Field projects at the South Slough

Posted on behalf of Hannah Sinclair, 2019 Summer Scholar

Being here at the South Slough Reserve has been an interesting and exciting time! During my first week here my mentors Jamie and Deborah send me off to trail the researchers that work on the science projects here at the South Slough. On my second day here, I went with researcher Shon Schooler to see the work that they’re doing with Green Crabs. Schooler and his team have been monitoring this species to check their population growth and how they are affecting habitats in Coos Bay area. European Green Crabs are invasive species that affect many ecological communities around the world and over the last few decades, and they have hit the west coast!

My next day I went with Jenni Schnitt to see their work on Seagrass Net biomonitoring! The reserve monitors seagrass to check the well-being and health of Seagrass Meadows as seagrass provides essential habitats for many invertebrates here.

Later, the following week I went with Ian Rodger to help and understand the remarkable work on eDNA here at the South Slough.  As they’re using the information collected from eDNA to create a catalog of the species in the reserve as well as showing the tidal regime effects on eDNA sampling.

And lastly, I went with Alice Yeates to see their project on Eelgrass Monitoring as eelgrass has been decreasing in this area more and more, which has heavy impact on the ecosystem. Oregon State University, Oregon Department of Fish and wildlife, and the US environmental protection agency are working to create a map of the distribution of eelgrass throughout the Coos Bay estuary. Hopefully these new maps will show the progression of eelgrass coverage over the last couple of decades and what we need to do to protect it!

Magnificent Marine Reserves

Tour of the Marine Reserves:

I am about halfway through my summer experience and so far I am loving Oregon’s southern coast!

The first week of my internship entailed a two-day tour of Oregon’s Marine Reserves. The first reserve I visited was the Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve in Port Orford. My supervisor and I then visited the Cape Perpetua Marine reserve near the town of Yachats. I learned the pronunciation of Yachats is Yaa-hots with a soft a sound, you may find this handy!

After visiting Cape Perpetua we continued northward to the other reserves. At each reserve we visited with community members who worked with the reserves. It was useful meeting in person with these individuals since establishing good contacts was one of the main components of this trip. While visiting the reserves, I took photos and videos that I am using in the courses. My favorite marine reserve is the northernmost reserve – Cape Falcon.

Here is a photo for reference:

A week later I found this photogenic guy at the same place:

Marine Reserve Modules:

Good progress has been made on the modules I am creating. Soon I am hoping to test the courses so that they can be evaluated by other interns or volunteers. I am expecting to spend lots of time editing and communicating with community partners until the finishing touches are done!

All of the courses make up the Oregon Marine Reserve Training Program. This program will allow people to earn a certification after they complete the program. For now, this certification process will target people working in the guide industry and people who work directly with the reserves.

I hope to exercise some of my creative abilities to create a logo for this program that could be used on stickers, pins, and other fun things that could help increase awareness for this program. I am excited to see how these coursesl turn out!

To learn about the marine reserves you can visit this website:



hoʻomaka i ka huakaʻi….

On Tuesday, June 18th the drive that I made from Corvallis to Cannon Beach was the farthest distance and longest time I have ever gone in a car by myself. If you are sitting in your car for hours back home on Oʻahu, it is not because of distance but because of traffic. The journey was exhilarating and a familiar playlist made the drive less scary. Any remaining anxiety was relinquished when I accepted that I would not be there in 3 hours due to traffic and areas where the speed limit was 35 mph. Though I passed many coffee shops and antique stores, I did not stop. The further I got, the more an overwhelming feeling of gratitude towards my Dad and Stepmom welled up in me, as I would not be experiencing such freedom without the car they lent me.

The view from the porch at my first residence in Astoria.

After arriving at Cannon Beach City Hall and getting set up in the office, Lisa took me down to the beach so I would know where to go the next morning for the beach shift. What surprised me was that I was not that cold. I have never been on the Oregon Coast before — that was the first time my feet touched sand in a week. The beach was so wide and the sand was so fine, I could immediately feel the difference between the quartz grains been my toes and the calcareous sand that I am used to. Though I wanted to stay and explore, my na’au (intestines, also gut, like gut-feeling) reminded me that I had not eaten in 5 hours and I would soon be dancing on the edge of hangry. Luckily my “work” day ended upon returning from the beach and I was free to go to the Farmer’s Market, which happens every Tuesday, to get some of the fish tacos I had already heard so much about before journeying on to Astoria where I would be staying for the rest of the week.

