GSA Roadtrip

I attended a GSA conference in Denver recently!

A few friends and I took the opportunity to drive out and have an adventure on the way. We drove about 8-9 hours on the first day and camped in the Wasatch Mountain Range in Utah. Then drove about 10 hours the next day and made it to Denver.

A beautiful view of the Colorado River from the road.

On the way there, it was rainy. It was chilly. And suddenly the forecast for our campsite was thunder, lightening, and hail. We took our chances, and stopped as planned. Amazingly, it wasn’t raining and the ground wasn’t super wet. We hurried to get our tents up before the rain started again. Trevor and I got back in the car to find a nearby gas station and buy a lighter for our stove. As soon as we got about a mile from the campsite, we crossed back into the pouring rain. Thunder and lightening came soon after. And on our ride back to camp, we cranked the tunes high enough to cover the sound of thunder and drove into the night. The beating drums of our soundtrack went nicely with the lightening that illuminated the sky ahead. Closer to camp, hail pounded the ground as we passed a deer on the side of the road. Finally we parked the car in front of our tents, and found it had only just started to drizzle there. We were lucky that night, somehow the storm was diverted around our campsite. There was even a chance of snow in the morning, but we didn’t see any sign of it.

Driving through the Bonneville salt flats in the rain.

Denver was a great home for us that week. We found comfort in the many microbreweries nearby, the hiking spots less than 30 minutes from downtown, and I particularly enjoyed the street art. Trevor and Michael particularly enjoyed the coffee. Laura particularly enjoyed the views.

Street art in Denver, CO


Hiking in Golden, CO

I also got to reconnect with a friend from my adventures on a ship in Australia.

And on our way home, we stayed in Great Basin National Park. The aspens were all feeling autumn and changing color. It was gorgeous, and we just happened to be there during their annual astronomy festival. The sky was so dark and the stars were the brightest I’ve ever seen. We even got to have a campfire!

The next day, we stopped at the visitors center and I found a white crab spider of some sort. I love bugs, so I was super excited to find this alien-looking spider.

Anyway, we’re home now! I immediately got a cold when I returned home, so I wasn’t able to post right away. Hope you all enjoy the surviving photos and videos.

Creative Communications


I’ve been interning with the UC Davis Creative Communications team, and our first “product” together is a website about the UC Davis Grand Canyon trip. It’s being made public this week! I’ve had so much fun working on it because every time I open the videos to edit them, I feel like I’m back in the Grand Canyon, floating down the Colorado River, hiking, laughing, singing, learning…

Media Types

I’ve been really impressed by the various types of media that they’ve incorporated into the website in order to create an interactive experience for the webpage visitor. There is a main webpage, and then several subsequent “stops” that we made along our journey down the river, each with their own webpage. The website is set up so it feels like you’re on our adventure with us. Each stop’s webpage includes a high-quality photo or ‘ambient’ video on the top. The text on the page is written by our friend and public information officer at UC Davis, Kat Kerlin, and the videos and images were gathered by Joe Proudman, yours truly, and other students that were on the trip.

A photo of me doing a voice over for the trailer video!

Along with still photos and ambient videos, the webpage also uses an interactive graphic map of our stops as an easy site navigation. I love the map and the topographic lines (elevation lines on a map) that they used as the ending to the videos. There are a few gifs included, which are refreshing after watching some of our selfie videos. The coolest things they’ve included, in my humble opinion, are the 360 degree videos which shows you a little window into our experience. If you’re viewing it on the computer you can click and hold your cursor in the video frame to drag the viewpoint around. Dragging the video in different directions shows you different views as if you were standing in the Grand Canyon and looking around you. To the same effect, if you view the videos on your phone you can turn and point your phone in different directions to look around. We’ve effectively transported you into the Grand Canyon: how cool is that?? (If you’re confused about what a 360 video is and/or how to view it, just play with it when they’re public. You’ll get it in no time!) Most of the 360 videos have voice overs to tell you what you’re looking at, and I did one myself! It was a lot harder than I expected. Last but not least, there are podcasts that were recorded by Joe Proudman and Kat Kerlin with the class instructors that give a fresh and fun feel to the website.

