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Don’t Be Shellfish

Posted by: | July 24, 2016 | No Comment |

Eat local. That’s a phrase we hear fairly often these days, especially with the Locavore movement and all its counterparts. After learning throughout my college years how to be a more conscious consumer of food, I’ve always found it both challenging and exciting to eat locally and seasonally.

Two locals harvest their dinner at North Beach, Newport OR.

Here on the Oregon coast, seafood is what’s in season, but of course there are many challenges to being a conscious consumer of seafood. A large part of this is due to a disconnect between consumers and where their seafood is coming from. So how do you ensure the food you’re eating is local, in season and sustainable? One solution (and a fun one at that) is to harvest for yourself!

My roommate Ed digs for razor clams near the North Jetty in Newport, OR.

I have to admit, one of the most exciting outings so far in Oregon has been right across the bay. As the tide goes out at the beach, there is a whole community of marine organisms living right beneath your feet. Some of them might make a tasty meal if you’re lucky enough and know what to look for. Razor clams are not the easiest clams to pursue if you’re an amateur, but certainly worth the effort.

Pacific Razor Clam.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with catching a razor clam, it goes a little something like this:

  • Step 1: Acquire shovel and bucket
  • Step 2: Find a beach where razor clams may live and wait for a minus low tide
  • Step 3: Run around stomping your feet and look for a tiny depression to form in the sand around you
  • Step 4: Start digging faster than the clam can burrow

Of course that’s not exactly how everyone does it, but it’s sort of a cool excuse to stomp around on the beach and dig holes in the sand just like we all did as a kid. Not to mention, you really have to be sharp with your vision to spot a razor clam (pun intended). A “show,” as they call it, is the little dimple that forms when the clam feels you stomping and starts to dig toward safety. As you can imagine, with an entire community of burrowing organisms (snails, shrimp, crabs, etc) making their own holes and mounds of sand, it can be quite confusing to know what you’re looking for.

Ed digs through a wet slurry of sand and seawater to catch a razor clam.

Once you find a promising show, that’s when the real fun starts. These large clams can dig fast, and they go deep. These efficient diggers extend their feet downward, while mixing water with sand to make a quicksand mixture that allows them to escape quickly. If you’re an amateur, like my roommate and myself, you may sometimes find dinner slipping away from your fingers after wrestling with a thick slurry of wet sand.

Ed cleans a razor clam to prepare for dinner.

After a morning of chasing razor clams into the sand, Ed and I were able to replace the calories burned digging with a fulfilling meal from local catch. Additionally, I must add that the limit for Pacific Razor Clams is 15 per person per day, but just a few fillets can make a satisfying dinner for one. Catching your limit will definitely help you feed your friends and family, but with sustainability in mind, I might suggest only taking what you need, from different areas of the beach in order to let populations recover. As much fun as it can be to chase razor clams, I think it’s important that we do let some get away, for their sake and for the promise of local, healthy food for generations to come.

A hearty meal of three oven-fried razor clam filets.

under: Justin Dalaba
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As I mentioned last week, I’ve been helping out on a news post on ocean acidification for the ODFW Marine Reserves website. Having never written a journalistic article before, I found this to be a unique challenge. Most every assignment back in college was strictly scientific in format (save for the stray arts/humanities paper), so there weren’t many opportunities to write on my own terms. But both this news post and the Sea Grant Scholars blog have made me aware of just how enjoyable and fulfilling writing can be when given a chance to express my own voice within the content, and now I’m actually giving scientific communication serious consideration as a potential career path moving forward, something that wasn’t even in the back of my mind just a couple months ago. It’s amazing how much one experience can change you.

Stay tuned for future posts, and enjoy!


under: Edward Kim, Summer Scholars

Wandering, Not Lost.

Posted by: | July 24, 2016 | No Comment |

One of my connecting flights between the East and West Coast.

After a lot of traveling over the past two weeks, I’ve finally had a chance to rest and reflect. It’s been a mix of both personal and work travel totaling to just about 7,000 miles between plane and car. In short, I now have over 300 completed ODFW ocean literacy surveys and a sister who is married. Admittedly, those are two very distinct accomplishments to group together, but that’s just how busy the past couple of weeks of travel have been.

