Oysters, Livelihoods, and Anthropology

A research blog by Adriane Michaelis

The end is near…

While there are few silver linings to the current global situation, COVID-19 has forced my dissertation defense to take place completely remotely –  that means that, if you’re interested, you can watch (and take part in) my defense live and online on Wednesday, April 8th at 11:45 am EST.

You can log on using this link.

Webcast details and how-to:

The defense will be webcast via Webex and involves a few steps. You’ll need to:

  1. Click the link above
  2. Sign in with your name and email
  3. Add the Webex extension to Chrome and follow prompts OR run a temporary application and follow the prompts after opening that file. This process takes less than 5 minutes.
  4. You’ll then be able to select “join event” at 11:40 am or later on April 8th. Your microphone will be automatically muted and you will not be able to share video. Only my committee and I will be sharing video.
  5. If you try to join too early, you won’t have access. My committee will have a closed session until 11:40 am.

Unfortunately, on the day of the defense, I won’t have the ability to do much troubleshooting. I’ll need to ensure that my committee can hear and see me – otherwise I don’t graduate. If Webex is a new platform for you, you can test it out here.

What exactly is a dissertation defense?

The aim is for this defense to occur as much as possible as an in-person defense would. That entails a “public defense” to begin at 11:45 EST. I’ll give a ~25 minute presentation that summarizes my dissertation research. I can’t cover every detail in 25 minutes, but will do my best. After my presentation, the “public” (you!) will have the opportunity to ask questions via the chat function. After the public question period, the defense will be “closed” to only my dissertation committee and members of UMD’s Department of Anthropology. My committee will then ask me even more questions, and ultimately decide if I have earned a PhD.

Lucy can’t wait until this defense! Admittedly, this is probably pretty close to the view I’ll have during it.

This defense marks the end of my degree, but not the end of work related to this project. I’ll continue to write up individual papers and post summaries online, in addition to the eventual storymap created using the wonderful photos shared throughout this project. Of course, if you have any questions, please reach out!

The last step of data collection, and I need your help!

Survey Teaser

Calling all shellfish harvesters, farmers, and others whose work supports US shellfisheries! I’ve used the data that over 200 shellfish folk in 7 states helped create to make a final survey that will be the cherry on top of my PhD research. I’d love your input to better understand the benefits people get from working with shellfish.


After spending over a year on the road working with and interviewing shellfish farmers, wild harvesters, and others connected to US shellfisheries in 7 states, I’m ready with the last participant activity of my dissertation research. Using the data that over 200 participants helped to create, I have a final survey to administer in order to better understand the benefits that people get through work with shellfish.

The survey will help understand the relative importance of each benefit, as well as how perception of benefits may vary by certain factors, such as region, type of fishery, etc. Results can be used to better understand some of the ways that shellfisheries (both wild and aquaculture) positively affect individuals and communities.

Survey participation is voluntary and anonymous. The survey will take between 25 and 45 minutes to complete. At the end of the survey, participants will have the option to include their contact information to be randomly selected for one of multiple $50 Amazon gift cards. Contact information will not be linked to survey responses for data analysis.

If you or someone you know might be interested in participating in this survey, please contact me at: amichael@umd.edu.

Clams, Community, and the Cape: the Wellfleet Shellfishermen’s Association (4 of 4).

And now for the final piece of this four-part installment, which was actually the initial motivation for this Cape-themed series. Prior to my arrival in Massachusetts, I’d been in touch with the President of the Wellfleet Shellfishermen’s Association, in order to get a better idea of the industry and the community in Wellfleet. I cannot thank her enough for her overall kindness as well as her openness when it came to discussing what the group was working toward.  Nor can I thank the entire group adequately for letting me slide into their meetings, events, farms, and boats throughout my two months on the Cape.

Peggy on grant

The town of Wellfleet has a long history of shellfishing, including both wild fisheries and the farming of oysters and clams. Here, WSA member Peggy Jennings is seen on her shellfish grant. Photo by: Nora Clark.

