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Let’s Get Graphic

Posted by: | July 17, 2017 | 1 Comment |

This week I had a grand realization ultimately leading me to entirely rethink my career path, and that’s only ONE of the many events over the past 7 days that has caused me to be a late poster yet again (apologies!)

What was this realization you ask? Well, I’ve decided I simply cannot sit at a desk for eight hours a day unless I’m doing something creative. Quite frankly I find myself going a bit stir crazy and questioning why I studied the social sciences to begin with. After really thinking about it I came to accept that although I may not go in the exact direction I expected to go with my degree, I don’t regret the field I studied at all. Knowing all that I do about the environment, agriculture, and society as a whole has very much shaped me as a person. I did go vegan so if anything it’s drastically changed my eating habits and I’ll mark that as a plus. I love food more than most things and my degree has only helped grow that love.

I came to this conclusion after working on the website for the King Tides Photo Initiative. And this may sound odd but I actually LOVED it. Let me explain.

http://www.oregonkingtides.net/

Being given the opportunity to redesign the oregonkingtides.net website confirmed that graphic design was something I need to allow myself to continue exploring after this internship. Most days I find being in an office very hard, but when I’m working on something creative I get lost in it. I knew I would probably go back to school at some point but just didn’t know what for. I am now enrolling in a few graphic design courses back home and hope to eventually find a career that ties everything together for me.

The content of the website is still a work in progress but it has definitely improved! I now have a renewed excitement and hope to take this project to a new level in the next 5 weeks.

Meetings and Mexican Food

On Wednesday the Newport office and myself (total of 4) hopped in the car to attend the Coastal Management Program’s monthly staff meeting in Salem. Most of the meeting was focused on picking a new logo for the program (which I obviously truly enjoyed) but I did have the chance to show everyone the new look to the website.

I also learned of a new application through ArcGIS called Survey123 that will help us collect the King Tides’ photos in a much more efficient and organized manner this year. After only one YouTube tutorial I was able to set up a mock collection form that we’ll be testing out this week. Keep an eye out for the next blog because I might as for y’all to try it!

On the way home we stopped and grabbed a bite to eat at a little burrito place. It was one of the first opportunities I had to chat with Matt and Dave, the two older men who work in my office, and I really enjoyed getting to know them

NANOOS

On Thursday Meg and I attended a workshop at the community college on NANOOS – the Northwest Association of Networked Ocean Observing Systems. Although I didn’t have much to offer to the conversation it was really interesting to learn about the software and what it could do. To my understanding everyone from biologists to fisherman use it to check water temperatures, buoy locations, tsunami danger zones and more. The learning curve seems steep but once one understands how to utilize all the information it really is a goldmine.

Inked

Once again I headed up to Portland for the weekend (that’s 3 out of 4 weekends now) to see some of my best friends from college and to FINALLY get my tattoo! I had been planning this for a while and looking forward to it since I arrived in Oregon. I really wanted to represent womanly strength.

I think the relationship between the moon and the ocean exhibit the same kind of quiet power women often do in the world. At the same time the ocean can be intense and mysterious as all of us women are in some way or another. The moon is also representative of my mother, we both feel very connected to it, and her being a marine biologist makes the whole beach theme even more significant. As exhausting as it was to sit for 5 hours straight being poked by a needle I am absolutely over the moon (pun intended) about it and excited for when I can wear real pants again.

Cheers to week 4 and art in all forms.

under: sea_haye

There’s that old saying that has been attributed to Confucius which goes “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” I don’t like it. For one, it probably wasn’t even Confucius who said it. A quick google of reveals that “choosing a job” wasn’t really an option back in Confucius’s day. But Ancient Chinese economic systems are waaaaay off topic. My real issue is with the content of the quote, not the one who said it. Unless you never hold a job and literally never work a day in your life, you’re going to work. Work doesn’t have to be a bad thing, though. I was reading a book recently (I can’t remember which book right now and it’s killing me) that talked about how the western world has created a division between “work” and “life” where “work” is some awful obligation we slog through just so we can live “life” during our time off. It sounds like a real bummer, honestly. I’ve experienced that with jobs in the past, but this summer so far has been different.

