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Genetics is a powerful tool in the field of conservation, but the topic of genetics is so large that it can sometimes be overwhelming to begin to even understand. So here is a quick cheat sheet on different methods and genetic markers that are used in the field of biology, ecology and conservation in general.

 

Using genetics can help us understand the evolution of an organism, assess the status of a population, and conserve a species.  The basis for all of the is DNA, which can be found in every single cell of all life on earth!

Photo credit: Alex Avila. Fin clip sample preserved in alcohol

Photo Credit: Alex Avila. This is a fin clip, this is all you need to extract DNA ( very tiny sample)

Photo Credit: Alex Avila, tools of the trade

DNA helps us in species identification (very useful when two different species have very similar physical characteristics), understanding taxonomic relationship ( this can be important when making natural resource management decisions and guiding conservation/restoration efforts), determination of hybrids, identifying individuals with in a population, determination of parentage, migration of populations, genetic variation and historical size of populations, and also has forensic applications (like tracking down poachers!). As you can see there are many applications for genetics in conservation, and since DNA can be found anywhere, even in poop, it makes it a great tool for scientists and managers in this field to use.

 

Ok, let’s say I have convinced you that genetics is awesome, but now what? There are so many different methods out there, how do I know which one I should use?

In genetics different methods are known as markers. Which marker you need depends on what you want to learn. Here is a quick reference to what markers to use depending on the questions being asked.

Illustration Credit: Kathleen O’Malley

  • Allozymes: nor really used that much today, but used to be used for population differentiation.
  • RFLPs: were used for population differentiation, DNA fingerprinting, genome mapping and paternity tests
  • AFLPs: used for population differentiation, and genetic mapping
  • mtDNA: also known as mitochondrial DNA is used for population differentiation, phylogeography, phylogenetics, and is only passed down via the mother
  • Y-chomosomes: phylogeography, phylogenetics, and is only found in males
  • Introns: used to study population differentiation, phylogeography, phylogenetics, and selective adaptations
  • Microsatellites: population differentiation, gene flow and migration rates, individual identification, parentage (who’s the daddy), and relatedness
  • SNPs: population differentiation, gene flow and migration, individual identification, parentage, relatedness

 

As you can see, there is some overlap in the markers. In my case I a m studying China rockfish, and looking at how ocean currents affect their dispersal. To do this I am looking at whether the China rockfish in Oregon are connected, via ocean currents to China rockfish in Washington. I had the option of using microsatellites or SNPs for this. Even though both can provide information on gene flow, parentage and relatedness, I chose to work with SNPs because I am interested in a greater level of detail that microsatellites does not produce.

Photo Credit: Alex Avila China rockfish

Photo Credit: Alex Avila

So there you have it, next time you are considering working in the field of conservation, maybe give genetics a try! You’ll find it to be a very powerful tool

 

Here are some really cool examples of real life uses of genetics in conservation:

Wolf conservation: http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-wolf-species-20160727-snap-story-20160727-snap-story.html

Whale conservation: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/14/AR2010041402683.html

 

 

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What is Biodiversity?

Biodiversity is the variety of life on Earth (Hooper et al. 2005). It can be studied on many different scales (Oliver et al. 2015). Look out into your backyard and you will see biodiversity; there is grass, there are a few different types of trees, there is a berry bush, there is a vegetable garden, there are birds, there are rabbits, and there are many different types of insects. The variety of plants and animals in your backyard constitutes the biodiversity of your backyard (Hooper et al. 2015). You can also look at biodiversity on a larger scale, such as the biodiversity in your county. In your county, there are many more species of trees, there are several different types of berries, there are many farms growing vegetables, there are many different species of birds, there are larger mammals, there are many types of insects, and there are rivers full of amphibians and fish. In contrast, we can also study biodiversity on a smaller scale; at the genetic scale (Oliver et al. 2015). Consider humans, we are all the same species, but we all look very different from one another. This is because we each have a different set of genes encoded in our DNA which makes each of us unique (Durham 1991). Just like there is genetic diversity in the human population, there is genetic diversity in each of the species we find in our backyard, in our county, or in our oceans (Oliver et al. 2015).