First, a bit about the group. The Wellfleet Shellfishermen’s Association (WSA) organized earlier this year, in large part as a response to a statewide shellfish initiative. I won’t use this blog to debate the merits of the initiative, but you can find out more about the initiative as well as the WSA by following the links below this post (and embedded in this sentence). You can also follow the WSA on Facebook to get info about WSA happenings as well as stories about Cape history and fisheries in general.

In short, many Wellfleetians saw certain aspects of the initiative and the nature of its development as a threat to the current approach to shellfisheries management in Wellfleet — you’ll recall from an earlier post in this series, that in Massachusetts, shellfisheries are managed at the municipal or town level. For those who formed the WSA, the initiative and several associated proposed policy changes were tantamount to threatening local heritage, culture, and livelihoods. This is echoed in their mission:

Our mission is to protect the character and tradition of Wellfleet’s Historic Shellfish Industry by supporting the long term viability of our wild harvesters and independent aquaculture farmers. We were founded in February 2019 to serve as a fisheries advocacy association, working with our local, state, and federal agencies in order to insure the implementation of policies that best serve our members and our community. We are committed to keeping the shellfishermen of Wellfleet independent.”

-Wellfleet Shellfishermen’s Association

The WSA is comprised of shellfishermen and others who support them. (Note: shellfisherman is a term used to identify both men AND women involved in shellfisheries.) It is a consistently growing group with most of its members from Wellfleet, but also includes members from throughout the Cape with similar interests. As the organization developed, it became clear that towns beyond Wellfleet shared shellfisheries concerns and the need arose for a regional group. To unite the towns across the Outer Cape, the WSA helped create the Outer Cape Shellfishermen’s Collaborative, which includes members from Provincetown to Chatham.

WSA Logo

The Wellfleet Shellfishermen’s Assocation logo illustrates the group’s emphasis not only on active shellfisheries but also their linked heritage. Image from: wellfleetshellfishermen.org

During my second week on the Cape, I had the opportunity to sit in on a WSA meeting and introduce myself and my research. Whether or not they realized it, what struck me most about the meeting was how candid everyone was, even with an “outsider” and, maybe even worse, an “academic” in the room. I use those terms in quotes because, in some situations, such designations can really impact the ability to connect and build trust. Even at that very first meeting, my presence didn’t seem to affect the overall flow and feeling of the meeting. No one appeared to be treading lightly or censoring themselves because I was in the room. When I say this, I don’t mean that people were speaking crassly or anything like that, but that everyone spoke frankly about the pressing challenges. I learned over my time there that this really is the Wellfleet way – brutal honesty (and I say that with an appreciative smile, just in case that’s not translated through in text). And in this honesty, there was also warmth, concern, and passion for the issues at hand.

WSA Parade Float

The rear of this year’s WSA 4th of July parade float highlights the spirit of the group – showcasing Wellfleet’s shellfishing history and the people who are part of it. Photo by: Katherine Davis.

During my stay on the Cape, I had the opportunity to meet with many WSA members and see firsthand how community pride pervaded their day-to-day. I also had the chance to present my research and talk about how some of what was going on with the initiative compared to situations in other states that I’ve worked in. I helped (okay, more observed than helped) with float-making for the 4th of July parade. I interviewed and worked with a number of WSA members on their boats and farms. Throughout all of these meetings, events, activities, and conversations I saw spirited voices regularly replaced with friendly hugs and handshakes. I saw teamwork and the recognition of a common goal, supported by a collaborative effort in a community typically known for its sense of independence.

WSA Tentacles

Also during the 4th of July parade, WSA members used the opportunity to promote awareness of ongoing industry issues in creative ways. (Photo by: Katherine Davis)

Wellfleet is a unique community, even among its neighbors along Cape Cod. Its residents, including those who make up the WSA, recognize this special character and take pride in it, continuing efforts to sustain it. I’m grateful to have had the chance to be a part of that community, even if for a short time in my student/anthropologist role.


Related Links:

Clams, Community, and the Cape: Shellfish Management (3 of 4).