My first housemates…

As I continued north on the 101, the dependence of the area on visitors became apparent. Services and amenities that cater to tourists line the main highway and many signs announced camping sites. Astoria seems to capture many of the iconic features of the Pacific Northwest. Foggy, overcast and by the sea, it was difficult to not fall in love with the ambiance of the area. Over the weekend, I was able to attend the Scandanavian Midsummer Festival and experience some of the “local” culture. Tried pickled herring for the first and went back for a second helping. My stay in Astoria was short lived, however I plan on returning when I make the drive to Longview Washington to visit my paternal grandmother.

The five countries represented at the Scandinavian Midsummer Festival in Astoria.

My new lodging in Cannon Beach is incredibly close to work and Haystack Rock. I spied a beach access on my walk to Fresh Foods (to get what was probably the best strawberry rhubarb pie I have ever had — its the lard in the crust that really makes it!) and decided to check it out. From the beach access I could see Haystack Rock and thought “I can walk that far.” I was right — it only took 35 minutes and that was with stopping to take pictures of mole crab babies eating their parents and a decaying common murre. While I am staying so close to work, I will be walking to and from the office everyday for a morning and afternoon kilo (observation), respectively. These observations will provide material for my next blog, so stayed tuned to learn more about what washes ashore in the wrack line!

Gull foot prints above the high tide line.

Fieldwork, friends and food!

So far my time here at Hatfield has been truly amazing. My roommates and I get along really well and I can always count on someone to bake wonderful pastries for us to eat. I’ve made a point to explore the city and my walks usually end with me grabbing some food from anywhere that catches my eye.

My research is going really well and my favorite part of it all is doing field work. At first I was a bit hesitant about rolling in mud but it has grown on me. The purpose of my experiment is to collect ghost shrimp from different sites in Willipa Bay to see if they contain a parasite that affects their behavior. The parasite comes out when it’s in the stomach of staghorn sculpins so in order to get the parasite out I have to recreate the stomach acid of the sculpin using a pepsin digest. I’ve completed a few digestions for my nematode project and I actually found the parasite we were looking for which was really exciting!! I can’t wait to finish all of my digestions and see the areas that the parasite occupies.

I absolutely love my lab because my lab mates and I are really close and we spend most of our time laughing rather than working. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the summer holds!

The inside scoop: Newport, Oregon

Newport, OR has been my home for four weeks now. With so many fun activities to do, I have tried not to waste a single day. During my adventures, I discovered some of the gems of Newport. Any future students staying at the Hatfield Marine Science Center should take a peek at this list if they find themselves bored in Newport.

First and foremost, if you like escape rooms, I HIGHLY recommend the Newport Escape Room at the Aquarium mall. You would not initially not think much of the place based on the exterior, but the rooms are well thought out. I had a ton of fun doing this with my family one afternoon.

If you enjoy beach bonfires, the beach next to the Devil’s Punch Bowl is ideal. There is a nice wind buffering rock wall. People watching can also be fun here, as it is a popular surfing spot. (Insider tip: You can buy wood from homeowners along HWY 101 for less money than you can at the grocery stores. I got a whole wheelbarrow full for only $20!)

Panini Bakery, in the Nye beach district, is the cutest bakery/coffee shop around. I get fresh sourdough bread from there weekly! They are even accommodating to plastic packaging avoiders like me. Just bring your own clean tea towel and reusable produce bag.

The Chelsea Rose seafood market sells the freshest and cheapest crab around, at least that I’ve seen. They were selling live crabs for only $9 a pound, when the South Beach seafood market was asking $15 a pound for non-live crabs. Their prices and availabilities change, but they keep their Facebook page up to date.

