Week Ten: It’s See You Later, Not Goodbye

And that is all she wrote, folks. My time here in Oregon is up and I have headed back to the Midwest and have started my classes at Purdue. This summer has been a whirlwind of amazing experiences and opportunities that I will never forget. I have had the privelage to learn so much from some stellar biologists.

In my last week I had a perfect blend of desk work and field work. I spent a good chunk of my week consuming massive amounts of coffee and clacking away at my computer trying to put together my end of summer portfolio for Oregon Sea Grant. But I also had the opportunity to go out into the field with Scott one last time to dig up razor clams that would be sent off to be checked for acids that are not safe for human consumption. We check for this regularly in order to keep a close eye on the fishery.

On our way back from the field we passed Adam’s Point where we stopped to look at a dead sea lion that had washed up on shore. I had never been so close to a sea lion before—dead or alive—and I was thrilled to check it out.

Checking out the dead sea lion that washed up at Adam’s Point.

I also had the chance to go seining with Gary one last time; this time in Bandon on the Coquille River. I now understood my fellow Sea Grant Scholar, Catherine’s, complaints regarding the mosquitos. They were so thick you could see them hang in sheets in the air! The diversity and abundance was lower than in Coos Bay but we did catch a huge male Chinook salmon in our seine which more than made up for it!

A large male Chinook salmon we seined up in the Coquille River!

On Thursday I had to say farewell to Scott and all the other employees of the ODFW Charleston. Thank you everyone at the ODFW for making this summer so great! I was sad to leave, everyone in the office was so great to work with that I hated having to end my stay there.

One last day at my desk at the ODFW Charleston. Ahh, the clutter of a biologist!

That evening, a close friend of mine from OIMB, Theresa, and I drove up to Eugene for a short visit and then headed to Portland. I had never been to either city so it was awesome to get a look around. Theresa is a U of O student so I was lucky enough to get a full tour of the campus!

Visiting Hayward Field where they hold the Olympic trials for running events at the University of Oregon in Eugene!

We spent the evening and part of the next day, before my flight, in Portland and of course it was mandatory that we went to Voodoo Doughnuts!  The culture in Portland is unlike anything I have ever seen before. The people there are so quirky and friendly and the architecture could hold my attention for hours.

Pit stop at Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland: donuts to die for!!!!

All too soon, Theresa dropped me to PDX and I had to say my final goodbyes to Oregon, a place I’ve come to think of as home. This summer I fell head over heels in love with this state and I know that I have not seen the last of it. Hopefully, I can attend grad school or even work there someday; it’d be a dream come true!

A few days after I had landed in Indiana, I received an email from Steven Rumrill who is the head shellfish biologist for Oregon. In this email he stated that the work Scott, Jim, and I had done would be used to settle some debate ongoing with the management of the Pacific heart cockle fishery in Netarts Bay, OR. I was ecstatic to see that work I had done myself being put to use out in the real world. What an opportunity!!

I would just like to say thank you to Sara Kolesar and Eric Dickey and all others involved with this program at Sea Grant! I would not have had this opportunity without you all. Also, thank you to my mentor, Scott Groth, who took time out of his—to say the least—busy summer schedule and for being an excellent and fun advisor. I learned so much from both Sea Grant and Scott this summer which I will carry with me as I finish up my last year, graduate from Purdue, and enter the workforce as a biologist.

The Sea Gant Summer Scholars program is truly one of a kind and if you are looking for a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will leave you with lasting knowledge about the field of biology, look no further than this program, you will not regret a single moment.

And with that, I sign off. Here’s to the most amazing ten weeks ever. Cheers!

See you soon, Oregon!

Week Nine: Symposiums, Aquariums, and Other “iums”

With week nine come and gone, my time here in Oregon is winding down. This week was devoted almost entirely to finishing up my final presentation for the Summer Scholars program and beginning to tie up any lose ends at the ODFW. After finally finishing up my presentation early in the week I practiced my speech several times on willing ears. Luckily, all the COSEE interns also had to present their final work as well and it provided the perfect opportunity to practice our presentations to an audience and receive feedback.

On Friday, Scott and I drove up to Newport (via the 101, my favorite highway!) so I could present my final work at Hatfield for Sea Grant’s end of summer symposium. It was awesome to finally see what all the other summer scholars had been accomplishing this summer and to also share my accomplishments from this summer with them and with the scientific community. Everyone had done a great job with their projects and also gave fantastic presentations; my attention was captured the entire symposium! Unfortunately, I do not have pictures of the symposium so just try and imagine a very happy and enthusiastic Sam Thiede speaking about Pacific heart cockles to a room full of people!