GIF of the Grand Canyon is not of my own creation, full credit goes to the original artist. Attribution: Transamerica and

When the website “goes live” I’ll be sure to post a link! I can’t wait to share it with all of you (and the world!)

Bureaucracy: a love/hate relationship

Bureaucracy is a system that I love to hate, and alternatively hate to love. But despite this hot and cold relationship, I’ve started to understand the need for bureaucracy and its infinite frustrations… to a certain extent.

Issues with Bureaucracy

There is no shortage of ideas for a list of issues with bureaucratic systems! To name a few examples: it can be nearly impossible to complete a simple task because of the hoops you need to jump through to follow the proper process, many of the steps of which may be outdated or obsolete but have never been revised because the revision process is just as difficult, and by the time the process has been streamlined, it’s three years later and there’s an even more efficient way to get things done. Don’t even mention the fact that there seems to be many iterations of the same department, so that people who deal with one topic may be spread between 20 different offices. This is something that first struck me about the way that California manages their water supply. There are more than twenty state agencies involved in the processes involved in permitting, distributing, and monitoring water use. But how are we supposed to use water efficiently when so many different groups are involved? Is there an entity overseeing it all? And are the different groups communicating effectively with each other?

Frustration with bureaucracies is a well-spread sentiment, but apparently more of us are working for bureaucracies than ever before. Have we all sold out? I think to a certain extent, this is the draw of Trump as a presidential candidate. Its because he doesn’t have any regards for the obsolete processes set up by our bureaucratic system, he just cuts right through the nonsense, and some Americans appreciate that attitude.

One Bureaucracy to Rule Them All

California encompasses 163,696 mi² of land and is home to more than 38.8 million people. All of these people use water to drink and bathe, not considering the water they may use in their occupations whether they be craft beer brewers or almond growers. So why, then, do I think it would be more effective to assign one entity the entire responsibility that comes with ensuring that this massive amount of people can live and work using the water that they need? Is it practical to have the same group of people who issue water permits also deal with the incredible task of ensuring safe and efficient water distribution? Would it realistic for the same group to maintain the water infrastructure and to address the complicated world of water policy in state legislation? It really doesn’t make sense to condense all of the water-associated responsibilities into the duties of one entity.

We need specialized groups to address the different tasks. We also groups familiar with regional water issues. One group responsible for all of California water policy would be inefficient and probably just as bureaucratic if not more. Its not realistic.

To simplify the bureaucratic process, often the first thought that comes to mind is to put all of the responsibilities and activities under one name, one general process, one chain of command. If this isn’t the answer, what is?

Ocean Protection
CA Natural Resources Agency

Is Bureaucracy the Answer?

As it stands, the answer has been to develop a complicated web of public policies, regulations, executive orders, etc that target certain water-related groups and controls their processes and actions. While isn’t always the most efficient way to do things, this seems to be the only thing that we have found to work so far. The reasons this method works so well is because it goes through a legal (usually democratic) public process, is vetted by the many stakeholders, and targets the specific activity or process that must change. The reasons it doesn’t work is that many times the orders can be contradictory, written poorly and create unintended consequences, and be very hard to follow unless you have 30 years of experience in the given sector.

While I don’t believe there should be a complete disregard of due process (*ahem* Trump is not the answer), I do believe that there’s a lot of room for improvement! We need a public policy process that can be as dynamic as the population it serves.


In this world of almost instantaneous communication where you can FaceTime across the globe with a doctor to have a consultation or type your feelings into Google Translate and have the ability to tell someone you love them in every language… shouldn’t decision-making processes keep up with the times?


Let me know your thoughts or reactions in the comments below!



