Week 9 blog: A Short Week

This work week was a short one for me. On Tuesday, I worked on some new ideas for the tsunami exhibit. We are considering abandoning the Lego idea altogether and using per-fabricated wooden structures (similar to an idea used by OSU’s wave lab). For most of that day I was doing research on what the wave center had done and coming up with prototype models for use in our wave tank. It is still a work in progress and will make an interesting last minute twist to my project presentation this Friday.  Wednesday was a relatively normal day at the visitor center  with the exception of a few hundred  students that arrived for a morning tour. The yellow submarine that we painted last week still looks shiny and new; a nice greeting for our visitors.

I was lucky enough to use some accumulated days off and have a five day weekend. It was nice to go home for a day and then on to our annual family weekend camp out.  I also spent a lot of time working on my presentation for Friday. While I was away it hit me that the summer is almost over and I realized how much I enjoyed it and would miss my co-workers. Becca and Mackenzie have been great supervisors and I have learned so much from them and from my mentor Bill Hanshumaker.   My fellow interns are good people and while we are all very different, I have come to admire each of them.  Brian for his nearly encyclopedic knowledge of tide pool organisms, his ability to keep a cool head even in crazy circumstances (such as when all of the water pipes in the visitor center randomly break) and his handy skills, whether it is building a mock up of a wave energy device or creating very elaborate looking homemade fishing gear.  Diana for her ability to pick up things so quickly. In the short time she has been here she has quickly become an expert on all things Oregon and she brought with her an exceptional knowledge of the octopus to share.  Julie for her ability to cheer up people all around her. She has been working hard on her climate change/ free choice learning project while still having the time to work in the visitor center whenever we are short. I consider myself extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to work with all these fine people this summer.

Week 8: Guns and Roses Reunion Tour

This week I worked an extra day in exchange for me starting my long weekend a day early. Earlier in the week we received a piece of the bumper off of the Japanese dock. People have been very curious about the artifact and we have even installed a little sign on the fragment to help people identify it. It would also seem hat we will also be receiving a larger section of the dock at a later date. The dock is currently being broken up somewhere inland.

Aurora our octopus has been much more active this week. She has also continued to remain on the viewable side of the tank when she is sleeping. The new cool looking Octocam Cards are also proving to be very popular and we routinely have to refill the empty stack on the front desk. Another interesting event occurred this week as well. While we were refilling the Tsunami tank we accidentally lost control of the hose for a few seconds causing it to spray all over the place. We got some water on one of the computers as well but the device turned out to be alright. The Tsunami tank is still a work and progress but we have been opening it up to the public on Tuesdays with very positive results. On Friday Bill Hanshumaker had me help repaint the Yellow submarine out in front of the visitor center. It only took 2 hours and the submarine now looks really good (almost like new). All of us desperately tried to resist the urge to start humming the Beatles song while we were working.

Saturday was marked by another incident involving people with firearms. It has been decided that we should make a sign to discourage this from happening again. Additionally we have been having more trouble with leaks that seem to be spring up in multiple exhibits.

This upcoming week will be short (only 2 days) for me. I will be heading home for a 5 day break accumulated from all of my days off over the summer. I cannot believe that it is Mid August. Where has the time gone?

Week 5: Guns and Roses

This week had a lot of excitement. In addition to the usual docent duties and estuary tours, this week also would be my first week without a day off. Earlier in the month I had promised to cover for Brian so that he could go to a family reunion. This works out well as I am preparing for my big “super weekend” in August.

Originally I was told that i was not going to be working at Da Vinci days on Saturday. However at the last minute I learned that I was in fact going to be manning the SeaGrant booth there.  I frantically emailed Eric Dicky to see if there was anyway that I could still get a room, fortunately there was plenty of room left in Dixon Lodge. Da Vinci days was fun, I worked in the booth from 10AM- 1PM helping with our little watershed and invasive species display. I also helped explain some of the cool artifacts that me and Diana had brought from Hatfield. After my shift was over I met my family in Corvallis and we attended Da Vinci days. I also bumped into my old high-school friend while I was there.

The two most memorable things that happened during the week was the Brown Pelican disturbance of a seabird colony at Yaquina head. People started coming in asking questions about what was going on. We (having only learned about the incident minutes before) attempted to find out as much as we could about it so that we could better answer peoples questions. On Friday an extremely inconsiderate visitor came to the center. The man (in the company of dozens of children also attending the visitor center) was carrying a 40 caliber handgun in a holster on his belt. After consulting my supervisor (and her in turn someone else in charge; and so on) we finally found someone “tall” enough to confront the man. The man finally left. What an unexpected occurrence.

I am looking forward to the long week ahead of me. Hopefully my legos will arrive soon so I can put the finishing touches on my tsunami proof building designs.


