Whirlwind Week in Kentucky

Sadly, I had to miss the Oregon Sea Grant Summer Scholar presentations that happened last week. I had a good excuse however. I was presenting the research that I completed last summer at the annual Ecological Society of America conference. This year, the conference was located in Louisville, Kentucky. My research was looking at the burrowing habits of the Northern Idaho ground squirrel.

With an attendance just shy of 3000 people, I was a bit intimidated at the thought of presenting a poster. I was pleasantly surprised by the reality however. Everyone was very friendly and I received some great feedback on my poster. 

I only spent one of the days presenting, so I had the rest of the week to attend various talks and workshops. There were so many things going on at once, it was hard to choose how to spend my time.

The week was not all work however. I made sure to take some breaks and explore the city. One of the highlights of my Kentucky experience was the river cruise I went on. It was a 2-hour ride down the Ohio river, which is bordered by both Kentucky and Indiana. I also had a great time exploring the city at night with my fellow Doris Duke Conservation Scholar cohort. It was great to reconnect with this group of wonderful people. The last time we were all together was in 2018 at the National Conservation Training Center in West Virginia.

I want to thank Oregon Sea Grant, Jim Kaldy, Cheryl Brown and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation for making this trip possible and being so flexible.

A New Perspective on Swimming

Part of what I do as an Oregon Sea Grant Summer Scholar intern at the Environmental Protection Agency is river sampling. So far, we have sampled the Salmon, Nestucca, and Tillamook rivers. We test for things like bacteria, dissolved organic carbon, and total nitrogen. We sample both upriver and downriver sites along each river. We do this to try to quantify the gradient of pollutants as you go downriver from high agriculture land use areas.

When we are sampling, we always wear gloves since we don’t know what is potentially in the river until after we sample. This has been a very eye-opening activity for me. Before this, I was definitely one to jump into any river that looked decently clear. It felt very weird to be wearing gloves in a river I would normally go swimming or wading in. 

It has been very interesting to see the bacteria results from some of the sites along these rivers. I have learned that clear water does not necessarily mean that the water is low in bacteria. Also, I learned that it is important to look at the land surrounding the river as well. If there are bunch of cows visible from the river, you can pretty much guarantee that there will be higher bacteria counts.

While a little bit of bacteria won’t kill you, I will definitely have a different perspective on river swimming in the future.

Time and Tide Wait for No Man

While the rest of Hatfield was still quiet and unstirring in the early morning hours, Ariana de Souza and I were making our way into the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Research and Development. We walked down the unusually empty hallway to get suited up. We quickly pulled on our waders and headed out onto the Yaquina bay mudflats with our supervisor, Jim Kaldy. The sun was just starting to say hello, yet the lights around the bay still twinkled against the cloudy sky.

Our goal that morning was to collect over two hundred Zostera marina plants before the tide covered them again. I had the best time crawling around in the mud, despite the early wake up time. There was something serene in the air that morning and the water was surprisingly warm.  

It has been a few weeks since we collected the Zostera marina plants.They are now settled into their new homes in the lab. These plants are a part of an ongoing mesocosm experiment. As the weeks go by, we are monitoring the salinity, dissolved oxygen, pH, chlorophyll a and temperature of the water inside the various tanks. 

Say tuned to hear about how the mesocosm experiment progresses!

The inside scoop: Newport, Oregon

Newport, OR has been my home for four weeks now. With so many fun activities to do, I have tried not to waste a single day. During my adventures, I discovered some of the gems of Newport. Any future students staying at the Hatfield Marine Science Center should take a peek at this list if they find themselves bored in Newport.

First and foremost, if you like escape rooms, I HIGHLY recommend the Newport Escape Room at the Aquarium mall. You would not initially not think much of the place based on the exterior, but the rooms are well thought out. I had a ton of fun doing this with my family one afternoon.

If you enjoy beach bonfires, the beach next to the Devil’s Punch Bowl is ideal. There is a nice wind buffering rock wall. People watching can also be fun here, as it is a popular surfing spot. (Insider tip: You can buy wood from homeowners along HWY 101 for less money than you can at the grocery stores. I got a whole wheelbarrow full for only $20!)

Panini Bakery, in the Nye beach district, is the cutest bakery/coffee shop around. I get fresh sourdough bread from there weekly! They are even accommodating to plastic packaging avoiders like me. Just bring your own clean tea towel and reusable produce bag.

The Chelsea Rose seafood market sells the freshest and cheapest crab around, at least that I’ve seen. They were selling live crabs for only $9 a pound, when the South Beach seafood market was asking $15 a pound for non-live crabs. Their prices and availabilities change, but they keep their Facebook page up to date.

If you are itching to get more than your feet wet, and the ocean is too cold for you, head to Devils Lake near Lincoln City. The water is often a few degrees warmer than the air when the sun is out. There are several public beaches along the lake to choose from. You can also rent SUP, kayaks and boats from Blue Heron Landing Rentals along this beach. The company has waterfront property next to the lake, so you can get directly into the water. Check the wind before you go however! It can be a real workout fighting 15 mph gusts on a SUP (found that out the hard way).

A nice 3.5-mile day hike can be found an hour away from Newport near Otis, OR. The hike to Drift Creek Falls is super pretty and shaded. At the end of the trail, you cross a suspension bridge to get down to the bottom of the falls. There is a parking fee, so don’t forget to bring a little bit of cash with you.

While this list is not by any means comprehensive, it is a good place to start if you are looking for something to do in Newport.