Shellfisheries, in particular, vary from town to town along the Cape. Massachusetts currently operates its shellfisheries using a “home rule” form of management, where municipalities (towns) oversee their own shellfisheries, while still working within the bounds of overall state regulations. This means that towns usually have a board (if they decide to) that makes regulations and rules related to how shellfisheries operate. Such Shellfish Advisory Boards can choose to have wild shellfisheries – for oysters, multiple species of clams, and scallops – and they can choose to allow aquaculture. They can even choose to have no shellfisheries, wild or aquaculture. They can also opt to employ a “Shellfish Constable,” more casually called a “Clam Cop”. Depending on the town, constables occupy a role that blends management, enforcement, and shellfish restoration/propagation.

Bayview Oysters.

For me, it was interesting to see the different ways people were working with shellfish in each town and different local regulations. Here’s a shot taken at Bayview Oysters in Dennis, MA. Photo by: Tim Phelan.

Based on my own multi-state travels, such an approach to management is unique. It is increasingly unusual to find local-level shellfish management, although local (town or county) level shellfish restoration projects aren’t uncommon. Along the Cape, local level management has led to individual towns known for their shellfish. Wellfleet is one such town, with both a history and active present of wild shellfisheries and long-standing shellfish grants for private aquaculture.

Wellfleet grant.

On some grants, like the one seen here in Wellfleet, shellfishermen are growing both oysters and clams. Here baby clams are being planted on bottom. Photo by: Adriane Michaelis.

Grants are simply another word for an aquaculture lease. For towns on the Cape that allow private acquisition of grants, the process to obtain a grant varies. Some towns allow the transfer of grants – typically without formal purchase of the grant, but often purchase of gear and shellfish. Transfers, even though arranged between individuals, must still be approved by the town. Most towns require that a grantholder be a resident; I don’t know of any that don’t, but don’t want to speak for every town in Massachusetts. Some towns require that a grant be returned to the town when an individual no longer wants to work it, and grant holders are selected from a waiting list. Some of the folks I talked with had been on a waiting list for over a decade before acquiring their grant. Some towns allow parents to pass along the grant to their children. Some don’t. Some towns have shellfish propagation programs, where they cultivate and plant oysters and clams for public fisheries – both commercial and recreational. All of this description is just to say that there’s a lot of variation from town to town in how both wild and aquaculture shellfisheries are managed.

Just as variable as shellfish management and regulations may be from town to town, there are also differing approaches to shellfish aquaculture on grants. In many of the bay or sound side areas (between mainland Massachusetts and the Cape), grants are worked with the tides. Shellfishermen and farmers go out around low tide to work their oysters and clams. Depending on the site, this could mean walking, driving, or boating to get to the farm. On the ocean side (including the sounds between the Cape and outer islands), there are more sites that are submerged and do not experience a full washout tide. With these site differences, come different types of gear designed and selected to best fit each site. While working along the Cape I saw rack and bag, bottom cages, floating cages (these were more rare due to town regulations), and oysters planted directly on bottom to be bull-raked up later. There’s not as much variation in clam operations, because they have different grow-out requirements from oysters (a topic to be covered in a later post).

Davenport Oyster

As one example of how oysters are grown along the Cape, seen here is Davenport Oyster Company in Dennis. A rack-and-bag system is used and they drive out at low tide to work their oysters . You can see in the background, beachgoers who also drive out at low tide. Photo by: Adriane Michaelis

As a visiting guest and shellfish fan, it was very exciting to me to see the different ways folks are growing and working shellfish all along the Cape and to experience the joy and challenge of working with the tides.


Additional Links:

  • For an article about some of the Cape’s female Shellfish Constables see: https://ediblecapecod.ediblecommunities.com/things-do/cape-cods-female-shellfish-constables.
  • As one example of a town shellfish propagation program see a project in Falmouth here: http://www.falmouthmass.us/DocumentCenter/View/1124/Project-Brochure-PDF

Clams, Community, and the Cape: the Role of Community (2 of 4).

Anthropologists are no strangers to discussions of community and the myriad of ways “community” can be interpreted. A community of scholars. A geographically bounded community. A religious community. Or perhaps a community of fishermen. There are infinite ways one can identify as part of a certain community.