 

To be clear, I have worked plenty of days this summer, and it’s felt like work. For example, last Thursday I woke up at 5:00 AM, ate a meager breakfast, and prepared to go on a cold, windy boat ride and jump into frigid waters. That felt like work. I’m not going to pretend I had a smile on my face the whole time, because that would be a complete lie. Still, I did it, and at 6:15 AM I went out for my first SMURFing survey of the summer. Verdict? Awesome and totally worth it. If you’ve been reading this blog faithfully you may remember what SMURFing is, but I’ll give a refresher anyways.

 

SMURF: Standard Monitoring Unit for the Recruitment of Fishes. A 3 foot tall by 1 foot diameter cylinder of folded up plastic fencing which we suspend just below the surface of the ocean to serve as a habitat for fishes. Juvenile rockfish often settle (recruit) in shallow, nearshore waters before moving lower in the water column as they get older and larger. Here at ODFW we’re interested in how the rockfish utilize the shallow waters in Oregon’s Marine Reserves, so we have SMURFs deployed in and around two of the reserves collecting fish. Long-term, this project will inform our understanding of what effect the Marine Reserves are having on Oregon’s marine ecosystems. Every other week during the summer we (or our collaborators) collect fish from the SMURFs, count them, and measure them. Collecting the SMURFs is done by a team of two snorkelers off of boat in the wee hours of the morning. It’s sort of controlled chaos, really. First, the captain pulls you up close to the marker buoy and shouts the signal for you to disembark. You and your buddy then leap into the ocean, holding onto your equipment the best you can. Will (PhD student working on rockfish, and my snorkel buddy) carried the net for collecting the SMURF, while I carried a replacement SMURF. We hightail it over to the mooring, bag the old SMURF, clip the new one on, signal for the boat to return, and hightail it back to the ladder to check your catch.

SMURFing is glamorous work

All this is done while competing with Oregon’s infamously inhospitable oceans. I was lucky in that my first SMURFing outing was on a very calm day. This meant swimming and staying warm was a lot easier, but by no means easy. For the eight SMURFs we had to collect that morning, Will made all eight trips into the ocean while MaddY (his REU student) each served as his buddy four times. When it was all said and done, we collected just 15 fish. This was a pretty small haul, but not uncharacteristic for this time in the summer. For more details about the science of SMURFing, check out some of the posts I’ve written at oregonmarinereserves.com.

 

To summarize SMURFing and juxtapose it with Confucius’ quote, yes it part of my job, yes I loved it, and yes it was absolutely work. I didn’t spend all last week working though. In fact, my parents came to visit and I had mini-vacation! My folks flew in all the way from good old Ohio on Tuesday under the guise of delivering my wetsuit and weight belt. It was a good excuse for them to come see what the Pacific Northwest has to offer. During the week I’d spend my days at work while they bounced around Oregon’s coast, then I’d meet up with them in the evening to do some touristy things.

My uber-adventurous parents exploring the intertidal in style

For them it was vacation, for me it was like a working staycation I suppose. Then on the weekend we road-tripped down to the redwoods! Unreal. Absolutely unreal. If you’ve been to the redwoods you can understand what it’s like. If you haven’t, I’m sorry, because words and pictures are incapable of capturing what it’s like to experience those trees.

One of my best photos, still doesn’t do it justice

It’s not just their size that overwhelms you, it’s how they’ve controlled these entire forest ecosystems for millions of years. Redwoods are stunningly resistant to fire, water, drought you name it. When one is damaged, it begins to grow a new clone right out of the burl at its base. Some animals live their entire lives up in the canopy of the redwoods, including salamanders of all creatures! All the sword ferns, small trees, and young redwoods that make up the understory battle for the patch of sunshine created whenever a titan falls, literally growing over each other as they lean towards the light. It’s an incredible place for a young scientist, or anyone else for that matter. It certainly was an incredible place to my parents. The three of us were constantly on the go from one trail to another and we covered many more miles than I expected to, stopping frequently to stare in awe.

C for Clemens Family!

“Stopping frequently in awe” was the theme for the whole road trip to and from Northern California as well. The Oregon coast is an absolute gem of a drive. What could have been a 5 hour drive, we spread out over a day so we could stop and experience as much as possible. My parents loved it, I loved it. I was more than happy to show them around my neck of the woods for the summer.

