Weeks 3 and 4, in which there were many adventures!

What a crazy two weeks! I almost don’t even remember what happened in week three, so it’s really jogging my memory to revisit those events.

I guess my favorite thing that happened in week three was our visit to Oregon’s capital city, Salem. Josh and I sat in on a meeting at the Oregon State Marine Board, where the topic of boat inspections was discussed by members of the Oregon Invasive Species Council. Basically, a new Oregon law requires mandatory inspection of boats crossing the border into Oregon in order to prevent the spread of invasive species like quagga mussels. Previously, boat inspection was only voluntary, but of course very few people were stopping to have their boat inspected. The next step is to navigate the legislation regarding a police officer’s right to pull over a boat that looks suspiciously infested. In our meeting, no one was really sure whether or not that was legal. In any case, Oregon Invasive Species Council will be working with the Lewis and Clark Environmental Law Clinic to investigate further.

Afterwards, Sam Chan took Jen, Josh and I for a quick visit to the Capital Building, which I had never seen before. It was absolutely gorgeous! Gigantic paintings scaled the walls of the main room and a huge golden state seal glittered on the floor. The Senate met on one side of the building and the House of Representatives met on the other side, with the governor’s office somewhere in-between. The building had a magnificent dome that was topped on the outside by a golden pioneer, representing Oregon’s adventurous spirit. Salem is a beautiful, historically rich city and I would love the chance to spend more time there sometime soon.

Week four was dominated by da Vinci Days planning. Oh, and a four course meal! As part of our PROMISE internship, we have weekly luncheons on Tuesdays, and this one happened to be a four hour session on etiquette and proper behavior in networking situations. The food was absolutely delicious – red pepper bisque, salad, chicken and potatoes with a mushroom and bacon gravy, and cheesecake with fresh berries for dessert. Although we were instructed that it wasn’t about the food, my college student mind was capitalizing on the opportunity to have a fancy meal. Of course, I still learned quite a few etiquette tips. Spoon your soup away from you, butter each bite of bread individually, don’t completely clean your plate, and never set a utensil back on the table when you have used it.

Decked out in our landfill gear

The other event besides da Vinci Days was a really fun field trip to… well… the dump! Believe it or not, it was really interesting. The Coffin Butte Landfill off of Highway 99, north of Corvallis, was used for garbage disposal at least since World War II. Interestingly,the spot is not ideal for a landfill, since it is partially on a hill and it is easier to build landfills in valleys. Too bad they didn’t know that 70 years ago. The landfill is split into a series of cells, each of which holds vast amounts of compacted garbage. To prevent the leaching of chemicals, a thick plastic barrier sits underneath the landfill. So much work goes into preventing pollution and mitigating smell and runoff – it’s incredible to think about how much trash our society produces.

But, on the flip side, we also visiting the composting plant, which was inspiring. They produce mountains of compost that oftentimes end up in garden fertilizers. The process is lengthy, but worthwhile.

While we were there, we collected some invasive plants! They were yellow flag irises, a particularly plentiful aquatic invasive plant that has floating seeds and beautiful yellow flowers. Sam taught us about them and suggested we take them to the da Vinci Days booth, which we did. In this very same trip, we journeyed to Albany, where we searched for access to a lake that harbored some native turtle species. Unfortunately, we didn’t find a way to get to the lake, but we met a very nice lady and her cat.

An invasive species bouquet!

Also, sometime during the week, Tania Siemens, who proved herself to be an invasive plant encyclopedia, enlightened us by taking us on a tour of OSU campus, invasive species style! Our mission was to plan an outdoor activity for high school students for a session called Saturday Academy, which is happening this week. We didn’t expect to find many invasive plants on campus, but to our surprise, there were many of them! Tania guided us around the MU quad, pointing out English ivy, Old Man’s Beard, Tree of Heaven, Queen Anne’s Lace, and many more. My job this week was to make a checklist for an invasive plants scavenger hunt. The goal will be to find the invasive species on campus.


After that, it was time for Josh and I to get back to our da Vinci Days planning. We finished our tsunami poster, and we though it looked great… which it did, until it met the elements at da Vinci Days and was sorely defeated by the moist climate. However, most of da Vinci Days was a total success! We talked to lots of people, shared information on invasive species, gave out tons of free things (including awesome color changing pencils), and overall had a great time, despite the rainy Oregon weather. Kathryn Hawes from Hatfield Marine Science Visitor’s Center brought an awesome whale vertebrae and a laptop so that visitors could watch Ursula the octopus on the Octocam. Also, our tunicate in a water bottle and quagga mussel-encrusted shoe were quite popular. It’s been a busy couple of weeks and I’m looking forward to the remaining six weeks of the internship!


Josh sharing his vast wealth of watershed knowledge with the kids at da Vinci Days


A Variety Pack Week!


Now that I’m back from a refreshing 4th of July weekend, I’m looking back on the last week and realizing how many different things happened! Plans for da Vinci Days are ongoing and we’re trying to assemble all the necessary components before the event hits us in the face – hard to believe it’s the weekend after next! Last Tuesday, Josh and I met Cindy Newberry and she showed us how to set up the giant Oregon Sea Grant display – at 8 feet by 10 feet, it is much taller than me! It took about an hour to set up and take down but hopefully we’ll be able to recreate it when the time comes in a couple of weeks.

