Week 10: The End (and Beyond)

I am writing this from my cute little house in Bloomington, Indiana. I am already in my fourth week of classes at IU – can you believe it?

My last week at ODFW was spent finishing up my final report of my results. I polished the report, cleaned out my desk, and caught a glimpse of Portland on Wednesday before boarding a plane back to St. Louis on Thursday. Four days later, I was sitting in my Evolution class in Jordan Hall, IU’s biology building.

A rushed transition, to be sure (I think I am finally getting settled into a routine), but Newport has not yet left my mind, and I think a few thank-yous are in order.

The crew at ODFW helped shape both my project and personal experience this summer. My mentor, Justin Ainsworth – along with other members of the Shellfish Division, Mitch Vance and Steve Rumrill – offered superb guidance, patience, and support. Carri Andersen, Marilyn Leary, Anne Vandewalle, and Adrian Cardoso made my data collection not only possible, but also enjoyable. They are, and will continue to be, missed.

I could not have asked for a better group of Sea Grant Scholars with which to spend the summer and explore Oregon. Steph, Erin, Jess, Lexi, Collin, Angus, Justin, Ed, and Skyler – it was lovely getting to know you, and you made my summer what it was.

And finally, thank you to Oregon Sea Grant for making this experience possible. Thanks to Sarah, Mary, and Haley in particular for running the program flawlessly. Such a special program requires outstanding leaders, and Oregon Sea Grant has certainly found them.

Moving forward: I will graduate this May with a B.S. in Biology (and some other stuff). After that, I plan to take a year “off” before applying to graduate school. For once, I am not sure what my plans are for the immediate future, which is thrilling. And who knows – maybe I will see Oregon again sooner than I expect.


Week 9: Dungeness Dinners and Data Sets

During Week 9, I spent most of my time designing my PowerPoint and poster and prepping for the presentation and poster session Friday. So, not much to report in terms of activities. But I would like to share my poster with you and talk a little bit about my major findings. Even for non-crabbers, I think they are pretty interesting.


I interviewed 162 boats with 452 anglers on board. After asking crabbers how much gear they lost that day, I calculated that the rate of pot loss was about 0.025 pots + rings per angler trip in both the ocean and the bay. What that number boils down to is that if you decided to hop in your boat right now and go crabbing, you’d have about a 2.5% chance of loosing one of your pots or rings.

(An “angler trip” is a single fisherman taking a single fishing trip. For instance, if three crabbers go crabbing on a boat, that is considered three angler trips, even though all three crabbers were on the same vessel.)

I took that statistic and, along with the average number of angler trips taken in 2010 and 2011, found a minimum estimate for the number of pots and rings lost each year in Oregon: a little over 2,000. 725 in the ocean and 1,317 in five of Oregon’s major estuaries. These are based on a small set of data, but I am excited that I was able to help put a number on something that was previously unknown. ODFW is going to look into trying to expand the data set, maybe by doing more interviews at different ports and times of year. This could also provide some info on “hotspots” of gear loss.

In other news, we made some crab cakes with fresh Dungeness this week, and they were some of the best things I’ve ever eaten. And that’s coming from someone whose most favorite foods are almost always in the pasta and ice cream categories. Eggs + mayonnaise + lemon juice + tarragon + green onions + buttery crackers + crab = magic.

Although, if I’m being honest, just crackers = magic as well.

Week 8: A Week of Firsts

With few more windy afternoons out at the marina, I officially wrapped up data collection early the first week of August. 162 interviews. 452 anglers. 2,757 Dungeness crab caught and kept.

My plan was to spend most of the week working on data analysis and my upcoming presentation, but there’s always time for a little excursion. On Tuesday, I tagged along with Justin to retrieve one camera pot and deploy two more. The wind that was so strong the week before had died down significantly, and it was a beautiful day to be out on the ocean.

Wednesday afternoon, I learned how to drive a boat…which is something I definitely hadn’t anticipated getting the chance to learn anytime soon, much less this summer. Justin and I were collecting a few Dungeness in Alsea Bay, and he asked me if I wanted to take the wheel while the pots were soaking. And, just like that, I was doing something I’d been interested in learning ever since I spent weekends at lakes as a kid. By the time we were finished for the afternoon, there were whitecaps in the bay and the water was so choppy that the waves were washing onto the dock, but braving the wind (it’s never far away for long) was well worth it.