 

At one point when we were stopped for a break during a hike in the redwoods, my mom asked me what I was pondering as I sat in silence. My response was “work,” which came as a bit of a surprise to them. Fairly, they didn’t think I should be stressing about my job while sitting in such an amazing place. But I wasn’t stressing about it, in fact I was more looking forward to what I have to do this week. It isn’t going to be a uniquely exciting work week, no SMURFing, but it is work that I know is going towards something that I really care about, and that’s what makes it worth it. I care about marine conservation just as much in the office as outside of it, so “work” and “life” aren’t mutually exclusive. This probably isn’t how it will always be in my career, but at this point I’m comfortable defying Confucius (or whoever it was) and saying that I go to my job every day and work, and I love it. Perhaps it’s because I’m accepting that all the tasks and early mornings are worth it in the long run. You might even say I’ve started to see the forest through the trees.

Geez. A “Confucius” quote to open and a redwoods analogy to close? I’m sorry. I just couldn’t help myself.

under: sea_cle, Uncategorized

No Hurry in Curry

Posted by: | July 16, 2017 | 1 Comment |

I cannot take credit for that phrase; unfortunately, as it is quite commonplace here in Curry County. As it should be, though – this place encourages a relaxed-yet-somehow-also-adventurous lifestyle with its numerous hiking trails, secret coves, breweries, thriving rivers, and gorgeous sunsets. As stated in my last post, Dustin and I are here staying at the Port Orford Research Station to shadow two photographers from Portland, Justin and Erik, as part of the South Coast’s media asset building project. South Coast expert Dave Lacey (owner of South Coast Tours) took us around to his favorite spots to partake in various outdoor activities for Justin and Erik to photograph. We essentially ended up being their outdoor recreation models while also shadowing them throughout the trip. It was a fantastic learning experience, as we got to ask them all the questions we liked about photography and the industry, equipment, freelance work, life, etc., all the while paddle boarding in the clearest creeks and over bait balls in the ocean, jumping off boulders into the Chetco river with steelhead fry swimming underneath us, catching newts, tide pooling, drinking local beer, and chasing sunsets. It was definitely one of the best experiences I was fortunate enough to have. I ALSO SAW A RIVER OTTER FOR THE FIRST TIME ON THE VERY FIRST DAY OF SHOOTING. The trip could’ve ended there and it would have been a-okay.

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Staying at the Research Station has been fantastic as well. There is something special about staying in a place that is primarily used by scientists, especially one on the coast near a marine reserve. To put it simply, this is the kind of thing I signed up for. For example, there are rockfish illustrations adorning the walls and books about Oregon coast hiking and marine biology filling the bookcase in my room. There’s also a frozen marbled murrelet in the freezer that has, according to Erik, been there waiting for an Audubon guy to pick it up since Erik was there last. Gross, but it honestly warms my heart. For science, right?

When expressing my interest in sperm whales, the station manager, Tom Calvanese (who is also a marine biologist, diver, rockfish researcher, and the Port Commissioner) lent me Bryant Austin‘s book, Beautiful Whale. Austin created the first ever high-resolution, life-sized composite images of humpback, sperm, and minke whales, and the book chronicles the dramatic story of how he did it.

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I devoured that thing in one morning (okay, it’s relatively short, but still). I want to include a passage from the book here because it describes my sentiments about the species so precisely. When describing how it feels to meet the gaze of a whale within six feet, Austin says,

“It is disturbing, because this whale is challenging me to reevaluate our perceptions of intelligent, conscious life on this planet. And that which is challenging these perceptions may also disappear in our lifetimes. What compels me most of all is the thought of losing over five million years of evolving culture and communication in the largest brain ever to exist on Earth, and never to have understood it.” (He’s talking about sperm whales, whose brains are the largest of any creature and have been evolving for over five millions years). “Carl Sagan once said, ‘We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.’ We, being the self-aware cosmos, will lose a significant part of ourselves should we allow these creatures to go extinct.”

