Some of my more loyal readers may have noticed that I haven’t posted in awhile- and that’s ’cause I’ve been too busy having fun in the Oregon wilderness! That, and there’s no service in the woods.

The past couple weeks have been very eventful: the mid-summer check in and practice presentation for Sea Grant, 2 camping trips in 2 weekends, UAS surveys in Tillamook (more travel), and experimental design back at the Charleston ODFW office.

The mid-summer check in was basically a run through of our projects thus far, presented in front of the other scholars and some Sea Grant admins. I went way over the allotted time (oops, will fix for the final talk) but was proud to share all that I’ve been involved in with my 2 mentors at ODFW. It was also cool to hear what everyone else had been up to. The provided lunch and bbq that followed weren’t a bad touch either.

That Friday we headed inland as a group to spend the weekend camping somewhere east of Corvallis (I still don’t exactly know where we were, all I cared about was that it was hot enough to wear a tank top and shorts- finally). We spent some quality time together setting up camp- shout out to Julia for always sharing her tent, chillin in the creek, and eating around the camp fire. I think we all learned new details about each other, which is always cool when you’re dealing with people who come from all different backgrounds. The highlight of the trip was on Saturday, when we took the highly anticipated hike to the Tamolitch blue pool. It was way overpopulated for my taste, but at first sight of the water I understood why. Crystal clear and intensely blue, the pool sat below a series of cliffs perfect for plunging into the freezing and astonishingly deep water below. Some scholars partook in the 70 ft jump in the 30-something degrees fahrenheit water, I however opted for the quick leap off the edge and scramble out as quickly as possible. Though beautiful, that water was bitchin cold. But I’m glad to say I did it, as did all but one of the other scholars.

Bluey blue of the blue pool

Summer scholars at the blue pool!

Getting back into the work week after an exciting and tiring weekend wasn’t easy, but on Monday we packed up and head out to Tillamook to run unmanned aerial system (UAS) surveys of the tide flats the next morning. The UAS consists of a UAV (we don’t use “drone” but, yeah a drone) that has been programmed with a flight plan and fitted with a camera. There’s a lot more background that goes into the flight plan, like the type of camera, the height the vehicle will fly at, etc, but this is not my forte. My job was to assist the ground team with setting ground control points and recording their gps positions. The vehicle flies over these points for scaling purposes and to later on put all of the images together to form one solid view. We also did assessments of quads within the flight path, since the whole point of the day was to compare human surveys with what the drone’s image captures. If the UAS surveys can be as efficient as having people on the ground, using this method could save a lot of man hours (aka money) and potentially help the crew avoid safety risks associated with working in mud and on the water.

Tony and I setting GCPs (ground control points) for the UAV


Me being a pack mule for flags and quads

After returning from Tillamook I rejoined Joe and Scott in Charleston to begin planning a quantitative and qualitative survey of the native Olympia oysters, Ostrea lurida, around Coos Bay. There had been previous work done for quantitative measurements, with methods in place for estimating abundance at a site. What I am now more involved with is the qualitative methods for being able to walk onto a site and quickly assign it a ranking, with the ranks signifying varying abundances of oysters. Together Scott, Joe and I discussed the best way to go about this in a timely manner, since we had decided to do about 100 sites, and I have been tasked with writing up the methods section. I am excited at the idea of possible getting mentioned in a publication of this study. Here we are searching for the oysters on their most common habitat, rip rap:

Oyster surveys

This past weekend included a trip to Crater Lake but that deserves more attention than a mention at the bottom of this post.

With that, I sign off.

Can’t believe its already almost August!





Week 4: Show me the cockles!

My favorite part about my placement for this internship thus far has been its erratic nature. I mean this in the best way possible! No two weeks are the same ; my schedule is always changing, and with it my tasks (partially due to splitting my time between 2 mentors). This week held in store some challenging statistics work and a new survey for cockle clams in the South Slough Estuary.

I will spare my readers from going too far into detail on the stats stuff, but basically I have been asked by Scott (the ODFW shellfish biologist and pink shrimp fishery expert) to assess the current rule for how pink shrimp takes are measured by authorities, and to see if we can come up with a better system that requires less work to get the same value. This can be done using a power analysis, which determines the sample size necessary for your experiment. Generally, the greater the sample size the more statistical power. However, we want to avoid huge sample sizes because that requires time and resources. And there lies my chore- to find a happy medium that gets the job done better than the current, arbitrary rule (found here #635-005-0645-  http://arcweb.sos.state.or.us/pages/rules/oars_600/oar_635/635_005.html ) .

For the cockle survey we set off as a crew of three (Joe, Liz [both ODFW employees], and myself), without the guidance of our trusted leader Scott, who was suffering from severe back pain. Though we were all first-timers to this particular survey, we had full confidence in our ability to run a smooth operation. The survey methods are fairly simple- 1. find your waypoint 2. lay down the 1 meter-by- meter quadrat and take note of the kind of substrate it is on 3. rake in one direction and pull out any cockle clams you unearth, then record that number 4. rake in the opposite direction and do the same. The reason for raking twice is to get a detection rate differential between the first and second swipe. It is almost always an 80% detection rate on the first swipe.

