Saying “goodbye” to the South Slough a 2nd time… but not really


This summer, as the cliché goes, went by “in the blink of an eye.” I had a lot of fun at the Slough, and being there every other week truly felt like going on vacation. I have had a hectic schedule this summer to say the least, but working once again with the South Slough staff was a pleasure. While last summer’s internship largely prepared me to have success right away for this year’s science camps, I certainly became a more confident educator through my additional exposure to leading camps this summer.

High school science campers feeding tide pool critters at the Charleston Marine Life Center in Charleston, OR.

Did this internship affect my future career choices?:

My experience this summer did not affect my career path, but my overall time as an Oregon Sea Grant intern at the South Slough certainly has. I am in the process of applying to Wildlife Ecology PhD programs and hope to pursue a career in academia, research, and wilderness management. My time at SSNERR has also motivated me to pursue educational outreach opportunities in the future, whether that be as a volunteer or through occupational means. I am a passionate student of ecology and animal behavior, which has only been amplified by my past two summers as a Summer Scholar.

Next Steps:

At this time, my next next steps are to complete my undergraduate honor thesis and to obtain funding for graduate school. I have spoken with prospective PhD mentors from various universities this summer and have options that are contingent on either their labs obtaining funding or me obtaining funding. Ideally, if I can win a competitive fellowship award, such as the NSF GRFP, then I will be able to conduct meaningful research under the mentor that I hope to work with. Most of my time is currently occupied with data collection for my thesis (which is a study on how blue fluorescent light affects bee movement and pollination behavior) and polishing my applications for graduate school funding. I am also preparing to take the GRE in September and working in a bird physiology lab, which will hopefully prepare me for some work I hope to do with birds in grad school. I will also be working closely with the South Slough to complete the SWMP water quality exhibit over the course of the next few months.


Thanks again to Oregon Sea Grant and the South Slough for the tremendous opportunities over the past two summers! I will keep in regular contact with members of the South Slough and appreciate all Sea Grant has done in opening new career pathways for me.

Summer Growth and Surprises

What I’ve learned this summer:

This summer has been a great learning experience for me on so many levels. On a personal level, I have learned how to manage my time with the utmost efficiency; I have learned how to cut out the time spent on meaningless brain-dead tasks that don’t get me closer to achieving my goals. As I am working on the completion of my honors thesis, serving as an OSG intern, participating in a bird physiology lab, and preparing for PhD program and fellowship applications, I have never been busier. This summer has forced me to manage my time well and to learn what is truly important for my own well-being. If I didn’t have time to relax and socialize, I would surely go nuts, so I have really learned to optimize the free time that I do get. I feel that this summer has taught me that I can handle a large workload and still enjoy my life… as long as I cut out wasted time on the phone, TV, etc.

A brown pelican that I saw while exploring the tidepools with summer science campers at South Cove in Charleston, OR.
Urchins and anemones spotted during last camp.

On a completely separate note, I have learned a lot about how various water quality parameters, such as temperature, salinity, turbidity, etc. affect estuarine ecosystems, such as the South Slough. On virtual weeks this summer, I have been working on putting together the SWMP water quality exhibit, which will be a touch-screen exhibit set up at the South Slough Visitor’s Center. In doing so, I have had to read about the different effects that water quality parameters can have on dozens of organisms. The hope is to develop informative slides that visitors can read through, in addition to an interactive slide that allows visitors to manipulate water quality parameters and watch what happens to the organisms on screen (increase in number, disappear, become sick, etc.). Working on this project has forced me to read a surprising amount of primary literature in order to establish the water quality ranges in which different animals and plants can survive!

What’s been surprising:

Compared to last summer, when I was one of the only interns at the South Slough, there are so many interns working this summer! Last year, I worked with both the education team and the science team, but this summer, it seems like every member of the science team has a personal intern, so I am exclusively serving as an education intern. It’s really nice to see SSNERR thriving and busy with projects, research, etc. While, for selfish reasons (more fieldwork opportunities), I enjoyed being one of the couple interns last year, it’s great for the South Slough to have so much support this summer.