1024x292 Community Clipart Community Support

Communities can be delineated and defined in an infinite number of ways, but ultimately represent shared identities and associations among a group of people. (Not getting into ecological communities here.) Image from: www.clipart.mag

Part of the reason that I have spent the last year traveling the Atlantic and Gulf coasts instead of making phone calls or emails to interview fishermen, shellfish farmers, and others connected to shellfisheries, is to not only get a firsthand feel for the work and the industry, but also to experience the communities. I want to know how different community characteristics may contribute to the benefits people get from their work. I gather some of this information from conversations with project participants, but a large part comes from living in each area, even if it’s only for a short time. Being in each locale for several months will hopefully help to better understand potential patterns in my data, now that the time has come for analysis and discussion. Maybe patterns will be regional, or statewide, but they could also be specific to a smaller level of community, like township.

The ideas of community, sense of place, and passion for one’s hometown were especially strong while I was working on the Cape earlier this summer. I spent two months on Cape Cod, staying in North Truro, with Wellfleet as my “focal site”, and traveling the length of the Cape for interviews and work on the water. As a first time visitor to the area, I quickly picked up on nuances that distinguished each town’s character.

Cape Cod includes 15 towns that comprise Barnstable County. As this map shows, the county was incorporated in 1685, with towns incorporated throughout the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Image source: Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10532646.

I was about two weeks in when I thought I figured out the distinctions between Lower and Upper Cape. Then I learned about Inner and Outer Cape and had to re-evaluate. Those designations – upper, lower, inner, and outer – form one community distinction on the Cape. The type of development and appearance of towns also varies between the two ends of the Cape. For example, you can go to the mall in Barnstable – and if you happen to skunk your cell phone due to leaky waders, that’s where both Cape AT&T stores are  –  but you won’t so much as see a chain store in Wellfleet (excluding the one Dunkin Donuts and a few gas stations).  Fishing remains an important livelihood as well as leisure activity throughout the Cape, though its prominence varies a bit from town to town.

Each town along the Cape has its own persona. I was able to catch a few weeks in the area before the “summer people” arrived, so I got to see a little bit of the local side of life. It’s interesting that within so small of a geographic area, such diverse town personalities can arise – in the sense that each town has its own special character and flair. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that these towns were mostly settled by Europeans in the 1600s and have had plenty of time to evolve and form unique identities. Or possibly somehow the remoteness of their location all the way out on the Cape, in the past and maybe a little bit today, contributed to such local variation. A strange sort of island biogeography for towns.  (Ecologists don’t push too hard on this — it’s not a perfect analogy.)

I’ll use Wellfleet as an example, because that’s where I spent most of my time and is one of the towns that was most differentiated from others by residents all along the Cape. I heard, on more than one occasion, that Wellfleet (in terms of its fisherfolk) was like the Wild West. If I mentioned that I attended a Shellfish Advisory Board meeting, or any meeting, really, I got a knowing wide-eye, head nod, and smile. I’ll admit, the meetings were a bit more enthusiastic than the ones I’ve grown accustomed to in Maryland. But enthusiasm = passion. Passion for the community? I think so. Wellfleet’s shellfisheries are a critical piece of the community, and in several regards make it a standout along the Cape, Massachusetts, and maybe even the US.

Wellfleet oyster farm

Wellfleet is one community known for its shellfish. It’s common to see images of expansive shellfish farms with oyster-growing gear arranged in rows, exposed only at low tide. Here’s just such a photo of Wash-Ashore Oyster Ranch taken during my time on the Cape. Photo by: Adriane Michaelis.

I’ll expand more on shellfish management in the next post. Considering community, however, the point I’d like to emphasize is the diversity and pride in town character all along the Cape. If you’ve never been to the Cape, or if you have, but not the full length of it, I’d encourage you to check out all of the towns – from Bourne to Provincetown, and everything in between.


One more note: 

  • For a lighthearted discussion (that unfortunately doesn’t mention shellfish) of each Cape town’s personality see: https://www.capecodchamber.org/cape-cod-town-guides-upper-cape-mid-cape-lower-cape-and-outer-cape-cod-town-information.

Clams, Community, and the Cape: A Multi-Part Series (1 of 4)

This post is another one that started out as a single post and quickly evolved into multiple. I set out with the goal of sharing my experience on the Cape and how great it was to be welcomed by the Wellfleet Shellfishermen’s Association. But to do that, there was so much information to tell about the towns on Cape Cod (Wellfleet and others) as well as how their shellfisheries are uniquely managed. I won’t be able to capture it all in my <900 word blog posts. There is a lot to describing the shellfisheries of Cape Cod, and the communities involved.

