I’m happy to be back in Newport. Last summer I worked in the oyster culture laboratory at the Hatfield Marine Science Center. Behind the oyster lab, in a mysterious concrete building, was the EPA, and I always wondered what they were up to. I only ever saw them washing off their boats in the yard. Now I know. The team I am working with includes chemists, computer modelers, engineers, biologists and other scientists. The facility is a top notch ecological research laboratory, and the project I will be helping out with involves gathering data on the water chemistry in Tillamook Bay in order to build a model of how the carbonate chemistry, pH and nutrients change over time in the Bay. This research will help all the stake-holders of Tillamook Bay better understand their waters and what to expect in the future as the climate continues to change.
I will also be helping on a related project involving the design and testing of a bag device designed to enclose a blade of living eelgrass in situ and monitor its rate of photosynthetic production and respiration by measuring changes in the gas concentrations in the water inside the bag. The bags currently being tested are the same bags that hold wine inside cardboard boxes at the store because the plastic is engineered to be impermeable to CO2, the gas of interest. I look forward to snorkeling over the eelgrass in Yaquina Bay, deploying and recovering these devices and refining the technique. I love what science can do with PVC, duct tape and plastic wine bags!
So far my time in the lab has been consumed by mandatory new employee training, tours, introductions and planning. I have also become intimately familiar with the EPA’s IT support process. I consider it a successful first week: I was assigned a computer, managed to gain full access to it within hours, assigned a custom password to it within days, AND got into their intranet training portal to access the mandatory training by day 4. Having worked for federal agencies in the past, this is lightning fast. I also received my first ID badge, featuring the mandatory unflattering picture, for which I am grateful and proud. Although it is just a temporary position, it feels good to be part of the EPA and an organization whose mission I can be proud of.
Next week I should get my first introduction to programming dissolved oxygen sensors, and hopefully go out on the water.