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This summer I wanted to use the time away from home to set challenges for myself and see how many I could complete. Setting goals always seemed like a great way to work on self-improvement. So right from the start I set three goals for myself:

  1. I wanted to run at least 3 times a week and get to the point where I enjoyed running.
  2. I wanted to read for pleasure more.
  3. I wanted to avoid the late night work sesh’s that stem from an unhealthy amount of procrastinating that has haunted me my entire college career.

So before we dive into this week’s work update, I’ll update everyone on my personal summer goals.

  1. In the first week and a half I ran 4 times! That was more miles run in those 10 days than in the last 5 years, I was quite proud of myself. Unfortunately (or fortunately if you really hate running), that feeling of pride was not strong enough to stop me from giving up running completely when a group of interns roped me in to joining the local pool with them. The only sport I’ve ever done has been swimming and I’m quite awkward on land. After 11 years of competitive swimming, I’d like to think land sports just aren’t my thing. So I happily made a quick goal switcharoo to swimming at least 4 times a week instead of running. With a good group of supportive swimmers we’ve been able to motivate each other to hit that goal just about every week. All I can hope is that by the end I can still beat the 14 year old swimmers that I coach back home. Goal #1 = Kind of complete?
  2. Well… I’ve read a bunch of research articles, papers and two textbooks. Learning is pleasure, right? Goal #2 = to be determined.
  3. The past two weeks have been a grind to research and finish my final presentation and poster. While I didn’t procrastinate necessarily, I did burn the midnight oil. It’s just something about the quiet peacefulness of 4 am in the Hatfield library that really just lets the thoughts flow out clearly. Working in the ODFW cubicle staring into the corner of a wall is honestly driving me insane. It’s a quite a bummer I can’t do the out of project work out of the office. Oh well, the late nights will have to continue for now. A successful presentation and poster later and Goal #3 = half way finished, I think?


This leads into the next section of the blog… Presentation and posters! Presenting on our work over the summer felt like it snuck up on us. In reality this whole summer seemed to just slip away. I knew from experience that this 10 week program was going to go quick. But knowing and experiencing are always two different things. Walking home the other day felt like it was the first week and we had just signed our ODFW paperwork.

In case you weren’t at the Sea Grant final presentations, I presented on the importance of community engagement for research scientists. I modeled the presentation mostly on background research rather than on the Oregon Marine Reserves, as they are currently transitioning towards an engagement model rather than a pure outreach model.

With just a few days until I present, I was very much looking forward to getting feedback from my mentor. In true fashion she gave me some feedback in ways that seemed as blunt as possible. Which, after getting over myself I realized how important it was. The advice that stuck out the most was that I needed to explain the topics as if I was “explaining it to my friend at the bar.” She wanted me to pretend there was a barrier of noise between myself (the message sender) and my mate (message receiver). In order to get my message across effectively I had to be clear and say it as quickly as possible to avoid getting, literally in this case, drowned out by the noise. In reality noise could refer to literal noise, visual distractions, extra words, other conversations, etc. This noise distracts and takes away from the message you are trying to convey. I had always recognized noise, but always in terms of designing a campaign message. For some reason it never occurred to me that the same idea could be applied while giving a presentation. Kelsey also encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone and use PowerPoint to aid the presentation, instead of being the presentation. I took out as many words as I could and replaced them with easy to understand graphics and pictures.

This forced myself to be able to confidently explain the topic without the use of notes or cue words. Practicing this resulted in a few 3 am nights in the library practicing to my audience of wheelie chairs. But once I got it down, it felt sooo goooood. It was so much harder, but I felt my presentation skills improve loads. S/o to my mentor Kelsey for the top pro tips.


Of course we can’t forget to talk about the one event that was so incredible that it just eclipsed the whole week. An event that felt spiritual, as if you could feel it throughout your entire body. An event that mentally and physically puts you in a state of awe. An event that, should you be lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time for, you would be a fool to miss out on. An event that I know that I will spin never ending yarns to my grand children about. An event that I hope goes down in history as a moment where we put away the sadness and strife of the current state of the environment and politics and replaced it with joy and wonder. Obviously we’re talking about the pre-final Sea Grant presentation cinnamon bun trip! 5 Sea Grants interns, 5 cinnamon buns and 5 full happy stomachs, what more could you ask for?! Granted they weren’t the best cinnamon buns of all time, but boy were they still so good. Really overshadowed just about every other event that occurred recently.

under: Uncategorized

When I left you last week, I was still a little behind, having just finished describing my sister’s wedding. Now, I find myself woefully behind once more. Maggie’s wedding is old news, so now we can go back to what’s really important, me (kidding, Maggie, I’m kidding).