Backyard

What is Resilience and how does it relate to Biodiversity?

Today, we live in an ever-changing environment. It is important to have biodiversity in our environment because it makes our ecosystems more resilient (Oliver et al. 2015). Let’s think about our backyard again. The trees in our backyard provide us with something that we need and want in the hot summer months, shade. Shade is considered an ecosystem service; it is a benefit that humans receive from the environment (McLeod and Leslie 2009). Now imagine a big storm comes through your area and all the cottonwood trees in your backyard fall over with the high winds of the storm. If the only type of tree in your backyard was cottonwood, then you would no longer have shade in the summer. Luckily, you also have maple trees in your backyard. These maple trees have a much larger root system, so they can stay standing through the high winds of the storm. So, even though all the cottonwood trees in your backyard are gone, there are still maple trees to provide you with shade in the summer. Having biodiversity of trees in your backyard allows your backyard to be more resilient to storms. Your backyard changed, but it was still able to provide you with the ecosystem service that you wanted, shade. The biodiversity of your backyard ecosystem allows for resilience.

Cottonwood Tree

Now let’s look at the biodiversity on the smaller scale, let’s consider genetic biodiversity. Your neighbor has only cottonwood trees in their yard; so, you assume that all their trees have blown over in the storm. Yet, when you look over at your neighbor’s backyard, you see that some cottonwood trees are still standing. Why is this? It turns out that while your neighbor does not have a biodiversity of different types of tree species in their backyard, they do have genetic biodiversity in the cottonwoods planted in their backyard.  Some of the cottonwood trees planted in their backyard have genes that code for a larger root system. These trees make up a genetically defined group of cottonwood trees that are different from the genetically defined group of cottonwood trees that blew over. The genetic diversity among cottonwood trees in your neighbor’s backyard allowed for resilience of not only their backyard ecosystem, but also of the cottonwood trees. You still have shade in your backyard, but now you must sit under a maple tree for shade. Your neighbor still has shade, but they can still sit under a cottonwood tree for shade.

DNA

You planted certain trees in your backyard and continued to maintain the health of these trees; this is a way in which your backyard was managed. By maintaining a diversity of trees species or genetic diversity of cottonwood trees, you can make your backyard ecosystem more resilient to environmental effects (Bagley et al. 2002). Just like you can manage your backyard to be more resilient to storms and a changing environment, we can manage other natural resources to maintain a heathy, productive, and resilient ecosystem that will continue to provide humans with the services that they want and need from the natural environment (McLeod and Leslie 2009; Berks 2012; Lester et al. 2010).

Genetic Diversity and Dungeness Crab

In Oregon, fisheries are an important natural resources that provide us with many ecosystem services, including food. Just like shade is an ecosystem service we obtain from the trees in our backyard, seafood is an ecosystem service provided by the ocean. One of the most valuable ocean fisheries in Oregon is the Dungeness crab fishery (Rasmuson 2013). In order to continue catching and eating this natural resource into the future, the fishery is managed. There is uncertainty in what environmental changes or extreme events will occur in the marine ecosystems in the future, but understanding and maintaining the genetic diversity of the Dungeness crab can provide a foundation for a species that has greater resilience to change. It is inevitable that environmental events will negatively impact some of the Dungeness crab along our coasts, but diversity of the population’s genetic composition can increase the likelihood that some of the Dungeness crab will survive. Genetic diversity of the Dungeness crab along our coasts is just one of many aspects of the species that can influence how plentiful the Dungeness crab fishery is along our coasts in the future.

Dungeness Crab

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The Quickest Year on Record

Posted by: | August 29, 2018 | No Comment |

The realization that my fellowship is coming to an end has not yet completely hit me yet.

In a way, this year will go on record as the quickest year I’ve ever experienced.  I’ve had the opportunity to gain more hands on experience in my field (Marine Resource Management) than during any other chapter of my life and it has been an absolute honor to work alongside the amazing staff at the Oregon Coastal Management Program.  So in wrap up, and for my final Oregon Sea Grant blog post I thought it was only fitting to share just a tidbit of what I have learned, things I have discovered about myself along the way, and what I see in my future.

