Thanks for joining me on my adventures in the Pacific Northwest this summer! Allow me to introduce myself, I’m Sam Thiede. I’m an undergraduate student at Purdue University majoring in Fisheries and Aquatic Science and minoring in Wildlife Science. I’m a senior and will be graduating May 2014 and plan on pursuing my masters and Ph.D. in either fisheries sciences or aquatic resource management. Currently, I am working at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) as a technical research assistant to Scott Groth through the Oregon Sea Grant Summer Scholars program, but you will all hear much more about that topic throughout the summer.
I’m a Midwesterner, specifically from Indiana. Before my arrival in Oregon I had never been farther west than St. Louis, Missouri and the trip here was quite a shock. My plane had a short layover in Salt Lake City, Utah. I have never seen desert before and I was in true awe of the scenery throughout my short hour there. Seeing the Great Salt Lake and all the desert salt flats in between the mountain tops looked like something out of a painting! As I flew out of the desert and into the mountains of Oregon, again I was in for a total shock. Mountain tops covered with snow, gigantic confiners leaning over open ocean, I was in love before I even stepped off the plane.
Upon my arrival into Coos Bay, my mentor, Scott Groth, gave me a tour around the area. As we drove up Cape Arago highway we stopped off at an overlook of the bay to check for tsunami debris. Sure enough, all the way down at the bottom of the cliff face was a washed up Japanese plastic pallet. Much of the debris from the tsunami that struck Japan several years ago has been floating up on the coast of Oregon and biologists have been avidly collecting samples and trying to remove live specimens to avoid the spread of Japanese invasive species.
Within hours upon my arrival I was already scaling down the side of a cliff, sample bags and scraper in hand, to retrieve samples off of Japanese tsunami debris and at that moment I was assured I was in for an interesting and informative summer. We scraped off many kinds of unknown shellfish and algae (we are still processing the sample) and I was given a tour of the surrounding tide pools at the base of the cliff—full of shellfish, anemones, sculpins, etc.—to the soundtrack of sea lions (which I had never seen outside of a zoo!) barking on a nearby island. It was truly an exciting first day on the job.
As the week went on I had begun to learn the ropes of the ODFW’s shellfish program. This week was all about collecting data on pink shrimp, cockles, and spot prawn. Local fishing boats and clammers offer samples to the ODFW in order for us to keep track of size structure and monitor age class trends over the years in order to ensure sustainable fisheries. Not only did I learn how to measure carapaces and sex shrimp but I also had the pleasure of meeting with the local fishermen and hearing their tales of their times out at sea, which is always very colorful! This coming week’s project will be littleneck clam surveys and will bring even more excitement as good stories always seem to come from field work.
I hope you will all continue to tune in as I delve more into the science of marine life here on the Oregon coast with the ODFW! I will post weekly about my experiences here in Coos Bay and am excited for the coming weeks as well as having you all following me along in my journey!