After my whirlwind weekend trip back home, I returned to a whirlwind week of work. On Tuesday (two weeks ago today) I returned to the field for some more intertidal surveying. A brief recap of why we survey in the intertidal zone is probably warranted here. We are collaborating with Oregon State University and PISCO to survey sea-star wasting disease (SSWD) in Oregon’s Marine Reserves. SSWD is a gruesome infection which can cause sea-stars to lose limbs and disintegrate into the rock. It recently re-emerged on the west coast and our surveys help to determine the severity of the outbreak (mostly in the species Pisaster ochraceus, thus the title). So, last week I led a group of volunteers out into the field. Though the disease is a serious one, the survey process itself is a blast. Basically, you wake up before sunrise, throw on some ill-fitting boots and uncomfortable waterproof pants, and try not to slip and fall on rocks and kelp for 3 or 4 hours. Awesome, right! It really is. I love being out in the field and getting my hands dirty trying to find tiny sea stars.

Gotta have a good eye to find these guys.

Fortunately, my volunteers did as well. My volunteer pool is basically the other summer interns living at Hatfield Marine Science Center. All of them are passionate scientists and most are accustomed to fieldwork, which makes them stellar sea-star surveyors. I’m really grateful for all of their help and how excited they are to lend a hand. Additionally, after the survey we all went for some of those legendary cinnamon rolls I raved about in my previous blog post. Great day.

I spent most of the rest of the week toiling on my final presentation. This involved a lot of work in excel cleaning up datasets, punching in numbers, running stats, and making graphs that looked pretty. Sounds a little tedious, but all in all not a bad gig. Remember, I’m a nerd, so data analysis is actually pretty cool to me. In addition, I authored another installment of my SMURF blog and power-washed some SMURFs. This was all done in anticipation of the weekend though.

Last weekend (weekend of the 12th) was the Seaside Volleyball Tournament, aka my opportunity to make all that time spent playing beach volleyball this summer finally count. Turns out I love volleyball. I’ve never played it competitively before this summer unless you count 5th grade gym class when I broke Nick Hipple’s glasses (sorry Nick), but this summer it’s been my main afterwork pastime. Early in the summer, three of my coworkers and I signed up to play in the Seaside Tournament, the largest amateur tournament in the world. My three teammates have all played competitively before and are super talented bumpers, setters, and spikers. Me? I’m tall. That was pretty much the only qualification that got me on the team. But I’ve played a lot this summer and I’d like to think I’ve improved. At least, Megan make fun of me less now than she did before.

Anyways back to the tournament. Our team was named “Pretty Good” in honor of our talent level, but we played like champions.

Still working on getting the Pretty Good high-five down

We utterly smashed “BBJ” and “stone cold chillerz” in our first two games of pool play (coincidentally, “stone cold chillerz” is my least favorite team name ever). In our third game of pool play we played the best game of our lives but lost a barn-burner to “Topher Rocks” (Topher did, in fact, rock). Finally, we bowed out in the knockout round against one of last year’s champions and his new team, the AJs. Major props go to Sawyer for being 6’6” and raining death and destruction down on our opponents from above. Megan’s sets were so perfect that even I couldn’t mess some of them up. Gabby worked harder than all the rest of us combined, and was covered in sand constantly as a result. For my part, I didn’t screw up too much. The real MVP though was our cheering section. Almost the entire intern population of Hatfield trekked up to Seaside with us and screamed their heads off in support. Legendary. Always nice to take a break from all the science to enjoy some sports.

The Real MVPs.