BUT FIRST:  It goes without saying, but I couldn’t have come this far in such a short year without the opportunity to be an Oregon Sea Grant Natural Resource Policy Fellow.  The OSG team is a well oiled machine that does the work of an office twice their size.  It’s not often that you find such a supportive and knowledgeable group of individuals.  I’m truly grateful for this experience and I only hope the end of my fellowship is not a goodbye, but rather a see you soon to the Sea Grant family that has embraced this loud and salty New Yorker for 2 years of graduate research and 1 year of professional development.

Image may contain: Deanna Ester Caracciolo, smiling, outdoor and nature

That’s a Wrap

I know..how cliche, but I’ve truly learned more about myself as a professional and the field of resource management in the last 12 months than I have throughout my 6 years of environmental higher education.  For full transparency, I wrote this post partially outlining what I have experienced and learned, but have also somewhat directed it to myself a year ago-

Start things off right:  All mentor-fellow relationships are different, but starting off on the right foot can ease any early concerns.  Sit down and discuss your expectations of one another.  Coming directly from grad school can cause you to accept one-sided interactions (your adviser asks you to do something and you stop the rotation of Earth on it’s axis to make it happen).  Fellowships maybe a step in between school and a permanent position, but communicating clear expectations and realism will be necessary long after the fellowship has ended.  So don’t be afraid to go home at the end of the work day and do something for yourself without feeling guilty.  Your tasks will still be there tomorrow and your boss should understand.  That brings me to the next point-

Work-Life Balance is real!:  For those that knew me in throughout my college career – sorry if you just had a mild aneurysm hearing that come from me.  This realization was one of the hardest for me to come to.  As a certified “yes-girl” I thrived on calendar filling, blood-shot eye causing, CV building experiences.  Yet this fellowship has taught me that although those experiences helped me to get where I am today, sometimes being a “maybe-girl” or a “I’d rather stay in and watch every 2-star romcom on Netflix with my dog that day-girl” is completely acceptable.  Every hour of your day doesn’t have to be optimized for professional development.  At a point, your mental health and relaxation is worth more than trying to teach yourself a new skill at 10pm on youtube because a professor back in freshman year statistics said it was a great way to get a job one day (true story).  Although I never did full grasp that specific skill, this year was still filled with new personal and professional development – I’ve learned how to sew my own cloths, weave a basket, and have even spent some time reading FUN BOOKS!  Overall, it’s great to be thirsty for professional development and bettering your career path, but no candle can burn at both ends forever – so treat yourself!

Don’t hesitate to ask:  Slightly contradictory to my last bullet, but still important.  I began my fellowship expecting to work on the Territorial Sea Plan – Rocky Shores Management Strategy, and I have, but I knew I wanted to do more with my time at the Department of land Conservation and Development.  Luckily my mentor is a super busy guy, so he was more than open to letting me help on a multitude of other projects.  This has allowed me to further work on skills like meeting facilitation, internship supervision, group logistics, grant writing, web development, tribal relations, policy drafting, commission briefings, and so much more.  At the same time I have also started work on an evaluative component to Sea Grant scholar opportunities.  Moral of the story – want experience doing something? Just ask! Most of the time somebody wants help doing something too!

Looking toward the future 

My long and short-term goals have definitely evolved and grown throughout my education and fellowship.  If you would have told me as a brash young undergrad with my sights set on a PhD, 1,000 publications, and a life filled with chaining myself to trees, that I would be working in government and facilitating policy writing surrounding coastal management I would have laughed and gone back to reading Silent Spring (nerd alert).  But overall, here is where I stand today-

  • Short-Term Goals:  I was honored to partner with the Coastal program to apply for and receive a NOAA Project of Special Merit grant ($225k) to continue the work on the TSP.  I’m now actively competing for the position that was written into that grant which will extend my position for another 18 months. – Fingered crossed!  Additionally, I’d like to go back to school part time and obtain my project management certificate.
  • Long-Term Goals:  Although I haven’t completely ruled out a life filled with chaining myself to trees, I hope to also continue building my skills as a facilitator and project manager while aim to pursue a law degree part time along the way.   I like the idea of working for state government or a non-profit like the Nature Conservancy as a marine projects/policy coordinator.  In a perfect world I would find a home with Sea Grant as an extension agent, project/division coordinator/etc, but regardless of my position title, wherever I end up, I’d like to be in a supervisory role filled with learning and logistics (who doesn’t love a good spreadsheet?).