Shark sign.

Sharks have received a lot of publicity around the Cape this summer, but they weren’t the focus of my time there. Photo by: Adriane Michaelis.

In the posts that follow, I’ll touch on a few themes (not necessarily in the order that the title suggests – I was going for cleaner alliteration there). First, I’ll discuss the idea of community and how strong the sense of community is along much of the Cape. There are community bounds at multiple levels. As one example, considering Wellfleet, one sees multiple communities within the same space: Cape Cod > the Outer Cape > the town of Wellfleet > Wellfleet Shellfishermen. Such an understanding has implications for my research, as well as the general character of the Cape.



Cape Cod Map with towns

Cape Cod is comprised of 15 towns with the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket on its southern side. Not shown here, but Bourne/Sandwich represent the end of the Cape that branches off of mainland Massachusetts. Image from: http://www.capeguide.com/beaches.htm.

I’ll also talk about clams. And oysters. Bivalve shellfish in general. Shellfish management on the Cape occurs in a way that differs from all of the other states that I had the chance to visit and work in on my “tour”. Operating at the municipal level, each town regulates its own shellfisheries, still bounded by state regulations but deciding things at the township level. This creates shellfisheries operating quite differently from one another, even between neighboring towns.

Finally, I’d like to extend thanks for the warm welcome from the Wellfleet Shellfishermen’s Association (WSA). I’ve talked on here before about the importance of establishing rapport and efforts to identify possible project participants…and how painful it can be to cold-call for interviews. This group certainly helped overcome some of those obstacles. It’s tough being the new kid in town every two months, so the ability to join a local fishermen’s group was extremely helpful. Also, bringing it back to this discussion of community, the WSA is a group that formed with the aim of protecting and preserving their community, particularly as it relates to their shellfisheries. Not only did I have the opportunity to meet some truly wonderful people in the WSA, but I also was able to gain a better perspective and understanding of the industry issues they are facing.

While on the Cape, I had the chance to meet and work with members of the Wellfleet Shellfishermen’s Association: https://wellfleetshellfishermen.org/.

The next three posts will attempt to introduce these topics and hopefully provide a window to shellfisheries on Cape Cod. As always, I welcome any feedback and comments.

Stay tuned for follow-up posts every Friday through September.

How Florida’s net ban shaped its shellfish aquaculture industry

In each community that I work in, I talk with folks about why they decided to start growing shellfish. There are some similarities, but usually everyone has their own story and I have not seen community-wide patterns, let alone state-wide. In Florida, however, when I talked with shellfish growers who used to be commercial fishermen in public or wild fisheries, nearly across the board they had the same answer to “Why did you decide to getting involved in shellfish aquaculture?” The net ban.

Florida’s “net ban” is an amendment that was passed in November 1994 – by a sizeable 72% margin. The amendment banned the use of entanglement nets (also called gill nets) in inshore waters and took effect in 1995. This left many net-fishermen unable to make a livelihood off the water. My own research builds off of the idea that fisheries-based livelihoods are more than merely a paycheck, and what happened after the net ban underscores that thought.

Hard clams

Hard clams (seen here) were one of the focal species of the aquaculture training programs developed in response to the net ban.

Many net-fishermen who were without work as a result of the net ban entered the then up-and-coming clam aquaculture industry in Florida, some taking advantage of joint-sponsored retraining programs, others diving straight in. Retraining programs took place in multiple counties, but had arguably the most notable impact in Levy and Dixie counties. (For a short NPR piece about Cedar Key’s clam industry in Levy County, click here.)  Programs trained fishermen in shellfish farming methods and gave them an aquaculture starting point from which to add the knowledge they already possessed through years of work on the water. Shellfish aquaculture provided a way to continue working on the water, albeit in a very different manner.