If you are itching to get more than your feet wet, and the ocean is too cold for you, head to Devils Lake near Lincoln City. The water is often a few degrees warmer than the air when the sun is out. There are several public beaches along the lake to choose from. You can also rent SUP, kayaks and boats from Blue Heron Landing Rentals along this beach. The company has waterfront property next to the lake, so you can get directly into the water. Check the wind before you go however! It can be a real workout fighting 15 mph gusts on a SUP (found that out the hard way).

A nice 3.5-mile day hike can be found an hour away from Newport near Otis, OR. The hike to Drift Creek Falls is super pretty and shaded. At the end of the trail, you cross a suspension bridge to get down to the bottom of the falls. There is a parking fee, so don’t forget to bring a little bit of cash with you.

While this list is not by any means comprehensive, it is a good place to start if you are looking for something to do in Newport.

My first few weeks in Newport

Hello! My name is Suhn Brown and I am a 2019 Oregon Sea Grant Summer Scholar! I have just finished my fourth week of the 10 weeks that I will be here on the Oregon coast working with the Oregon Coastal Management Program.

I have been staying in Newport at the Hatfield Marine Science Center dorms! I have five roommates here in one of the  , which has been a challenge to get used to with the limited space. We all get along great so far and have a lot of fun hanging out playing video games or just noodling around playing guitar together.

Living in Newport has been such a blast!! I love walking around and exploring the town. It’s so cool and different from anywhere I have ever been. The people are so nice, and the temperate weather is incredible. Being so close to the ocean is definitely one of the bigger pluses, as well! I haven’t had the chance to live on a coast before, and I’m absolutely in love with it. I have spent many hours at the beach and would never leave if it were up to me! There are so many cool things to do here, but one of my favorites so far was getting a library card!

With the Oregon Coastal Management Program, I am helping my mentor, Meg Reed, with the Oregon King Tides Photo Initiative! The OR king tides project is a citizen science project where we have any number of volunteers take photos of the king tides—ultra-high high tides in the winter—and submit them to us with the location, time, orientation, and date that the photo was taken, so we can use GIS to map photos through all the past 9 seasons of the project. The main goal of the project is to record this data so that we can achieve a better understanding of climate change on the Oregon coast. Because this is the 10th season, I am creating a visual display that will be celebrating and highlighting the successes of the past 9 seasons and educating Oregonians on the effects of climate change on the Oregon coast via the king tides project. That’s been the main focus of the project, but I’ve also undertaken increasing our social media outreach. I think that the best way that we can increase the both the measure and quality of our data is by showcasing some of the more useful pictures that we’ve received and by letting more people know who we are and what we’re doing.

It’s been so incredible and heart-warming working under the umbrella of Oregon’s Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD). Everyone there is so passionate about what they do and about preserving the land of Oregon. It has probably been the most refreshing part about being a part of this internship. I am so thankful for this opportunity and the people I have met so far along the way.

Until next time, sea ya!

First few weeks as a Sea Grant Scholar

I’m writing this blog post sitting on the porch outside my apartment at the Hatfield Marine Science Center, enjoying an unreasonably beautiful morning. I’m giving my legs a chance to catch up to my tan arms, since I wear pants all the time for the lab. I can smell my roommate’s dutch baby pancake cooking in the oven, my sunscreen, and the sea. Who knew you could spend part of a summer doing research but still feel like you’re getting a much-needed break?

I’ve had many prior experiences working in science laboratories performing research, but being able to be an intern at the Environmental Protection Agency has given me a glimpse into many different avenues that I can take, and all of them make me really excited. I’ve volunteered with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife doing intertidal surveys documenting communities after the sea star wasting disease, I’ve spent days falling and crawling (but mostly falling) through mud flats to pick eelgrass and take water samples, and I’ve thrown (and then pulled back up) water quality instruments over bridges to collect samples of streams for laboratory testing. All of this has happened in gorgeous Oregon.

Pulling up a water sample to take back to the lab

I don’t think it’s possible to emphasize how incredibly kind and patient everyone has been. My mentors have spent hours training us and explaining the core concepts of their work. A lot of my work has to do with the estuaries in Newport, Oregon. The first time we went to the mud flats was to collect sand for the eelgrass we were going to get later during low tide. When we went to pick the plants, however, we found almost all of them were desiccated and showed signs of eelgrass wasting disease, a disease that caused a large eelgrass decline in the 1930’s. We took some back with us to study, but then when we went out again we found the eelgrass were much healthier. Some time later I went to Sally’s Bend with Dr. Fiona Tomas Nash’s team to document characteristics of the wasting disease as part of a project they were involved in.