Week 4: The true meaning of Glory

On Monday (my day off) I spent a few hours helping out with a “fish cutting party” that was be hosted in the NOAA building.

On Tuesday the aquarists took nearly all of the steelhead out of the “Open ocean” exhibit to see if that would stop the herring mortality’s. There has not been a herring mortality since then. We mostly worked on our projects that day and finally opened one of the wave tanks (the erosion tank) to the public. The exhibit seems to be quite popular. I got the idea for testing how a large sand dune might be able to dampen the effect of a tsunami. To test this i created an artificial sand dune (made of 50% sand and 50% glue) that i plan to coat with a varnish (for water proofness) for the tank.

On Wednesday I did an estuary walk at 11AM and later me and Brian tag teamed the Ocean Quest presentation. I also got to spend a lot of time manning the touch tank on Wednesday. We also attempted to get a video that i had downloaded (of Mt. St Helen’s erupting) to run on the ocean quest. For some reason it runs so slow that it just looks like a still picture (oh well). The day before we switched Squirt (our octopus) with Aurora. Aurora is much more shy than Squirt was and seems to be having trouble acclimating.

On Thursday I did another estuary walk . Later on i talked to mark about some of the building materials that i would like to have (ie. legos) for the tsunami tank and if there was a good place in town to buy them in bulk. Instead he just told me that i could buy whatever i needed off of the Lego website as long as I kept it under $100 (Alright). The tsunami tank has recently been having endless computer glitches that we are still trying to work out.

On Friday I did my first solo ocean quest. Fortunately (or unfortunately) only two people showed up for it.  Aurora finally came out from hiding in the corner (which was exciting for people) and explored the rest of the tank. The erosion tank while popular as proven to cause quite a mess when kids end up spilling sand and water on the floor. We are think of making some modifications to prevent this.  I decided that i did not want to run all the way back to my dorm to get a quick snack so I ended up buying some “astronaut ice cream” from the gift shop (or as what most people refer to it as, “chalk”).

On Saturday I did the estuary walk again in addition to Ocean Quest in exchange for taking a longer lunch break. Saturday was not as busy as it has been in the past (likely due to the county and country fairs). We also had to cover up the octopus tank due to the high amounts of stress that Aurora seemed to be under going. We will probably have to take her off of the exhibit and put Squirt back instead. We were able to get off at 4:15 that day in order to attend a barbecue for all of the visitor center volunteers. Good food, good time.

The Amazing Adventures of Nicholas Pitz (week 3 blog)

On Tuesday we started giving the “Ocean Quest” multimedia presentation in the visitor center. Some of the sciences of the presentation seemed to go over the heads of some of the younger people present and needless to say that the number of people present in the auditorium was much higher at the beginning of the presentation than it was at the end. For the rest of the day we helped to work on Diana Roman’s project on shore erosion (in one of our new wave tanks). We removed the sand from the tank (which was clouding up the water) and replaced it with plastic pellets.

Wednesday was the 4th of July. For the occasion I wore a little British Union Jack button. I also gave an estuary tour on that day. Several of the people on the tour desperately wanted to see a small crab. I spent about 5 minutes chasing a good sized Purple Shore crab through the rocks in our salt water stream. When I finally caught him, he pinched me on the finger; ouch! Finally i just picked him up in my hat, that seemed to be amusing enough for the people. Around noon some strange person came into the visitor center and started asking us about the possibility of “artificially creating hurricanes in order to reflect more sun light in an effort to combat climate change”. We told him that that might be a tiny bit problematic but that we would be sure to ask an expert about.

On Thursday we did another ocean quest presentation. Fewer people left this time and I sat in the audience and took notes on the presentation so that we might find ways of improving it. I offered to do the estuary walk a second day in a row. This time I was able to keep the crowd busy the entire time by letting them play with the shrimp slurped out on the mud flats.

On Friday we got to work on our wave tanks again. Some of the calculations that we had been playing with in the previous week for the Tsunami tank were entered into the computer. Now the wave tank would not splash as much. We gave another Ocean Quest Presentation as well. I think that they are starting to get better but we still have a few bugs that we need to work out, such as getting more exciting videos of volcanic eruptions.

Saturday was my last day. We did yet another ocean quest presentation and an estuary tour. I had forgotten to eat breakfast that day so i ran into the gift shop and bought some “Astronaut Ice cream.” It was interesting to say the least, I don’t know how they figure that its ice cream though. The day was nearly as busy as the fourth of July had been. It finally winded down by 4:00. During the day instead of showing one long film (like Blue Planet) we decided that it would be better to “control the crowds”. When we locked up for the day we discovered that a family was missing their daughter. After a 5 minute search she was found hiding in the Woman’s restroom. Crisis averted.