That was First #1. An enriching/educational experience. First #2 came on Friday at 8:04 AM when my knife slipped, going straight through the back of my avocado and into my hand. It wouldn’t have been an issue – there was minimal blood, and the cut was not large – but I managed to cut myself in between my fore and middle fingers, a location that would make the healing process a little more difficult. Even with my iron stomach (it’s a significant point of pride for me), I felt like I was going to black out looking at the wound and “into” my finger. I was fine after my roomies helped me to the couch and bandaged me up, but I still ended up having to get my first-ever stitches later that morning. Sorry for the details, but I haven’t had an injury to show off in a while. Plus, the way I left the avocado and knife looks a bit like the scene of a crime, only with less blood. Who’s hungry?


The pit came right out after that, by the way. Mission accomplished.

[Side note: one of the nurses at the clinic said I seemed like the type of person who “knows no strangers,” or something like that. Then she went on to say that I seemed like I could talk to a wall if I wanted to. Not sure how I feel about that last part, but the evidence is clear: interviews about Dungeness crabs are definitely bringing out my inner social butterfly. No one has told me anything in the same galaxy as either of those statements before.]

The weekend was uneventful for the most part, but we did hang out at Port Dock 1 and watch these guys for a while.



Sea lion life is a soap opera. It’s all cuddles until someone tries to get on your dock. Then plenty of barking and biting ensues. Soon the whole group joins in, as if they don’t actually know the latest drama but still can’t bear to be left out of the action.

More coffee on Saturday, and the wind was calm enough on the walk across the bridge for me to actually be able to stop and take a photo of the marina where I work every day.


Thank for the great photo op, Cafe Mundo


I’ve been talking to crabbers at the boat ramp of South Beach Marina


The bar looking stunning at sunset

Week 7, or: Charter Boats and Coffee Shop Studying Withdrawals

Week 7 was my last full week of doing interviews, and it wasn’t exactly a climactic one. It was a week of blustery, chilly afternoons…not the best for ocean fishing and crabbing. The bay crabbers I talked to seemed to be doing well, though; most were hitting their limits of 12 crab per person. I even talked to one group of 6 crabbers in Waldport that managed to limit out with 72 crab. 72. Friends from Missouri, can you imagine having the meat of 72 freshly caught Dungeness crab sitting in your freezer right now?

Although the week was slow for private boat interviews, I did manage to talk to a few charter boats about their crabbing gear. Interestingly, even though charters are pulling ~8-10 crab pots per trip and taking ~150 crabbing trips per year, most boats only lose 1-2 pots in a given year. Those are impressive numbers, and I was happy to hear that the experience of charter boat captains and deckhands seems to be paying off by helping to limit derelict gear and marine debris.


After talking to the charter boats, Justin (my mentor) and I went to Local Ocean for lunch. I never take pictures of food (I know, I know, I’m a millennial and you probably don’t believe me, but I swear it’s true), but I just had to share a photo of this gorgeous, colorful salad topped with Albacore tuna. Medium-rare is the way to go:


I wouldn’t ordinarily be so excited about a salad, but eating at a restaurant where you know the fish is bought locally and caught sustainably makes me feel good about what I’m eating. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to read some of the other scholars’ posts about buying local products (especially seafood) and sustainable fishing practices.

The following weekend, a couple of us made the trek across the bridge to spend some time wandering through the farmer’s market. Armed with backpacks and laptops, we then headed to Nye Beach to get a change of scenery, do some work, and have a cup (or two) of coffee. One of the things I’ve missed most about IU these past eight months? My favorite local coffee shop, a bottomless mug of coffee for $3.45, and ~8 hours of studying, listening to music, and people watching. Thanks to Carl’s Coffee for helping me get my fix.

Week 6, or: Crater Lake

With Crater Lake being so far away, I was worried that I wouldn’t get the chance to the famous landmark before the summer was over. Luckily, my roommates were as anxious to see it as I was, so on Friday afternoon of Week 6, five of us piled into the car and headed for a small hotel room in Roseburg. We crashed early – after the 4-5 hour drive, 9 PM felt like 11 – and left at 6 the next morning to beat the crowds to Crater Lake National Park.

For those of you in the Midwest, Crater Lake’s reputation is definitely well deserved; it was every bit as beautiful as I had expected, and more. The water was a deep blue that was so vibrant it seemed almost unnatural, and the shallows were a clear turquoise that rivaled the Caribbean Sea. Of course, there was no way I wasn’t going for a swim in that. One of the park employees instructed vaguely that we could jump in “a little ways around the corner,” so we found a spot that looked good and went for it. Not quite as chilly as the plunge I took the weekend before, but not exactly balmy, either.