And, seeing as I had never been to the Newport Aquarium before, Scott and I went to check it out after the presentations were over. It was cool to see all the coastal fishes up close, especially the Orford Reef exhibit where you could walk through glass tunnels through the aquariums. Unfortunately, I am not SCUBA certified and could not check diving off my summer bucket list. However, walking through the tunnels in the aquarium provided me with the perfect opportunity to see many of the species I’d have encountered during a dive. While I’m sure nothing compares to the actuality of swimming through open water, I was pretty happy that I at least caught a glimpse at what I was missing. Motivation for SCUBA certification: activated!

Sea Nettles at the Newport Aquarium!

Orford Reef exhibit at the Newport Aquarium, filled with Leopard Sharks!

This weekend, I was again reminded just how close I was to my summer’s end. This week was the final week of the term for OIMB students and also the last week for all of the COSEE interns. At the end of the weekend almost everyone on campus headed back to their homes and colleges. It was quite a shock going from seeing 30 people every day to only a handful. I have met some amazing people in Charleston this summer and saying goodbye is always hard. In less than a week, even I will follow suit and have to pack up and move on out.

This week I will be finishing up on my memo that I am writing for the ODFW and also help Scott with any end of summer field work. It makes my heart heavy when I think of leaving Charleston, I feel like I’ve really made myself at home here. Until next time, cheers!

One last beach outing at Bastendorf with some of my friends from OIMB and COSEE!

Week 8: May the Forest Be With You

With week eight coming to a close I’m baffled at how little time is left and how quickly it’s gone by! Charleston has definitely become my home away from home. Scott has been laying off on some of the field work in order to let me finish up my end-of-internship responsibilities. However, neither of us can stand being at the desk for too long and so I was able to get in some outdoor time this week!

Wednesday we attempted to return the cockles from our free-range methods experiment back to their original site at Valino Island so that Scott and Jim can continue to monitor them after I have gone. However, the tide beat us to it so we ended up having to return them a different day.

Scott also left me in full charge of the boat, which put my skills to the test! I was to pick up the boat from the storage unit, hook it up to the hitch, and then after picking Scott up, back the boat down the ramp. It took me about 15 minutes to back the trailer down the ramp—much shorter than in my previous attempts—so I was pretty proud of myself! Scott even let me drive the boat around the bay for part of the time! Afterwards, I was in charge of cleaning the boat and flushing the engine and getting it back to storage. Boating skills: success!

On Wednesday evening, OIMB held their annual Invertebrate Ball in which all students, interns, and even professors dress up like invertebrates and participate in various invertebrate themed activities. At the end of the evening, all of the participants walked down a runway for a fashion show of everyone’s amazing costumes, but there was a catch: you had to locomote down the runway like the invertebrate you were dressed as! Prizes were given for several different categories such as: most anatomically correct, least effort, best locomotion, etc. It was the kind of fun evening only biologists could have thought up!

Invertebrate Ball 2013, I came dressed as a mesopelagic jellyfish!

Thursday, I traveled to Newport with the COSEE interns to tour Hatfield. We were given a tour of the grounds and even got to go into some of the NOAA and EPA labs, which were very cool. The Hatfield interns also showed us the projects they had been working on this summer. One of the interns was working on aging shrimp using their gastric mills which I became totally enthralled in!

The crowning jewel of this week, however, was my fabulous weekend that I spent with some of the other Sea Grant Scholars and Hatfield interns in the Redwoods National Park! On Friday evening, after work, we all drove down into California to the Jedediah Smith State Park. We took the 101, finally completing my dream of driving up and down the entire Oregon coast! Another check off my summer’s bucket list!

Redwoods National Park, talk about some impressive old growth forests!!

Saturday was filled with adventures! We started off the day with hiking and searching for the Grove of the Titans. While we found no Titans, we did have a lot of fun bushwhacking our way through the forest and seeing some impressive old growth forest. The redwoods are such an impressive sight, and if you’ve never seen them I would recommend making the trip; you would not regret it!

Relaxing up in the Redwoods with a few of the Sea Grant Summer Scholars!

We also decided to rent surf boards for a couple of days and headed out to Crescent City, CA to catch some waves. I had never surfed a day in my life but I was stoked to give it a go. Lucky for me, one of the Sea Grant Scholars, Pat Cousineau, had spent a large portion of his summers teaching others how to surf and was kind enough to give me lessons! After just a few tries I stood up and rode into shore without falling; who would have thought a Midwesterner could be a natural! (Though I can’t take all the credit, I had great instructor!) We spent hours out on the water and I loved every single second of it.