Lastly, wherever I go and whatever I do, I’m thankful to have the best support system a girl could ask for <3  I can’t thank my amazing friends and family, as well as Jake and Timber for always having my back through one adventure after the next.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing, mountain, sky, outdoor and nature

Image may contain: Deanna Ester Caracciolo and Brittany Harrington, people smiling, sky, ocean, outdoor, water and nature   Image may contain: Julianna Pronesti, Deanna Ester Caracciolo, Corin Harmon and Dan Yell, people smiling, people standing, night and indoor

Love & Waves,

Deanna

 

 

 

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Closing Up with Camp

Posted by: | August 23, 2018 | No Comment |

Finishing up this internship with the last week of Summer Science Camp could not be more appropriate. For 9 weeks I squeezed into vans, followed groups of kids on hikes, ran with them on the beach, crafted shirts and art projects, explored with them, all the while catching someone’s first time holding a crab, someone’s first hike down to the Slough, someone’s first beach cleanup. I got to be there for so many moments, working to capture them in just the right way so I could weave them into our digital story. For my final week, I get to simply enjoy their growth and enthusiasm as a camp counselor.

Every group of kids is so different and so unpredictable. Some groups have proven to be a worthy test of my patience, others offered a refreshing worldview. In all cases, I feel so privileged to be able to participate in this program and I’m so happy that so many staff members and parents have already watched my video and told me what it captured for them.

As I finish up my final report and type this last blog post, I find myself struggling for the correct words to sum up these 10 weeks. Today, after the last camper was picked up, I trudged up the steps to the interpretive center, desperate to close my eyes and rest my aching head from a long day with 19 kids. I plugged in my camera to see the shots I took and found myself smiling, feeling better, remembering each moment as I scrolled past it. On the drive home, I found myself thinking of how much energy, patience, and attention it requires to foster a child’s learning and ensure their time in nature is productive. As our society becomes busier and busier, I hope we continue to protect programs like Summer Science Camps and that we keep investing in our children because the results speak for themselves (Youtube: South Slough Summer Camp Cultivating Wonder)

Campers race to the top of the dunes at John Dellenback.

 

 

 

 

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Goodbye Oregon!

Posted by: | August 21, 2018 | No Comment |

Living in Oregon was a whole new two-month life. I’ve thought for a while now about leaving for somewhere where I’d know no one and nowhere to challenge myself and call it an adventure. This wasn’t a difficult challenge. This isn’t because I’m comfortable everywhere I go and am an adaptation queen, but that I am extremely lucky. I am lucky that I loved my position working with ODFW. I am lucky the people I got to work with became mentors professionally and friends personally. I am lucky to have lived in a beautiful and quaint coastal town. I am lucky that my dorm hallmates were genuine, fun, and loved talking about and collecting plants. I am lucky that every single 2018 Oregon Sea Grant Summer Scholar is a wonderful person to know, and the lovely ladies who ran this program did a heck of a job. For all these things I feel lucky for, I am thankful.

As I write this I am sitting in a study room at my college, Virginia Tech. I’ve jumped right back into my normal life, it’s been a hectic transition. As I placed my few Oregon keepsakes on my shelf last night I had a lot of fun telling my college roommates about them. I have a small stuffed bear dressed as a park ranger I bought during our midsummer camping mishap that left us to eat at a local restaurant that had a cute gift store. I have posters of bay clam and crabs I used to refer to every time I measured samples, now I know more than what the posters say. I bought a piece of cement imprinted with a leaf from a day trip down to Bandon I showed them. I gave my roommate an art print of a caribou I found at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. My shelf holds souvenirs of my summer memories.