Ocean Protection

Week 1 of Ocean Protection

This week was my first week working at the Ocean Protection Council as a UC Davis Fellow. What a busy week! The most exciting part had to be Wednesday, when there was a public council meeting. When I wasn’t shadowing my new supervisor on numerous conference calls, check-ins, meetings, and lunches, I was trying to get myself oriented in the language that they use in state government and state agencies. It is a lot of acronyms, let me tell you!

OPC=Ocean Protection Council

The first acronym (and I promise, the only one you’ll need to know) I’ll teach you all is that OPC stands for the Ocean Protection Council. The Council formed after the California Ocean Protection Act was signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2004. Since then the Council has been improving the effectiveness of the state’s efforts to protect ocean resources, establishing policies to collect and share scientific data related to ocean and coastal environments, recommending changes in law to the state Legislature and recommending changes in federal law and policy via the Governor and Legislature. It’s a big job!

OPC Meeting
A pic of the capitol building from my first day on the job (I don’t work in there), and below it a pic from the OPC public meeting.

A Meeting to Remember

The OPC meeting, I’ll admit, was a little daunting. It was from 1-4 in the auditorium of the State Natural Resources Building, and in attendance was the Secretary of the Natural Resources Agency, the Secretary for Environmental Protection, a member of the Senate and Assembly, the OPC Executive Director, and two public council members, all making up the Council. During the meeting the Ocean Protection Council staff presented to the official council (people stated above) their recommendations to fund certain projects through Proposition 1: Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014. Each project was chosen from a competitive pool and had to pass criteria to ensure it achieve multi-benefit ecosystem, watershed,  and/or restoration goals. I was very impressed during the presentations with the detail and immense consideration that went into choosing the project recommendations. The hard work paid off, because when the Council voted on whether to fund the projects, each member voted “aye.”

A second meeting topic was an introduction of Professor Tessa Hill (my professor!) and her work in researching the abilities of sea grasses to capture carbon dioxide, the effects of ocean acidification on animals like oysters, and her collaboration with a local fishery to help her research along. It was an inspiring presentation by Tessa, that moved some council members to enthusiastically pledge their support of her work. A great dialog opened up about their interest in using her work to promote sea grass restoration and investigate its effects on cap and trade. Tessa, being the great science communicator she is, did her best to convey the research goals that she must reach in order to provide policy makers with sound science on which to base planning and investment decisions. There was a wonderful moment when the Secretary of the Natural Resources Agency explained that the agency’s deadlines to get supportive scientific information are much shorter than science generally allows. Tessa responded eloquently, saying something to the effect of, “I appreciate your conveying the urgency you feel in acting on these issues and I assure you that climate scientists like me feel the same urgency every day when we walk in to work. I am in no way trying to slow the movement of information.” It was just wonderful, and powerful.

If you’ve been keeping up with the climate change topic, what stories or factoids have struck home for you? Leave your answer in the comments below!

Break the Silence

Silence is a Virtue

I got a little carried away between writing my thesis, helping with wedding planning, moving into a new house, and getting a fellowship for the summer. Forgive me! I am breaking the silence now, and I come with good tidings.

New House
Our new place of residence!

Icy Summer at the Capitol

You know how the saying goes… With each summer comes a new adventure! I don’t know if that’s a real saying, but it certainly is appropriate for my life. I love finding to opportunities to apply myself. Its really helped my seemingly-never-ending quest for a fitting career path. As my mom always said, “If you try a lot of different things, you’ll quickly figure out the things you don’t like. That might lead you to figuring out what you do like!”

Ocean Protection

This summer I am an Emerging Leader in Policy and Public Service (ELIPPS) Fellow working with the California Ocean Protection Council (within a state agency). This summer I’ll be working closely with someone who just happens to be from the same town in Massachusetts. What are the odds! We’re working on understanding sea-level rise predictions and research to affect state planning and investments. Specifically, I will be dedicating much of my time to ice melt and polar research and associated implications for sea-level rise.  I’m ecstatic to be part of this forward-thinking work which has all been made possible by the governor’s ability to break the silence about climate change at the governmental level.