Oregon beach-goers, whom I would ask to take an ocean awareness survey as part of my work with ODFW.

Coastal visitor intercept surveys.

I wrapped up another successful round of sampling on the coast immediately after spending a week on the East coast for my sister’s wedding. If flying from coast-to-coast wasn’t exhausting enough, getting right back into the groove of driving from beach-to-beach conducting ocean visitor surveys on the Oregon coast definitely added to my collective sleep debt. I’ve been adjusting back to a normal sleep schedule, but all in all, it’s been a productive time and I’ve had a lot of time to think about my personal goals.

Twin Rocks

I’ve never really been able to sit still in one place for long. My built-in drive to constantly stay on the move often it brings me to new places that lead to great new adventures. That’s pretty much the story of how I found my way here (in Newport, Oregon). I went into this summer knowing that I would be leaving a lot behind back in the east, but I maintained the commitment to return home for my sister’s wedding. I guess what I’m getting at here is that travel can take a toll on you physically, and it may not be the most environmentally friendly lifestyle, but it certainly has opened doors to new adventure, education and life direction.

Oswald Beach

As I mentioned earlier, all this travel has given me time to consider my personal goals. Two of my greatest passions are conservation and photography. Between listening to podcasts and catching flights, I’ve been thinking of ways to combine the two into a life career. No matter what goal you have in mind, whether it’s attainable or not, I’ve learned that you just have to throw yourself at it. There’s no right or wrong direction, but if you wander enough, you’ll eventually find where you want to go (and learn a lot along the way).

Survey Count: 314

Whale Count: Still 8


under: Justin Dalaba, Uncategorized
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Week 6: Fieldwork and Papers

Posted by: | July 24, 2016 | No Comment |

Nothing huge to report this week! Monday and Tuesday were dedicated to getting the lab prepped for a field sampling trip to Tillamook Bay on Wednesday. That mostly involved labeling lots of sample bags/bottles and filling a plethora of tubes with 0.3g of glass beads to be used in DNA extractions next week. Although the work is fairly tedious it does payoff to get to spend a whole morning out on the water! The sampling actually went well this time and the hovercraft didn’t have any terminal malfunctions until the very last sample site. We were able to collect water, nutrient, sediment, and eelgrass samples from 7 sites in all. The down side of getting that many sites is that it takes an obscene amount of time to process the samples when we get back to the lab that afternoon. Overall, it was a 14hr day once we got the water filtered and the sediment and eelgrass rinsed. On the bright side I only had half days on Thursday and Friday so there was some time to catch up on sleep and go for a run! I spent those days scraping epiphytes off of eelgrass leaves and preparing samples for moisture content analysis. All things considered it was a good week in the office!

The big event this week that has been on my mind is that I’ve decided, with the support of my school mentor and Amy, to rework a research paper I authored last fall into a publishable manuscript. On my semester abroad with the School for Field Studies in the Turks and Caicos, BWI I spent a month doing my own research on the interactions of two groups of indicator species (2 Acroporid corals, A. palmata and A. cervicornis, and the long-spined sea urchin, Diadema antillarum). I ended up finding some interesting relationships between these three species and I would love to have this work published in Marine Ecology Progress Series. I know this is going to be a long road but I’m not too stressed (which is VERY unusual for me haha). I’ve already done all the heavy lifting so I just need to rerun some statistics, generate better figures, do general editing, and reformat the manuscript. My current plan is to ask a professor at UCSD to co-author with me and have them help me with the process. Who knows, it might just work out!

under: Angus Thies, Summer Scholars, Uncategorized

Week 5

Posted by: | July 22, 2016 | 1 Comment |

This past week has been crazy! We finished processing our soil samples last Thursday which was a relief but now we have to go back into the data and make all of the necessary corrections. Today we are taking a look at the percent sand, silt, and clay in each sample to see if our PSA data seems to be normal. Fingers crossed they are!