Cedar Key oyster harvesters

Even though Cedar Key, FL is known for its farmed clams, wild fisheries, including the oysters and harvesters seen here, also provide local livelihoods. Photo by A. Michaelis

This is not to say that Florida’s fishermen turned shellfish growers don’t miss net-fishing. If it were legal and they could make a living off it, I’m sure a number would love to return to inshore net-fishing, based on our discussions. That’s not the case, however, despite recent attempts to repeal the amendment. Instead, we see a shellfish aquaculture industry that has become one of the nation’s largest, with a high level of involvement from wild-catch commercial fishermen.


Additional notes:

In Florida, I worked exclusively along the Gulf Coast with fishermen and shellfish farmers in Dixie, Escambia, Franklin, Levy, Pinellas, and Wakulla Counties. My observations are based solely on conversations and research there.

For an overview of the net ban, check out this 2015 article written 20 years after its implementation.

Public and Private Fisheries

If you’ve been following my blog or research, you know that I am interested in the relationship between public and private fisheries, particularly as it relates to the fishermen and women involved. Not everyone is clear on the difference between a public and private fishery, however, and I thought it might make for a helpful blog discussion. In my interviews, we often discuss some of the distinctions and how the definitions of each may take on different meanings in different places. Though one might think the definition of each should be straightforward, that’s not always the case.

I’ll try to outline how I conceive of each type of fishery for my own research, and how they’re typically delineated. I’ll first note that I focus on commercial fisheries, not recreational. Those who fish commercially do so to sell their harvest; they make their income and thus living from the fishery. Recreational fishers do so for fun or sport. They cannot legally sell their catch, but may be able to personally consume it, depending on regulations.

Ocean City docks

Although the number of places you can find commercial boats at dock are fewer than they once were, this landing in Ocean City, MD regularly sees offshore commercial fishing boats that bring in their catch. Photo by: A. Michaelis.

Back to the question of public and private fisheries. Put very simply, a public fishery is a wild catch or wild harvest fishery. It might also be described as a “commons”. A commons refers to a tract of land, or in this case a population of an aquatic species, shared by an entire community – be it town, state, nation, or otherwise. You may be familiar with the Tragedy of the Commons, which is often used to suggest that common ownership or use of a resource ultimately leads to its destruction or misuse. People regularly frame public fisheries as such a tragedy, but there are numerous critiques and examples that illustrate how such a generalization is flawed – see the links included below for related work.

Public fisheries are open to all citizens/residents/etc. of the managing area. For example, in Maryland, any state resident is eligible to become a commercial fisherman working in a public fishery to harvest oysters. But it’s not quite that simple. Commercial fishermen must be permitted. In Maryland, to harvest oysters commercially, you must apply for and receive a Tidal Fisheries License as well as an Oyster Surcharge Permit. Typically, fisheries are managed with a limit to the total number of licenses available for a specific fishery, so not everyone can fish in a public fishery, and there are often waitlists. There are also size limits, total catch limits, and potentially other restrictions in place to try and achieve a sustainable fishery.

MS oysters in hand

In places where the bottom or water column is leased for oyster aquaculture as a private fishery, leaseholders may plant oyster seed rather than rely on a natural spat set. Here, a Mississippi oyster grower inspects oysters that he purchased as much smaller seed and is cultivating until they reach market size. Photo by: A. Michaelis.

A private fishery, on the other hand, is one where bottom or parcels of water may be rented or leased out, such as with oyster aquaculture. Individuals (or in some locales, corporations) can apply for a lease area, and if approved are granted sole harvest rights for their aquaculture species – a lease is not necessarily off-limits for other fisheries use, depending on local regulations and situations. Continuing with oysters as our example, leaseholders purchase and “plant” their own seed, or place shell or other substrate to collect a natural oyster spat set, within their leased area. They then tend their oysters until they are ready to be harvested and sold. Only the leaseholder (and those they hire specifically for the task) are allowed to harvest their aquaculture product. In this way, it is exclusive to the leaseholder, and thus is a private fishery. Anyone with a commercial harvester license, even if it’s for oyster aquaculture, cannot go harvest off of another person’s lease. That’s theft.