Tom also told me about a group of whale researchers who will be staying at the research station for the rest of the summer starting tomorrow. They will be tracking whales along the South Coast as part of a larger research project concerning whale excretion, prey, and ocean acoustics; I will hopefully get to meet them this summer. After seeing James Nestor’s Bioneers speech about Darewin and sperm whales a few months ago, I’ve been reading his book Deep and have been very interested in the creatures since. The plan is to someday become a free diver, join James and Darewin, communicate with the whales, and change the world. Just kidding. (But maybe). Also, sperm whales have learned to take sablefish (black cod) off of commercial long lines in the Gulf of Alaska and other places with their extremely dexterous jaws. This depredation is a huge problem for fishermen as black cod is an extremely marketable (and declining) species of fish, and it has caused significant economic loss for fishermen. Watch this eerie video of it happening. The clicks you hear are the whales.

The whales have begun to learn that the acoustics produced by the engine slipping in and out of gear while the fishermen haul the lines up mean that they get a free meal. Southeast Alaska Sperm Whale Avoidance Project is a group of scientists, fishermen, and fisheries managers working together to understand this issue and develop solutions to decrease the interactions while maintaining both whale populations and fisheries.

Being at the research station has been so enriching – learning about whales, getting to know the fellows next door at the Port Orford Sustainable Seafood office, receiving professional and project management advice from Tom (thanks Tom), running early on the beach, cooking delicious meals (thanks fully equipped kitchen), and posting up at sunset upstairs to catch the view.

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Above & below: the view from my room.

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We also got to know a BEAUTIFUL retired British couple who lives in Port Orford; Rowland is kindly donating some gorgeous wildlife photographs to our project. They took Dustin and I on a wonderful hike and they had us laughing the whole time while they lovingly bickered, told wild stories, and skillfully identified species of plants and insects.

I’d love to live here someday. I didn’t get the chance to see everything, but the people, the views, and Olivia the toothless cat at Tasty Kate’s were enough to get me hooked. Until next time, Port Orford! Here are some more pictures of the adventure (and four rolls of film in the near future. I don’t care what you say Rowly, film is better).

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Above, left to right: Justin, Erik, Dustin.

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Above: Very tiny Justin, Dave, Mark, and Dustin.

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First off, let me say that farmer’s markets are one of my top three favorite things in life. I don’t know if it’s the good food, free samples, or variety of characters at the market, but the sun always seems to shine a little brighter at the farmer’s market, so it was about time that I gave the Newport one a whirl.

And I loved it. It was honestly bigger and better than I expected, with the highlights being: a lady selling grandma-sweaters with patches sewn on of cats, puffins, and the like, loads of sweet Oregon cherries, and a honey-vendor who not only sold honey but also some bomb honey mustard and honey barbeque sauce. He also educated me on something called Royal Jelly. It’s basically a paste made for the Queen Bee that he cited to have great health benefits and swore by it for helping him beat Stage 4 cancer! I love these kinds of interactions at farmer’s markets because you get to learn about and interact with people over your common love for food. Back in Los Angeles, there was a kombucha lady at the Brentwood farmer’s market who I would always look forward to seeing for her cheery attitude and funny stories.

I know farmer’s markets can get a bad reputation for being too expensive or bougie, but I find the value of these interactions and getting my food from local small-scale farms worth the price. Plus, the way I see it I would much rather spend my money on good food than new technological gadgets or the latest fashion trends.

under: Uncategorized

Washed Up

Posted by: | July 16, 2017 | 1 Comment |

I have spent an awful lot of time hunched over vats of acid washing bottles and syringes this week. Oddly, doing the dishes, whether with soap and water or 10% hydrochloric acid solution, is drudgery. The only excitement to be had was when my right glove began leaking. I expected the worst, but after rinsing with Milli-Q ultrapure water I was unharmed. I had the pleasure of throwing out the scary old gloves and donning a beautiful new pair that I can love and trust for the rest of the summer.

The experiment incubating pure water in plastic containers to look for an increase in the dissolved oxygen occurring as a result of leaching yielded interesting results. The 2 gallon ziplock bag showed quite a large increase in dissolved oxygen level in the ultrapure freshwater over several days. Unfortunately, the ziplock bag containing sterile seawater drained empty at some point during the incubation. The data on the logger from the drained bag showed a similar trend to the other bag, but the plot went wonky when the water started leaking. The five gallon carboys of pure water and sterile seawater showed much lower rates of leaching than the ziplock bags. Hmmm.

