Class of 2014 / Fellowships

State Fellow: ‘I’ve found my mountain’

California Sea Grant provides unique educational opportunities for graduate students in the form of 12-month paid fellowships. Nicole Bobco is currently completing her fellowship at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The following is a guest post from Nicole.

“You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so… get on your way!”- Dr. Seuss.

Through my fellowship, I’ve found my mountain and it’s called Sacramento (even though ironically I’m in the northern region of the Central Valley).

When I first moved here to start my fellowship with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Aquaculture Program, I had no idea what awaited me. The first week was a flurry of meetings, new faces, and new subject matter for a biological oceanographer in an aquaculture world. I had to become versed in the kinds of aquaculture conducted in California, the aquaculture initiatives in place, and related legal documents like EIR’s (Environmental Impact Reports) along with the associated legal language and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requirements.

While it has been a bit of a steep learning curve, I’ve embraced the challenge and have already gained an immense amount of knowledge regarding aquaculture, regulations, and the permitting process. While part of that was “behind-the-desk” type learning, the real life learning was a result of attending shellfish grower’s conferences and visiting shellfish and fish farms. As someone who’s never seen “aquaculture” in action before, it was very exciting!

Top: Large sturgeon fish at Sterling Caviar farm facility. Sacramento is the caviar capitol of the world! Bottom Left Tomales Bay Oyster Co. mudflat:, white “sticks” are where the oyster bags are attached. Bottom Middle: Manila Clams and Pacific Oysters. Bottom Right: Hog Island Oyster sign for their Hog Shack. Courtesy Photos

Top: Large sturgeon fish at Sterling Caviar farm facility. Sacramento is the caviar capitol of the world!
Bottom Left Tomales Bay Oyster Co. mudflat:, white “sticks” are where the oyster bags are attached. Bottom Middle: Manila Clams and Pacific Oysters. Bottom Right: Hog Island Oyster sign for their Hog Shack. Courtesy Photos

Related Opportunities
CA Sea Grant fellows have the opportunity to work with and contribute to the Thank You Ocean Campaign. Their mission is to increase ocean awareness by promoting everyday actions that protect the ocean via their website, social media and outreach events. So far I’ve helped update website content, posted content to their Twitter and Facebook pages, and helped their outreach efforts.

My hands down favorite experience was working the Thank You Ocean table at the State Fair Beach Buddy Adventures exhibit. For a couple weekends, I was a “spokes-mermaid” for the booth and loved teaching kids about ocean friendly everyday actions they could implement. (It did help that I was allowed to make and wear a costume to purposefully resemble a certain iconic red headed mermaid!) Teaching and outreach are passions of mine, so I’m extremely pleased to have found a way to incorporate those into my fellowship.

Nicole at the State Fair Beach Buddy Adventure Exhibit Thank You Ocean and My Coast booth. Courtesy Photos

Nicole at the State Fair Beach Buddy Adventure Exhibit Thank You Ocean and My Coast booth. Courtesy Photos

Outdoor Activities
Even though I’ve otherwise lived my entire life within one mile of the ocean (confirmed via Google Earth), I’ve embraced what the state capitol has to offer. Did you know that Sacramento is a GREAT place to do all kinds of fitness activities? As an athlete, I’m always looking for new races and sports to try…especially triathlons that didn’t involve swimming in the ocean. So what was the first thing I did? Signed up for a local sprint triathlon series of course! Not only am I now officially a triathlete, but I also placed third in my age group after my second race! Furthermore, I’ve been taking full advantage of the awesome REI Outdoor School up here. I’ve taken classes for stand up paddle boarding (SUP) and SUP yoga, both of which I have really grown to love!

Left: Stand Up Paddleboarding. Right: On the podium for placing 3rd in my sprint triathlon age group! Courtesy Photos

Left: Stand Up Paddleboarding. Right: On the podium for placing 3rd in my sprint triathlon age group! Courtesy Photos

My CDFW supervisor has encouraged me to take advantage of all the opportunities that this fellowship has to offer, so that I get the most out of my time here both at our agency and in Sacramento. I am truly grateful for his support because as a whole, I’ve been given the chance to meet all kinds of people, to travel to new places and to expand my life experiences. I’m a mermaid who’s found her mountain and I know that I’ll encounter even more wonderful things on the way to its peak.

To learn more about Nicole and the other CA Sea Grant fellows, check out the Class of 2014 Fellows announcement.

Written by Nicole Bobco