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After a steep hike back to the parking lot (during which most of my energy went towards trying to not look like I was dying as much as I felt like I was), we were ready for another hike. We decided to explore more of the area and head to Toketee Falls and Hot Springs in the Umpqua National Forest. We got lucky and had the hot springs mostly to ourselves. Unfortunately, the photographs don’t quite do them justice, but we spent a good hour soaking in the warm water and watching the stream below rush past.



It was the warmest I’d felt in months.

Week 5 (with a dash of Week 6 and a hint of Week 7)

Hello again, friends. Sorry I’m a smidge behind on the posting, but I promise to get you all caught up soon. With this workweek almost complete, there are only three weeks left in the program…and I have even slightly less time left. Our presentations are about two weeks away, and I fly home the following Thursday so I can spend a couple days [frantically packing] at home before I rush back to start school the following Monday. I am saddened thinking about the end of the summer, but by the time I head home, it will have been ten weeks since I’ve seen my family and eight months since I’ve seen my roommates, friends, and beautiful college campus. So I am excited for this next “era” as well.

The weekend before last was probably one of the most eventful of the summer. We had our mid-summer check-in where we all gave short presentations about our projects and participated in a couple of workshops about communication. It was great to hear about what the other scholars are up to in a more formal way (rather than giving each other a one-sentence rundown while lying around our apartment in our pajamas).

One portion of the science communication workshop, given by Liz Cerny-Chipman, particularly caught my attention. I’ve included a picture of the slide below. It depicts the category and risk level of different types of scientific engagement.IMG_2815 (1)

Looking at this slide got me thinking about my place on this graph. I love to communicate with people – not in a constant, steady stream, but in a speech or report where I am able to provide important or useful information to a group. I love being the person to relay that information, whose job it is to both share knowledge (or make a convincing argument) and captivate an audience. I am not fantastic with children, and social media makes me nervous. The minute someone classifies something as “a challenge” or “high risk,” my desire to do it increases by about 1000%. Thinking about all of these characteristics, I can’t help but think that I might be right at home in the High Risk, Political Engagement Zone in the top right.

I’ll let you know in about ten years.

After the check-in, we went camping at Trout Creek campground (near the town of Sweet Home in the Willamette National Forest). I haven’t been camping since I stopped going to summer camp at 16, and I enjoyed myself immensely. Rare/cool experiences from the weekend include: swimming in 37-degree, crystal-clear water; hiking to Moraine Lake, located above the tree line on South Sister; and remembering what 80 degrees feels like.


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Crater Lake (!!!) happened this past weekend. More to come about that next post. Hope you all had wonderful weeks.

Week 4: Rule[r]s

With Week 4 under our belts, we’re just about halfway finished with the program. I’m amazed at how fast time is passing (have I said that enough yet?). The mild, spring-like winter we had in the Midwest this year, combined with spending my actual spring in the Caribbean and my summer in a place where temperatures hover around the 50s and 60s, has disoriented me. I feel as though it is springtime now and that the humid Midwest summer is still to come, but instead I will be greeted with fall when I return home. Strange.

The weather this past weekend was cool and damp, keeping us mostly indoors. I’ve been focusing on getting into a productive routine where I can accomplish small pieces of different things each day. My date with the GRE is looming, and I’m trying to make sure I crack open my study book for a bit every morning. Among that, working, going on a quick jog in the evenings, and making myself dinner (and one or two…or three episodes of The Good Wife), the day can get eaten up fast.

I’ve settled into a comfortable routine at ODFW that seems to be working well. I usually do research, data entry, or other computer-based tasks in the morning and interview crabbers in the afternoon. Lately, I’ve been getting about 8-9 interviews a day, which is more than I was getting when I started off, so that’s exciting.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the law. Rules. Maybe it’s just my mild addiction to a TV show about a law firm, but I think reading up on commercial and sport fishing regulations has gotten me thinking too. Especially about the difference between making a regulation versus simply encouraging people to do something. When it comes to the Dungeness crab fishery (and other fisheries as well), catch limits and restrictions keep the fishery thriving and sustainable. For example, even though ~90% of legal Dungeness crabs (male, larger than 5 ¾”) are taken from Oregon waters each year, enough crabs reproduce to sustain the population. With other things, such as the use of floating and sinking line, perhaps it is better to have fewer rules and more education. Perhaps rules and laws are always more effective. But now I’m tapping into a debate practically as old as America, so I’ll stay content with just musing for now. Regardless of rather an issue is better solved by regulations or encouragement, it is helpful when people have compassion for the earth – it makes them want to follow rules and recommendations. This seems like a factor that is hard to account for in deciding which course of action to take.

