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Oregon Sea Grant has new director

Posted on April 27, 2022

Oregon State University has selected an alumna and the head of San Francisco State University’s marine science center to lead Oregon Sea Grant, a program that supports marine research, education and outreach.

Karina Nielsen, who earned a doctorate in zoology from OSU in 1998, will start on June 1 and oversee a staff of about 40. She replaces Shelby Walker, who took a position with the National Science Foundation in September.

Nielsen is a biology professor at SF State and executive director of its Estuary and Ocean Science Center, an organization devoted to enhancing public engagement with marine science and developing solutions to environmental problems confronting coastal communities.

“Karina is an experienced leader with a strong background in research, policy and outreach and deep knowledge of the issues Oregon is facing,” Irem Tumer, OSU’s vice president of research and Nielsen’s new supervisor, said.

Nielsen’s research has focused on the ecology of coastal systems, including rocky shores, estuaries and sandy beaches. It has been funded by the NSF, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, California Sea Grant, California’s Ocean Protection Council (OPC) and the California State Coastal Conservancy. Journals that have published her work include Nature, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and Ecology Letters.

She has been a science adviser to California’s OPC since 2008 but will step down at the end of May. She has been a member of the governing council of the Central and Northern California Ocean Observing System since 2010. In 2017, she was named a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, a group of more than 400 scientists who have made notable contributions in natural science fields.

At SF State, she helped develop a master’s program in interdisciplinary marine and estuarine sciences with funding from the NSF. Prior to joining the university in 2014, she was a biology professor at Sonoma State University for 11 years.

As director of Oregon Sea Grant, which has been at OSU since 1971, Nielsen is looking forward to hearing from people who live and work on the coast and learning about issues that concern them.

“I am interested in the issues confronting natural resource managers, fishermen, Indigenous tribes, conservationists and others, and collaborating to develop and support evidence-based solutions that are equitable, practical and sustainable,” she said. “The Oregon coast is blessed with bountiful natural resources and extraordinary beauty, and we want to sustain these for future generations.”

Additionally, she wants to focus on helping communities adapt to new realities, including climate change and related phenomena such as ocean acidification, low oxygen in the ocean and a shifting distribution of species. She also aims to help people address the opportunities and challenges associated with the growth of renewable marine energy.

Nielsen plans to evenly split her time between OSU’s campus in Corvallis and Newport’s Hatfield Marine Science Center, where Oregon Sea Grant runs a K-12 marine education program as well as a public education facility, known as the Visitor Center.


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