Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Revealing Otolith

                                    The Revealing Otolith

            Heard at the Tillamook Bay Watershed Council, October 25, 2016:

            “Therein lies the story.”

            The biologist, Dr. Daniel Bottoms, speaks about the salmon in the river he’d studied for ten years, how they lived, and how their habitat changed after dikes were removed and estuaries are regaining their primordial way of life.

            Research is showing that the assumed cycles of life and old assumptions grew more complex.
            Much is revealed in the otolith, a bone found in the sensory organs, the “ears” of salmon. It grows every day. A new layer of bone is added, much like a tree ring.  In each day, there is the record of the nutrients consumed, growth, the salinity of the water. 

            Scientists analyze the rings and measure the amounts of strontium, a telltale sign of salt water. 
            He talks of estuaries and restoration efforts, man trying to undo what has been done in the last one hundred and fifty years, hoping to bring back the number of salmon, strengthening species and the various runs in a particular river and estuarine system.  Estuaries provide a varied mix of salt and fresh water, nutrients, and food populations.

            Oregon has twenty estuaries, ranging from a few miles to 148 miles on the mighty Columbia, from the ocean to the head of tidal influence.  Within those systems, a wide spectrum of salinity, and complex “detrital based food webs”. 

            What is learned is that within a species, within a particular run of salmon on a particular river, there are up to six varieties of life histories.  There is diversity in numbers and adaptability.  Resilience is directly related to habitat, the more diverse the better. Both genetics and environment are major players in their lives.

            In the Salmon  River estuary, north of Lincoln City, Oregon, various marshes have been restored over a 30 year period.  In restored areas, salmon tend to spend more time, and life histories become more diverse.  Food becomes more plentiful and diverse. 

            Depending on the environment, salmon can shift their life behaviors, thus ensuring their survival and their success. 

            In the Salmon River estuary, 70% of the Chinook population has significantly benefitted from estuary restoration, but only 30% of the coho have significantly benefitted.

            Old hypotheses have been revised, and there are more questions to be answered. All of the research reveals more of the complexity of the life of salmon and more questions.

            Tillamook Bay is now undergoing significant estuary restoration, with 528 acres undiked and tide gates and other barriers removed.  This is the largest estuary restoration project in Oregon. We aren’t sure what this will mean to salmon in this watershed but the changes are significant. 

Pathways to Resilience: Sustaining Salmon Ecosystems in a Changing World, Bottom, et al, Editors, (Oregon State University Sea Grant, 2011)

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Defining Family

            "What IS family, then?" The young man asked. 

            He's getting out in less than a year, and we were talking about his plans for when he is "out" and life no longer has the physical limits of being "locked up". 

            Going home is not the most attractive of his choices.  There, old ways, old relationships, and old expectations for how he is to live and move ahead in life are all in play.  He's no longer a young teen, struggling with addictions and bad choices, and the labels that comes with the mistake he made at a tender age, the mistake that cost him his freedom. He's earned a fresh start, and be able to move ahead without the baggage of prejudgment and assumptions.  He's not who he was, and he's rightfully proud of that accomplishment. 

            Yes, being "inside" has given him many opportunities, and he had taken advantage of them, growing into a smart, sensitive, and thoughtful young man.  A young man I'd be proud to call a son and live with me, become part of my family.

            He's looking ahead, and looking for options,  possibilities for a new life, moving ahead with his life and seeking his dreams.  At the core of that is being part of family.

            So what IS family?  Yes, the first, quick answer is the biological answer: the family I was born into.  Yet, family can be and probably should be so much more. 

            Being a part of a family is a choice, a conscious, deliberate choice. We can do that in many ways.

            When we marry, we intentionally create a new family, blended or mixed from both spouses' biological families, or the families each partner is currently a part.  We mix it up, sometimes adding kids and also adding in-laws, and close friends from both sides of the marriage.  New rules and new expectations emerge, along with new dynamics. 

            New territory and new challenges await us as we navigate these fresh and often turbulent waters. 

            What is it that this young man needs, what I need, in a family?

            We made a list: love, respect, a place in which to belong, be accepted, nurtured, cherished.  A place to grow as well as a place that you come home to after a day out in the world, being challenged and jostled.  A place that takes you for who you are.  A place where there's a chair and a table setting just for you at dinner. 

            "We each need to make our own family," I said.  "And the definition needs to fit what we need, creating a place where we grow to our full potential." 

            My young friend has figured it out.  He knows what a family is, the family he needs and wants, a place where he will flourish.  Like all of us, he just needs permission to seek that out, and be good to himself, to find his very own family, creating his own happiness. 

            And, yes, its OK to want that, and its OK to make sure that having that good family is part of our lives, helping every one of us at achieve our dreams and live a productive, love filled life. 

-- Neal Lemery 9/30/2016