After traveling across the country for 11 days and putting 4,000 miles on my car, I finally arrived in Newport, Oregon! This being my first time on the West Coast, I really didn’t know what to expect. I recently graduated college in upstate New York so I was more than ready to see and live in a new part of the country. As of right now I can say that I am really enjoying my time here and I am very excited to see what the rest of the summer has in store for me and the research team I am working with.
My internship is stationed at the EPA’s Pacific Coastal Ecology Branch under Dr. Ted DeWitt. Our research team consists primarily of Ted, Jody, Daryl, Katie (another intern in the group), and myself (all pictured below except for me). We are looking primarily at characterizing how water moves through various salt marshes around Tillamook Bay, OR and seeing if we can use various models (that were created for other outside sites) at these sites to predict changes in the environment due to different factors. To eventually accomplish that goal, Katie and I will be analyzing soil cores to look at the hydrology, soil chemistry, and soil physics of these salt marshes.
I originally found out about the Summer Scholars program when I was looking at OSU for graduate school. I’m really passionate about studying water quality and one of my long term goals is to be able to participate in creating a management plan for a certain area to improve coastal water quality while appeasing local business owners and nearby residents. This is why I am so excited to be a part of this research. Even though I won’t be here to see the project all the way through, I am very confident that the work we are doing will lead to more knowledge about Tillamook Bay and management plans will have a greater chance of being established in this area.
The picture above was taken this past Thursday in Tillamook Bay when we were installing wells in the salt marshes to track the water pressure in different areas of the marsh. It was a surprisingly beautiful day considering the weather was predicted to consist of severe rain and possible thunderstorms. It was the one day so far in Oregon where we completely missed any sort of rainfall. This was my first experience conducting field work in salt marshes and it was a lot of fun. We used a corer to take out soil cores in the marsh which were then sectioned off and soil characteristics were identified while we were still in the field. Wells made out of PVC piping were then installed and HOBO (yeah I know it’s a weird name but that’s just what they’re called) sensors were put into the wells to measure the water pressure over time. We should be going back to this particular site in about a month to remove the sensors and analyze the water pressure data.
We now have eight cores to analyze from Thursday, plus the four cores taken from site 7 before we arrived in Newport, AND now we have water pressure data to work with…so I am currently preparing for a very busy week ahead of me. Knowing that my contribution to this project will hopefully improve the health of the environment and possibly even the standard of living in the Tillamook area makes me really excited to analyze the data.
Other aspects of living in Newport and being a Summer Scholar are getting to explore the area and getting to meet other like-minded individuals from across the country.
My roommates and I went to the Yaquina Head lighthouse on Saturday and I highly recommend going! It was beautiful and the area has great intertidal zone access. I definitely suggest looking at a tide chart before going and planning your trip around low tide so you can go out further and see more. We went to a nearby beach today which was also beautiful but windy. Very windy. Hopefully the next time we try to go the conditions will be a little better. I’m still having trouble getting all of the sand out of my clothes.
Hopefully I’ll have some really interesting data and some beautiful pictures to share next week!
I’ve heard a lot about this wind on the beach from the other scholar posts as well and I can assure you that, while the beach is always windy, it sounds like you guys went on a particularly windy day. Not every day should have sand blowing around at high speeds! That’s great you got to head up the coast to the Tillamook Bay and that the weather cooperated so well for your team. Looks stunning from the photos!
Great news that you have data to work with already, Jess! Nothing like jumping into it with both feet…Good luck balancing field work with desk time, and of course all that Oregon coast recreation and your quest for grad school.
Jess, The more I learn about salt marshes, the more I realize how much I undervalued them (and how much I believe everyone else undervalues them). They are truly beautiful places and I feel like the only reason I even started caring initially was because I visited one, worked in one, and had the chance to explore my usual curiosity. Please, please, please keep sharing!