Differences among fishery regulations have also caught my attention during my research. In the Puget Sound sport fishery, for example, the minimum legal Dungeness crab size is 6 ¼” and the daily limit is 5 males (instead of 12, as in Oregon). Sorry for delving into numbers, but the amount of research and monitoring that is necessary to make regulations like this is a point of curiosity for me. Something – fishing effort, crab population dynamics, something – caused rules in these two fisheries to be made a bit differently. Rather this is indicative of extensive research, differences of opinion, or small bits of arbitrariness in the system, there is an interesting story behind these rules. I am fascinated by how much human effort, will, and opinion is behind laws and rules, things that seem so absolute and cold.

In fear of bombarding you with pictures of sunsets, I’ve included a lone photo of me measuring an ocean-caught crab. We have our mid-summer check-in (with a PowerPoint presentation and some workshops) and camping trip this week, so more on that soon.


“Claire, I can’t see your face.” — Justin

As always, thanks for checking in.

Week 3: Somehow July is Happening

Hello, friends. Not much new on the work end of things. The survey data keeps trickling in, which is good, and I’ve been sifting through some papers on derelict gear and ghost fishing. There is a small collection of papers on derelict gear in trap fisheries; researchers have only been publishing on the subject since the late seventies. For the most part, people seem to agree that it is an issue. As to how big of one, for whom (commercial or recreational fishermen), and if there is an overarching economic benefit to cleaning up lost gear? The jury’s still out. The answers to these questions seem to be pretty dependent on the situation, so what works for the Dungeness crab fishery in Oregon may not work for Alaska, or for California, or for the blue crab fishery in Chesapeake Bay.

Work-wise, the highlight of the week was probably deploying “the world’s most expensive crab trap” (sound bite credits to Justin) last Friday. This crab pot is equipped with a battery, a flash, and a GoPro camera. It takes a picture once a minute, and it will be deployed for a week. A picture a minute for seven days à tons of data. After arriving at work a little earlier than usual, we loaded the gear into the truck and left for the marina. By 7:30 or so, we were out on the water. It was my first time being on the ocean since arriving (actually, now that I think about it, it may have been my first time ever on a boat in the Pacific), and it was a gorgeous day for it. On our way back into the marina, we spotted a few gray whales hanging around near the South Jetty. So, the weekend was off to pretty good start.


Crab trap deployment

The rest of the weekend was pretty relaxed. We drove around and saw a few sites (Devil’s Punchbowl, Otter Crest Loop) on Saturday, and Sunday was a much-needed lazy day. On Saturday and Sunday night, we took advantage of the grills at the dorms to make some chicken kabobs and Korean BBQ. In my head, BBQ=summer, and it has the added perk of being more affordable than a night eating out. Wins all around.


One of the many stunning views from Otter Crest Loop

The Fourth was filled with volleyball, cooking, and…eating! I slept later than I’ve probably ever slept in my life before joining in a lazy game of sand volleyball (i.e. there were scarce amounts of volleying, and a lot of time was spent lying in the sand). Monday evening, we somehow got ourselves invited to a Fourth of July potluck at a gorgeous apartment overlooking the bay. The food was amazing, and there were lots of people there that were close to our age but already doing a fantastic job of living very much like adults. Oh well, someday.

Also, please notice I just used the words “relaxed” and “lazy” three times to describe the weekend…I think that says it all.

Until next time. How is it already July??


Sunset is a great time to go on a run to the South Jetty

Week 2: Clams and Creel Surveys

Wow, I can’t believe it’s already the end of June. This week was another busy one. At work, I’ve started to zero in on a direction in my research. While I still hope to collect some data on ocean-caught recreational crab size frequency and shell condition, my mentor and I decided to focus more on data collection concerning gear usage. Last week, we finalized a few extra questions to tack onto the end of creel surveys (surveys of fishermen – in this case, recreational crabbers. It turns out that the name comes from the wooden basket, called a creel, used by fishermen to hold their catch.). After revising the data sheet, I spent quite a bit of time at the marina, waiting for crabbers to come back so I could ask them about their gear. More specifically: if they lost any gear (rings or pots) on this crabbing trip or on previous trips in the past twelve months, why the gear was lost, and whether they use floating or sinking line on their rings/pots.

Edging into the recreational side of things, I got my first taste of clamming this week. On Friday, a group of people from ODFW trekked out to the tidal flat near the office armed with rakes, buckets, waders, and clam guns. My waders were slightly much too big, so I kept nearly face planting in the mud. But I still managed to scrape up a few cockles and dig up a gaper clam. I spent a hectic hour in the kitchen Monday evening cooking them into a pasta dish; this was a big deal for me, considering I still feel twinges of sadness when smashing a spider. It was a little bit of a battle, as I am a scatterbrained and inefficient cook even when live organisms aren’t involved, but the food wasn’t half bad.

