the WPA.

Laura Zybas is the new Project Coordinator for the Center for Urban Horticulture's Rare Care Program, effective July 1, 2001. Laura previously worked for the program as an hourly employee.

A welcome to Sandra Kirchner, who was hired to assist with outreach efforts at the Center for Urban Horticulture, effective July 16, 2001.

Margaret Lahde celebrated (at least we think she's celebrating!) her 20th year anniversary of employment at CFR on August 30, 2001 with a noontime gathering at the College.

Christopher Nelson, a Systems Programmer, was hired by CFR, effective April 1, 2001. Christopher is working with the Landscape Management System (LMS) project.

CFR welcomes Goldie Pontrelli, Program Coordinator assisting in CFR's continuing education programs, effective September 4, 2001. Goldie comes to CFR from Providence Hospital.

June Powers, ONRC Program Coordinator, remains on extended disability leave recovering from back surgery. All at CFR wish her a speedy recovery!

Congratulations to Monica Ravin, recently promoted to Education Coordinator. Monica directs the Spring Saplings and other family education programs in the Washington Park Arboretum (WPA).

Congratulations to Jean Robins, who recently completed 10 years of UW service. Jean is a Program Coordinator working with continuing education and public service programs for CUH and CFR-wide efforts.

 

 


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