What I’d do differently:

I really feel satisfied with how my internship has gone this summer, so there isn’t anything serious that I would have liked to do differently. That being said, I did try to join in with the summer campers on shirt painting during last camp, and boy did I suck at that,,, See pictures below.

This is the front and back of the shirt I painted last camp. That blob you see is supposed to be a flounder. I also tried to write “Bad at Painting” on the back, but started running out of room and thought “Bad at Paint” would be funnier anyway!

Science Policy and the South Slough

Now that you’ve been on the job for several weeks, how has your view of science policy changed (if at all)?  

The boring (but truthful) answer is that my view of science policy has not changed. Given that I worked as a Summer Scholar last year, my knowledge for how the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) and state-run reserve systems has not really increased. Last summer, understanding how NERRS worked was one of my primary goals.

Do you have a better understanding of how policy organizations work?  

Again, I wouldn’t say my understanding has become better because of how much I had already learned last summer. However, being around members of an organization governed by multiple levels of the government helps keep what I learned last summer fresh in my mind. 

Have you had a chance to attend any agency-level meetings?  

Last year I had the chance to attend education team meetings, full South Slough staff meetings, and a NERRS meeting. This year, so far, I have only participated in education team meetings (as those are the ones I can contribute meaningfully in). 

Discuss any tradeoffs you see in your organization between serving the public good and being able to respond nimbly.  

I don’t believe that serving the public good and being able to respond nimbly to different issues are mutually exclusive practices. In some cases they could be, but I believe the trade offs that would occur are very situation-specific. 

On wilderness reserves, there tends to be somewhat of a dilemma between protecting the natural environment and allowing people to enjoy it. In almost all circumstances, the more human traffic there is in an area, the worse off the environment will be. Of course, for a place like the South Slough, there can be a proper balance… but at what point are there too many people walking the trails? At what point is the natural environment being altered in a negative way by human activity? 

Fortunately, too many visitors has not been a significant problem at the South Slough (that I am aware of), but if it became an issue, decisions would have to be made about limiting the number of visitors. In such a circumstance, I could see where serving the public good (allowing more people to experience a beautiful natural setting) and being able to act nimbly (responding quickly to negative environmental changes) could come to a clash. Though, one could also argue that taking the necessary precautions to protect the reserve by limiting visitors would still be serving the public good by preserving the reserve’s beauty for future visitors. Under this belief, serving the public good and being able to act nimbly are complementary actions, rather than opposing.

Do you have a better understanding of how science policy operates in the state of Oregon?  

My understanding of science policy has not changed all that much since last summer. Last summer is really when I went from not knowing much at all to feeling that I had a pretty decent grasp on the basics of science policy in Oregon. 

Does your agency have ties to other states, and/or to national-level organizations?  

Yes, the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve (SSNERR) is tied to the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS). Fun fact: the South Slough was the very first NERR and was designated as so in 1974. Now there are a total of 29 NERRs across the country.  

The 29 national estuarine research reserves that compose NERRS. The South Slough is showcased with the red arrow. This map can be found at

Are you inspired to continue with this line of work into the future?

Absolutely — I am very interested in pursuing lines of work that allow me to work with management of reserve systems and public outreach in the future. I think that getting people excited about the beauty that nature has to offer and protecting wild places work hand-in-hand. Through both informing management decisions with science and teaching future generations how to protect and enjoy the wilderness, I believe that beautiful natural areas can be conserved and restored.


A Day in the Life of an Education Intern at the Wonderful South Slough Estuary

What I’m doing this summer as an OSG Intern:

My internship this summer is driven by two primary roles: 1) assist in leading summer science camps for kids K-12 and 2) work on the creation of a touch-screen water quality exhibit at the South Slough Interpretive Center. The exhibit will be used to show how different water quality parameters are closely tied to the success of local ecosystems and how those same parameters can change.

What I’ve been doing in the first couple weeks of my internship:

As I am living in Corvallis, all of the work I do on non-camp weeks is remote. Last week was a non-camp week and so I was primarily working on establishing the layout of the water quality exhibit and how it will be organised for visitors to interact with.

This week, however, was a camp week… much more exciting! On Monday, for a non-camp related educational workshop, I collected animals off of the docks of Charleston with my mentor, Jaime Belanger, and brought them to Reedsport Elementary in oxygenated tanks. There, we taught the kids about local sea life and how to make observations.

