Thank you for checking out this blog. As you probably already know, I (Claire) am one of the students participating in the Oregon Sea Grant Summer Scholars Program for Undergraduates. This summer, I am working for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) on a project to research the recreational ocean Dungeness crab fishery and recreational Dungeness crab fishing gear. I’ll explain more about that in a bit.
A little about me before I launch into a week-by-week account of my life: I just finished my junior year at Indiana University (IU) in Bloomington (well, not all at Indiana University – I spent the spring semester studying in the Dutch Caribbean) where I am majoring in Biology. I have focused on lab work in my short time in the research world, but studying Dungeness crabs calls for getting out in the field, measuring some crabs, and chatting with people. The remainder of my time will be spent analyzing data and learning other things (which may or may not include learning R and driving a truck with a boat trailer attached – I’ll let you know). Conclusion: this summer I am getting a taste of fieldwork, working on my social skills, and reviving my relationship with math. Three birds with one stone.
And, as usual, I’m procrastinating.
I arrived in Newport to chilly and damp weather on Monday after our orientation in Corvallis. As most beginnings seem to be, Monday was hectic – it was filled with driving, grocery shopping, unpacking, meeting new people, divvying up closet and refrigerator space…
The rest of the week simultaneously flew by and felt much longer than six days. Maybe because I was meeting so many new people and doing so many new and varied things every day…every hour, even. Tuesday brought my first day on the job, a trip to Rogue Brewery, and Funfetti cake for Justin’s (another Scholar’s) birthday. Getting to know the seven other people here with me has been such a treat, especially against the backdrop of beautiful Newport. Watching the sunset from the South Jetty, visiting the popular bayfront restaurant Local Ocean, going to the [ferociously windy] beach, seeing Yaquina Head Lighthouse…I couldn’t ask for a better place to spend our time. If my body would maintain the temperature of a normal human being and let me wear less than five layers that would be even better. But it’s okay. Hiking boots and wool socks are my new flip-flops.
My week during the hours of 8:30 AM to 5 PM was no less eventful. This week, I got a crash course in the recreational Dungeness crab fishery. While there has been ongoing data collection on the sizes of crabs caught in the estuary, this information is lacking for ocean-caught crabs. So, my job will be to start getting some data there. To do this, of course, I have to learn how to handle/measure crabs. After Justin (my mentor) took me shopping for a pair of boots, lent me some rain gear, and took me out to measure some crabs we caught in the bay, I feel like I am well on my way. I didn’t get pinched, at least. And we found a message in a bottle! A plastic water bottle. But a bottle nonetheless.
I also learned about the problem that derelict fishing gear poses to the environment (a larger one than I had realized). A lost crab pot can continue catching crabs for months to years after it is lost. Crabs crawl in the pot, die, become lunch for more crabs, and so on. I’ll be asking crabbers (that return from crabbing in both the estuary and the ocean) questions about lost gear to feel out just how big this problem is. Oregon already has a Post-Season Derelict Gear Recovery Program, but perhaps there is more that needs to be done. Hopefully, I’ll have at least part of an answer to this question by the end of the summer. There are other issues involving crabbing gear as well, including that of floating vs. sinking line. Crabbers are encouraged to use sinking line because floating line can cause navigational problems for other boats. Oregon does not have laws concerning this issue, but Washington does. “To regulate or educate???” seems to be the overarching question with these gear problems. Hopefully, some of my data will help people to eventually make that choice.
To sum up: my first week has been packed with learning new info and skills. I have some wonderful roommates and program-mates (hi, boys) to help pass the time when I’m not huddled in orange rain gear elbow-deep in a bucket of crabs. But in all seriousness, I am thrilled that I get participate in marine science research and get my feet wet in the resource management side of things. As I spent more time at the lab bench, I became more aware of the importance of not only scientific research but also education and communication with the public. In the coming weeks, I get to bridge that gap by hanging around the docks, clipboard in hand.
Hey, you still there? Thank you for making it this far. Catch you next week.