This distinction between the two may seem easy enough, but in reality, they exist on more of a spectrum and in each region, state, or even community, fisheries (especially shellfisheries) exist somewhere in between. As one example, aquaculture may be used to seed public fishery bottom with oysters. Oysters are produced in a hatchery, purchased, and planted on public bottom. Sometimes this oyster seed is purchased by local watermen’s groups, but if on public bottom, can be harvested by any licensed wild harvester. Another version of this scenario may be that a town or county leases bottom, plants oyster seed on it, and restricts harvest to only licensed members of that town or county. In this way, it’s a commons for the group, but on exclusively leased bottom.

Wellfleet dragger

In many of my study communities, commercial fishermen (like Melissa and Dave of Wellfleet, MA seen here harvesting blood clams) are active in both public and private fisheries.

There are multiple versions of how fisheries are managed and perceived, even for the same species, like oysters. Because of this, the line between public and private fisheries is not always so cut and dry. The same goes for the folks who work in them and how they self-identify (with regard to the fisheries they work in). Through my research, I’m trying to describe how public and private fisheries and perceived in different communities and how that may influence some of the benefits each fishery provides.


Suggested Fisheries and the Tragedy of the Commons Reading:

Inside the Degree: Traveling with Dogs

Another topic I’m often asked about in regard to my mobile life is the dogs. “How does that work with the dogs?” When I mapped out my project, one of the benefits of US-based fieldwork was that I could have the dogs with me. There was no question; my girls would be part of the adventure. At 12 and 13, my dogs are accustomed to traveling with me and, though their herding dog ancestry perhaps amplifies a need for routine and organization, are quite adaptable.

Dogs in trailer door

My “field assistants” adapted rather quickly and easily to road life. Photo by: A. Michaelis

Even so, before I dove headfirst into the whole “living in a camper” thing, I did my research to make sure it was a reasonable expectation to do so with the dogs. In an effort to answer all of the inquiring minds I’ve come across, and maybe others who are considering similar life changes or just extended trips with their pups, here are a few of the more important lessons of my year-plus tour with dogs.

Site Availability

First and foremost, if you cannot find dog-friendly campgrounds and/or RV parks, you cannot really plan to RV with your pups. This was a challenge in some places, but ultimately I was able to find suitable campgrounds and parks in all sites (actual campground/park links below, for anyone interested). When planning for camping with pups, it’s important to know exactly what the pet policies are. Do they allow more than one pet? Can pets be left unattended at the site? Most campgrounds do not allow guests to leave pets unattended outside, but many also do not wish for pets to be left unattended in the camper either. Thin trailer walls paired with barking dogs can make for unhappy neighbors.

Pet Well-Being in the Camper

It is not just barking that makes people leery of leaving pets unattended in a camper. It’s also a safety issue. Particularly during warm weather, the chance that the site could lose power while you’re away and the dogs are in the camper could become a dangerous situation. To ease my mind and ensure that I did not have a tragic situation, I purchased the RV PetSafety Monitor. It requires an annual subscription, but the overall cost (to me) is worth my dogs’ safety. It monitors both location and temperature of the camper, and will alert you if the power is lost or if the temperature deviates from the range you set. Thus far, I’ve only lost power once while away from the camper, but have peace of mind knowing that I’m immediately notified and can act accordingly.

Even though my senior pups are pretty quiet throughout the day, I also wanted to make sure that they didn’t cause a raucous. One dog is nearly deaf and both enjoy heavy naps, but they’re dogs. They’re used to living in close quarters, but I wasn’t sure how they’d handle camp life and camp sounds. I bought a white noise machine to help drown out possible triggers. Fortunately, the dogs haven’t really been bothered by campground noises, but the machine has helped me block out some of my rowdier camp neighbors who aren’t waking up to hit the water at dawn.

Pet Supplies

This is easier in some places than others. Not all of my sites are convenient to pet stores. Nor do all of them allow for mail or packages to be shipped. For all things dog (food, medicine, etc.) I tried to plan well ahead to have things shipped to friends in the area or in places that I would be passing through. It’s worked out so far, but it is a balancing act with available trailer space. For example, there’s only so much room for multiple 40-lb bags of dog food.

Medical Care

My gals are seniors. As such, calls and visits to the vet are increasingly more common. Our vet in Maryland has been wonderful accommodating my travel schedule, both in terms of planning well ahead for medications and offering over-the-phone consultations. Still, not everything can be treated over the phone. This year we’ve had 3 broken teeth, a mystery bacterial infection that both dogs subsequently acquired twice, and recently the news that senior dog owners dread but expect to hear eventually.

