Angela Whitlock leads a tide pool training at Haystack Rock in 2022. Photo by Haystack Rock Awareness Program
In March, Angela Whitlock became the new marine program coordinator for North Coast Land Conservancy.
Angela has been involved with NCLC, and previously the Friends of Cape Falcon Marine Reserve, for about two years as a lead for the Tidepool Ambassador Program (TAP). She also works as an interpreter for the Haystack Rock Awareness Program (HRAP) in Cannon Beach.
Angela grew up in Portland, making numerous trips with her family to the Oregon Coast, where they hiked, crabbed and fished. The first beach she visited was Short Sand Beach in Oswald West State Park, which is adjacent to the Cape Falcon Marine Reserve.
Over time, she developed a deep love for the coast and a desire to live there. An opportunity arose in 2000, and she moved to Tillamook County. She relocated again to Seaside in 2010.
‘Showing the Coast How Much I Loved It’
As a child, Angela recalls watching Jacques Cousteau and dreaming of life as an oceanographer or marine biologist. However, her career path took a drastically different direction. She was a professional goldsmith for nearly 25 years, and it was a rewarding vocation. During that time, though, her love for the ocean never waned. She incorporated marine themes into her artwork and used pieces of sea glass, seashells, and rocks in her jewelry. She also remained an active beach-goer, spending ample time outdoors and getting to know the local environment.
“I always loved it so much, but I didn’t know what exactly to do with that love other than go out and enjoy,” Angela says.
Eventually, as her career as a goldsmith was coming to a close, she started taking classes at Clatsop Community College. Through that experience, she got connected to volunteer opportunities doing community science projects on the beach, such as marine debris surveys and the Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition’s CoastWatch.
“For me, that was a way for me to grab onto showing the coast how much I loved it by actually getting actively involved in its protection and stewardship,” she says.
Then, in 2020, she happened—almost by accident—on the environmental interpreter job with the Haystack Rock Awareness Program and “rediscovered the passion and excitement the little kid in me felt all those years ago,” she says. She quickly fell in love with the position.
“It was the only job I’ve ever had where I didn’t mind getting up at 4 in the morning to go out,” she adds.
She soaked up all the information she could and found great delight in sharing it with beach-goers, guiding them toward a curious, respectful relationship with the tide pools around Haystack Rock, along with the birds and marine life inhabiting the site.
“I got way more connected to the place I love so much by learning about it,” Angela says. “I got really enthusiastic about sharing that with people. My goal is to help them deepen their own connection.”
Protecting the Ocean and Shores
Angela sees the sharing of knowledge as integral to fostering a sense of stewardship in beach-visitors and motivating them to protect natural resources. “That’s the only way it can be done: inviting people in, helping them have ownership, helping to facilitate their own relationship, because we all do have our own relationship with the environment,” she says.
Her favorite seabird is the black oystercatcher, and she feels a sense of compatibility with the species—which can be territorial and protective of their environment as they rely on it for sustenance, nesting, and raising their young.
“They’re very protective of their place,” she says. Additionally, they’re a quintessential tide pool bird, an indicator species, and a species of conservation concern. Their presence is associated with the overall health of the tide pool ecosystem. As a result, Angela says, “I feel very protective of them.”
Because she loved interpreting at Haystack Rock so much, she decided to get involved with the Tidepool Ambassador Program (TAP) during its pilot year at Short Sand Beach. She served as the TAP lead at that site for two years.
“I saw this as an opportunity to continue protecting in a broader capacity,” she says.
Through her experiences with HRAP and TAP, Angela has not only been able to grow her knowledge of marine ecosystems on the northern Oregon Coast but also connect with volunteers who contribute to marine conservation efforts.
“Creating those relationships with volunteers has been really rewarding to me,” she says.
In her new capacity as NCLC’s marine program coordinator, she looks forward to continuing those relationships and building new ones, as well as learning more about marine conservation.
“Every other breath we take is thanks to the ocean—without it, we can’t exist,” she says. However, “There is so much more that we need to know about what’s going on in our oceans. I’m really committed to doing everything I can to spread the message that the oceans and the shores are important for us to protect.”