BUT. Anyhow, back to the science. I’ve now made it up to the beginning of last week! This week was supposed to be entirely consumed by working on my final poster/presentation, but somehow other stuff kept coming up. First of all, though, last Monday we had an ODFW Marine Reserves cookout after work partially in honor of Neal, Sarah, and I coming to the end of our program. It was a great reminder of how awesome the people I’ve worked with this summer are. The Marine Reserves team is full of brilliant scientists who are also genuinely cool people. There are plenty of graduate degrees spread amongst them, as well as plenty of experiences living in countries all over the world. Conversation topics range from “how to succeed in science” to “how awesome was Game of Thrones last night??” It’s a great group of people to work with and learn from.

Back at work, I worked on my poster and presentation, but also spent an entire day road-tripping down to Port Orford to collect SMURF samples. Not a lot of work got done on my personal agenda that day, but I’m a big fan of throwing on some podcasts and driving so I consider it a success. My project did come together eventually though! With the help of my aforementioned co-workers, I put together what I believe was a solid presentation for our final symposium last Friday, as well as a nice poster. The symposium was a cool event in that it gave us an opportunity to share what we’ve worked so hard on all summer, and also learn from the other Sea Grant Scholars at the same time. My fellow Sea Grants are a pretty impressive group of people – incredibly smart and incredibly dedicated to their fields, which extend beyond just marine ecology. Definitely an awesome group that I’m proud to be a part of.

Dang I’m gonna miss Oregon’s coast.

under: sea_cle

The Howl of the Moon

Posted by: | August 22, 2017 | 1 Comment |

We live in perpetual motion around a star. As a metaphor, deity and mystery, our star’s various memetic incarnations derive from its constancy of power and presence, yet we still know precious little about it. The long life span of trees relative to that of humans makes studying them difficult. Similarly, understanding the life of a star is an infinitely more daunting endeavor and in many ways an eternal puzzle, one that we can only observe indirectly, mediated through technology, projecting ourselves into the future and past, and only in the briefest of blinks. We know that our star is not magical, that it obeys known laws of physics and nuclear chemistry, that it is incredibly far from us, yet we can feel it on our skin, and as we consume the products of its excitations and marvel at the games it plays, we continue to spin around and around its eternal light. A place of constant origin, only one of an infinity of others that speak to us from the night sky. A contradictory and alien being, our sun.

On Monday I watched our moon eclipse this star from a field in Corvallis, hundreds of people laying or sitting in the grass with lawn chairs and blankets, drinking morning cocktails, chasing rambunctious dogs and kids, telescopes and cameras trained to the sky. As the light dimmed and the world changed color, the shadows through an old redwood sprayed a hundred crescent suns across the ground, all of us wondering at the fascinating pattern of light and shadow in the dirt. At the moment of totality, cheers and gasps filled the air, life holding its breathe on the cool wind, wonder and fear echoing back through thousands of such events throughout human history.

Intellectually I was aware of the process as a consequence of orbits, relative distances and coincidental alignment, but the animal within howled. I stood there in the stop-time of fear and curiosity so common to the human animal, wondering at what I was seeing, not with my eyes but with my being. A part of me knew that I was looking at the corona of the sun, but such explanations have no bearing on the emotional component of such an event. In that moment I felt an awesome and terrible presence. I can now understand why such events have inspired panic and sacrifice. I have only once before felt something similar about the sun, my first morning in the sands of Kuwait, the sun rising as a pale blue disc on the horizon, its visible rays feeble and weak, yet its power all around me in the 120 degree air. The sun as an embrace, a holy gesture of an ambivalent god, a passing terror, a perpetually unknowable entity driving art, religion, science and life together under its rays.

I am becoming a scientist. I am the recipient of a vast canon of knowledge about the world we live in, a gift from our ancestors. I have been given many tools to inquire about the workings of nature, to ensure that I am not seeing only what I want to see, or the spirits of habit and superstition. I have a community of passionate and experienced scientists from around the globe that I can call on for help and guidance, yet this is a relatively recent state of affairs. Staring at the sun and moon in alignment I found myself remembering all of those who came before and confronted such phenomena without science. They possessed the same mind and intellectual powers as I, an inheritance of knowledge and experience to keep them alive, and a cultural narrative to order the why’s and how’s of the world, but no science. Those people put stones in circles, piled them high toward the stars and consecrated them with human blood in the effort to understand and control the powers of life and death. I remember and honor those ancestor’s efforts, the generations of sacrifice and confusion that led to here and now, to me. Confronted by the mystery and terror of an eclipse, I must have felt much as they did, quaking at the sight of the sun blotted out by the moon, an event that shouldn’t be.