Finding emergency care or a one-time vet visit is not that big of a challenge (though it may be expensive), but finding a veterinary specialist willing to work with you to talk diagnoses, prognoses, and options, knowing that in two months you’ll be heading to a new state, I’ve recently found is not easy. I suppose in this section, I don’t have many tips, but more an appreciation for those veterinarians, technicians, and front desk staff who have been especially helpful (those practices are also linked below). Any recommendations I have are largely common sense for pet owners – stay ahead of your pet’s medication if they have it, travel with copies of important records, be prepared to make multiple phone calls to coordinate a vet visit, and ask locals with pets what vet they recommend.

Pet-Friendly Activities

Depending on the energy-level and personalities of your pets, it may also be important to find pet-friendly activities and places.  My girls are slow-movers at this stage, especially in the heat, but I still try to find a variety of places where we can walk and even dine. The internet has been my friend in this regard, but I’ll find many places that folks may review as great for dogs actually aren’t “legal” for dogs. I spent too many days asking beach-goers to leash their dogs or to get them out of bird sanctuaries to break the rules with my own. I typically look on a map for green spaces and then find the rules for that space. As far as dining, I use the internet, but am always prepared to ask the restaurant first before assuming my dogs can sit at an outdoor restaurant.

Dogs on beach

Seen here on a beach in North Truro (pre-shorebird nesting season), the dogs have seen plenty of beaches and trails along our tour. There is a certain degree of research required, however, to be aware of each site’s dog policies. Photo by: A. Michaelis.

Actual Travel

After 13 and 11 years with me, my dogs have made many a drive across the eastern half of the US, and are wonderful passengers. Still, I plan with them in mind when hauling the trailer all over. People always ask if they ride in the trailer, which I tow behind me. NO. Terrible, unsafe idea. My dogs have their own little space in the truck with me, where my passenger seats fold up and they either sleep (Lucy) or stare out the window (Ruca) nearly the entire ride. I don’t get great mileage hauling the trailer and I appreciate a break, so we stop every 3-4 hours for fuel, stretch, bathroom, etc. I’ve learned that not all truck stops are great for trailers nor dog walks, and sometimes have better luck at a small gas station that might have a shopping center lot nearby where I can park while walking the dogs. Or, I do our walking breaks completely separate from fuel, and utilize the highway rest areas and welcome centers, which usually have plenty of truck and trailer parking as well as a little more green space.

I think that covers most of the dog-related questions I’ve received. Just like living with pets in general, long-term traveling with them requires a few more details to be attended to, but it’s definitely possible. And, I’m inclined to think that my pups have enjoyed the past year of new beaches, trails, docks, and smells.


Dog-Friendly campgrounds/parks I’ve stayed at on the “tour”:


Veterinary practices who have been especially helpful in caring for my girls while on the road:





Sometimes, I answer questions instead of ask them

If you follow me on Instagram, then you’ve likely already seen this share, but this spring I was on a podcast!

Kara Muzia, a friend and fellow former oyster diver began a podcast this year that aims to spread stories of all things marine biology.  In her own words, “The ‘So You Want to Be a Marine Biologist’ podcast is here for those who ever dreamed of becoming a marine biologist. We share your love for the sea and curiosity to know more about the ocean and its denizens. On the podcast, we chat with people who are working hard to protect our oceans and the creatures within her realm. We break scientific jargon and important research concepts down into bite sized chunks. We show the real side of being a marine biologist, what it takes to get there, and we’re coming at you two Wednesdays a month.

Podcast Image

Check out the podcast at https://marinebio.life/podcast/ ! Image by: K. Muzia; http://marinebio.life

Check out the site and the great podcasts that are already posted – you can also find them on any of your usual podcast streaming platforms. In addition to hearing a little more about me and my own research, you can learn about awesome people studying manta rays, sea turtles, and much more.

Here are the important links:

The site: https://marinebio.life/

The podcast: https://marinebio.life/podcast/

The podcast I was on: https://marinebio.life/adriane/

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