I had a lot of firsts this summer, I’ll try to list all of them but know after I post this blog I’ll think of even more.

  1. Tried an Oyster that I didn’t like.
  2. Tried a tamale that I did like.
  3. Drove a boat.
  4. Went camping (in a tent, so real camping.)
  5. Went to Oregon!
  6. Went to California!
  7. Saw the Redwoods.
  8. White water rafting.
  9. White water kayaking.
  10. Went into a cave (with a guide and didn’t touch anything of course.)
  11. Dug for clams.
  12. Ate new berries: Huckleberry, Marionberry, Salmonberry, Salal Berry.
  13. Held a live shrimp.
  14. Stayed in a hotel room by myself.
  15. Witnessed smoke from forest fires.
  16. Saw Harbor Seals in the wild.
  17. Saw Bald Eagles in the wild.
  18. Saw a porcupine in the wild.
  19. Saw whales in the wild.
  20. Entered the Pacific Ocean.

I will miss my wild and wonderful Oregon coast adventure with the people who made it so hard to leave.

Bob Mapes, Mo Bancroft, and I are ready to dig a detailed assessment method (DAM) sight to search for clams, crabs, and shrimp.

The 2018 Oregon Sea Grant Summer Scholars! Pictured are also Sarah Kolesar and Anne Hayden-Lesmeister, the Research and Scholars Program Leader and Assistant.

Liz Perotti, Bob Mapes, Tammy Chapman, and I on board “Saxidomus,” one of ODFW’s boats.

 

 

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This past week was Burger Week in Portland that lasted from August 13th-18th. There were 50 places that were participating, and a burger was five dollars. My goal was to try as many burgers as I could before the event ended. I tried a total of five burgers. I had a burger from Swine Moonshine & Whiskey Bar, Hopcity, Brix Tavern, Las Primas, and Portland burger. Out of the five places I tried, I would say Swine had the best burger. I can’t believe it that I’ll be leaving Portland soon.

It was my first time making a poster and presenting in front of more than 30 audiences. It was hilarious, when I messed up on the quotes. I had it all memorized, but when I was presenting my thoughts were faster than my mouth and I read the quotes wrong. I was relieved when I finished. It was very hard to condense all the information and make a presentation under five minutes. It was an accomplished presentation and poster.

My last weekend adventure was spent biking 20 miles to the Sauvie Island. In total we biked 40 miles which was the most I’ve ever biked. Wesley and I spent some time at the beach, played some frisbee and did some blackberry picking on our way back home. To end the night, we celebrated with a burger from Las Primas.

This summer is one of the best. I had the opportunity to work with NOAA Fisheries and learn all about Oregon. I’m happy I took every opportunity available this summer to meet and talk with people about their career paths and previous career they had. Career paths I discovered this summer are, peace corps, consultants, NOAA Corps, and many more that was never on my radar before this internship. I tried to figure out what I want to do in the upcoming year after graduation. I had plans for the year but no solid plans for after. After talking with so many people, it helped reassure me that there is no right path and there are many unexpected opportunities.

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A Summer of Growth

Posted by: | August 20, 2018 | No Comment |

I cannot believe how quickly this summer has flown by! It feels like just a few days ago I was at the WRCA office working on writing my first blog post. Now, I’m back at my school library, trying to find a way to summarize everything I’ve learned and experienced.

This summer was my first time living somewhere away from home other than on a college campus. I had to learn how to cook, clean, pay for laundry and problem solve on my own. This experience in itself was invaluable because it taught me how to become a real adult, especially now that I am officially no longer a teenager.

I learned how to work with people who may have opinions or ideas I don’t agree with, and how to speak up for myself when I feel I need to. I figured out that a desk job is not my profession of choice, but also how to make office work manageable. A skill I was hoping to improve on was my networking skills, and I was presented with many opportunities to do so this summer.

I think my biggest take-away from this summer is how passionate each and every person I met was about what they were doing. I didn’t meet a single individual who didn’t love what they did every day. In a world where us students are pushed towards jobs that bring the most profit, it’s inspiring to see that you can always find a way to do what you love and care about.

