About Alexa Maione

Alexa is a Junior at Virginia Tech pursuing a B.S. in Water Resources, Policy & Management. Alexa is President of the American Water Resources Association Student Chapter at Virginia Tech, and she was recently awarded a SWURF grant to introduce an aquaponics system in the elementary school setting. She is a 2018 Sea Grant Summer Scholar working with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Shellfish and Estuarine Assessment of Coastal Oregon (SEACOR) in Coos Bay, Oregon. This program monitors bay clam populations and conducts estuary habitat studies. Alexa is interested in working towards community engagement and education.

Goodbye Oregon!

Living in Oregon was a whole new two-month life. I’ve thought for a while now about leaving for somewhere where I’d know no one and nowhere to challenge myself and call it an adventure. This wasn’t a difficult challenge. This isn’t because I’m comfortable everywhere I go and am an adaptation queen, but that I am extremely lucky. I am lucky that I loved my position working with ODFW. I am lucky the people I got to work with became mentors professionally and friends personally. I am lucky to have lived in a beautiful and quaint coastal town. I am lucky that my dorm hallmates were genuine, fun, and loved talking about and collecting plants. I am lucky that every single 2018 Oregon Sea Grant Summer Scholar is a wonderful person to know, and the lovely ladies who ran this program did a heck of a job. For all these things I feel lucky for, I am thankful.

As I write this I am sitting in a study room at my college, Virginia Tech. I’ve jumped right back into my normal life, it’s been a hectic transition. As I placed my few Oregon keepsakes on my shelf last night I had a lot of fun telling my college roommates about them. I have a small stuffed bear dressed as a park ranger I bought during our midsummer camping mishap that left us to eat at a local restaurant that had a cute gift store. I have posters of bay clam and crabs I used to refer to every time I measured samples, now I know more than what the posters say. I bought a piece of cement imprinted with a leaf from a day trip down to Bandon I showed them. I gave my roommate an art print of a caribou I found at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. My shelf holds souvenirs of my summer memories.

I had a lot of firsts this summer, I’ll try to list all of them but know after I post this blog I’ll think of even more.

  1. Tried an Oyster that I didn’t like.
  2. Tried a tamale that I did like.
  3. Drove a boat.
  4. Went camping (in a tent, so real camping.)
  5. Went to Oregon!
  6. Went to California!
  7. Saw the Redwoods.
  8. White water rafting.
  9. White water kayaking.
  10. Went into a cave (with a guide and didn’t touch anything of course.)
  11. Dug for clams.
  12. Ate new berries: Huckleberry, Marionberry, Salmonberry, Salal Berry.
  13. Held a live shrimp.
  14. Stayed in a hotel room by myself.
  15. Witnessed smoke from forest fires.
  16. Saw Harbor Seals in the wild.
  17. Saw Bald Eagles in the wild.
  18. Saw a porcupine in the wild.
  19. Saw whales in the wild.
  20. Entered the Pacific Ocean.

I will miss my wild and wonderful Oregon coast adventure with the people who made it so hard to leave.

Bob Mapes, Mo Bancroft, and I are ready to dig a detailed assessment method (DAM) sight to search for clams, crabs, and shrimp.

The 2018 Oregon Sea Grant Summer Scholars! Pictured are also Sarah Kolesar and Anne Hayden-Lesmeister, the Research and Scholars Program Leader and Assistant.

Liz Perotti, Bob Mapes, Tammy Chapman, and I on board “Saxidomus,” one of ODFW’s boats.



My True Feelings Towards Work

This summer I’ve been a part of the Shellfish and Estuarine Assessment of Coastal Oregon (SEACOR) team, a program of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. This shellfish program conducts surveys to estimate bay clam abundance in estuaries on the Oregon coast, this summer’s field work is in Coos Bay. Recreational clamming is a popular activity amongst locals and tourists in Oregon, commercial clamming is sold mainly as bait for Dungeness Crab fishers, supporting livelihoods. Our work is to ensure that this fishery is sustainable by suggesting conservative quotas for commercial clamming and daily catch limits for recreational.

When I began as an intern I dove into field work, my first day consisted of basic boat operations (which I knew none of), dredging randomly computed GPS locations, and filling in data sheets of habitat characteristics. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks in I could see the big picture and importance of the work we were doing. As an intern I’ve been given opportunities to be a part of more than my teams immediate work, such as participating in an ODFW shellfish creel survey, a Cockle clam survey, shadowing water quality monitoring specialists, learning how the work and research ODFW does contributes to policy making, and community outreach events. That first day as an intern I could only see the clams and crabs in front of me, sorting them is only one component of it all.