I have struggled both intellectually and emotionally this summer in pursuit of science. Standing before a wonder of life on planet earth, I was reminded that a part of my being remains untouched and untouchable by science and intellect, that at some level I am unable to completely integrate what I know from science with what I feel with my being. Like the sun, I am a mysterious power of contradiction that defies explanation, even as I seek to explain this condition and the world around me. Much remains hidden in the light.

under: Uncategorized

Totally Chill Weekend of Totality

Posted by: | August 21, 2017 | 2 Comments |

Well this past week has been pretty eventful. On Friday, the event that had been looming over us since we began the program had finally come: the Final Symposium. And now that it’s done and all the stress and anxiety has been washed away, it was pretty sweet! As much stress and work goes into these kinds of things, it’s always very rewarding to share what you’ve been working on with your peers and colleagues and have them share their own work-babies with you. As much as I’m terrified of public speaking it was a good feeling to stand in front of the crowd and show them some of the images that we received for the Wild Rivers Coast Project. And it’s always fun to dress professional for a day! (only for a day though, that’s more than enough)

Happy Professional Dustin in his non-natural habitat

When I had first told friends from SoCal that I was going to be in Oregon for the summer many of them were quick to exclaim “I’m going to come visit you!” Well nine weeks later and not one friend has made it up here until now. On Wednesday night, one of my oldest friends came to visit me. I have known Jordan literally since I’ve been born. Our dads went to college together and their group of homies made it a point to raise all their kids together once they had them. Fast forward many, many years and you have nine intelligent, adventurous, and deliciously mixed brown adults. Jordan definitely embodies these adjectives. He graduated college Summa Cum Laude, is dedicating his life to public service, and has traveled much of the world, even living in Bolivia for a year teaching English to kids. He actually has been working a 9-5 for the past year but due to a lack of fulfillment decided to quit his job two weeks ago and is now starting a trip through the main 48 states. I was fortunate enough to be his first stop. And though we are very different in a lot of ways I love the guy to death and I’m so happy I got to spend some quality time with him for a few days. I wish I had had more time to show him the South Coast, but I’m very glad he got to accompany me on my adventures up north and that we could experience the eclipse together.

We played putt putt at Bandon Dunes and I got two holes in one and my highest score so far. Holla at cha boiii.

Eclipse photo feat. Zach’s trademarked eclipse photos

In addition to hanging with Jordan, I was able to have one final, elongated chillness with the North Coasters which was very swell. Jordan and I stayed at Hatfield on Friday and Saturday night (thanks Neil) and in Corvallis on Sunday night. During those days, we went to the beach, checked out the farmer’s market, ate some good food, checked out cute Newport shops, made Eclipse t-shirts, watched Game of Thrones, and juggled soccer balls. On top of that we all saw the eclipse which was INSANE. All in all, it was a great weekend shared with chill ass people, some whom I knew well, others who I didn’t at first but now I feel like I do. I didn’t get to hang out with these people as much as I would have liked this summer so I’m very happy this weekend happened. I will say it, North Coasters are a chill cohort. Now, I am tired and slowly trying not to accept that the program is coming to a close so I’m going to slide into bed. Night.


Eclipse squad feat. Jordan’s face

Unrelated to everything I talked about but Zach thought this sleeping bag made him look like Jon Snow so I kind of have to show him and the world how false that statement was.

under: Uncategorized

Presentation Time

Posted by: | August 21, 2017 | 1 Comment |

This past week felt like the end of school before summer break: the last week of true work, tying up loose ends, and taking finals. For us, the final test was a symposium consisting of short five-minute presentations and a poster session. I wrangled together as much as of the field data from this summer as I could and commanded it to inform me of the goings-on’s of the underwater world we had been working in this summer in Willapa Bay, Washington. Essentially what it told me was that my hypothesis may be supported, but we need much more data samples before any real conclusions can be made. A bit of a sassy response, but I’ll take it. To quantify just how badly we needed more samples, one of the statistical tests we ran came out with a power value of 0.09 (on a scale of 0-1, 1 being the goal). As a pretty universal rule of science, the more samples the better. However, I was not aiming to end this summer with publication-ready results. For the size of this project, that goal takes years (i.e. graduate school).