Surfing was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. There is something so relaxing and calming about it, not to mention the thrill of riding the waves! It was definitely a de-stressor that I was in much need of. I’m heartbroken that surfing is not a hobby I can continue in Indiana but if I ever move out to the coast, you can bet I’ll be buying a board!

Catching some gnarly waves for the first time!

Just two weeks left here in Oregon and I’m sure the time will fly! I wish it’d stand still, though, because I do not want to leave! Until next week, cheers!

Week 7: Yo Ho, Yo Ho, A Biologist’s Life For Me!

Another fantastic week in Charleston! This week we wrapped up the annual red rock crab tagging survey. We pulled our traps up at the end of the week and put them back into storage. It was crazy how at the beginning of the surveys we were catching on average 60 crabs per trap per day and by the end of the survey we were catching only four or five crabs per trap per day. Some of this was in part to our friendly neighborhood harbor seals that would ram our traps to get the bait and make it easier for crabs to escape. However, that is not the only reason behind the poor crabbing and that is the mystery we are now tasked with solving.

One of the last red rocks we marked.

The first part of the week was mainly data entry and analysis. Scott has been teaching me the magical world of Access and R throughout my time at the ODFW and this week put those skills to the test. Access is a Microsoft database program that allows us to better organize our data and create queries that can be used to table data in a form that is easier to analyze. We then use the program R to analyze all the data we’ve put into Access. R has a pretty steep learning curve and as someone with no experience with coding or programming I feel like what I’ve learned so far has been pretty extensive. It’s exciting to see data you’ve collected turn into readable and meaningful graphs.

Scott has also been putting my ArcGIS skills to good use. Scott is creating urchin harvest reports for the ODFW and has been using ArcGIS to analyze the data spatially. Between the two of us we were able to figure out some cool ways to map and analyze the urchin data.

On Thursday, Scott, Nick, and I felt we had enough of our share of office work for this week and decided it would be a perfect day to go fishing. I had never gone fishing in the open ocean before so to say I was excited was an understatement! Within an hour of being out to sea I had caught my first fish: a black rockfish. We were “bottom fishing” which is exactly what it sounds like: fishing along the ocean floor. The trick with bottom fishing is not catching on the bottom, which even experienced fishermen often have trouble with. Once you catch the sea bed there is a lot of organized chaos with unhooking yourself—jerking your line up hard in various directions and trying not to snap it—and an equal amount of shaking your fist at the ocean.


My mighty black rockfish!

Friday we took out the ODFW’s boat, Ophiodon, to release some basket stars the invertebrate biology professor wanted returned to sea, as well as to collect some spatial data on sport crabbing. When returning basket stars to sea you must first burp them by gently pressing on their disk. Air often gets trapped inside of basket stars which will cause them to float at the surface and will inevitably be eaten by gulls and other hungry sea birds; burping them ensures a (somewhat) safe journey to the ocean floor.

After returning the basket stars we began our data collection. We drove the Ophiodon throughout Coos Bay marking waypoints on the boat’s GPS where we found sport crab gear. We collect this data in order to be able to make informed decisions when companies want to alter the habitat, such as dredge it, so we can be aware of how much sport crabbing we would be affected.

And though only two days at sea isn’t really enough to determine whether I get seasick or not, I am happy to report that seasickness has not been an issue thus far! I’m so happy to finally to be getting my sea legs!

Returning basket stars to their deep sea home.

Saturday I went with a few students from OIMB to go hiking at Gold and Silver Falls. It was unbelievably beautiful. We first hiked to Silver Falls which was my favorite of the two because we were able to play under the waterfall! Gold Falls was also pretty amazing, as the trail leads you to the top of the waterfall and you can look over the edge, which was a surreal experience. We also took it upon ourselves to go off the beaten path and explore some unmarked areas; I definitely improved upon my climbing abilities during this hike! As always, with the end of this week I’ve been left exhausted but completely happy. Until next week!


Silver Falls

Playing underneath Silver Falls!

Week 6: My Personal Oregon Trail

Yet again, another fantastic week in Oregon! I say Oregon, instead of just Charleston, because this week was full of traveling! As per usual, we are still continuing our work with the annual red rock crab mark-recapture project. This, and working on our pink shrimp fishery project, took up the majority of our Monday. Tuesday through Thursday, however, was a totally unique experience!