One thing I can say with certainty about this internship is that I haven’t been bored. My hours are irregular, my work weeks are all different from the last, and something new occurs each day. Here are a few special and random memories that stick out to me from working with my team this summer:

  • A Hagfish swam by and my coworker dropped our equipment to catch and show me what a Hagfish was and how interesting they are
  • I used the first aid kit’s binoculars to ogle at bald eagles
  • Sitting in the warm sun, cleaning eelgrass, listening to reggae, and talking about our favorites movies
  • Seeing my first adult Dungeness Crab
  • Swimming from the boat to an RV park to use their porta potty
  • Driving a boat for the first time, traveling a whopping 5mph yet being so nervous to do so
  • Learning how to tie a bowline knot which took me many tries
  • Watching one unfortunate Sand Shrimp be the most popular attraction in the shellfish touch tank

I have two weeks left in Oregon and I’ve begun to think how much I will miss my team, Coos Bay, and the work I’ve been given. The employees I’ve had the pleasure to work with at ODFW are genuine, lively, and hardworking people. I don’t get sick of being on a boat with them 5-10 hours a day, they’ve made me realize it may be hard to find a job where I am as happy to be at work as this one. I am so lucky to have been accepted as an Oregon Sea Grant Summer Scholar.

My First Restaurant Review

I’ve never left a yelp review, nor have considered myself a “foodie,” but today I had a great burger. I also had great company, Rasha, another sea grant scholar. I must give a shout out to Cornucopia restaurant’s “Aloha Burger” in Eugene, Oregon. Topped with pineapple, house made slaw, and teriyaki sauce, this burger was one of the best I’ve had! The fries were great too, and our waiter was a nice guy. This was a tasty, highly recommended experience!

Last week I worked in the ODFW Newport office, which allowed me to get together with some of the sea grant scholars spending their summer in Newport. We caught up on our busy new lives, watched SNL clips on Youtube, (my favorite is “Totinos with Kristin Stewart – SNL”), visited the Oregon Coast Aquarium, saw the Incredibles 2, walked along Bayfront, and to stick with the theme of my blog, got dinner. Now this was another food experience worthy of a restaurant recommendation to M & P Authentic Thai Cuisine. The menu was larger than any I’ve seen for it had pictures of almost every food option they served, a very useful development for people who do not like reading menus, such as myself. I ordered the Chicken Drunken Noodles with extra spice, out of the two times I’ve had Thai food, I must say this was my favorite. The noodles were soft, the vegetables tangy, the chicken drunk, everything was perfect.

Unfortunately, I did not take photos of the food I’ve mentioned, I’m not one to judge food by its cover. Instead, I’d like to show some other cooler nature pictures I’ve captured such as the spores found beneath the leaves of a Western Sword Fern. I’ve never seen this process of plant reproduction, it was super exciting to find this. I also have included a photo of an Amphipod, otherwise known as a sand flea, or beach hopper. They are adorable and are found hopping all over the Bay coast. The crab I’m holding is a Purple Shore Crab found at Sunset Bay State Park. In my completely honest, unbiased opinion not at all affiliated with Oregon Sea Grant, I will admit I think this crab is the prettiest.



Everything Is New

Visiting from Virginia and never having been to the West Coast before, everything is new to me. This first week has been full of excitement, from seeing the different vegetation and wildlife, to realizing different cultural norms. Just yesterday while working, I saw a Bald Eagle fly, watched curious Harbor Seals watch me, then later saw a Porcupine scuttle past me as I admired a Pacific Coast sunset. I’ve never seen any of this wildlife in the wild before, it’s wild. I’ve enjoyed hearing the haunting sounds of Cormorants and learning the birds that float nearby on the water are named the Pigeon Guillemot, it’s so fun to say!

My Sea Grant Summer Scholar position is to work with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife on the Shellfish and Estuarine Assessment of Coastal Oregon (SEACOR) team. This means almost everyday I am on the water in Coos Bay taking samples of various clams, crabs, and shrimp. Once all the data is compiled the population levels and health of the species will be assessed so inform decision making on resource management. I wear a bulky dry suit that makes me feel like an astronaut, and when filled with air makes for a wonderful and fun floatation device to swim above Eelgrass when it’s too hard to walk through. I’ve learned a lot about the different local shellfish, and other slippery worms and sea slugs we find. Some of my work days begin at 5am which allows me to witness the busy marina of fishermen sailing off too.

I love not knowing what I will do each day, I spend a lot of time walking and discovering new beautiful places along the coast. Each day brings a new experience, and new people. Everyone I’ve met has been so kind, and happy to talk with me about our lives on a deeper level than just the surface. I am happy with my work and social life here, I’m loving Oregon.