A crab in its megalops stage of development that I caught off the docs of Charleston and got to show the campers this week… which were members of the Megalops Camp.

On Tuesday, our Megalops Camp (for 2nd and 3rd graders) started. During camp this week, I lead educational hikes and activities, maintained a safe learning environment, drove campers from place to place, and taught lessons about how the major habitats that can be found at the South Slough.

Each day of camp is different, but everyday involved tasks like leading hikes with specific educational goals in mind, catching animals for the kids to observe, creating and leading educational games (i.e. South Slough Jeopardy), handing out snacks, cleaning up, preparing supplies for various activities, etc.

This is me leading the kids through a game yesterday morning before taking them on an educational watershed hike.

Is COVID-19 affecting my work routine this summer?

While we still need to where masks during camps, COVID has played less of a role in how camps can be conducted this summer, compared to last summer, my first as an OSG intern. There are still many regulations we have to follow when leading the camps, but there is more freedom now in where we can take kids to learn.

What is my favorite on-the-job activity so far?

My favorite moments this past week were all associated with seeing the faces on campers when they saw and interacted with animals. When I got to lead an activity on the docks, the kids were stoked to see and touch kelp crabs, jellyfish, starfish, etc. They would see an animal and scream for me to catch it. Shortly after catching the critters, I’d let them go, but it was great to see the enthusiasm in the kids.

There was also a moment yesterday when all of the campers got to see two parent tree swallows feed their big baby that had not yet fledged. We all creeped towards the nest quietly and then stood still for a couple of minutes. After patiently waiting, they were rewarded with a pretty cool sight!

A common murre near the Charleston docks, where I was leading an activity and catching animals for kids to observe more closely.

Thanks for reading!

Summer Roles and Summer Goals at the South Slough: The Sequel!

I had a blast as an Oregon Sea Grant Summer Scholar last summer and was sad to see my time as an OSG intern end… If only I had known that I would get the opportunity again, I could have saved all my feelings of disappointment from last summer and waited to feel emotion until the end of this summer!

Collecting and recording data on invasive European green crabs last summer (2020) in Charleston, OR

Just a couple of weeks ago, I found out that extenuating circumstances left the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve (SSNERR) without an OSG intern for the summer and was offered the opportunity to repeat as an OSG intern this summer. Though I currently live in Corvallis and am conducting research here, I could not turn down the opportunity! I planned on driving down to Charleston a few times this summer to volunteer at the South Slough anyway, but now my role has been expanded.

As a Summer Scholar this summer, like last summer, one of my primary work duties will be to help organize, prepare for, and lead in-person summer science camps at the reserve. In addition to helping with the science camps, my big project this summer will be assisting in the creation of a new exhibit at the South Slough Interpretive Center, which will help to educate visitors about water quality throughout the slough and associated watersheds. This exhibit will allow visitors to have a greater appreciation and understanding for the important role that water quality has on the entire local ecosystem. Other tasks I will be taking on include assisting the science team in conducting fieldwork when they need extra hands, creating additional educational materials (like guides similar to the plant guide I created last summer or species-specific conservation posters), and assisting in the delivery of educational workshops or tours for the general public.

Ultimately, by assisting in the duties discussed above, I will be helping the education team at the South Slough to achieve its goal to improve public understanding of how estuarine systems work and why they are so important. I will also help advance SSNERR’s mission, which is to serve as a model for how to properly manage coastal communities on regional, national, and global levels. Management of national estuarine research reserves (NERRs) involves public outreach and education workshops, so through these avenues, I will be serving South Slough’s mission. As I discussed last summer too, these project goals will help advance Oregon Sea Grant’s mission for coastal communities to flourish. By educating citizens of coastal communities about how to best utilize and care for their natural environments, the number of people who value health of Oregon’s coastal ecosystems should see growth (even if that means one person at a time). Moreover, increasing the excitement and knowledge base in regards to coastal ecosystems amongst youth will hopefully encourage some members of our future generations to pursue careers in biology, ecology, conservation, and wilderness management.