**Everything written on this blog is of personal opinion and understanding from Millie as an individual, and she writes to the best of her knowledge. Things stated on this blog are not necessarily reflective of positions held by any other entity (including the Ocean Protection Council and CA Natural Resources Agency).**

Stay Tuned

I’m going to keep blogging about this for the next few weeks… but then my domain name ( needs to be re-upped and I haven’t decided whether I should continue the blog or not. If there are any outstanding opinions, let them be known!

Until next time,


Roses in Capitol Park


Long Drives, White Water, and Bald Eagles

Sorry for the hiatus! My adventures recently have involved numerous long drives, white water, and bald eagles!

Long Drives

In case we haven’t spoken in a while, I spent much of March in the Grand Canyon. I count myself as one of the “lucky ones” for many reasons, and this is definitely on the list!

I ❤️ the Grand Canyon

We drove ~13 hours straight from Davis to Flagstaff. Up and early, we went to our launch point at Lee’s Ferry and I said “goodbye” to civilization for the next three weeks. About 20 students and 10 guides/class instructors launched at Lee’s Ferry and travelled to the halfway point, called Phantom Ranch.

Each day we would wake up to the sound of the “blaster,” the unruly flame thrower that we used to heat water, the kitchen crew for that day made the coffee and breakfast. We might spend about an hour or two eating breakfast packing our tents and belongings up and into the rafts. At about 9 AM each day, we’d depart from the beach we used as a campsite and set off on our day of rafting. We’d break for lunch around noon and maybe take a short hike or have a “barefoot” lecture (lectures were pretty informal and mostly felt like exploring and guided question-asking). Then back on the river for the afternoon, with some white water if we’re lucky, finding our next “home” for the night around 3 or 4 PM.


White Water

Rapids were SO FUN. The white water on the Colorado River has its own ranking system. Usually if you go white water rafting, the ranking system goes from 1-5, with 5/5 being a rapid that is too dangerous to run. In the Grand Canyon, the scale is 1-10. Lava Falls is a Class 9. It was AWESOME! None of the boats flipped (or got stuck in the “bus” hole). Leading up to it tensions were definitely high, but our guides were GODS and they kept us all out of harm’s way.

The white water was definitely one of the most memorable things about being on the river.

Image Attribution: Joe Proudman and Kat Kerlin @ UC Davis
Image Attribution: Joe Proudman and Kat Kerlin @ UC Davis

Bald Eagles

While on the river, I’ve continued pursuing my newfound passion for science communication by becoming an unofficial official camera woman. The media people who were with us on the first half left me with a few Go Pros to document the second half of the rafting trip.

Now that we’re home, I’ll be going through the (hours and hours) of footage with them and helping to create a video about our trip. Stay tuned for that in the coming months!

Since I’ve started to get familiar with the cameras, equipment, and video production, one of the communications officers for UC Davis has invited me to intern with them. My first day set the bar for the intern-experience pretty high; I was able to tag along to video tape a bald eagle flying for the first time in rehab at the California Raptor Center.

Bald Eagle in rehab @ California Raptor Center, UC Davis

The bald eagle did well, flying about a hundred yards at a time in a large open agricultural field. She’ll be brought out there a few weeks in a row to gain her strength back before being released back into the wild.

What have I missed in the world? Leave comments with topics that you’d like to learn about on this blog!

Scientist by Day, Wedding Planner by Night

How a Masters in Science = A Good Wedding Planner

My little sister’s getting married (yay!) and my science training has helped me become a pretty good wedding planner (if I do say so myself). Given, the wedding hasn’t happened yet so there’s still time for this to blow up in my face. But for now I’ll toot my own horn.