My poster: Habitat use of oyster aquaculture by fish and crab

In addition to the importance of replicates, I also have some take-away tips on presentations. The first is to practice in front of peers. It may seem obvious, but the value of my practice presentations in front of my friends and mentor last week were not fully evident to me until after the symposium was over. Not only was I able to shake out some nerves and gain confidence in my presentation, I was able to receive feedback on my speaking skills and the content itself of the presentation. My second tip is: if you are making a poster, find a way to project it on a TV or projector screen. This will allow you to better notice little errors such as spacing and typos that are much less noticeable on a small computer screen.

As I said in the beginning of this blog post, this past week felt like the last week of school before finals. Now, with one week left in the internship and the symposium in the books, it feels like the true last week of school that we used to have in grade school. The week in which tests are done and the weight they held over us has been lifted, and summer break is about to start. Although of course we are all about to go back to school or move on to other jobs, I will definitely be making the most out of my last week here at Hatfield in both the workplace and with the friends I’ve made here.

under: Uncategorized

A Few Words of Sentiment

Posted by: | August 17, 2017 | 2 Comments |

In a flurry of completing my materials for our final symposium, I have sorely neglected my blog. Perhaps it was for the best, as the past few days have brought with them a bright and cheery outlook.

Tomorrow is the big day! By noon my fellow Sea Grant scholars and I will have gathered at the Hatfield Marine Science Center for our final research presentation.

Poster presentation tomorrow from 2:30-3:30pm…wish us luck!

For once my nerves seemed to have checked their bags at the door. Perhaps it is the adequate preparation or simply the brilliant company that makes my mind peaceful in the face of public speaking. It is amazing the degree of familiarity that can be attained amongst peers in only nine weeks. Though I am eager to begin a new semester of classes, I will miss the interactions and relationships I have built here.

Though infrequently mentioned in the recalling of experiences such as this, some of my favorite memories have been those made at home. My roommates are characters.

Women of science.

Upon arriving, I knew I would be surrounded with inquisitive minds, but I did not expect them to be paired with such great humor. From broken hands and workout rants, to an enthusiasm for Game of Thrones like I’ve never seen, my roommates are a blast. Many a night was spent discussing topics both lighthearted and heavy in nature. I am filled with gratitude for the respect each one of them has shown towards themselves and others.

During my undergraduate education, many professors have mentioned challenges women still face in populating the scientific field. Though this may be the case, the strength and confidence with which my roommates and coworkers approach their research is inspiring. It is refreshing to be surrounded by such diligence and enthusiasm.

Years into the future, I am sure we will look back fondly on the days we all packed like sardines into bunk beds in the name of science.

Though I hate to cut it short, it is time to practice presentations! I can’t wait to hear the findings of my peers. I’ve been direly missing statistics. In closing, Oregon is amazing. I can confidently say that I will leave here a better and more well rounded person than when I came.

Day one of my backyard garden.

Day three yielded sprouts!

Day five…at this rate I will see them bloom.

under: sea_cof

Much Ado About… Everything

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

As part of wrapping up my summer here with the Coastal Management Program my mentor suggested I make a list of everything related to the King Tides project that still needs to be completed. Unfortunately, due to babies being born and vacations being had, we didn’t have all the right people in the right place at the right time, but alas! The work will still [hopefully] get done. The photo project is also an annual and ongoing initiative therefore there will always be SOMETHING to do.

Seeing as that I am one post behind on my blogging I figured I’d use this to kill two birds with one stone. Or as a vegan would say: cut two carrots with one knife (tho that seems like a much easier feat to accomplish).

 La da da da data!

(please play sound clip for reference)

Currently all the data we have (location, direction, time, photographer name) about the photos on this iteration of the map is in a different format from the future data that will be generated via our new survey platform, Survey123. My hope was to have access to this data sooner than my last week and really have time to clean it up, but now we’ve done what we could to put a dent in it and will take this as a chance to learn about what should be done moving forward.