Great blue heron in Coos Bay, OR

Though, I’m still in Corvallis and will be doing much of my OSG work virtually this summer, I am excited to be on the coast again soon working at the South Slough and enjoying wildlife – like the great blue heron seen above… (also the mascot for SSNERR!)

I am looking forward to working with Oregon Sea Grant and the South Slough Reserve again this summer. Thanks!

Reflection of my Time at the South Slough


This summer helped me grow immensely as a scientist and an educator. I received in-person learning of what it takes to teach children about complex topics, and while doing so, I learned much about coastal ecosystems that I never knew. I had the opportunity to assist in a wide variety of fieldwork with the science team and feel much more confident in my ability to soon conduct independent research. I worked with a great group of people and cherished my time at the South Slough Estuary. I will look back at this summer with fond memories, though I’m sure I’ll make many more at the slough… I will definitely be going back frequently to say “hello” to my mentors/friends and to walk the trails with my doggy. Also, special thanks to Jaime for being a great mentor this summer: working under your guidance was always super fun for me and valuable for my education! 

Did this internship affect my future career choices?:

My experience this summer has absolutely affected my future career path. I came into this program wanting to study animals for a living and to eventually manage a wildlife reserve. However, coming in, I also had no experience in these fields outside of the college courses that I have taken. After this summer internship, I am 100% sure that I want to pursue a career in wildlife biology. My path did not change this summer, but it was set in concrete.

Next Steps:

In my journey to a PhD in wildlife biology, I must first get into graduate school (obviously), but to provide myself with a competitive chance to get into the schools that I want to attend, I must first obtain lots of research experience! This coming fall, I will be completing my URSA research in the Hacker Lab at OSU with the help of my mentors, Dr. Sally Hacker and Katya Jay, a PhD student. I will be finding and analyzing nitrate concentrations in dune soil in the hopes to provide the lab with a better understanding of how and where dune grasses get their nutrients from. After my research ends through the URSA program, I will begin my honors thesis with the help of my mentor, Dr. Jim Rivers. I will be looking at the behavior of bees as it relates to their visual perception. I do not yet know what this specifically entails, but I am very excited to start! Oh, and might I mention… I still need to graduate! I have a long road ahead but can honestly say that I am excited for the ride.

Here’s a photo of a seagull that I took through a pair of binoculars two days ago; I took this photo while teaching campers how to be a proper birder!

Summer Winding Down at the South Slough

Happy Sunday, everyone! Hope you enjoy my blog for the week.

What I learned:

As my internship at the South Slough is winding down, I look back at my time there with great gratitude. I have had the opportunity to experience and learn many things! Here is just a condensed list:

  • I have had the opportunity to learn about how the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve System (SSNERR) functions on an organizational level, how it receives funding, what branches it is made up of (and what they do), and what it means to be part of the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS).
  • I have learned how to create educational materials and deliver outdoor/wildlife education to children.
  • I now have an in-depth understanding of how to properly conduct plant-monitoring surveys in varying types of environments. 
  • I have developed a much better understanding of estuarine environments and their watersheds.
  • I learned how to properly kayak!
  • My ability to identify local plants went from basically nonexistent to relatively extensive within the past two months.
  • I have also had the opportunity to learn about a bunch of animals I never knew how to identify, from invasive ocean-dwelling crabs to colorful high-flying birds… and much in between!
  • Luckily, I’ve also had the opportunity to work under great mentors who have shown me what it takes to foster a happy and productive team of people.
Taking a tree core from a 98-ft tall Western Hemlock. This tree was 60 years old and had a circumference of approximately 5 1/2 ft. Pictured on the left and right are some campers who got to learn all about the importance of natural resources last week!

What surprised me:

I am shocked by how quickly this summer has passed. My time at the South Slough has been super fun and had great variety… and for those reasons it has felt like a blink of an eye. There were so many projects I was allowed to choose from at the beginning of the summer, and when I looked at them, I was confident I could complete them all! Boy, was I wrong! Between days of fieldwork, camp preparation, and actually helping lead the camps, I rarely had time to do anything else in the 2nd half of my internship. Am I disappointed about that? NO! Being busy has been awesome… especially provided the circumstances of our nation right now. This summer, my greatest surprise was that I felt more like an employee or a true part of the education team than an intern. I was still able to complete a relatively hefty plant guide as well as introduce new camp activities and materials, but much of my time was spent like helping the education and science teams with daily tasks. I loved it.