Steve Rumrill, the managing shellfish biologist of Newport and former professor at the University of Oregon, had earlier in the month invited me to join him in Astoria to help the Astoria shellfish biologist, Matt Hunter, with his razor clam stock assessment. And so, Tuesday morning I set out on Highway 101 to Astoria. Driving up the 101 was like driving through a postcard: ocean view from the top of cliff faces and lush forests. It was a long drive (eight and a half hours because traffic was terrible!) but it didn’t feel that way one bit because of the beautiful scenery!

Driving Highway 101 is simply a dream.


Wednesday and Thursday mornings were dedicated entirely to razor clam surveying. On Wednesday we headed out early—5:30am—to the transect site in Warrenton. The reasoning behind the early times is to ensure we are working as the tide is going out, in order to sample a larger portion of the beach and the razor clam stock.

Surveying razor clams is quite different from surveying cockles. We took an approximately meter sized basket and placed it along different elevations on the beach. We started at elevation zero—which is determined as the elevation in which no razor clams are found—so that we could ensure that we were not missing any clams higher up on the beach. We then moved down the beach, towards the water, in 50 meter increments.

At each elevation the basket is placed and a hydraulic pump is used to liquefy the sand. Razor clams are neutral buoyant and if they are within our sampling area (the basket), once the area liquefies, razor clams will float to the top. We pump water into the area for three minutes per basket, six times per elevation. The baskets, depending on the elevation, are moved either north or south to ensure we are sampling as much of the stock as possible.

An excellent razor clam specimen we retrieved during our stock assessment.
(Note: Clam measures to approximately 110mm.)

The hydraulic aspect of the sampling is quite interesting. A pump is placed in a “crab hole”—an area of pooling water on the beach—and a gasoline powered generator is used to power the pump. A hose sucks up the water from the crab hole and then pushes the water into a separate, longer hose which is attached to a wand at the end. The wand is made of PVC pipe with two openings: one to connect to the hose and one to project the water. This wand is used to liquefy the sand in the basket. The water comes out of the wand at nearly 8 gallons a minute and handling the wand can be tricky to maneuver, not to mention heavy. As with many things involving field work, there is a definite learning curve for good technique.

Blasting away at the sand, looking for razor clams.

The same process of razor clam surveying was repeated on Thursday at a gracious 6:00a.m. After finishing up with the stock assessment—and a yummy breakfast at Bagels by the Sea—I headed back to Charleston. Luckily, traffic was substantially better this time around and I made it home in just a little over 5 hours. After being up so early and having such a long drive you can bet I was ready for a good night’s sleep!

Friday, Scott and I headed out in the morning to Valino Island to recover cockles that had been marked and placed there in February. We wanted to retrieve as many as possible in order to meaningfully assess the cockles’ growth over time. Fortunately, we managed to find 33; approximately 100 were placed but only 30 are needed for meaningful statistical analysis. The cockles that we found had some cool annuli (growth rings) and crunching the data is going to yield some fascinating results that I will be sure to update you all on!


A cockle we recovered with some fascinating annuli!

Friday was also the day that Scott decided it’d be a good time to teach me how to back up a boat trailer. If you’ve ever watched somebody experienced in this matter back up a boat trailer you may have been deceived into thinking that it is a simple and easy task. You would be very wrong, as was I. Backing up a boat trailer requires an immense amount of directional multitasking. In order to successfully back up a boat trailer you must keep in mind that the truck and the boat are always going to be pushing and pulling in opposite directions and keeping track of what does what can be very dizzying. The boat docks are always filled with tons of seasoned boaters; no pressure when you have 50 professionals watching you, right? I didn’t do terribly and it’s all about practicing. I wouldn’t call me for all your trailering needs just yet.

It was nice to have some time to relax and catch up on rest this weekend after such a long, busy week. Of course, my idea of relaxation always seems to involve being active. This week my newest experience was slack lining. The concept of a slack line is quite simple: Tie said slack line in between two trees and try to keep your balance. The actuality of slack lining is quite difficult and there is a lot of falling off involved. Let’s just say you will learn how to fall with grace and not on your face. When walking on a slack line it is important to look straight ahead and not at your feet. Doing this, keeping a good center of gravity and a lot of practice and you’ll be a pro in no time; or you at least won’t be falling off as much!

The face of utter concentration.