Nick Pitz Week 2 blog

Monday was my first “day off” from the HMCS visitor center. During this time I busied myself with researching my project (looking up information on tsunamis, the Cascadia subduction zone, and tsunami proof buildings) and practicing the Ocean Quest presentation. This was also the first day all week that I finally got to sleep in.

Tuesday was the last official day of training. The interns attended two special lectures about waves and wave energy. We also attended a brown bag lunch with all of the REU students and learned a bit more about the sea turtle that washed ashore in Newport. Tuesday was the first day that we actually helped to close up the visitor center at 5 PM. Nearly all of the centers light switches are cleverly hidden from view (an therefore impossible to find at a glance).

Wednesday was my first official day at the visitor center. I showed up for at around 9:15AM to start turning things on. I quickly found myself  helping Mark Farley fill up the new tsunami tank. We also noticed that we seem to be having some mortalities with some of the herring in an exhibit, we still have no idea why this is happening. We also got a few more behind the scenes information learning about when and what the different animals get fed during the week.

On Thursday I gave my second estuary walk tour. Once again I found myself with only two people attending. I did my best. We made an interesting find in the mud flats when I uncovered a polychaete worm with the “slurp stick”. After the tour I returned to man the front desk at the visitor center. We helped to get the visitor center in order for the 1:00 octopus feeding which usually brings in more people. After the feeding we decided that it would be a fun idea to measure out the dimensions of the Japanese dock that had washed ashore on Agate beach. This would be helpful for giving visitors a better idea of the size of the dock.

On Friday we helped Mark Farley with the wave machine again. Our job was to “calculate” the ideal parameters that would give us the biggest waves without splashing and shorting out the machinery. We did this for most of the day, at one point I was using a small umbrella in order to protect our computer from splashes generated by the wave maker. After finishing the calculations we proceeded to knock down a small lego building with a “tsunami”. Later I helped Mark move one of the other wave tanks out to his truck so that he could take it for repairs.

On Saturday we got an unexpected surprise. Apparently Senator Ron Wyden was given a closed lecture in the Library about Tsunami debris. For the first 2 hours of the day we were helping to direct people to the library for the lecture. This turned out to be very time consuming. We also had another octopus feeding that day. I was charged with getting a photo of the octopus in the event that he attempted to squeeze through the small hole (which he didn’t). We also continued to have problems with moralities. This time we noticed several of the herring behaving strangely (swimming near the surface as though they could not control their buoyancy properly).  I suggested to McKenzie that we might try setting up a video camera over the night to observe what is actually going on with the fish. She thought that it was a good idea and is considering it. After closing up the visitor center I ran over to the Oregon Coast Aquarium to ask how the sea turtle was doing (as visitors keep asking). Apparently the turtle is doing better and they plan to eventually release it down in Monterrey Bay.

Nick Pitz Week 1 blog

Last week we started our training at the HMSC under the supervision of Bill Hanshumaker. On Tuesday we took our first little tour of the estuary. We had to get up at around 6 AM in order to make the low tide.  We were informed that at least one of us was going to sink into the mud that day. That person ended up being me. I was able to recover my boots (using a bucket to pry myself out) but they still smell like Hydrogen Sulfide. We learned a lot about the estuary as well as the organisms (both native and invasive) that live there. We spent the rest of the day getting a little behind the scenes tour of HMSC.

On Wednesday we met at Yaquina Head and explored the tide pools and sea birds to help familiarize ourselves with intertidal life. Later we arrived for the Markham Symposium going on in the visitor center.   We got a little tour of more of the  facilities at HMSC and ended the day in the auditorium working on the Ocean Quest slide show (it still has a few bugs to work out). We later helped Bill Hanshumaker take down some of the older exhibits and relocate them to a ware house about 15 minutes up the road. He left for Alaska the next morning and we will probably not see him again until July 2.

On Thursday we practiced worked on the Ocean Quest presentation again. We learned about the feeding processed at HMSC. We also got to meet “Pearl” (the octopus that is currently not on display) and watched a Rock fish get some of its parasites removed. We did the estuary walk again with another volunteer who encouraged us to find our own particular way of making the walk interesting

On friday we worked on more behind the scenes stuff. We got to see some of the seawater pumping system that runs all throughout the facility.  We also had  more practice with the estuary walks and finally seemed to make some progress with Ocean Quest (then we lost half of the videos somehow). Later we learned all about marine fisheries (and some of the relevant exhibits) off of the Oregon Coast.

On Saturday we “gave” our first estuary walks to the public (under close supervision). And Sunday I gave my first estuary walk, apparently I did “fine” for my first try. All in all it was a good first week and I’m looking forward to next week.