Eelgrass restoration project: here, I am holding an eelgrass plant that had been taken from a location flourishing with eelgrass in a bay near Charleston. This eelgrass was planted higher up in the estuary in a location that has seen heavy eelgrass decline in recent years. Eelgrass serves an important role for many estuarine animals as sources of food and habitat. It is hoped that relocating eelgrass to this location will allow it to reproduce there and flourish once again.

What I would have done differently:

I really enjoyed my time and got a ton out of it. I don’t know that I’d do anything much differently because I learned so much. If I knew what I do now, maybe I would’ve started earlier! In the past couple weeks, I have also become super interested in birds… So I guess I would’ve asked a lot more questions about birds! I feel I could have networked more, but I much prefer in-person interaction and have a difficult time networking with people virtually. I developed great relationships with the people I worked with in-person, but those that I never met in person were hard for me to connect with.

Science Policy and the Organization of the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve

Before I get to the real substance of this blog post, try saying “South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve” five times fast… It takes some practice, so good luck!

Once you have mastered saying “South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve,” you can move on to the remainder of this post.

Okay, games aside… For this week’s blog, I have answered questions related to science policy that can be seen below in bold.

Now that you’ve been on the job for several weeks, how has your view of science policy changed (if at all)?

My views on science policy haven’t really changed, though working for a state-run organization has given me a better understanding of the resources available to organizations like the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve (SSNERR). I’ve also heard more about what it takes to get additional funds through grants for various projects (and it doesn’t seem easy).

Do you have a better understanding of how policy organizations work?

One of my goals for this summer is to have an in-depth understanding of how the SSNERR is run. As of now, I have not had time to learn more about how it works on a macro-level, but I have definitely developed a better understanding of how the SSNERR team works on a micro/local level. I have had the opportunity to work with both the science and education teams this summer; as a result, I feel I have a solid understanding of how similar programs may be organized. I also have a better understanding of what positions are necessary to run a state-guided science organization.

Have you had a chance to attend any agency-level meetings?

I meet frequently with the education team, but have not yet attended an all-staff meeting or meeting of higher status. I will be attending the next all-staff meeting in order to learn about how the meetings and agenda-setting work, though my role at the South Slough (given my limited time) has not made it imperative for me to attend such meetings. I believe I will get to attend a National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) meeting this summer as well, which will help me understand the larger system as a whole. 

Does your agency have ties to other states, and/or to national-level organizations?  

The South Slough was the first location designated as a National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) and is affiliated with the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS). This system functions under NOAA. As seen on NOAA’s website, “The National Estuarine Research Reserve System is a network of 29 coastal sites designated to protect and study estuarine systems. Established through the Coastal Zone Management Act, the reserves represent a partnership program between NOAA and the coastal states. NOAA provides funding and national guidance, and each site is managed on a daily basis by a lead state agency or university with input from local partners.”

Logo for South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve
Our logo at the South Slough!

Work Variation at the South Slough Estuary

Since my last blog post, I have spent much of my time coordinating and preparing for summer science camps at the South Slough. After assisting in the first summer camp two weeks ago, which was virtual, I have worked closely with my mentor, Jaime Belanger, and other members of the education team to create activities for the next camp, which is an in-person camp that starts this upcoming Tuesday, the 14th. Due to regulations intended to prevent the spread of Covid-19, preparations for this camp have been very tedious. It was only yesterday that we finally worked out every last detail regarding how to sanitize all the materials and environments that the children in the upcoming camp will interact with on a continuous basis. Although COVID-19 has limited what our education team can do with the kids at camp, it has also forced us to be adaptable and creative in this time, which in my opinion, is going to be helpful in the long run.