Sunday was also particularly eventful. A few good friends of mine from OIMB—Theresa and Payton— and I spent the day laying out at Sunset Bay and playing some beach volleyball. In the evening the three of us asked one of the COSEE interns staying at OIMB, Zac, for some skim boarding lessons and he was happy to oblige. Though I had skim boarded before I was by no means an expert on the subject; as you can imagine there isn’t an abundance of surf in Indiana. However, we all picked up on it pretty quickly and had a ton of fun. Definitely a hobby I wish I could take back to Indiana with me, but all the more reason to revisit the coasts!

Skim boarding at Sunset Bay!

After such an exciting week, I’m interested to see where these final following weeks take me. Stay tuned, until next time!


Week 5: Time Flies When You’re Having Fun!

Where has the time gone? Week five is completed, which means I’m halfway through my internship. This week was especially exceptional. Scott and I have continued our red rock crab surveys with much more success in capturing red rocks than in the past few weeks. I’ve also started on writing up a memo for the cockle experimental methods we’ve been developing and it’s awesome to finally put my scientific writing abilities to the test.

On Wednesday Dean Headlee invited me to come along with him to Hallmark, a fish processing plant. We intercepted two boats—the Apache and the Nel Ron Dic—as they brought in their trawl catches. It was our job to sample these fish (30-50 fish per sample by species). I was excited to handle so many species of fish such as green stripes, ling cod, Dover sole, English sole, big skates, long-nosed skates, yellowtail rockfish, and albacore tuna. We took the lengths (fork or total length, depending on the fish species), weight, sex and stage of sexual maturity, and we also pulled otoliths. After watching Dean pull several otoliths from the fish he let me give it a try and I was actually quite good at it!

Pulling otoliths from the trawl catch

Pulling otoliths, in my opinion, is an art form. If you don’t cut into the right place or know the right place to look you may never find them. However, Dean’s technical lesson of otolith pulling had me removing them like a pro in no time. The majority of the fish that we pulled otoliths from were flatfish. In order to pull an otolith from a flatfish you must first cut along the operculum (gill flap). This is where the art comes into play; you just have to know exactly where on the operculum to cut by doing it yourself and seeing what works, verbal instructions will only get you so far. Eventually, with practice, you just know where to cut into.

Once you’ve cut into the head you must find and remove the otoliths. Typically they sit on the right side of the cut (if you do it correctly). They are very small and in a fluid-filled pouch but once I had practiced on a few fish I could pull them blindly without even needing to see them. We put all the otoliths into individual slots in trays and assigned a number to them so we could age the fish later on.

Rockfish Otoliths (ear bones)

As it being week five, it was time for all the Sea Grant Summer Scholars to attend our mid-summer check-in. Catherine, a fellow scholar, and I drove up to Corvallis on Thursday evening. It was awesome to ride with her as the scholars are pretty spread out through Oregon and we don’t get to interact much with each other.

Friday was the mid-summer check-in. We started off the morning with a presentation about outreach, which was definitely an eye-opener. Our speaker, Shawn, spoke with us on the public’s perceptions of scientists and how the public uses those perceptions to draw conclusions and form ideas and opinions. We also did an activity that helped us to understand how to guide others to conclusions about scientific material so that the information is absorbed.

It was great to finally spend time with my fellow summer scholars. Sunday, before we all parted ways, a few of us grabbed tubes and floated the Willamette. I had never floated a river before and it was such a relaxing experience (though the water was a little chilly!). The backdrop of the mountains as we floated down the Willamette was simply gorgeous; I couldn’t have dreamed up more beautiful scenery myself!

Presenting my work in Coos Bay to the public during OSU’s DaVinci Days.

Picture Perfect!

Sea Grant

Spending time with my fellow scholars!

I was gone for a four day weekend and what do I come back to find on my desk waiting for me? Dead fish to be identified, a bag of shells, and a crab molt. Most people come back to desks piled with paperwork; I come back to dead animals. Life of a biologist, everyone! I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

This week I will be heading to Astoria with Steven Rumrill to do razor clam surveys and I am beyond thrilled! Until next time!

Week Four: Busy As A Bee, Happy As A Clam!

I’m never sure as to what each week will bring here in Coos Bay. Every week has always managed to top the previous and this week was no exception. Tuesday, Scott, Jim, and I boated down to Indian Point to start the ODFW’s annual cockle survey. Using ArcGIS I generated 60 random points and uploaded the locations of these 60 points onto a GPS. These 60 points would serve as our sampling sites. We would lay down one square meter quadrats at the waypoints found on the GPS and rake a four tine rake over the quadrat once and record and collect the cockles found. Then we would turn 90 degrees and rake one more time and record the number of cockles found and collect them as well. This was repeated for each quadrat.

