Farewell Post

It’s just hit me today that I’m really leaving the Oregon Sea Grant Summers Scholar program this week. It’s really felt like home the last few weeks. The people I’ve gotten to know here have been some of the kindest, funniest, and most passionate people I’ve met. I’m so glad I got to participate in this program.

Research Symposium

This past week has been a lot of fun. Our research symposium was on Friday, where we presented our research poster and did a five minute lightning talk to introduce our research. Autumn and I split up our projects at the EPA and I presented on the Zostera Marina mesocosm experiment, seeing how changing temperatures affects the relationship Zostera Marina has on carbonate chemistry in estuarine waters. It was a lot of fun to talk about and try to explain in five minutes. I had a blast talking with people about the research. Afterwards I made a blackberry pie and invited the Summer Scholars who were still in Newport after the conference, as well as Suhn’s roommates, to eat! It was a great time.

We went to the beach!

On Sunday, Nikki, Autumn, Suhn and I went to the beach! Suhn and I thought it would be a great idea to bury me in sand. Meaning, he said “Can I bury you in sand” and I said “sure.” By then time he was done the only thing emerging from the sand was my head and my cap. I would not say the experience was worth it, per se, but I don’t regret it.

Suhn and I then rented a canoe and we spent two hours on the lake. We were zooming the first hour, feeling pretty great about ourselves and our innate athletic abilities, and then when we had to turn back, Oregon decided to make us work for it. The wind was blowing so hard that if we stopped we’d start moving back very quickly, so we rowed like crazy until we got back! We also met an adorable corgi named 2020 (that’s what his nametag said) who was chilling in the shade near the docks, living his best life. All in all, a wonderful sandy Saturday.

Leaving the EPA

I’ve started the process of paperwork to end my internship at the EPA and I’m so sad about it. I am stunned by how warm, friendly, and inviting the members of the Newport Western Ecology Division of EPA were to Autumn and me. I couldn’t have asked for a better environment to do summer research, and I’m going to miss this place very much.

Thank you!!

So many people made this summer absolutely incredible! Thank you to my mentors, Jim Kaldy, Cheryl Brown, and Stephen Pacella, and to Beth Rutila and T Chris Mochon Collura! The people we worked with at the Oregon Sea Grant, including Jenny Engels, Stephanie Ichien, and Sarah Kolesar, were so friendly and fun! Finally thank you so much to my fellow Summer Scholars Autumn Herrington, Dominique Zuk, Naomi Scott, Suhn Brown, Hannah Sinclair, Honour Booth, and Melissa Wood, for being amazing and welcoming and making me feel at home! And thank you to everyone reading the blog, we really appreciate it!

Brunch and Boats!

Looking back…

Time moves strangely as an Oregon Sea Grant Summer Scholar. You work really long days and a weekend where you sleep in seems too good to be true. But when you look back, it’s baffling how quickly the weeks have passed, and how much has happened.

Sea Star Surveys

My roommate, Dominique (Nikki) Zuk, has been organizing these amazing intertidal surveys that we’ve been allowed to participate in. I finally was able to go to a starfish survey on a lovely rainy Friday morning. It was a lot of fun, and I got a little competitive about the number of starfish I found, which was unfortunate because I only found one. But it was the very best one, a Leptasterias!

Suhn Brown and I looking for sea stars! This was one (read: 1) week before he insulted my pie.

Sampling in Tillamook

Autumn and I went on another sampling field day to different stations in the Oregon Coast for an experiment on nutrient levels within watersheds that intersect with agricultural and urban areas. The team I went with has done it many times before and it was really efficient getting all the stations done between the two teams that were formed. We had enough time that on the way back, we stopped by the Tillamook Creamery and I got Marion berry cheesecake ice cream which was incredible. I’ve never had Marion berry before this summer, and I’m really going to miss fresh Marion berries when I leave here!

Me holding up an instrument we use to collect water samples. The water collected here will go towards analyzing multiple different factors, such as nutrients, carbon levels, cations, and more!