The glass BOD bottles are working out nicely. On Wednesday I went to Tillamook and collected water samples at low tide from several points in the bay that represent different mixing zones. I began incubating them on Thursday in BOD bottles. Temperature and light exposure have been difficult to control due to laboratory limitations, but wrapping the bottles in aluminum foil and storing them in a cooler in a dark room has helped keep them at a stable temperature and prevent light from triggering photosynthesis int he phytoplankton.

After 24 hours of incubation, we took oxygen readings and compared them to the oxygen levels in the water in the bay when the samples were taken. We noted significant decreases in oxygen, meaning the microbes were consuming oxygen at a rate that could be easily measured in a single day. This information answered key questions about the required size of bottle and length of incubation required to measure respiration rates in this environment. While biological oxygen demand has been measured in BOD bottles for many years and is a standard practice, measuring estuarine respiration rates in a complex system like Tillamook Bay is not the usual application. Knowing that we can use small samples of water and get results in a couple days is very helpful. If the oxygen decrease in the bottles levels off, it has been suggested that I add glucose to see if the microbes take off again and are carbon limited. Exciting!

Now I just need to prepare more BOD bottles. Back to the acid.

under: Uncategorized

My favorite part about my placement for this internship thus far has been its erratic nature. I mean this in the best way possible! No two weeks are the same ; my schedule is always changing, and with it my tasks (partially due to splitting my time between 2 mentors). This week held in store some challenging statistics work and a new survey for cockle clams in the South Slough Estuary.

I will spare my readers from going too far into detail on the stats stuff, but basically I have been asked by Scott (the ODFW shellfish biologist and pink shrimp fishery expert) to assess the current rule for how pink shrimp takes are measured by authorities, and to see if we can come up with a better system that requires less work to get the same value. This can be done using a power analysis, which determines the sample size necessary for your experiment. Generally, the greater the sample size the more statistical power. However, we want to avoid huge sample sizes because that requires time and resources. And there lies my chore- to find a happy medium that gets the job done better than the current, arbitrary rule (found here #635-005-0645-  http://arcweb.sos.state.or.us/pages/rules/oars_600/oar_635/635_005.html ) .

For the cockle survey we set off as a crew of three (Joe, Liz [both ODFW employees], and myself), without the guidance of our trusted leader Scott, who was suffering from severe back pain. Though we were all first-timers to this particular survey, we had full confidence in our ability to run a smooth operation. The survey methods are fairly simple- 1. find your waypoint 2. lay down the 1 meter-by- meter quadrat and take note of the kind of substrate it is on 3. rake in one direction and pull out any cockle clams you unearth, then record that number 4. rake in the opposite direction and do the same. The reason for raking twice is to get a detection rate differential between the first and second swipe. It is almost always an 80% detection rate on the first swipe.

Raking for cockles

Minus one navigational hiccup, day 1 of the survey went without a hitch. I got to practice more of my GPS skills as I led the team from waypoint to waypoint (which I had generated on our maps using a GIS program- nbd), and soon we had completed nearly all of our 60-point goal. We would have gotten all of them too, if it hadn’t been for those meddling tides! We brought our bag-o-clams back to the lab to be weighed and measured and entered into the data base with the previous years’ data. This survey has been done for almost a decade and the goal is to compare the densities at two sites- one that is open to commercial cockle fishing (they’re often used for bait), and one that falls within the South Slough National Estuarine Reserve that is only lightly recreationally clammed.

The next few days were the same, with the only differences being that we were rejoined by Scott and that we started at the heavily fished site and then moved up to the less exploited site. The south slough was a beautiful work space, we only had to deal with a few sticky spots on the flats (my waders have never been so clean at the end of the day), and we were surrounded by wildlife. Joe, being the typical birder, has an exceptional eye and ear for birds and their calls and never fails to point one out for me. We saw a couple juvenile bald eagles fly right in front of us, and drove past some fat sunbathing seals in the boat. The beauty combined with some great senses of humor made the work go fast, even if we had a lot more clams to carry. It was a fun time.