Raking for Pacific Heart Cockles at Indian Point

On Thursday we did this same process, only this time at Valino Island. Valino Island is a protected area and Indian Point is an area known for heavy commercial harvest of cockles. We chose these two sites in order to compare how harvest (or lack thereof) affects cockle size and recruitment over time. While Indian Point was very sandy Valino Island was quite the opposite. Valino Island is essentially a mud flat and it is easy to get stuck and sink. Scott and Jim had to pull me out of the mud several times, but not before musing—i.e., laughing—over how funny they thought my predicament was.


Stuck in the mud at Valino Island

When we returned back to the ODFW I placed the cockles into tanks of circulating water in order to take accurate wet weights. When clams are left out of water they tend to spit water out of their siphons which can give you inaccurate weight data; this is why we placed the clams back into water before recording weight. I also recorded shell length, height, and fatness which will be used in our analysis. Using R we ran some preliminary statistical tests that suggest that Valino Island, the reserve area, has much larger cockles but Indian Point has higher amounts of recruitment.

We also have been continuing our red rock crab surveys and we were lucky enough to have the pleasure of working alongside Sylvia Yamada, a professor and research scientist from OSU. Sylvia has been doing work throughout the years on the invasive green crab and was a delight to work with. Her plethora of knowledge and fascinating anecdotes made for a great week of crab processing. She brought Fukui traps, a Japanese trap that allows all sizes of crabs to walk through. We had been using box traps which bias samples by not letting the larger crabs in. However we did run into some trouble with the Fukui traps: the seals ate all our bait!

Scott, Larry, Sylvia, and I processing red rock crabs

The notorious bait thief!

Thursday was considerably out of the ordinary. Dean, a fish biologist for the ODFW, invited me along to process yellow-eyed rockfish with him. It was truly a treat as yellow-eyed rockfish have a harvest limit of two tons per year—a very small allowance—and are not often encountered. We recorded lengths and weights of the rockfish and also recorded their sex and stage of maturity. Dean also pulled otoliths from the rockfish. Otoliths are ear bones and are used to determine the age of a fish. We even had encountered a few fish that had been eaten by hagfish, which enter through the gills and eat the fish from the inside out. The fish remains whole but the body is completely flaccid as all its musculature and organs have been consumed. It was very surreal to see. And on top of the fun of handling some cool fish, a buyer stopped by to purchase halibut from the boat we were working with and gave us all brownies. Brownies for breakfast: how could I say no to that?

Yellow-eyed rockfish

Later in the week, Jim Carlton, an expert on the subject of Japanese tsunami marine debris (JTMD) and invasive species, came to visit OIMB to give a lecture on the incoming debris and teach a class on the topic of biological invasions. In a previous blog post I mentioned how Scott and I had discovered a Japanese pallet that had washed ashore. We had sent the samples and pictures we had taken to Jim and during his visit he informed us that the pallet had come from the Morinaga-dairy business, a famous dairy business in Yamato which is located in the metropolis of Tokyo. It was determined that the pallet contained various hydroids, Mediterranean mussels (M. galloprovincialis), pelagic barnacles known as Lepas, as well as jingle shells (Anomia cytaeum). Jingles are not commonly found on JTMD which made it an interesting find.

There is no such thing as a dull weekend at OIMB. Friday night the director, Jan, announced that a dying dolphin had washed up on Bullard’s Beach in Bandon and was hoping to have help in retrieving it. And so, Saturday morning I had the opportunity to drive to Bandon with a group of friends to help Jan retrieve the dolphin so that it could be dissected in the Birds and Mammals course. After about fifteen minutes of combing Bullard’s Beach we found the dolphin, loaded it onto a stretcher and carried it up and over the dunes to the truck to be hauled back to OIMB. The dolphin weighed over 200 lbs. but with one person on each corner of the stretcher it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be to carry. Though, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a little sore!

Recovering a striped dolphin for dissection

As you can see, the birds had gotten to the specimen before we did

This coming week I’ll be heading to Corvallis to talk to the public about my summer work and Oregon Sea Grant. Each week always unfolds a new and exciting surprise and I’m ready to see what that will be this week! Until next time!

Third Week’s The Charm!

Hello again!