Last Friday we had our mid-summer check in where each of us had to give a short presentation and then we listened to a couple presentations on science communication. Afterward, we went camping in Willamette National Forest at the Trout Creek Campground. The drive out there was beautiful and it was really nice to be able to spend an extended amount of time outdoors. We hiked to the Tamolitch blue pool on Saturday morning which had the most beautiful sapphire colored water I’ve ever seen. Some of the interns had the guts to jump into the freezing 38 degree Fahrenheit water.

Tamolitch Blue Pool

Tamolitch Blue Pool

Some of the interns and I stayed an extra night at the campground and drove out to Bend, Oregon on Sunday. We hiked a loop that that allowed us to see some amazing views of South Sister Mountain and ended at Moraine Lake. The Cascade Lake Highway cuts through Mount Bachelor and the Sister Mountains and is definitely worth the drive. If I ever get the chance to spend more time in that area, I’ll definitely try to do the South Sister Summit hike. It would also be awesome to spend more time in Bend, which seems like a cute town and there are a lot of opportunities for outdoor activities.

South Sister Mountain

South Sister Mountain and Moraine Lake

This past Monday we had a full day in Tillamook doing the last of our field sampling. When we first got there the mosquitos were in full force. I’ve never been swarmed by that many mosquitos before it was pretty miserable for the first couple hours, but luckily they died down. We put 5 more wells in our Bay O site so we now have more soil to process in the next couple weeks.

On Tuesday, I started helping Nate (a contractor at the EPA) with his experiment which is looking at how cockles react to variations in temperature. So at 7am we had to go out to the mud flats outside of Hatfield and rake for cockles. It was actually very therapeutic and we ended up being able to collect 80 of them!

On Wednesday, we started the experiment by measuring the cockles and then putting six in each treatment (6, 14, 22, 30, 34 and 38° Celsius) for two and five hours. Yesterday we tested their response by seeing if they buried themselves in sediment within a 24 hour period after being exposed.

Cockle experiment

Cockle experiment

Next week I’ll start playing with the data from our soil samples and the hydrology data!


under: Jessica Vaccare

Week 5 – Checking in

Posted by: | July 21, 2016 | 1 Comment |

Five weeks down, five more to go. This past Friday was our midsummer check-in, where we had the chance to showcase our work so far in short presentations to the other scholars and the program coordinators, after which we were rewarded with a camping trip to Willamette National Forest.

A shot of our backyard for the night (who said waterfront property had to be expensive?).

After a short hike, we arrived at the Tamolitch Pool. Looks pretty shallow, right?

…but not when you get down to the edge of the pool. The ledge I was standing on dropped straight down at least twenty feet. This deceptive view can be attributed to the stunning clarity of the water, which is due to its underground source. I can’t find an explanation for its deep blue color, so if anyone has an idea, do comment below.












So in keeping with the theme, now would be a good time to give a quick and consolidated blurb about what I’ve accomplished and what I plan on doing for the next half of this summer.

As you may recall, I have a two-part job with the ODFW Marine Reserves Program. The ecological monitoring half of it has had me out in the field the majority of the time. SMURFing trips to Otter Rock Marine Reserve occur every two weeks, so I’ve had the opportunity to get out on the water several times now to sample juvenile fish. The other area I’ve been working on involves intertidal sea star surveys, which we conduct in order to assess sea star wasting disease among the populations in the reserves. This is a more hands-on project, as I am personally coordinating and leading the surveys as well as entering data and crunching numbers back in the office.

The flip side of my time here is spent on communications. The ODFW runs routine news updates on its marine reserves website, which I’m assisting with. So far I’ve taken a shot at writing about a new project on ocean acidification involving pH sensors in the reserves, and from here on out the goal is to push one post out every two weeks. Finally, to round things out, I am currently in the process of brainstorming potential topics for communications videos. Right now, it’s looking as though I’ll be producing either a tide pool video on life beneath the surface or a fish species highlights video from some of the cool footage that we already have.