Josh and I also went shopping for da Vinci Days supplies… we’re planning on using Sea Grant’s Enviroscape, an interactive plastic display that models how watersheds work. It’s actually an awesome visual to show kids what can happen from various pollutants. The plastic is ridged and colored to look like a watershed, with mountains, meadows, neighborhoods, and of course a river. Using things like soy sauce to exemplify an oil spill, we can show how polluting in one area can spread all across the watershed. The Enviroscape’s website had some funny suggestions, like using chocolate sprinkles for dog poo and small pieces of paper for highway litter. I’m looking forward to trying it all out!

I was finally able to meet Tania Siemens, my third supervisor for my internship. She told Josh and I about some teaching opportunities we will have throughout the month, mostly to do with invasive species and watershed issues. She also introduced us to her aquatic invasions toolkit project, a resource for teachers that provides them with information so that they can teach their classes about aquatic invasive species.  The toolkit includes lesson plans, species guides, and a well-written introduction, but since the toolkit is still being developed, I might have the opportunity to work on it and contribute.

I’ll add one more random thing to this list! Last week, Sam Chan (one of our supervisors) asked us interns to start working on a project for the Oregon Invasive Species Council, of which Oregon Sea Grant is a member. Basically, the Oregon Invasive Species Council has a document that outlines protocols for state agency field workers. These protocols are intended to help prevent the spread of invasive species, and include information on things like cleaning gear and avoiding contaminated areas. The document is six pages long and not very attention-grabbing, so Sam asked us to come up with some clearer, more concise ways to communicate the material. Jen, professional intern-in-residence, suggested that I make a website using WordPress, so that was my task. I’ve never tried anything like that before, so it was an adventure. Since I am technologically deficient, I ended up drawing my own pictures and scanning them in for illustrations, except for the two diagrams that were provided in the document. Although it was  a struggle figuring out how everything worked, I’m fairly pleased with how it turned out! Not a dazzling production, by any means, but good enough for a prototype.

One of my low-tech illustrations :)

Hope you all are having a good week!

Plunging into the world of Oregon Sea Grant

Hello, bloggers!

While many of you are Oregon Sea Grant Scholars, I depart slightly from that definition. My fellow intern Josh Scacco and I are  PROMISE summer interns, stationed at Oregon State University, and more importantly, at Oregon Sea Grant Extension located on campus. Some information on the PROMISE program can be found here:


We’re still in the process of finding our role here, but it could be anything from teaching kids to helping research invasive species issues. This week was my first, and I’ve been navigating the jungles (or should I say waters?) of information regarding what Sea Grant is and what it does.

My background is mostly journalistic. While I’m going into my senior year at OSU for a degree in zoology, I’m hugely interested in science communication and writing. I’m hoping to use my experiences as a science writer to effectively communicate science and ecological concepts here at Oregon Sea Grant.

So what have I learned this week?

Invasive Species

They are bad. Okay, so that may be oversimplifying things a bit.  North America is overrun with an astonishing number of invasive species! An estimated 50,000 invasive species are in the United States alone, which amounts to countless  incidences of ecological damage across the country. Josh and I journeyed to Vancouver, WA yesterday and we were privileged to sit in on the 100th Meridian Initiative Columbia River Basin Team’s meeting regarding aquatic invasive species. While many topics were discussed, I was especially interested in researcher Andy Ray’s concept of Environmental DNA, a form of genetic information that may help researchers detect aquatic invasive species early on. Early detection is particularly important in controlling unwanted invaders. Strangely, the key may be found in… feces. There’s a point to this, I promise.

Organisms shed a lot of DNA. Just as we lose hair or fingernails, animals living in the water slough off dead skin or excrete waste into the water, which can float around for up to a week. By sampling water content (and I’m greatly oversimplifying this), researchers can use DNA amplification techniques via PCR to determine which species exist in the body of water they sampled. Ultimately, through routine water checks (much like regular cancer screenings), this method could result in the early detection of invasive species. It’s a great alternative to the current method of waiting to find an actual specimen (a sort of “needle-in-a-haystack” scenario), at which point the species may already have proliferated. While still being researched, all of this is on the brink of scientific knowledge, and I was excited to learn about this cutting-edge science.

Sea Grant Is Busy!

I’m amazed by the breadth of issues that Oregon Sea Grant deals with on a daily basis. From what we work on here at the Oregon Sea Grant Extension office – invasive species, watershed health, education, outreach, ecological research – to subjects including ocean health, tsunami preparedness, renewable energy, and salmon, this program has got it all. You definitely have to be a multitasker to work here. Thinking back on all the different things I did on my first day (including looking at modeling kits that exemplify how the water cycle works,  tackling a bunch of Quizdom remotes that we might use to teach kids about invasive species, doing a training program that will certify me in case I need to conduct research involving human participants), it’s clear to me that I won’t be able to categorize my experience here into one neat box. The opportunities are seemingly  limitless.

The Importance of Community

Oregon Sea Grant is certainly not a one-man show. In this first week alone, I’ve seen so much dizzying collaboration, networking and brainstorming – a complex web of interaction! It takes the cooperation of all these people – scientists, writers, coordinators, planners – to bring about the change and improvement that Oregon Sea Grant is hoping to accomplish. One of my assignments as an intern is to work with Josh by helping develop Oregon Sea Grant’s booth at the da Vinci Days Festival in Corvallis this summer. The theme is Connectivity, and it seems appropriate, since everyone here at Oregon Sea Grant is so inseparably connected as a team. I’m really lucky to be part of this team for the rest of my internship and I hope I can do my part in contributing to the world that is Oregon Sea Grant.


The Oregon Coast is a beautiful place!