So far I spend my days learning how to operate new instruments for water quality testing. In the morning and afternoon my colleague and roommate, Autumn Herrington, and I monitor and sample the tanks holding eelgrass we collected from the estuary. When I get home afterwards I go to the beach, just a few minutes of a walk from the dorms. I swear the beaches here are some of the cleanest I’ve ever seen – they are beautiful! I also take advantage of the kitchen and cook as many things as I can. So far I’ve baked a cherry pie for my roommate’s birthday, a carrot cake, banana bread, and banana muffins (with oats – see, I can be healthy), and cinnamon rolls. Luckily my roommates eat the food as well so I’m not tempted to eat everything myself.

South Beach, just a short walk from the dorms!

I’ve been an Oregon Sea Grant Scholar for four weeks. I love the work and the people I’m with every day, and I’m very excited for the rest of my internship.

SMURFS and Desserts!

July 10, 2019:

The timing of my previous blog post was a bit off sync, but now I’m finally up-to-date and writing in (somewhat) real-time. So much has happened these past few weeks that I honestly don’t know where or how to begin explaining it all. I guess I’ll start off with what I know best: DESSERTS! To keep you updated on my ~food and cooking endeavors~ at the Hatfield dorms with my roommates, I’ll disclose our running tally of baked goods thus far: cherry pie, carrot cake, banana bread, olive rosemary baguettes, strawberry rhubarb cobbler, cinnamon rolls, and banana oat muffins. At this point, the only thing we’re missing (and what I’ve been craving) is a chocolate-chip pizookie (for those who aren’t from Southern California—as I’ve realized it’s a SoCal thing (my roommates had no idea what it was)—a “pizookie” is a pizza cookie. You bake a massive-sized cookie in a skillet and put ice-cream on top: quite certainly my all-time favorite dessert). For the record, we bake everything from scratch (one of my cooking-connoisseur roommates came fully prepared with a separate suitcase packed with spices and baking ingredients, so our pantry’s fully loaded). Preparing these desserts from scratch means that each recipe comes with hours of planning, shopping, prepping, baking, cooling, and best of all: gorging. It also means that for an entire day, the apartment smells of melted butter and cinnamon, seasonal cut berries, fluffy, eggy, dough, and caramelizing brown sugar. Heaven or Hatfield? You tell me.

Autumn’s Olive Rosemary Bread

Autumn’s Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble (so so amazing)

Aside from all the baking, I’ve been incredibly busy in the field. As promised in my previous blog, I’ll elaborate now on my role as a Marine Reserves intern and the root of our efforts—monitoring Sea Star Wasting Disease (SSWD). First, let me paint a holistic picture of the rocky intertidal: when you think of sea stars, you think of cute, dainty, innocent little tide pool gems, right? Wrong—(well, at least for mussels, barnacles, urchins, snails and other intertidal critters who frantically flee at their sight).  Sea stars are considered the “Great White’s” of the intertidal—they’re the top predator of the intertidal trophic cascade. Since sea stars have such a strong top-down influence, they’re what you call a keystone species—when you remove them from their habitat (as ~80% of the sea stars were wiped out along the Oregon Coast in 2014 from SSWD) the dynamics of an intertidal community dramatically change.

Me with a rare Leather Star that was spotted along one of our sea star survey transects!

With all that said, I’ve spent a majority of my time this past week conducting field surveys with the Marine Reserves team, MARINe, and Bio Blitz—two other data collecting marine science groups. The data we collect from these surveys gives us insight on how the community dynamics have shifted since the devastating loss of sea stars in 2014. Are mussels and other prey proliferating in the absence of sea stars? Are there fluxes in juvenile sea star recruits? Are there new predators dominating the rocky intertidal? These are the questions we seek to answer!