As you can imagine, I’ve been kept busy bouncing around from the boat to the office to the tide pools, but I’ve also made sure to set aside some time to pursue my own interests. At the beginning of the summer, the coordinators had us come up with two SMART goals. I crossed the first one off my list fairly quickly (learn how to snorkel), but the second one is a bit more extensive. I decided that for this objective I would familiarize myself with the various fish species local to Oregon’s waters through time spent at work, the aquarium, or fishing (I’ve also decided to throw in a few shellfish IDs in there as well). And what better way to demonstrate my progress than to show my piscatorial pursuits? Let’s get to the pictures.

First stop, the mudflats by Hatfield. Catch the shrimp to get the bait, then catch the fish after catching the bait.

Neotrypaea californiensis, the bay ghost shrimp, commonly known simply as the ghost shrimp or sand shrimp. While both sexes possess one larger claw, this dominant claw in males is typically much bigger than the one on females (personal experience warning: I don’t recommend getting pinched by either).

Upogebia pugettensis, the blue mud shrimp. I was actually digging (unsuccessfully) for a gaper clam when I uncovered this guy several feet down. This is the first and only one I’ve seen thus far, so I consider myself lucky to have found it.

Marveling at a cockle, Clinocardium nuttallii. These clams are typically found much shallower than other clam species. The trick to finding cockles is to look for two holes spaced closely together on the ground; these are actually a pair of siphons that the cockle uses in filter feeding. I also collected gapers, littlenecks, softshells, and bent-nose macomas while clamming.

Next stop, the jetties.

This is a male kelp greenling, Hexagrammos decagrammus, caught about ¾ of the way down the South Jetty. Like the bay ghost shrimp, this species exhibits sexual dimorphism, with the males displaying darker coloration and fewer, larger spots toward the head and females having a more colorful complexion with numerous, smaller spots throughout the body. I ended up catching three in this one spot, all males about 16 to 17 inches in length.

A quillback rockfish, Sebastes maliger, just off one of the finger jetties. An interesting fact (and one I didn’t know at the time…) lies in the dorsal spines that this species is named for – these spines are actually attached to venomous glands at the base. Good thing I’m holding this fish by the jaw.

Another rockfish, this time a Sebastes caurinus: the copper rockfish. You can tell these apart from other, similarly colored rockfish by the light streak on the lateral line stretching from the base of the tail to around the middle of the body. Another characteristic is a distinctly yellow lower lip, obviously not visible here from the way I’m holding the fish.











Finally, we head back towards home and onto the pier to toss a crab ring.

I have an interesting story behind this picture. Although not clearly visible, the bait in the very middle of the ring is the tail piece of a filleted, 3 foot albacore that I fished from a dumpster at a nearby cleaning station the night before. We didn’t have much luck earlier using just chicken, but as soon we used the tuna, the ring was teeming with crabs on every pull. Just for kicks, we also added in some chicken thighs, which promptly went untouched the rest of the night. So if you plan on going crabbing, take note and save your fish carcasses after you fillet them (or find a dumpster).

A red rock crab, Cancer productus, uncharacteristically lying passively on its back. Normally red rocks are feisty, but this one stopped kicking for a moment to let me snap a picture. These can be distinguished from Dungeness crabs by the black tips on their claws as well as their overall reddish coloration.

And the other crab species we caught that night, Metacarcinus magister, the Dungeness crab. The sex of most any crab species can be determined by flipping the crab over and examining the flap, called the apron, on the underside. Males will have a narrow, pointed apron, whereas females will have a broader apron. This one is a male.

And a female Dungeness.











We were also fishing while letting the crab ring soak. After numerous pecks and nibbles throughout the night, I finally managed to land the sneaky culprit: Leptocottus armatus, the Pacific staghorn sculpin.

And finally, the delicious results of our crabbing foray. We ended up keeping one Dungeness and four red rocks.

That’s it for this week, hopefully more to come on future trips.

under: Edward Kim, Summer Scholars

Halfway there

Posted by: | July 19, 2016 | 1 Comment |

I feel like a broken record, but where did the time go? Already halfway through the summer and it feels like I just moved in last week. 

Last Friday was the first Shop at the Dock event. While this is the third year of the program, this year was a bit of an experiment in terms of staggering tours, due to the popularity of the program last year. We weren’t sure whether it would draw huge crowds (which makes the tours difficult due to limited space on the dock) or no one (also makes the tours difficult…), but it ended up being nearly perfect groups for each tour. Everyone seemed really excited and happy to learn about buying off the dock and quite a few people left with seafood.