Wedding Planning Scientist
Video Chatting with Cats

1) Budgeting

Writing grants and applying for funding has equipped me with crazy organizational skills, especially when it comes to confusing budgets. Various vendors and/or friends helping with certain duties? Check. Tips included or not? Check. Luckily my excel spreadsheet skills are on par, and even the trickery introduced by Google spreadsheets is remedied by my logistically adept sister and co-planner, Tiffany!

2) Technical Difficulties

Since one sister is on the east coast while Tiff and I are on the west coast, we have video chats to talk about wedding plans. When something goes wrong, I’m a pro at talking them through technical difficulties because at school I’m a teaching assistant for an online class. We’re also great about using collaborative tech tools like Google drive!

3) Meeting Management

Every meeting I take notes about what we talk about, try to move us forward on our timeline, and assign tasks for each of us to focus on before the next meeting. After a meeting, I’ll recap and remind each person what they agreed to do for the next week. Before the next meeting I try to check in to see if everyone is moving along, and then at the next meeting we update each other about what’s gotten done. Wedding Planner 101

4) Digital Graphics

By day I use Adobe Illustrator to make scientific posters and figures. But by night I use it to make Save the Dates and wedding cake designs. It is awesome.

5) Appeasing the “higher ups”

Have you ever done certain things not because it matters to you, but because your boss, thesis advisor, or landlord wants you to? Well I have, and that’s exactly the kind of skill you need for wedding planning when you have to appease your moms, grandmothers, and everyone in between while still trying to maintain that the bride has veto power! #1 rule is Bride=Obama.

Have you ever found that your science skills really come in handy in another aspect of your life? Share your experience in the comments below!

Big Things in Texas

International Ocean Discovery Program: Texas

Hi everyone! I know I’ve been slacking lately on posting new blogs, but it isn’t because I’m lazy. Its because I’m in Texas taking samples from the IODP cruise I did this summer. And let me tell you, everything they say about big portion sizes, trucks, and Texas in general is true.

Samples Samples Samples

For the past week I’ve been sampling the cores we drilled this summer off the coast of Western Australia. I requested about 200 u-channels, which are long rectangular prisms; aka its a long tube where, if you look at it head-on it has a 2 cm x 2 cm square face, and lengthwise it’s 1.5 meters long.

Texas Sampling Process
Sampling Process: prepare supplies and workbench, cut u-channel to size, label, push u-channel into sediment using whatever means necessary, cut sediment and u-channel free from the rest of the core, take the u-channel out with the sediment inside, replace it with foam.

U-channeling can be very labor intensive. Luckily for me, my samples were pretty easy to work with, so I was finished in four days (that is very quick considering that they usually tell people it will take them one whole day to take 20 u-channels maximum). Not fast enough, since my hands that have blisters all over them and resemble old catcher’s mitts because they’re so dry. Also not fast enough to avoid associated injuries, such as those my “helper” incurred on Saturday. He struck his left hand with the hammer three times in the same spot before giving up and letting me resume my post. Only then did he mention his wife’s favorite holiday catchphrase, “It isn’t Christmas until we go to the emergency room!”

Edits Edits Edits

Today was the first day of the Editorial Meeting. During the editorial meeting, some of the scientists go through all of the reports that we wrote on the ship. Each lab group will have one or more people to represent the whole, but everyone in the group is supposed to read through the material and email their comments to us. (As you can imagine, this isn’t usually how it goes in reality.)

There are a few rounds of edits. First the lab group edits all of their own reports. Then someone outside the lab group edits it. Then in the last round, either the co-chiefs or staff scientist will read through it and make sure its fit to print. When all is said and done the reports are compiled into the Proceedings Volume, that is then published online for public reference. Because it is basically a data report, the Proceedings Volume doesn’t go through a rigorous peer-review process like a journal article would.

Meanwhile, in Texas…

Texas Edition Truck
Texas Edition Truck

Questions? Comments? Leave them in the comments below!