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Spiral Background



Spiral Background
From Iowa to Jellyfish (and how Oregon helped get me there) with Connor Willeford

From Iowa to Jellyfish (and how Oregon helped get me there) with Connor Willeford

Connor Willeford is a Jellies and Live Food Aquarist II at Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium in Springfield, Missouri. He received his AAS in Aquarium Science from Oregon Coast Community College (2021) and has been involved in the aquarium industry in an educational and professional capacity for almost 8 years now. As jellies and live food aquarists, he and his team are in charge of maintaining a wide diversity of jelly species and jelly cultures for display across multiple exhibits, including one of the biggest jelly exhibits in North America. They are also tasked with the culturing of multiple different live foods both for the jellies and other sections at their facility. Iowa is probably far from the first choice people would have as a place for getting introduced to marine sciences, but that is where Connor Willeford got his early start at Central Campus in Des Moines, Iowa while a part of their marine science high school program. From there this career path would take him to the Florida Keys, San Francisco, Connecticut, back to the Midwest with Missouri and (by far most importantly) the Oregon Coast where he would develop his skills and learn from some of the best and most knowledgeable people in the industry. In this talk, Connor will give a rundown of his career so far, giving perspective on the unique paths people can take to get involved and progress in the public aquarium industry while also highlighting all of the help and connections that lead back to his time spent on the Oregon Coast.
Marine Life in Photos with Emily B

Marine Life in Photos with Emily B

Introducing our first Young WaveMaker Seminar of 2024: Check out Emily’s Marine Life Photos on Facebook and Instagram! Emily Bjornsgard (she/her) is the Lead Aquarist at the MaST Center Aquarium in Des Moines, Washington. She is a graduate of Western Washington University (BS Biology, Marine Emphasis, 2020) and of Oregon Coast Community College (Aquarium Science Certificate, 2021). During her time in Oregon, she also worked in the Hatfield Marine Science Center Visitor Center and volunteered at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. As MaST’s Lead Aquarist, Emily is responsible for the aquarium’s live animal exhibits, including the health of the animals and the functionality of the aquarium’s life support, which displays approximately 250 Salish Sea species. The marine ecosystem of the Pacific Northwest is home to thousands of amazing species, from sponges to seals! However, unless you are a frequent visitor to the intertidal zone or a diver, there are very limited options to see and interact with these animals directly. Aquarium staff throughout the Pacific Northwest work diligently to care for these incredible creatures, so that everyone can take a glimpse into their world. While speaker Emily Bjornsgard was studying at the Oregon Coast Community College in the Aquarium Science Program, she spent most of her free time on the beaches photographing the coastal marine environment. She now blends this experience with the Aquarium Science exhibit design training to create and care for intriguing displays as the Lead Aquarist of the MaST Center Aquarium, Highline College’s marine lab and aquarium in Des Moines, Washington. In this talk, she will discuss design concepts that contribute to impactful aquarium exhibits, and also some photography tips that you can take with you on your next aquarium or beach trip!
Swimming in Policy: Charting the Changes in Stock Definitions with Rachel Hilt

Swimming in Policy: Charting the Changes in Stock Definitions with Rachel Hilt

The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) of 1972 defines stocks of marine mammals as groups of animals of the same species or similar taxa within a common spatial arrangement that interbreed when mature. Rachel’s Masters Project examines how the definition of marine mammal stocks has changed over time in the U.S. to better inform other countries as they develop a program of stock assessments. To illustrate these changes, and the divergent approaches taken by federal agencies, two detailed case studies are presented: Alaska harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) and the Florida manatee (T. m. latirostris). The diversity of viewpoints that exists among agency scientists regarding how stocks should be defined under the MMPA will also be highlighted, followed by recommendations for other countries as to how they can create or improve their marine mammal stock assessment process to meet the standards set by the United States. Rachel Hilt is a 2023 graduate from the Master of Environmental Management (MEM) program at Duke in the Coastal Environmental Management concentration. Originally from St. Louis, Missouri Rachel developed a passion for marine life early on despite living in a landlocked state. She received a bachelor’s degree in Marine Affairs from the University of Miami, FL and has undertaken research on a variety of marine megafauna including sea turtles, humpback whales, and bottlenose dolphins. During her field work Rachel refined her interests in protected species management and critical habitats with a focus on marine mammals that brought her to the Duke University Marine Lab to work under the supervision of Dr. Andrew Read.




Spiral Background



interconnected intertidal stewardship 


We represent the  Land and Sea Connection,.the Sky and Land connection. the interconnection between all life, partners in everything forever relying on one another. 

we need each other

this rich mosaic of intertwined lives can begin to fray at the edges without stewardship and education. 


Intertidal, interdependent, entwined, 




earth, land

larder,  and water, 

earth and sun

for generations to come

to not only think about downstream, 

but literally, visit for generations.   

generations to come


this collaborative is designed to be locally driven outreach to

our surrounding communities, both human and nonhuman

to celebrate the special healing nature of nurture.

 a seed ground amongst the roosts of giants, 

safe to learn and grow and shine out loud.


this is home. a gift to

everyone that touches home


it’s hard to make lines and delineations in space and time but this is a special space 

a sacred space for 10000 years at least. 

The middens, people and science and 

 oral tradition tells us things that erosion cannot break.


 a secret space no longer,  it is time for our story to be found,


bounded by imagination, 

From the mouth of the Siuslaw to the mouth of the Yaquina. 


estuaries, watersheds, continental divide,

community divide,

human divide.

and everything in between

echoes to bring people together 



Bounded by the horizon limit of state waters, factions, governments 

bounded by cold water  a hundred fathoms deep 

to the half-mile-high ridges in the Coast Range, Mary’s Peak, 

other peaks unnamed, or with their own names


It does not need to be named, 

 nearshore ecoregion  intertidal diatribe everything within earshot 

 or echo just one facet of the gem 


We can all  see the forest for these trees


The simple image of wow



our mission is to become a hub, an axle for a wheel surrounding this space, but extending out into infinity bright point of light in the sky, a crab boat on the horizon  like a star, inspiring stargazers and others to learn about what makes this center of this spiral perfect


our goal is to use the beauty and special nature of this land as a catalyst to extend our geographic range to teach not only people but generations

To celebrate the stewardship of land to educate and inspire long term thought, and long term growth . 

 cultural growth,







the marine reserves,  space to grow . growing into ancestral populations

we have a gem with many facets

founded by river sea mountain in the sky lichens and moss and mushroom frost anemones urchins and tides 

We have a dedication and responsibility to navigate the future of this land.  

Viewed from the crest of perpetua or the bottom of thors well 

It’s a Venn diagram of overlapping circles, human stories, flora, and fauna , space, and time


land meets Sea, Earth meets sky

that crisp line where the ocean meets the sand,  the richness and abundance that has let us thrive there


as it is, Earth orbits just the right distance from the sun to keep us all alive as well.  

just like our lives and tribes orbit each other 

One false step to the left or the right….   


reflection like walking out to the tide pools at night and watching the sky and moon go by.

casting a gentle , thoughtful light.


our goal is to be wise.


It would be wise to tread softly in this intertidal space. 

And therefore, we will go gently and hold this sacred space collaborate, teach grow and learn ourselves 

let perpetua be the peal of a ringing bell for the whole world to hear

and therefore we promise to protect it in perpetuity. 

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