Brunch at Chalet!

Nikki, Naomi, Suhn, and I went to Chalet Restaurant and Bakery this past Sunday for brunch. I had the best buttermilk pancakes I’ve ever had in my whole life! The food was so good that I wasn’t even able to have pie and cake afterwards, so there will have to be another trip. They looked incredible, though!

I’m on a (research) boat!

I also was able to go on a boat to do water quality sampling. This was the first time I’ve been on a research boat, and I had really great guides, T Chris Monchon Collura and Beth Rutila, who helped me through the process. It was so much fun! There’s so much work that goes into doing water quality sampling on a research boat and I have great respect for the people who service the instruments every three weeks!

Me on the research boat!

As you can probably tell, I’m having a great time and I’m looking forward to what the last few weeks bring!

Chemistry and Camping!

My workload has definitely increased since before, and I’m really enjoying it! Autumn and I work on the mesocosms every day, checking the water quality of the eelgrass tanks and taking carbonate chemistry samples. We have also been given more responsibility in managing the Burke-o-lator, which is a carbonate chemistry instrument that quanitifes many different aspects of a water sample. The Burke-o-lator is named after Burke Hales at Oregon State University. It’s a state of the art instrument that, as of now, is only available for use in a few other laboratories. It was daunting to learn how to operate it at first, because each sample takes a while to run and you have to keep checking the internal wiring and making sure that nothing is wrong. When we started learning, our mentors were troubleshooting the instrument because one of the wires had sucked up water and the readings were all over the place, and so we were thoroughly warned about how to correctly operate it and to check for danger. We used to only run the Burke-o-lator when at least one of our mentors was present, but now Autumn and I trade off running it for the day and that way we can get a lot more done. I’m having a really great time learning about water chemistry!

Me working with the Burke-o-lator at the EPA

Last week we also had a picnic for the rest of the Oregon Sea Grant Scholars and many past and present mentors were there. One of my mentors, Jim Kaldy, came and was able to meet everyone! It was a lot of fun – the food was so incredibly good. I had apple dumplings for the first time and I need to find that recipe. If this blog gets out to the owner of said dumplings, please know that they were divine and you are incredible, thank you very much. We also met some adorable puppies and walked along Beverly Beach, which is gorgeous.

Then we had a great seminar on what Soft Power is and how we can use it in our daily lives. The day after that we went on a camping trip to Rujada Campground in Umpqua National Forest, which was so incredibly fun! Honour taught us all how to make s’mores with Oreos and Reese’s peanut butter cups inside (there is a specific method, it’s scientific and the product is delicious), Naomi taught us how to skip rocks, and I jumped off a rock into very cold water and had a splash fight with a small kid who was playing nearby. I may or may not have used my long hair to my advantage and shaken it in order to splash him. It was an incredible weekend of hiking, falling in lakes on accident, jumping in lakes on purpose, amazing food, and wonderful company. Jenny Engels came along with us, drove us everywhere, and was such fun company! She was the first one to jump off the rock into the lake! On the way to and from the campground, we stopped in Corvallis to go grocery shopping and visited Tacovore, a taco restaurant in Corvallis, Newport, and Eugene. I had made a sandwich for lunch going there because I’m cheap, but the people who did eat there wouldn’t stop talking about their fantastic tacos, so we went on the way back and I have to say the tacos I had there were some of the best I’ve ever had in my entire life.

Enjoying the beautiful waterfalls near Rujada Campground

All in all it has been a very busy couple of weeks, and I’ve had a blast. I’m going to miss this place and these people so very much when I’m gone. There’s something magical about spending a summer doing research in beautiful Newport, Oregon. Everyone here is so funny, kind, and inspirational, and I’m loving every second.  

First few weeks as a Sea Grant Scholar

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

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

Pulling up a water sample to take back to the lab

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

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

South Beach, just a short walk from the dorms!

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