This year has presented challenges that none of us have ever experienced before. As individuals and as an organization, we at Washington Sea Grant (WSG) have struggled to adapt in many ways. Staying connected to each other and to the partners and stakeholders with whom we work has become difficult when we can’t meet in person. With schools held remotely, those of us who are parents have had to refigure the balance between our own work and our children’s care and education. Even planning a vacation to help alleviate feelings of burnout has become difficult when we don’t have certainty about where it is or isn’t safe to go.
At the same time, I am tremendously proud of how WSG has found creative solutions to many of the hurdles we have encountered. WSG Crab Team and SoundToxins were quick to get the appropriate approvals so that volunteers could keep getting out into the field and continue the crucial work of these programs, even if at a reduced capacity. When it became clear that we would not be able to hold NOAA Science Camp in person, we explored new avenues for K–12 education. This included partnering with NOAA Live! to offer four webinars geared for grades 6–8, which highlighted some of the scientists we usually work with at camp. This fall, the River & Oceans Film Festival also went online for the first time.
All of us became a lot more comfortable holding and attending virtual meetings and events, and we also became practiced at the art of remaining flexible. While this time has been difficult, we are continuing to learn and progress—for example, over the past several months, we have grown by adding four staff members to our team, including two new assistant directors. We also added a new equity, access and community engagement lead position for an existing staff member.
These months will shape who we will become as individuals and as an organization for years to come. The truth is that we are incredibly lucky. We have continued to show up for each other, with empathy. We have continued to grow as an organization and in our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. And we have continued to do the work that we love, serving Washington’s marine and coastal environments and communities.
As we head into 2021—the 50th anniversary of Washington Sea Grant!—I’m looking forward to new beginnings with every expectation that our organization will continue to evolve. We have many plans for achieving our vision of healthy, productive and resilient coastal and marine ecosystems that sustain Washington’s rich cultural and maritime heritage, vibrant coastal communities, clean waters and beaches, prosperous fisheries and aquaculture, diverse wildlife and an engaged public.
Russell Callender, WSG Director