We have about 415 photos that need to be individually viewed and placed at their correct location because they were uploaded and plotted without a lat/long. These photos come from a batch of 1065 photos spanning from 2009 to 2015. These points, along with the others on the current map containing all the data from the 2015/16 and 2016/17 (about 1,800 total), will then be combined to form a final map with EVERYTHING FINALLY IN ITS PLACE! I plan to check back as the season approaches to see if progress is made towards this awesome end goal.

Once there is a final map the photos can be re-downloaded and placed into the corresponding albums on Flickr since we are moving away from the jumbled photo stream. Tip for Flickr users: you can’t add other people’s photos to your oh-so-beautifully organized albums /: A problem we encountered early on that may be resolved some time in the future.


As the season approaches it’s important to keep people engaged and up to date with what we’re doing. Continuing to post to Instagram, Twitter, and FB will help remind people of the upcoming season and encourage them to participate.

I’ve been able to schedule a handful of Facebook posts starting now and finishing all the way after the end of the season in January (who knew you could do that!) They include links to our social media platforms and helpful pages on our website. Directing people to specific info instead of the entire website will hopefully draw their attention get them to keep coming back.

Meg is awesome with the Twitter account while Instagram was always my thing, so I’m drafting a bunch of Instagram posts for her so that they’re ready to once the season picks up! One thing I’ve done is chopped up the video I made for the site into little bits that can be posted one at a time. The longer video is on our FAQ page, but if you want to check it out I’ve linked it below!


(another great reference that I hope you’re all familiar with)

One of the last things to be done as the season approaches is to send out all the emails to our updated PR list. Overtime I gathered information about popular Oregon photographers and Public Works people who may be interested in participating in the project. They are two very different groups of people but both are relevant! We’re hoping to get some great stock images from the photographers while the Public Works people may be more familiar with the infrastructure damage and erosion that comes with the King Tides.

In the end I’m hoping another intern can come in quite soon and pick up where I left off. During the season there will be much more work to be done and this summer we’ve built a great foundation.

Cheers to Snoop Dogg, Blue’s Clues, and my second to last blog post. The end (and apocECLIPSE) is near!

under: sea_haye, Summer Scholars, Uncategorized

I’ve fallen behind. Oh no. These past couple weeks have been an absolute whirlwind, as you’ll soon see. So I’ll break them down a little bit into two blog posts to make them more digestible for your reading material. Before I begin, I want to briefly discuss the post of one of my colleagues. In his recent post entitled, An Office, Cinnamon Buns and… Field Work??, Neal Tyson spends a full paragraph discussing the merits of Fishtails Café’s cinnamon roll deserves this much attention, right? WRONG. I consider myself to be somewhat of a connoisseur of breakfast pastries. Growing up, my cousin and I feasted ourselves on Walmart bakery donuts every time I visited him. While studying abroad in the Galápagos, I must have spent over one hundred dollars purchasing one specific type of donut from the local bakery. Each one coast $1.50, you do the math. It’s fair to say that I know my way around a cinnamon roll. And let me tell you, so does Fishtails Café. From the moment you feast your eyes upon it to the moment you take the last bite, it’s as if nothing else matters in the word. Not the calorie count, or the sugar content, or the years this cinnamon roll is probably taking off your life. During this time, everything is bliss. Neal and I have already hatched some schemes to get rich off of selling this cinnamon bun if this whole scientist thing doesn’t work out. Honestly, if you try it, you’ll understand.

But I digress, when I wasn’t stuffing my face with cinnamon rolls, I was extremely busy the past few weeks. If you recall, when we left off I had just returned from an amazing camping trip at Crater Lake. Let me begin by elaborating a little bit on that trip. It rocked. Leaving work slightly early on a Friday afternoon, I piled into a small car for a nice five-hour road trip with some fellow Sea Grant Scholars and REUs here at Hatfield Marine Science Center. The Airbnb where we were staying was, interesting. It was a farm run by two guys living out of a school bus on the property and we slept on a dirt road. Actually, I slept in the car because it turns out you can’t really fit five fully grown adults in a three-person tent. Undeterred by our living conditions, we set out the next day to see what this whole Crater Lake thing was all about.


