Wading into the data…

The end of week three signaled the shift into high gear or perhaps “low gear” because time doesn’t pass so quickly. The databases have been selected, the data has been pulled from papers, additional numbers have been received from researchers in several countries, and now I’m  faced with making sense of it all. I know, it sounds pretty boring, and at times it can be. Looking at 4000 rows of data, debating how to weigh a lack or surplus of information from one site in order to compare it to another, figuring out how to make it all useful…it’s particularly challenging. But before we can begin teasing out exciting new information, the data mining stage is crucial. Outside the mind-numbing, we had a number of other activities going on this week: we had a productive and clarifying conference call with the lead developer of one of the models we will be working with, the Natural Capital Project’s inVEST Blue Carbon model. In addition, the grad/postdoc students at the EPA hosted an extremely helpful resume/CV workshop…it’s been 4 years since I changed the format of my CV and it definitely needed a refresh.

This past weekend was also the Fourth of July and I can’t think of any better way to celebrate America than going out bright and early to explore Caper Perpetua, part of a federally protected National Forest. It’s a beautiful manifestation of one of the world’s greatest land conservation schemes–the US National Forest System, which is truly something all Americans should be proud of. While there, I finally satisfied one of my goals coming out to Oregon: tide-pooling on the Pacific coast.


For the love of science…

(marine) Science isn’t always about going out and exploring new environments, seeking out new samples and data or boldly going where no marine scientist has gone before. A large part of science is what we call “meta-analyses.” That essentially means taking data others have already collected (usually from many other studies, and conducting analyses (usually statistical) to draw new conclusions. It’s a valuable part of modern science because it cheaply and effectively synthesizes a large amount of information (sometimes hundreds of papers) on a given topic and allows other researchers to more quickly push in new directions. My research this summer, while not quite a meta-analysis, involves reading a large amount of research on what is called “Blue carbon,”  or the carbon stored by marine ecosystems (i.e. mangroves, marshes, and seagrass) and compiling data from the papers I read. My first week of mild confusion gave way to a second week with a more direct goal. We’ve finally (most likely) decided to focus my case study on seagrass blue carbon and the transferability of those particular ecosystem service estimates. Right now we are “playing” with a massive 3660 row spreadsheet and we are going to see where that takes us…more on that next week.

In other news, I visited my first West Coast capital this weekend with a few of the other scholars. Portland has a lot to offer no matter what your interests: it’s a foodie paradise (from Blue Star Donuts to the plethora of food trucks), its a hipster homeland (Toms’ store, Saturday market, Buffalo Exchange), and perfect for the all-around character (Saturday market, Powell’s books, the naked bike ride). We also were sure to visit the Tigard farmer’s market before returning to Newport.

As for the Hatfield Community–I’ve definitely settled in comfortably, besides the imminent threat of tsunami-induced annihilation. Actually, on that note, this past Friday the Hatfielders participated in a “Run for the Hills” Tsunami drill. I’m proud to say my mentor (Melissa) and I were the first ones at the top of the hill in just 10:30. That bodes well if the mega-earthquake, caused by the Cascadian Subduction Zone, were to occur…but I’m hoping it waits at least 8 more weeks. On a more positive note, each week has a lot  of engaging activities including Wednesday donuts, Thursday lectures, pick-up games of ultimate frisbee after work, not-so-infrequent trips to the crab shack down the road, and soon-to-begin workshops focusing on CVs, cover letters, etc.

The summer is shifting into gear and I’m looking forward to Fourth of July weekend in Newport…although a Rodeo in the valley could also be a possibility…

New Places, New Faces

Over the past year I’ve had the opportunity to become a part of a number of very different communities. These include the scientific community at the Leibniz Institut in Bremen, Germany; the international student community at the University of Essex, England; and a more adventurous community in Bodø, Norway (above the Arctic Circle). As a 2015 Oregon Sea Grant Scholar, I now have the opportunity to join the marine science community at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Oregon.


First day working for the Feds–US Environmental Protection Agency

This summer I’ll be working with Dr. Ted DeWitt and Melissa Errend at the EPA Pacific Coastal Ecology Branch Field Station. Coming into my project I thought I’d put together a pretty solid idea of what my project entailed–Ecosystem Service Transferability. Within the first two days, however, I became increasingly uncertain as to what I’m actually really doing here. By Friday morning, I had again returned to a sort of semi-clarity on my direction and summer goals. Nonetheless, I think that it will take a bit more time to really feel comfortable and engaged in the topic I’ll be addressing. For the time being, I’m reading a mountain of papers on carbon sequestration, the oceanic carbon cycle (look beneath the alcohol cabinet key), and the ability of marine environments to store anthropogenic CO2–Known as “Blue Carbon.”

My work doesn’t involve any field or lab work, but hopefully I’ll have the chance to get in the mud, the boat, or the lab with some other projects. I may not have hunted from crabs this week, but this (below) EPA-desk-find has given me a personal goal this summer–Find the Alcohol Cabinet!


What/where is the Alcohol Cabinet, and why do I have a key to it?

On a more serious note, I have two primary professional goals this summer. The first is to produce a case study on ecosystem service transferability robust enough to be incorporated in the EPA’s final report on ecosystem transferability. My second professional goal is to develop my skills in scientific communication both through social media and more standard mediums like posters and powerpoint.

So far I’ve found Oregon pretty fascinating from the ubiquity of Birkenstocks (should I buy a pair to fit in?), to the colloquial “for sure,”  to drive up espresso windows. Newport is a small but busy city with lots to see and do. I’ve already sampled some of the local seafood, Oregon pink shrimp, at the famous Mo’s. Everywhere is surprisingly green, but with temperatures around 14 degrees Celsius the first day I arrived, I was pretty surprised to find the Oregon coast just as cold as Bodø, Norway. Since then, the weather has been extremely pleasant, and to my sincere surprise, there hasn’t been any rain yet. One of my first week highlights is getting to know my fellow Oregon Sea Grant Scholars and the REU students. Together we’ve already had a cookout, beach bonfire, seen Jurassic World, and spent some time identifying the local fauna. Part of our local fauna observation included an Osprey hunting in the estuary (some fish were harmed during this experience). Its pretty awesome getting to hang out with people who think talking about fish, global warming, or new scientific discoveries is cool. I know, “#nerdstatus”, but we embrace it unabashedly.

All-in-all, I’m pretty stoked for this summer and the professional and personal opportunities and challenges it will present.

As a parting gift, here is the Newport sunset


You can also keep up with me on Twitter: @ronaldtardiff and with my fellow OSG scholars by searching for #OSGscholars on Twitter.