On a more personal note (since I’ve gotten a few friends and family to read these things), I wanted to share that my time in Oregon has inspired  the chef in me. My meals are still mediocre at best, but I really enjoy cooking for myself, especially after years of being stuck on a meal plan. I’ve found joy in planning my meals ahead and making a fine tuned list for the grocery store (which totally helps with budgeting). I’ve been incorporating so many veggies into classically easy college kid foods- like eggs and pasta- yummy and healthy. I’ve made several calls home to my mom along the way to ask some pretty basic food prep questions, and she’s been very helpful. It’s a process, but you gotta start somewhere. Pictured below is a meal I made a couple nights ago- garlic, onion, zucchini, and broccoli with parmesan and alfredo sauce over whole wheat shells.

Bon appétit

Cheers,

Katie

under: sea_gre, Summer Scholars, Uncategorized

“So it goes.”

Posted by: | July 16, 2017 | 1 Comment |

So it goes. Vonnegut’s wise words have followed me to the southern coast this weekend for my first work trip out in the field. For the past few days, Oregon State University graduate Katie and I have visited over one hundred houses in attempts to administer surveys. Our goal in this study is to assess quality of life, well-being, and attitudes of residents towards marine reserves on the Oregon Coast. The results of this study will then be provided to researchers, community leaders, and policy makers to inform decision-making.

Katie Williams (OSU) and Sarah Coffin (OSG) on the Coos Bay survey administration trip on July 15, 2017.

As we are still in the pilot study phase of our research, we anticipated a few hiccups as we continue to hone in to the balance between strong methodology and realistic limitations. As expected of any applied research study, many things have in fact gone awry. Nonetheless, I am grateful for the redeeming cup of coffee that sits in front of me as I write.

City map planning at So It Goes coffeehouse in Coos Bay, Oregon.

In my mind, a research project has many similarities to a relationship. It has its high and low points – all of which are testaments to the development of a rewarding finished product. Though low points are not typically glamorized, I find them just as constructive both for the growth of myself as a researcher as well as for my project. Introspection at this time is often a necessity. In attempts to juggle four projects, I’ve found myself mildly overwhelmed by this relationship. So it goes.

In addition to reflection specific to my daily work, this internship has provided me with a glance into future directions. With graduation from my undergraduate program nearing this fall, I am now faced with the question: “Do I want a Masters degree or a Ph.D.?” More importantly, “Am I ready for this?” I feel fortunate to be surrounded by advisors with both professional and academic degrees who have shared their experiences with me. Amongst all of their stories, I have noted a common theme of sacrifice.

An old friend once told me that, “you get out of it what you put in to it”. His words stay with me now as I mull through the decisions in front of me. Though my end results in research have always been exceedingly rewarding, I now strive to find a balance between my academic and personal goals. Perhaps my next step is to go abroad and travel. Perhaps it is to apply to schools. No matter my choice, I am thankful to be part of a program that challenges my perspective and encourages frequent spurts of growth. There is nowhere I would rather be than here. So it goes.

Kurt Vonnegut.

 

under: sea_cof, Uncategorized

The South Slough–and estuaries in general–are important spawning and nursery grounds for many marine fish species. However, the last time that there was a comprehensive assessment of the fish community in the South Slough was back in 1987. So approximately two years ago, the South Slough received funding to monitor the fish populations again. Once a week almost every month, a set of six sites are sampled at high and low tide. The information on the species and number of fish caught in each sample helps the reserve understand how fish communities in the slough are changing across seasons and years in different parts of the estuary. By combining this species abundance and richness data with water quality data, they can also assess how environmental conditions influence species presence, absence, and abundance. Overall, this project aims to characterize long-term trends in habitat use by fish, and it can additionally help evaluate the effectiveness of past restoration efforts.

This fish monitoring project is the other main part of my internship with South Slough, in addition to the green crab work, and this week was the first fish sampling week scheduled since I started my internship. So starting this Monday, my time this week was almost entirely spent with fish work. The method used for the fish monitoring is called seining. Seining consists of a large net that hangs vertically in the water, with a float line on the top and a weighted line on the bottom. As the net is deployed along the shore, the weighted line drops the net to the bottom of the water and the float line keeps it buoyed on the water surface, creating a large barrier that scoops up all the fish in the seine net area.

To deploy the seine net, we first set a person on shore as the anchor, holding a rope at one end of the net. Then a person on the boat deploys the net from the bow, creating an arc near the shore.