Camped out at Port Dock 5

Even more than that, the tours seemed to address one of the key issues: people being intimidated or scared by the process of buying directly from fishermen. One of the survey questions was “What was the most important thing you learned from the Shop at the Dock Program?” and some of my favorite responses were “fisher people are nice” and “non-fisher people are welcome”. I’ll continue surveying both participants in the program as well as the fishermen every week to look for ways we can improve the tours week to week and to assess their economic impacts. 


Fresh crab from F/V Orca

Right after Shop at the Dock, the summer scholars headed to Willamette National Forest for a weekend of camping. It was definitely nice to unplug from technology and moving inland made it feel a bit more like summer. By some miracle, I only left with two mosquito bites (thank you, mosquito gods). The beautiful views in Oregon are endless and I’m so grateful I’ve had the chance to experience them.

Summer Scholars at Sahalie Falls

Summer Scholars at Sahalie Falls

More updates to come next week! Thank you as always for reading. I’ll finish it off with a song from a local band, Hemlock Lane, (from Eugene, Oregon!), who captured this weekend pretty perfectly- “in the car, on our way to better places, without a care, we’re halfway there”.

under: Stephanie Ng, Summer Scholars

The Buzz: Orthomosaics, Bathymetry Gone Awry

Alsea Bay Orthomosaic

Orthomosaics: Most people are familiar with the term mosaic, but throw in a suffix like “ortho” and it might be a struggle trying to define it (unless you are a classic Latin/Greek root aficionado, then you might know ortho- as meaning straight, upright, or correct). A more widely-known technique called a panorama (or more appropriately, digital panorama) uses a similar process of digital image-stitching. An image-stitch matches two or more images, pixel-by-pixel, to create a single, nearly seamless image. Map makers also find stitched images useful, particularly stitched aerial images. As you probably know, panoramic images are stretched and distorted enough that most objects do not retain their original size and position in the frame. Map makers find this quality particularly annoying as they prefer accuracy and precision, so they devised ways to correct or rectify images (particularly aerial/satellite images) using known, geometrically corrected ground control points (GCPs) to reduce or eliminate distortion. When you rectify aerial images that are taken looking straight down with geometric corrections and then stitch them together, the result is an orthomosaic: a mosaic of georectified (fancy name for geometrically corrected) aerial images suitable for mapping. Consumer digital maps use orthomosaics almost exclusively when available, especially Google Earth’s “satellite” view. Unlike Google Earth, our imagery won’t come from airplanes; it will come from UAVs! Also unlike Google Earth, our mosaics will likely allow you to count rocks on the beach rather than grainy blobs resembling cars and mythological creatures.

Scale 1:200

Scale 1:150

Scale 1:125

As you can see (above), our preliminary UAV missions in Alsea Bay yielded plenty of promising images. The 1:125 scale image (right) shows clear features that are smaller than 30 cm in diameter. Upon closer inspection, we can also pick out shrimp burrows and clam shows. With improvements in our technique and dialing in on clearer and more focused images with our cameras, the data we collect will only get better.

Bathymetry: Unfortunately, our Bathymetry survey in Yaquina Bay was cancelled due to equipment problems. Hopefully SEACOR will have the opportunity to make another attempt once our equipment is repaired!

Next Week: Alsea Bay, Razor Clams in Astoria, Garibaldi Days

under: Skyler Elmstrom, Summer Scholars

Camping and Sampling

Posted by: | July 17, 2016 | 2 Comments |

Another week another adventure out here in Oregon! So not only did we have our mid-summer check in this Friday but we also had the chance to go camping in Willamette National Forest this weekend. It felt amazing to be back out in the woods just hiking around again. The last time I was able to go camping was in Laguna National Forest outside of San Diego; needless to say there was a tad more desert involved. To say the least, it’s the polar opposite of San Diego, or the rest of the Oregon coast for that matter. Old growth forest clings to the rolling hills as far as the eye can see and the far-off peaks of the Three Sisters and Mt. Washington were visible from the trails. It even reached the high 70s (gasp) and felt like real summer for a few days. It was simply spectacular and I would have been happy to skip work this entire week to stay and hike around some more. I’m sure the rest of this week’s blog posts will revolve around the weekend’s hikes so I’ll let them fill in the rest of the details about the natural side of things.