Spectacular. Kind of like the Redwoods, you can’t fully capture the beauty of Crater Lake in a photo or with words. It’s entrancing treading water and looking down to see nothing but the deepest of blues as far as your eye can see. In fact, it’s a little frightening swimming out in the open water of the Lake. At nearly 2000 feet deep, there’s a whole lot of nothing below you… Along with the lake we did some swimming in the nearby Rogue River (much to the chagrin of the nearby fishermen) and feasted on local cuisine. All and all a fantastic weekend.


This was followed up by a very short but productive work week. First on my agenda was working on my final project for the summer. However, prior to that, I needed to decide what my final project for the summer was going to be. As you may have observed, my position this summer has been quite diverse. Instead of focusing on one research question and devoting all of my time and energy to that, I have been all over the place. It has been an incredible real-world experience where I feel that my efforts have truly been put to use in benefitting the goals of the ODFW Marine Reserves Program.

Redfish Rocks, one of the Marine Reserves I’ll be discussing in my presentation.

Instead of just an internship for the sake of another category on the resume, this summer has been all about really experiencing what it’s like to work in the field of marine ecology. It’s been fantastic, but at the end I still need a nice final presentation to wrap it all up. I won’t go into much detail on this project now, but with the help of my mentors I eventually came to the decision of presenting on the difference in fish recruitment inside and outside Oregon’s Marine Reserves. This project will use the data we’ve gathered from the SMURFs throughout this summer (remember what a SMURF is?).

Along with working on my final project, I also spent a lot of time writing my latest installment of the ODFW SMURF blog. This was originally just a small task for me to take on over the summer. Each week I’d summarize the weekly SMURFing outing and provide a couple fun facts about the SMURF team or SMURFing in general. However, I found out that I love writing these posts, and the mini project has escalated substantially. Now every post I write includes awesome information that has been proofread by the entire SMURF team of collaborators, which includes ODFW scientists as well as Oregon State professors. The result is a pretty sweet post each week chalk full of SMURF science and plenty of SMURF puns. I kind of can’t help myself with the SMURF puns, there’s just so much to work with there! I highly suggest you check them out at http://oregonmarinereserves.com/news/. If you know me and read one, you’ll probably be able to distinguish my writing voice. I can’t help but put my own stamp on scientific communication.


Lastly, I mentioned that the week was a short one. This was because I took Thursday and Friday off to fly all the way back home to Ohio. Why travel twenty-five hundred miles to spend just one weekend back home? My sister got married! This has nothing to do with my Sea Grant experience, really, but I’m still going to give a brief shoutut to Maggie’s wedding. I love the heck out of Maggie. She and my eldest sister, Elise (whom I also love the heck out of), never passed up on an opportunity to torment me with annoying songs or nicknames, but they also taught me a whole lot and shaped me into who I am today. On August 5th I watched Maggie marry an awesome man. I’ve gotten to know Josh well over the past four years and he’s a man I’m overjoyed to call my brother. At the wedding, they were so happy. I was so happy. Everyone was so happy. Words fail yet again. I’d wish them a happy future together, but I already know they’ll have one regardless of what I type here. So all I’ll say is congratulation Mrs. and Mr. Keegan, you deserve every ounce of joy that marriage brings you.

Jeezum crow doesn’t it look beautiful? I’m the groomsman third from the right. Thankfully this photo’s far enough away that you can’t see my very manly tears.

On that note, I’ll leave you. More will be forthcoming shortly about my adventures of the past week or so. Stay tuned.

under: sea_cle

This summer I have been interning with the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) contributing to my mentor’s ongoing research on the ecological role of oyster aquaculture in estuaries. As part of my mentor’s work, he maintains relationships with the oyster growers at our sites, who are actually some of our biggest stakeholders in supporting the continuance of the work that we do. This initially took me by surprise, as agriculture and environmentalism are often pinned against one another. As we continue to hear about pesticides contaminating our water and soil (https://water.usgs.gov/edu/pesticidesgw.html ), rainforests being destroyed for cattle ranching (http://globalforestatlas.yale.edu/amazon/land-use/cattle-ranching ), and monoculture bringing the demise of domestic honeybees (https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/honey-bees-and-monoculture-nothing-to-dance-about/), agriculture is an easy culprit to pin many of our environmental woes on. I, myself, have been vegetarian for the past four years in order to reduce my environmental impact and “vote with my dollar” as they say (http://time.com/4266874/vegetarian-diet-climate-change/ ).