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Two people then each hold one end of the net, and haul the net through the water to the shore.

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Once the net reaches the shore, everything in the net is funneled to the bag at the bottom of the net. All the fish and crabs in the net are then placed in buckets (with oxygenators).

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All of the fish and crabs caught are then identified, and their length and weight are measured.

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This week, we caught dozens of different kinds of fish and crabs–Chinook salmon juveniles (both wild and hatchery-released), different kinds of perch and sole, herring, anchovies, pipefish, and more.

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It was exciting to learn new field techniques and to become better with fish identification as the week went on. The next week of fish seining will be sometime in August, and I’m excited to do it all again!

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My research this summer with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is on the ecological role that oyster aquaculture plays in estuaries. It is commonly accepted that current industrialized agriculture has a huge impact on the environment, and we (a team of my mentor, a lab tech, a Master’s student, and myself) are specifically looking at how the fish and crustaceans utilize these aquaculture beds as habitat. Are they hiding in and around the oyster shells? Are they hunting? Just passing by to get to the more natural eelgrass beds? Or do they completely desert the area? Only data will tell.

Road tripping to Washington

Because our main study topic is aquaculture, and the Yaquina Bay where our Hatfield offices and my summer residences are located does not experience aquaculture, our field work involves taking trips of 3-6 days to other bays that do. This past Friday, while everyone was gearing up for the weekend, our little research team trucked up to Willapa, Washington for my first taste of estuarine field work.

Boating to site on a deceptively calm morning

So far, here’s what it tastes like: wind, salt, and great hotel coffee. The wind blasts in your face while on the boat, giving a nice dose of salty muddy estuary water with it, but to compensate the coffee provided at our hotel has been amazing (and I’m not even a big coffee drinker).

Our days have consisted of getting up at the crack of dawn and boating around the Willapa Bay to deploy and retrieve our many devices that will reveal the secrets of the “fishy” behavior going on below. Our technology ranges from camera rigs fastened with the highly regarded GoPro to sticks with squid piece super-glued to them, such is field work.

12-foot camera rigs at low tide (me for scale)

Same camera rigs at high tide

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My favorite parts have been retrieving the minnow traps and counting and measuring the little critters we catch. So far, we have found: the feisty Dungeness crab, the “always looks kind of dead” shiner perch, the slimy gunnel, the abundant stickleback, the English sole that looks like Flats the Flounder from SpongeBob, and my favorite the staghorn sculpin (the namesake of my favorite IPA). The days are long and tiring, but to me zooming around on a boat and tromping through mud all day feels doesn’t really feel like work.

We will continue collecting data for the next few days (stay tuned for Field Work Part 2 next week), and upon return to Hatfield, I will finally have my own data to analyze! As a contribution to my mentor’s work on estuaries, my personal project for the summer will be to compare the collected video and predation data from this trip between two different types of oyster aquaculture (long-line vs. on-bottom).

For the past four years, I have been vegetarian to reduce my environmental impact. Being able to further learn about the impacts of agriculture and contribute to research that will help reduce those impacts has already been an amazing opportunity that I am excited to be a part of, and I look forward to what is still to come.

under: Uncategorized

There is a piece of vital information about science I feel I need to share at this point in the summer. Be advised, this may come as a bit of a shock. Scientists are people too. Every single one of us – human beings. If you are a scientist or know a scientist, you should know this. And if you’re reading this now and know me personally, I hope that you at least somewhat recognized this already. However, I accept that it can be easy to completely forget about the human dimension of this increasingly computerized, data-driven behemoth we call science. Last week provided me with ample examples of how we science geeks are just as human as anybody else.

It began with the 4th of July last Tuesday. While the laws of nature may never take a day off, the people studying them certainly do. I spent the day at the beach with a couple other Sea Grant scholars and a handful of the REUs here at Hatfield Marine Science Center. Let me take a moment to say that every one of my fellow interns is incredibly bright. Each intern is collaborating with other scientists, conducting high level research on topics that range from oyster antibiotics to deep-sea volcanoes. I’ve had some great conversations over the past few weeks and learned a ton, because I’m living in close quarters with a group of geniuses. However, our collective genius is probably not always fully apparent. For example, we spent a significant portion of beach time trying to push one another out of a small circle in the sand while playing the classic Independence Day game “Beach Sumo”. Hey, even geniuses need to blow off some steam. We grilled out, played some more conventional 4th of July games (e.g. beach volleyball), and watched the local fireworks just like any other collection of human beings might on America’s birthday. And the next day, it was right back to work in the lab and/or office.