The pics are of Tamolich Pool, some streams below Klamath Falls, and all of us idiots posing in front of South Sister on our hike to Moraine Lake.

On a more ‘sciencey’ note Amy, TChris, and I went water sampling this week. We drove up to the Tillamook watershed and sampled the five main tributary rivers that drain into the bay. Although we were only taking nutrient, microbial, and parameter samples it was a solid 13hr day. Couldn’t have asked for better weather though and the day did of course involve a trip to the Tillamook Creamery so overall it was a great day!

The pics are of our very full car out on the field sampling trip and of an IDEXX tray that has been incubated to test for the presence of Enterococcus spp.

under: Angus Thies, Summer Scholars

Week 4

Posted by: | July 14, 2016 | 1 Comment |

With Week 4 under our belts, we’re just about halfway finished with the program. I’m amazed at how fast time is passing (have I said that enough yet?). The mild, spring-like winter we had in the Midwest this year, combined with spending my actual spring in the Caribbean and my summer in a place where temperatures hover around the 50s and 60s, has disoriented me. I feel as though it is springtime now and that the humid Midwest summer is still to come, but instead I will be greeted with fall when I return home. Strange.

The weather this past weekend was cool and damp, keeping us mostly indoors. I’ve been focusing on getting into a productive routine where I can accomplish small pieces of different things each day. My date with the GRE is looming, and I’m trying to make sure I crack open my study book for a bit every morning. Among that, working, going on a quick jog in the evenings, and making myself dinner (and one or two…or three episodes of The Good Wife), the day can get eaten up fast.

I’ve settled into a comfortable routine at ODFW that seems to be working well. I usually do research, data entry, or other computer-based tasks in the morning and interview crabbers in the afternoon. Lately, I’ve been getting about 8-9 interviews a day, which is more than I was getting when I started off, so that’s exciting.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the law. Rules. Maybe it’s just my mild addiction to a TV show about a law firm, but I think reading up on commercial and sport fishing regulations has gotten me thinking too. Especially about the difference between making a regulation versus simply encouraging people to do something. When it comes to the Dungeness crab fishery (and other fisheries as well), catch limits and restrictions keep the fishery thriving and sustainable. For example, even though ~90% of legal Dungeness crabs (male, larger than 5 ¾”) are taken from Oregon waters each year, enough crabs reproduce to sustain the population. With other things, such as the use of floating and sinking line, perhaps it is better to have fewer rules and more education. Perhaps rules and laws are always more effective. But now I’m tapping into a debate practically as old as America, so I’ll stay content with just musing for now. Regardless of rather an issue is better solved by regulations or encouragement, it is helpful when people have compassion for the earth – it makes them want to follow rules and recommendations. This seems like a factor that is hard to account for in deciding which course of action to take.

Differences among fishery regulations have also caught my attention during my research. In the Puget Sound sport fishery, for example, the minimum legal Dungeness crab size is 6 ¼” and the daily limit is 5 males (instead of 12, as in Oregon). Sorry for delving into numbers, but the amount of research and monitoring that is necessary to make regulations like this is a point of curiosity for me. Something – fishing effort, crab population dynamics, something – caused rules in these two fisheries to be made a bit differently. Rather this is indicative of extensive research, differences of opinion, or small bits of arbitrariness in the system, there is an interesting story behind these rules. I am fascinated by how much human effort, will, and opinion is behind laws and rules, things that seem so absolute and cold.

In fear of bombarding you with pictures of sunsets, I’ve included a lone photo of me measuring an ocean-caught crab. We have our mid-summer check-in (with a PowerPoint presentation and some workshops) and camping trip this week, so more on that soon.


“Claire, I can’t see your face.” — Justin

As always, thanks for checking in.

under: Claire Mullaney, Summer Scholars

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