So, when I had the chance, during our most recent field trip to Washington, to meet the senior biologist of a local Washington oyster growing company, I was pleasantly surprised and excited by the experience.

Oysters scattered in the mud: on-bottom oyster aquaculture– one of the culture types I have been studying this summer

Aptly named Longline Aquaculture– the other type of aquaculture I have been studying

It was lunch time during one of our days out in the field and my mentor told us (us= myself, our lab tech, and graduate student) that a friend of his from one of the oyster companies was coming to meet up with us for a bit. During the lunch, we discussed issues such as the use of pesticides on burrowing shrimp (which loosen the mud causing the oysters to sink into it and suffocate), the difference between the value of punishing environmental harm and the value of preventing degradation before it starts, and the age-old question in ecology: what is natural? If we want to conserve or restore something, what is the true natural state of the system that we want to restore it to?

It was exciting getting to meet and talk with an employee of agriculture who so passionately spoke of the same issues that I am concerned with. I’ll be honest, between my degree in Environmental Science, the like-minded environmentalists I surround myself with, and media today, my education on agriculture has been very one-sided, lacking near any perspective from the agriculture side. Of course, there are (huge) differences between industrial agriculture and smaller-scale farmers (like the oyster growers), however it is still comforting to see environmental concern at any level of agriculture.

I am grateful for the opportunity I have had this summer to see first-hand the agricultural process, especially for a non-vegetarian product, and humanize the farmers behind it. Most of the growers in the bays we work in truly love their bays and want to minimize their impact.

Boating off to one of our study sites in Willapa Bay (a rare sunny morning)

under: Uncategorized

This last week has felt very relativistic. I’m not sure what happened to all of the hours, which depression in the fabric of space-time continuum I rolled into. No one went to the field, every one retreating to their respective labs and offices. Politics continued to get crazier, NPR hard to listen to on the morning commute. Fred Meyer staged their eclipse survival supplies by the front door of every store. It even rained on Sunday! I continue to feel like a slinky on an escalator; the end near, while never quite arriving.

My proposal to stay on at the EPA as a volunteer and continue my work with respiration rates has been approved. I feel good. I have one more week to go in this internship, and then I’m on my own with the BOD bottles, data sheets, and the strange state of informed ignorance that doing science puts me in. September is coming, a time of beginnings and ends. 12 years ago, September found me with a canteen and a rifle patrolling a New Orleans devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Ten years ago, I held back the tears as the bus drove away from the barracks, taking me and my brothers to an airfield and Iraq. If my old sergeant major could see me now, he’d probably shake his head. “Jennings, how’d you end up a geek, a fish-squeezer, a civilian?” “It must have been my people skills, sergeant major.”

For the last several days, my main task has been the construction of a poster for our final presentation this Friday. I was somewhat surprised to find that no one enjoys writing them. From the number of posters mounted along the walls of every hallway in the building, you might think otherwise. Many folks told me that they enjoy the process of preparing papers for publication, even the revision process, yet there was universal disdain of science posters. The results of my informal survey pointed to several issues: the lack of space to properly fit relevant items, the difficulty in keeping fonts and formatting from going screwy at the printer’s, and the seemingly impossible demand to turn quantitative analysis into sophisticated cave drawings with minimal text and maximum cool factor. Despite the odds, I managed to complete my poster by the deadline (Monday), and I took advantage of the many excellent examples around me to make the best poster I have ever made! To be honest, it’s only the second one I have ever made, but it’s a significant improvement over the last. I found excellent conceptual diagrams to use and minimized confusing figures or charts.

It feels good to make something that will be manifest in meat-space reality. It will be a tangible thing, unlike so many things that I make as a student. It’s a strange process, being a student who remembers mimeographs and typewriters: I conduct research and reading digitally, type a paper digitally, submit the assignment digitally, and look for my reward, a number in the “grades” tab on a website that means “good job” or “uh oh”. The dominance of the digital realm sometimes leaves me feeling empty, bereft of any proof that I have been, that I have felt, that I am here on planet Earth doing things. Posters erupt from the binary and claim their place among the living, reminding me that we are still just sophisticated animals that need to stare at things together, point and go “Hmmmm. What?”

under: Uncategorized

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