Actually, for me, I wasn’t in the lab or office the next day. Instead I spent the day on a work road trip. Scientists take road trips too. Remember SMURFing? Well we took this road trip down to pick up the fish collected in SMURFs by our collaborators in Port Orford. I travelled with Will, a Ph.D. student at Oregon State studying juvenile rockfish, and Madeline, an REU student working with Will for the summer. The drive to Port Orford is a long one and we filled it with naps, swapping stories, and jamming to mid-90s grunge music. Once we arrived, though, it was all science again. We were somewhat disappointed to have driven four hours to pick up only five fish, but that’s all that had been collected from the SMURFs that morning. As the old saying goes, science is as science does. Rather than turn tail and retreat to Newport immediately though, we chose to take matters into our own hands. The three of us donned our wetsuits and hiked down some 300+ steps at a former coast guard station to reach a beautiful protected cove where we snorkeled for about an hour, collecting fish with nets. Fieldwork is awesome. When the sheer cold of Oregon’s waters finally overpowered the warmth we felt from the beauty of our surroundings (and, more importantly, our wetsuits) we loaded up in the car and drove back to Newport in high spirits. A few days later Will, Maddy, and I went snorkeling for juveniles again, this time in Newport. Conditions were much more difficult. I don’t want to shame Maddy and myself with exact numbers, but the number of fish captured collectively by the two of us was borderline pathetic. In contrast, Will raked in 20 fish all by himself. If I hadn’t personally witnessed him eating a gigantic burrito an hour later, I might believe that perhaps he actually is a fish-catching robot, rather than human.

I spent the most of the rest of my week working on writing up posts for the Marine Reserves website. Not to brag or anything, but the ODFW Marine Reserves Program has a fantastic website. If you have any interest in Oregon’s oceans, marine conservation, or just have a spare 10 minutes I encourage you to check it out at http://oregonmarinereserves.com/. There’s some great information and photos on there about the reserves and the hard work we do here to monitor them. Over the course of the summer I’ll be writing several posts for the news section on the homepage, covering topics such as SMURFing, sea star wasting syndrome, and some of the other projects I work with. The first post went up last Friday if you’re interested!

Writing these posts has gotten me thinking about all of the similar scientific material I’ve read either online or in print. All of these public posts and articles are written by real human people whether you believe it or not. And although the writing style is generally one that intentionally emphasizes the information over the author, I think some of the writer’s personality often leaks into the text whether they intend it or not. In my opinion, this is a good thing for communicating with the public. Making scientific information communicable involves expressing it in a way that interests the public. We’re all social creatures (even scientists), so we’re more interested in things that sound like they were written by humans rather than robots. Most people prefer novels over dictionaries, for example. Next time you’re reading something scientific –whether it’s in a newspaper, magazine, online, etc. – take a second and think about the person who wrote it. Can you tell a little bit about them just by reading it? Maybe they’re a distinguished Ph.D. with hundreds of publications. Or maybe they’re a slightly hungry 22-year-old who is two days late on their weekly blogging deadline, kind of like me!

I do have a (somewhat) decent excuse for being a little late with this post. I spent this weekend camping at Mount Hood with the other Hatfield interns, as well as a group of REUs from Corvallis. That’s right, scientists camp too. The trip was originally planned just for the REUs, but the director of Hatfield’s REU program is awesome and permitted myself and a few other non-REUs to tag along. It was spectacular. We hiked a total of about 20 miles in some 48 hours, the highlight being a 12 mile hike that traversed rivers, boulders, meadows, and mini-snow fields, and ended on a ridge overlooking the majestic Mount Hood. All of this was enhanced by the great group of people surrounding me. We joke around, dance in the moonlight, float down freezing cold streams, have snowball fights/duels/ambushes, and so on and so on. We’re all 100% human, but also 100% scientist, and if there’s enough other students out there who are similar to us, our oceans are in good hands for the future.

under: sea_cle

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