With the holiday weekend over I must say I’m exhausted. I’m not sure where the week went! This past week at the ODFW was all about starting up our annual red rock crab surveys. Monday, Jim and I set eight crab pots off the docks of the small boat basin of Coos Bay. We filled them with leftover fish fillets thrown away by fishermen and boy, did they smell gnarly! We let them soak overnight and have been checking them daily in the mornings.

Past surveys have shown that basin is comprised of mainly Dungeness and red rock crabs. We have been measuring the carapace length and taking weights of whole (no appendages missing) Dungeness crabs. For red rock crabs we have quite the laundry list of tasks to perform and data to collect. Red rock crabs are weighed, carapace length is measured, and we check and account for missing appendages and determine the sex of the crab. We then tag the crab with a t-bar tag that includes an individual identification number that we can use for mark-recapture studies. We also clip the eighth carapace spine on the right-hand side to help compensate for tag loss. If a crab is a recapture we note that as well. Flyers are posted around the boat basin that encourages people to call in recreational recaptured red rock crabs with incentive of a prize. This is done to monitor removal of red rock crabs from the small boat basin. We hope to use this annual project to predict red rock population size and variability over years, as well as to monitor and analyze red rock crab recruitment.

My mentor's sense of humor always keeps me on my toes!

My mentor’s sense of humor always keeps me on my toes!

And let me tell you, if you have never handled a crab you are in for a surprise. Watching my mentor work up crabs made it all seem very easy and effortless, but in reality there is an art to avoiding being pinched. Dungeness crabs will make your extremities sting for a short while, but get your hand caught in the grips of red rock chelae and you are in for a painful crush. However, I am slowly trying to master the art.

This week we also had the day off for the Fourth of July. OIMB held a lovely picnic overlooking the ocean on Cape Arago. The food was amazing: grilled oysters, BBQ tuna, hotdogs, and endless desserts. A few friends and I headed over to South Cove after lunch where we were lucky enough to spy a grey whale swimming fairly close to shore. We also found a washed up juvenile salmon shark with quite the chunk taken out of his left side. In the evening, we hiked down to Pirate’s Cove where we sat up on the rock faces that overlooked Bastendorf Beach and watched the locals set off some impressive fireworks.

Hiking up and down to get to Pirate's Cove: no easy feat!

Hiking up and down to get to Pirate’s Cove: no easy feat!

In addition to the fun of field work and number crunching, I like to try something new each week. This week my friend, Jaron, taught me how to long board. My balance was great but my coordination was what onlookers could call, well, “lacking”. But after a couple hours I was zooming around without falling, a success in my books! It was so much fun and I am definitely going to continue practicing.

Each week here brings so much excitement! Can’t wait to see what this week has in store!

Long boarding for the first time

Long boarding for the first time

Field Work Frenzy!

Hello all!
I’m so excited to update you on my week! This past week was all about field work, which is my favorite part of any job. Monday we kicked off the week heading down to Indian Point where Jim, my officemate and colleague, and Scott, my mentor, had previously placed two crab pots filled with pit tagged cockles. Our goal was to dig up the crab pots (no easy feat in such coarse sand!) and retrieve the cockles to measure their growth over the previous two weeks. Unfortunately, many of the cockles had died but we could still collect all the growth data we needed from them, such as shell length, height, fatness, and clam weight.

A typical day at the ODFW in Charleston, OR

Wednesday I had the opportunity to venture outside of shellfish biology and got to ride along and seine with the marine fish department. Our target species was Chinook salmon but we also found many other species of fish such as greenlings, sand lances, English soles, staghorn sculpins, and smelts. We also found hundreds of small Dungeness crabs and comb jellies.  A few people held one end of the seine on the beach and the boat was driven around in an arch until the boat reached the other end of the beach. We then pulled the seine up to the shore and then sifted through the bag for fish.
We sampled 4 sites along a seven mile stretch of water, from Charleston to North Bend. We measured lengths and weights of our target species in order to later be able to calculate a condition factor (K) which is used to estimate the condition (health) of fish. We also identified which salmon were hatchery salmon by checking to see if the adipose fin was clipped. Clipped fins indicated hatchery spawned salmon.

Port Orford

Thursday’s field site in Port Orford

Thursday was by far my favorite field work day of the week. Jim and I drove out to Woodruff Creek near Port Orford. After scaling down a sharp cliff-face in waders to get to our sampling site my adrenaline was definitely pumping. We sampled eight, random, 1m^2 quadrats. Our target species was littleneck clams. Digging through all the tide pools was amazing and we found some cool intertidal species; my favorite find was a clown nudibranch (sea slug). The tide pools were teaming with diverse fauna: several species of crabs, gunnels, peanut worms, sea stars, sculpins, the list goes on and on! Though we were out sampling in the warm sun for three or so hours I enjoyed every minute of lifting cobble and boulders and digging through sand to find littleneck clams. When you love what you do, it never seems like work!