Collecting data and admirin’ the rocky intertidal :)

This past Monday and Tuesday, we were up at 1:30 am cataloguing all the different species of intertidal organisms found at Otter Rock and Cascade Head. Running on 1 hour of sleep and working 8 hours in the field may seem like quite the task, but my sheer love for gumboot chitons, lemon peel nudibranchs, and celebratory group Pig N’ Pancake breakfasts made those early intertidal mornings some of the best so far. On Thursday I switched gears a bit—we took a break from intertidal surveys and worked off the ODFW boat! I helped a graduate student, Megan, collect juvenile rockfish off the coast of Cape Foulweather with SMURFS (Standard Monitoring Units for the Recruitment of Fishes). The SMURFS are large, plastic entanglements that are suspended a few feet below the surface of the water—when a juvenile rockfish swims through it, they hide and take refuge in their new “cozy condominium”. The collected juvenile fish are brought back to the lab for measurements, where the data is then used to create fishing stock projections–these projections are used to aid marine reserve and fishing preservation efforts. At each of the 8 SMURF sites, Megan and I would back-roll off the boat, snorkel to the buoy, swim down to the SMURF, and enclose it with a net. We would then swim the SMURF back to the boat and remove the juvenile fish. SMURF-ing is easily my favorite thing I’ve done so far—give me an excuse to ride a boat and snorkel and I’m here for it.


The MARINe and Marine Reserves teams finishing up transects at 5 am–almost done for the day!

As I speak, I’m preparing myself for THE ultimate testament to my love for field work: my first intertidal graveyard shift. It’s exactly what it sounds like—I’ll be in the field from 10pm to 6am. Will keep you posted on this hefty field day (*night) in the next blog–I’m leaving the office now so I can attempt to power-nap and power-chug some coffee!!

Newport and New Cohorts!

June 28th, 2019:

Hawaiian pancakes, farmers markets, whale flukes, beach runs, cherry pie, baby starfish, and brown weather boots—the staple associations I’ve made to Newport, Oregon and being a Sea Grant Summer Scholar thus far. To formally introduce myself, I’m Dominique—I just finished my junior year at UCLA, and was selected as a 2019 Summer Scholar for Position #2: Ecologically Monitoring the Oregon Marine Reserves. I’m currently stationed at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport with four other Sea Grant Summer Scholars.

I can honestly say Newport is the most wholesome city I’ve ever visited—to paint as vivid of a picture as I can, it’s the exact opposite of Los Angeles (where I’ve lived the past 21 years). The air has that briny, crisp scent of seawater, traffic is nonexistent, dining options all comprise of “Mom & Pop” restaurants, and the people are shockingly friendly—they’ll actually make eye contact and chirp “Good Mornin’!” to you when you pass them in the street.  I’ve now had over a week to get used to the quaint, small-town/coastal vibes that Newport has to offer, and I absolutely love it. How could you not when your apartment is 50 feet away from the beach, an aquarium, and a baby seahawk nest?

View of the harbor from Newport Bridge

View of Newport Bridge from the South Jetty trail

Though I’m only here for 10 weeks, I’m trying to acclimate as quickly as I can to the active Oregon lifestyle. After work, I go on 3 mile jogs through the estuary trail and along the South Jetty (if you exit the Hatfield parking lot and pass the Rouge Brewery, there’s a mile-long trail that’ll lead you to some sand dunes and the cleanest stretch of beach I’ve ever seen). Last Saturday, the other Scholars and I walked into town—which is a 3 mile round-trip over the bridge—to check out the Farmer’s Market. We sampled orange-zest chocolate, cinnamon-sugar butter (the best thing you’ll ever try), smoked Colby-jack cheese, wild berry jam, and too many fresh cherries; I honestly don’t know how I got away with sampling that many without getting asked to buy some or leave—like I said, Oregon folk are nice. The next day, we did the 3-mile trek again to try out Pig-N-Pancake, the Newport staple brunch spot. We were lured in by the window advertisement of “Pineapple Coconut Pancakes”, and like every other food item I’ve tried in Newport, they did not disappoint.