In summary, this summer has been life changing, although a lot of how I’ve grown cannot be put to words. Needless to say, I am so grateful to Oregon Sea Grant and all of those I met and/or worked with this summer. I will hold this experience close to my heart and can’t wait to do more with Sea Grant in the future!

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A Summer in Paradise

Posted by: | August 20, 2018 | No Comment |

As I stepped onto that American Airlines flight in Phoenix, gladly escaping the imminent desert heat of 110+ degrees, I did not know what to expect but I knew that I had to make the most of my journey. I always thought of Oregon as “that random box-shaped state with a bunch of hippy, tree loving people” with nothing much else to offer. Well…let’s just say that I was happy to be proven wrong and that Oregon has been in fact one of the greatest states I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. If you have read any of my previous posts, then you know a little bit about the amazing adventures I have been on and my appreciation for Oregon State University.

My project was challenging at times, but it gave me an insight on what it is like to work in a collaborative manner with faculty members from different departments and organizations. One of the main aspects of the project that I personally enjoyed was being able to work on an initiative specifically for the cause of Native American students. It was fantastic to know that OSU wants to address the need to increase high school graduation and college entrance rates among Native American tribes in Oregon and throughout the country. As a summer scholar, I was able to help the program gather information pertaining to American Indian and Alaska Native student populations in the nation and developed two surveys for distribution at a later stage in the project. I hope the program will continue to succeed and achieve the goals that it has set out to. It was quite wonderful to learn about the history of Native American tribes in this part of the country and I was beyond excited to have had the opportunity to attend a Pow Wow on the Siletz reservation.

Another aspect about the OSG program that I enjoyed was having the opportunity to learn more about the Pacific Northwest region and about how climate change is affecting the agriculture and farming industries here in Oregon. Coming from Arizona, we rarely hear information pertaining to coastal regions, unless you specifically seek out this information or know someone within the scientific and environmental fields researching these issues. This summer was the first time that I learned about “The Blob” and about the declining and migratory populations of marine species that is occurring as a direct result of climate change. It was an eye opening summer of learning to say the least!

To conclude my travels, I will be taking one last road trip with my mother to visit the Tillamook cheese factory where I am planning to gorge on as many dairy products as I can and then continue on to Cannon Beach. It is saddening that I have to leave this amazing state in less than a week, but Oregon will always have a special place in my heart! A million thank you’s to the Oregon Sea Grant organization for allowing me to have had this once in a lifetime opportunity, I will never forget it! As for my fellow scholars, I will miss you all greatly and wish everyone the best in their junior/senior years and beyond. You are all phenomenal individuals that are going to do some great things in the world and I’m happy to have had the pleasure of meeting you all!!!

All of the amazing Oregon Sea Grant Summer Scholars!

Until next time Oregon…I will be back for Marionberry shakes at Burgerville!!!!

P.S. I FINALLY figured out how to add pictures!

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This summer has been full of learning opportunities, interesting times in Portland, and making great connections with others. Working at a cubicle was by no means my first choice this summer but looking back I couldn’t have asked for a better internship! My aspirations to help salmon and steelhead populations could not be better achieved than to assess the impacts that climate change will have on them. Research on salmon and steelhead has reached new heights in the last decade thanks to technological advancements such as PIT tag technology (used in some pets), genetics, and modeling.

To start, not a lot has been understood about the life history of salmon and steelhead until we were able to track and monitor their migrations. PIT tags and acoustic tags have helped researchers track where in the ocean these fish go to feed and undergo metamorphosis. Although we have been able to establish migratory routes for many of these fish one thing that we need to better understand is the diversity of life histories that exist with these species. Some anadromous fish spend only a year in the ‘salt’ (as anglers say) while others spend two to five years in the salt. As you can imagine this results in huge differences in the size and fecundity of the fish. Because salmon are semelparous, meaning they put all their energy into one large reproductive event, size does matter. Bigger fish produce more eggs and therefore have higher fitness than smaller fish. One concern for salmonids in the ocean is that the longer the fish spends time in the ocean the more likely it is to be caught by fishing boats, prey, or die due to pathogens and disease. Currently research is being conducted to better understand alternative life cycles of salmonids and what can be done to increase their chances of recovery in the Pacific Northwest.