A clown nudibranch (sea slug) I found in one of our quadrats in Port Orford

And what’s work without a little play? I have made some good friends at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology (OIMB) where I am being housed. All the students are friendly and always ready for adventures. After dinner, rain or shine, we’ll get together to play volleyball or Frisbee or go hang out on the beach. Thursday was particularly fun, as I swam in the Pacific Ocean for the first time. It took a few minutes to get used to the cold water but soon we were having the time of our lives swimming through the breakers.


A typical night at OIMB

This weekend, a few friends and I drove over to Sunset Bay where we spent our day climbing through the cliff sides where we found some pretty stellar tide pools. As the tide began to roll in, so did the fog. The fog is a unique part of the Oregon coast that I have come to love.  In Indiana, fog is something you wake up to and it appears as a boring, thick sheet. Here in Oregon, fog comes in at random times throughout the day and it rolls in looking like thick cumulus clouds gliding across the ground and pouring like falls over cliff sides. It’s a beautiful event that I’ve fallen in love with and there is something very relaxing about the whole occurrence. On our way back to OIMB we stopped at an overlook of the cove and ended up sighting some sea lions and even a whale, which was the cherry on top of a good day. I can’t wait to see what adventures this week holds!

Coos Bay: My New Frontier

Hello, all!

Thanks for joining me on my adventures in the Pacific Northwest this summer! Allow me to introduce myself, I’m Sam Thiede. I’m an undergraduate student at Purdue University majoring in Fisheries and Aquatic Science and minoring in Wildlife Science. I’m a senior and will be graduating May 2014 and plan on pursuing my masters and Ph.D. in either fisheries sciences or aquatic resource management. Currently, I am working at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) as a technical research assistant to Scott Groth through the Oregon Sea Grant Summer Scholars program, but you will all hear much more about that topic throughout the summer.

I’m a Midwesterner, specifically from Indiana. Before my arrival in Oregon I had never been farther west than St. Louis, Missouri and the trip here was quite a shock. My plane had a short layover in Salt Lake City, Utah. I have never seen desert before and I was in true awe of the scenery throughout my short hour there. Seeing the Great Salt Lake and all the desert salt flats in between the mountain tops looked like something out of a painting! As I flew out of the desert and into the mountains of Oregon, again I was in for a total shock. Mountain tops covered with snow, gigantic confiners leaning over open ocean, I was in love before I even stepped off the plane.

OIMB Beach

Upon my arrival into Coos Bay, my mentor, Scott Groth, gave me a tour around the area. As we drove up Cape Arago highway we stopped off at an overlook of the bay to check for tsunami debris. Sure enough, all the way down at the bottom of the cliff face was a washed up Japanese plastic pallet. Much of the debris from the tsunami that struck Japan several years ago has been floating up on the coast of Oregon and biologists have been avidly collecting samples and trying to remove live specimens to avoid the spread of Japanese invasive species.

Within hours upon my arrival I was already scaling down the side of a cliff, sample bags and scraper in hand, to retrieve samples off of Japanese tsunami debris and at that moment I was assured I was in for an interesting and informative summer. We scraped off many kinds of unknown shellfish and algae (we are still processing the sample) and I was given a tour of the surrounding tide pools at the base of the cliff—full of shellfish, anemones, sculpins, etc.—to the soundtrack of sea lions (which I had never seen outside of a zoo!) barking on a nearby island. It was truly an exciting first day on the job.

OIMB Beach Anemones

As the week went on I had begun to learn the ropes of the ODFW’s shellfish program. This week was all about collecting data on pink shrimp, cockles, and spot prawn. Local fishing boats and clammers offer samples to the ODFW in order for us to keep track of size structure and monitor age class trends over the years in order to ensure sustainable fisheries. Not only did I learn how to measure carapaces and sex shrimp but I also had the pleasure of meeting with the local fishermen and hearing their tales of their times out at sea, which is always very colorful! This coming week’s project will be littleneck clam surveys and will bring even more excitement as good stories always seem to come from field work.

I hope you will all continue to tune in as I delve more into the science of marine life here on the Oregon coast with the ODFW! I will post weekly about my experiences here in Coos Bay and am excited for the coming weeks as well as having you all following me along in my journey!

Tide Pool Sea Star