Though I have been working on logistical planning for much of the past two weeks, I have also had the opportunity to assist in upland forest biomonitoring in that time, lead educational hikes through the South Slough Estuary, and continue my work on an extensive plant identification guide for the South Slough. This variety is more indicative of my daily-routine (or weekly routine) at the South Slough. During a given week, I usually spend time assisting the science team conduct fieldwork near the OIMB, coordinating events for the South Slough education team, and working on projects (such as the plant identification guide) at the South Slough Visitor’s Center.  My hours and location vary with the day, but all of my work so far has been in-person. I work Tuesdays-Saturdays with work days that are usually around 8 hours, though some days require longer hours and some require less. On days that I assist the science team conduct fieldwork that is dependent on the tide, my day may start very early in the morning or end late in the evening. 

Student research collects data from a water well in an upland forest in Charleston, Oregon.
Collecting data from a water well in an upland forest in Charleston, Oregon.
Student researcher uses a 1 meter x 1 meter quadrant to measure the percent cover of various plant species in a forest clearing.
Using a 1m x 1m quadrat to measure the percent cover of various plant species in a forest clearing experiencing primary succession.

One special aspect of my work has been that whether I am at the Visitor’s Center or out in the field, I always have the opportunity to be active during these strange times. When I’m in the field, I often go home physically exhausted (which is a good thing!) and when at the Visitor’s Center, I always have the opportunity to hike trails or collect materials out in the marsh if I start feeling antsy from computer work. 

Another special aspect of working at the South Slough is that within the education team, I feel like an important member. While I am an intern and am directed to take care of various tasks, I am also given much freedom to influence the educational materials and camps as I like. I speak with my mentor and the other team members frequently every day. I also participate in team meetings and feel grateful that the ideas I come up with are not only considered, but also often implemented. Overall, my time so far at the South Slough has been great. I have been learning valuable skills while getting to do lots of fun work! It’s awesome!

Summer Roles and Summer Goals at the South Slough in Charleston, Oregon

So far, in my experience as a Sea Grant Summer Scholar, I have been presented with the opportunity to be involved in a variety of projects, research, and activities at the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve (SSNERR). I have been working for a little less than two weeks, but have already had the chance to work closely with the science team at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology (OIMB) to monitor eelgrass beds, water quality, and green crab populations (an invasive species) in Charleston. In addition to assisting the science team this summer, my main task is to help improve the education outreach at the SSNERR. I will help plan, coordinate, and lead educational summer camps throughout the summer that teach kids about estuaries, ecosystems, and biology. In the past week, the education team at the Slough Slough (including myself) has begun planning all of the logistics for how to run the camps while ensuring a safe and sanitary environment for the kids. This summer, I am also tasked with updating and improving educational materials at the South Slough Interpretive Center. For example, in the past couple of weeks, I have been creating plant identification guides that visitors can use on the trails at the South Slough once the interpretive center is allowed to open up again (it is closed to the public right now because of COVID). 

Student researcher Lucas Parvin stands on a boat lowering monitoring equipment into the water of the South Slough.
Assisting in water quality monitoring.
Equipment used for estimating population and health of eelgrass.
Equipment used for estimating population and health of eelgrass.

I hope to develop an in-depth understanding of estuarine ecosystems this summer, while also learning about how wildlife reservations are managed. These goals will be accomplished while working diligently to achieve the goals of our education team: to improve locals’ understanding of how estuarine systems work and why they are so important. If my summer internship is successful, I will help also enhance the materials that the South Slough has for delivering education in the future.

The work I do this summer will help improve educational outreach because I will be directly teaching and leading groups of local kids. I will also add to the educational materials that the South Slough has to deliver education by working on projects ― like the creation of the plant guide that I have been working on. In addition, I will add to the pool of information known about the South Slough Estuary by assisting in data collection with the science team.

These project goals will help advance Oregon Sea Grant’s mission because for coastal communities to flourish, citizens of coastal communities must understand how to properly utilize and care for their natural environments. Specifically, improving the understanding amongst youth can increase levels of interest in fields such as biology, conservation, and sustainability. Influencing future generations in this way can help achieve healthier coastal communities.

Similarly, my project goals help advance SSNERR’s mission, which is to serve as a model for how to properly manage coastal communities on regional, national, and global levels.  Part of management involves public outreach, education, and data collection.  These are the aspects of coastal management that I intend to improve in any way I can over the course of this summer.