Without a doubt, the best part of this internship has been my exposure to all things new: new people, new places, new food, new experiences—new knowledge. They say: “Ya’ learn something new every day” but here, I swear that’s not the case: I’m learning 12,203,942 new things every day. Last week my roommate taught me how to ferment and boil ginger to make kombucha. A few days ago my other roommate taught me how to make a multi-layered carrot cake with cream-cheese frosting from scratch. Just yesterday, my roommate (again!) taught me how to pit cherries and make pie crust without a rolling pin (hint: use a glass VOSS water bottle, it’ll do the trick). Most importantly, though, I’ve learned what it takes to be an Ecological Marine Reserves Monitor stationed on the Newport coast.

Cherries found at the Saturday morning Farmer’s Market

Ariana’s lattice cherry pie before getting baked in the oven!

I’m just now realizing that I’ve rattled on this entire time about food (it’s 2:06 pm in the office and I haven’t eaten lunch yet—you can guess where my mind is at). Let me finally introduce my work! (though I honestly shouldn’t even be calling it “work” because what I do is too fun to be associated with that gloomy connotation).  For 10 weeks this summer, I’m interning with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Ecological Marine Reserves team alongside Cori (my mentor), Lindsay, Jessica, and Stephanie. Our job is to ecologically monitor the five Marine Reserves along the coast—Cape Falcon, Cascade Head, Otter Rock, Cape Perpetua, and Redfish Rocks—via fish recruitment, urchin recruitment, sea star, and mussel bed surveys. Through these surveys, we can observe and analyze the changes in the rocky intertidal community since the Sea Star Wasting Disease (SSWD) outbreak hit the Oregon Coast in 2014 (I’ll elaborate on this a bit later). My job comes with lots of field work—Day 2 in Oregon and I was already half-submerged in tide pools tallying juvenile sea stars at Otter Rock! I’ll stop here before I delve deeper in the explanation of my internship and what I have planned these upcoming weeks—I have a ton of exciting field days scheduled and can easily rattle on for pages about what’s to come. I’ll save it for the next blog, so ~stay tuned~! :)

Me on my first day out in the field!

First Impressions as a Sea Grant Scholar

My name is Melissa Wood and I am a 2019 Oregon Sea Grant Scholar, which means spending 10 weeks on the Oregon coast while working with a marine science team. I have been here about 4 weeks and the Oregon coast is amazing. There are so many things to see and do that it feels like there will never be enough time for it all. As part of the Sea Grant Scholar experience, I am staying in a yurt (for the first time) on an estuary reserve. Here are some pictures from one of the yurts on the property and one of an attempt at the view but it is hard to do justice to the beauty of the area.

One of the yurts on the reserve.

Inside of the yurt showing bunk beds, table with chairs, and a dresser.

My attempt at capturing the view outside the yurts.


Yurt life has been an interesting cross between camping and staying at an Airbnb. What’s not shown in the pictures above is a ranch house, which sits right by the yurts with two bathrooms and a full kitchen, so yurt life has been sort of like camping but warmer and right next to all of the comforts of home. An added bonus is the yurt is on a nature reserve so it is located right next to hiking trails, bird watching trails, and a great kayaking spot. Yurt life has been an unexpectedly awesome part of the summer.

The real focus of being here this summer is to participate in a permanent project of the shellfish program within the Marine Resources Program of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). Though the official project is titled ‘Shellfish and Estuarine Assessment of Coastal Oregon’ it is often shortened to SEACOR. The SEACOR team has a big job tracking clam populations and studying estuarine habitats along all of the bays in Oregon. The information collected is useful to recreational clammers by letting people know where to clam and what kinds of clams are found. Even more importantly, the data SEACOR provides is used for conservation purposes to ensure future generations will be able to enjoy the abundance of life and beauty of the Oregon estuaries.

My fourth week with the team has just finished and I have learned so much already. Everyone has been welcoming, patient, and willing to share their extensive knowledge about estuaries and the project.

This is data collection/field work season for SEACOR so that is what I am learning this summer. There are three main types of data collection going on this summer:

  • Rapid Assessment Method (RAM)
  • Detailed Assessment Method (DAM)
  • Eel grass habitat mapping using drones

My next post will have more detail about the data collection methods (hint, it involves lots and lots of mud). Until then here a picture of me learning how to megacore, part of the Detailed Assessment Method.

Image by: Bob Mapes