The week wrapped up with a trip to the aquarium on Saturday (just in time for their World Oceans Day Celebration) and a hike in the Cape Perpetua area on Sunday. Even though we “took all the wrong turns” possible when trying to get to Thor’s Well (a hole in the rock near the shore that spouts water in time with the waves, like a dynamic fountain controlled by the ocean), we still managed to find it and catch some beautiful views along the way.


I think that’s about it. Have a food/firework/fun-filled Fourth of July weekend, everyone!

First Thoughts (…Best Thoughts?)

Hello there.

Thank you for checking out this blog. As you probably already know, I (Claire) am one of the students participating in the Oregon Sea Grant Summer Scholars Program for Undergraduates. This summer, I am working for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) on a project to research the recreational ocean Dungeness crab fishery and recreational Dungeness crab fishing gear. I’ll explain more about that in a bit.

A little about me before I launch into a week-by-week account of my life: I just finished my junior year at Indiana University (IU) in Bloomington (well, not all at Indiana University – I spent the spring semester studying in the Dutch Caribbean) where I am majoring in Biology. I have focused on lab work in my short time in the research world, but studying Dungeness crabs calls for getting out in the field, measuring some crabs, and chatting with people. The remainder of my time will be spent analyzing data and learning other things (which may or may not include learning R and driving a truck with a boat trailer attached – I’ll let you know). Conclusion: this summer I am getting a taste of fieldwork, working on my social skills, and reviving my relationship with math. Three birds with one stone.

And, as usual, I’m procrastinating.

I arrived in Newport to chilly and damp weather on Monday after our orientation in Corvallis. As most beginnings seem to be, Monday was hectic – it was filled with driving, grocery shopping, unpacking, meeting new people, divvying up closet and refrigerator space…

The rest of the week simultaneously flew by and felt much longer than six days. Maybe because I was meeting so many new people and doing so many new and varied things every day…every hour, even. Tuesday brought my first day on the job, a trip to Rogue Brewery, and Funfetti cake for Justin’s (another Scholar’s) birthday. Getting to know the seven other people here with me has been such a treat, especially against the backdrop of beautiful Newport. Watching the sunset from the South Jetty, visiting the popular bayfront restaurant Local Ocean, going to the [ferociously windy] beach, seeing Yaquina Head Lighthouse…I couldn’t ask for a better place to spend our time. If my body would maintain the temperature of a normal human being and let me wear less than five layers that would be even better. But it’s okay. Hiking boots and wool socks are my new flip-flops.

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My week during the hours of 8:30 AM to 5 PM was no less eventful. This week, I got a crash course in the recreational Dungeness crab fishery. While there has been ongoing data collection on the sizes of crabs caught in the estuary, this information is lacking for ocean-caught crabs. So, my job will be to start getting some data there. To do this, of course, I have to learn how to handle/measure crabs. After Justin (my mentor) took me shopping for a pair of boots, lent me some rain gear, and took me out to measure some crabs we caught in the bay, I feel like I am well on my way. I didn’t get pinched, at least. And we found a message in a bottle! A plastic water bottle. But a bottle nonetheless.

I also learned about the problem that derelict fishing gear poses to the environment (a larger one than I had realized). A lost crab pot can continue catching crabs for months to years after it is lost. Crabs crawl in the pot, die, become lunch for more crabs, and so on. I’ll be asking crabbers (that return from crabbing in both the estuary and the ocean) questions about lost gear to feel out just how big this problem is. Oregon already has a Post-Season Derelict Gear Recovery Program, but perhaps there is more that needs to be done. Hopefully, I’ll have at least part of an answer to this question by the end of the summer. There are other issues involving crabbing gear as well, including that of floating vs. sinking line. Crabbers are encouraged to use sinking line because floating line can cause navigational problems for other boats. Oregon does not have laws concerning this issue, but Washington does. “To regulate or educate???” seems to be the overarching question with these gear problems. Hopefully, some of my data will help people to eventually make that choice.

To sum up: my first week has been packed with learning new info and skills. I have some wonderful roommates and program-mates (hi, boys) to help pass the time when I’m not huddled in orange rain gear elbow-deep in a bucket of crabs. But in all seriousness, I am thrilled that I get participate in marine science research and get my feet wet in the resource management side of things. As I spent more time at the lab bench, I became more aware of the importance of not only scientific research but also education and communication with the public. In the coming weeks, I get to bridge that gap by hanging around the docks, clipboard in hand.

Hey, you still there? Thank you for making it this far. Catch you next week.