Another fascinating and fairly new technology is genetic analysis. One interesting finding is that some parents contribute more to the next generation more than others. A hypothetical example is if two all star athletes produce offspring compared to if two people with poor health produce offspring. The all star offspring are more likely to survive and pass on their genes to the following generation. This is important because if we remove the all stars through fishing we may reduce the fitness of subsequent generations. These kinds of studies are being conducted throughout the range of salmonids to analyze the effects of hatchery fish breeding with wild fish.

Lastly, models have come a far way by having a better understanding of what assumptions must be put into the model. As we learn more about the ecology of salmonids models can be improved to better represent the reality of population cycles. One difficulty that remains in modeling is taking into account genetic interactions with hatchery fish as well as how does a one year salt fish breeding with a three year salt fish effect fitness. These small details are hard to account for in models and often time little is known about these interactions to begin with.

My work will play a role in addressing the impacts of projects that affect salmonids in light of the struggles they face with climate change. I am looking forward to seeing my work applied in the NEPA process as well as continuing to work with salmon and steelhead in the future. Thank you Sea Grant for helping me follow my passions!

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After nine weeks of working, learning, and getting to know Newport, my time here is almost over. A lot has happened in past few weeks since my last blog posts, including many first and lasts for the summer.

I started these past 3 weeks with my last field day in the Trask River in Tillamook. We did a second run-through of the experiment quantifying in-stream processing so that we could have a second set of data and include a dark treatment. Once we got back to the lab, I sorted the containers and set aside the rocks for later so that I can measure the volume of the rocks and use this to better quantify photosynthesis and respiration rates – one of the projects I have for my last week.

Storing containers with river rocks from my last field day. The volume of these rocks will be measured this week to account for volume in my photosynthesis and respiration rates.

Running my last set of samples on the Burkolator

Once I was all finished with field work and running samples, it was time for data analysis! I had 3 days after gathering all my data to process them and create a final poster and presentation. Here’s the final poster that I created:

A screenshot of my final poster

But most of the time, processing data actually looked more like this:

A screenshot of one of many sheets on one of many excel workbooks as I try to piece together the data.

I have never processed large data sets before, and I learned that this process is very messy but fun. Compiling and making sense of the data brings up just as many questions as it answers. For example, when I look at the changes in dissolved oxygen as compared to total carbon dioxide in a container, preliminary graphs show me that there is a fairly linear relationship between the two. But that brings into question: is it best to use the concentration of oxygen or the percent saturation in this comparison? How can I compare changes in the containers to changes in the stream when the containers are staying in place but open the water is moving through many different areas? How can I find a way to visually present the connections that I am making in my head? What do I do about the four ugly data points that seem to be off?

And then of course: How do I present this all in just 5 minutes?

Trying to find a way to present my findings turned out to be a great way to learn more about the subject. In order to be able to explain the observed changes to others, I had to solidify my understanding of the processes underlying the changes we were seeing in water conditions as well as making the calculations and the graphs. This process was challenging and fun, and the symposium on August 17 was a great way to conclude this part of my project and see what everyone else has been working on.

So what now?

I may have presented my findings last Friday, but the project is not over yet! Over the next week, I have plenty to keep me busy: measuring the volume of the rocks collected to normalize for volume, cleaning up the many excel documents used to compile and graph data, improving the meta data on the documents I have produced, finding a way to account for loss of dissolved oxygen from air exchange, and making sure all the files I have created over the course of the summer are accessible to others once I leave.

After this week, I will keep working on this project remotely. We intend to continue processing data, and I intend to write a manuscript for my WWU Honors Program Senior Project requirements as well as the possibility of publishing this work alongside my mentors in a journal.

I also intend to go to all of my favorite places at least one last time: Ollala Lake, Bier One, South Beach State Park, and the “hammock tree,” to name just a few.

Newport, you have been good to me.

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