Raking for cockles


Minus one navigational hiccup, day 1 of the survey went without a hitch. I got to practice more of my GPS skills as I led the team from waypoint to waypoint (which I had generated on our maps using a GIS program- nbd), and soon we had completed nearly all of our 60-point goal. We would have gotten all of them too, if it hadn’t been for those meddling tides! We brought our bag-o-clams back to the lab to be weighed and measured and entered into the data base with the previous years’ data. This survey has been done for almost a decade and the goal is to compare the densities at two sites- one that is open to commercial cockle fishing (they’re often used for bait), and one that falls within the South Slough National Estuarine Reserve that is only lightly recreationally clammed.

The next few days were the same, with the only differences being that we were rejoined by Scott and that we started at the heavily fished site and then moved up to the less exploited site. The south slough was a beautiful work space, we only had to deal with a few sticky spots on the flats (my waders have never been so clean at the end of the day), and we were surrounded by wildlife. Joe, being the typical birder, has an exceptional eye and ear for birds and their calls and never fails to point one out for me. We saw a couple juvenile bald eagles fly right in front of us, and drove past some fat sunbathing seals in the boat. The beauty combined with some great senses of humor made the work go fast, even if we had a lot more clams to carry. It was a fun time.

On a more personal note (since I’ve gotten a few friends and family to read these things), I wanted to share that my time in Oregon has inspired  the chef in me. My meals are still mediocre at best, but I really enjoy cooking for myself, especially after years of being stuck on a meal plan. I’ve found joy in planning my meals ahead and making a fine tuned list for the grocery store (which totally helps with budgeting). I’ve been incorporating so many veggies into classically easy college kid foods- like eggs and pasta- yummy and healthy. I’ve made several calls home to my mom along the way to ask some pretty basic food prep questions, and she’s been very helpful. It’s a process, but you gotta start somewhere. Pictured below is a meal I made a couple nights ago- garlic, onion, zucchini, and broccoli with parmesan and alfredo sauce over whole wheat shells.

Bon appétit



Week 2: Good, Good, Good, ~Expectations~

Beach boys and girls

Week 2: Good, Good, Good, ~Expectations~
…As the Beach Boys classic goes (or something like that).

This past week was my first full week on the job; I already feel like I’m getting the hang of our early morning routine on field days, and that I’m a contributing member of the team. I’ve dug up my fair share of clams, even correctly identifying (some of) them. I got to use the handheld GPS to navigate us from waypoint to waypoint, which requires a very good handle on cardinal direction, and which I have yet to master. This week was also fun because our team consisted of three women (a fact that did not go unnoticed by a fisherman on the dock, who laughed at what he affectionately called our “sexy Gumby suits”). We ladies worked two 11-hour days in a row, allowing us to finish early on Wednesday. We celebrated later that night by going out for dinner and drinks at the local 7 Devils Brewery, where my co-worker graciously picked up my tab. I sipped on a delicious in-house hard cider and enjoyed the company of my ODFW team, live music, and the collection of canines brought along by our fellow patrons (a dog-friendly brewery, does it get any better?!).

Expectations Meeting-

As this post’s title would suggest, this week we held our Expectations meeting between my mentors, myself, and the program coordinators at Oregon Sea Grant. I really appreciated the program’s effort to work together with the scholars and our mentors to establish a game plan for the next 8 weeks, making sure our work is oriented towards reaching our goals. I have been enjoying my time in the field and lab, but a main part of what I wanted to get out of working for ODFW this summer was learning how a state agency operates, at all levels. I wanted to take part in public outreach and learn about the regulation/monitoring/policy aspects in addition to the science we’d be conducting. I brought this up during our conference call and I really felt my voice was heard. In the days following both Tony and Scott Groth, shellfish biologist and project leader for the Oregon pink shrimp fishery (and my co-mentor), presented me with opportunities to take part in outreach, including manning the ODFW touch tank at the state fair and conducting creel surveys of clammers off several docks in the region. This was in addition to the helpful document they had previously made listing my responsibilities and activities for the remainder of the summer. Their flexibility and willingness to prioritize my learning objectives is a clear reflection of why they were chosen as Summer Scholar mentors.

Could Use a Hand (or 2)-

I don’t know if I’d call myself accident prone, per say, but I think it can be fully established that I do not have the best luck. My track record this year includes my identity getting stolen, my new laptop’s battery dying- and learning that the manufacturer had recently stopped producing said batteries, unknowingly driving around with a gas leak for a couple months, and more than a handful of visits to urgent care. And that is where I found myself once again on Thursday evening, complaining of an irritating rash on the back of my hands that had popped up earlier in the week but was becoming increasingly uncomfortable. After consulting with my supervisors, we thought it best to go get it checked out. And, because of all the work I’d been doing in the water/mud and with animals, they informed me that this was likely a worker’s compensation issue and that it would be best to file a claim. So started my first (and hopefully last) encounter with worker’s comp paperwork, which seems to be quite the process. The urgent care facility was very nice, and newly renovated. I was seen by an older gentleman, and after a brief look at my hands we began a long brainstorming session to find out what could possibly be causing the bizarre red, bumpy rash isolated entirely to the back of my hands. My answers to his questions did not reveal a definite cause, nor did his answers to mine. His final advice was to act as a “Sherlock detective” and keep an eye out for things that could only be coming into contact with that part of my hands. He prescribed me a mild steroid cream to be applied twice a day and sent me on my way. It is now Sunday and they don’t seem to be improving much. :/

Mystery Rash

Bandon Pacific Seafood-

One cool thing I got to do this week was tour the unloading area of the Bandon Pacific Seafood wholesale plant, across the street from the Charleston ODFW office. These seamen hard at work pulling fish from their piles and operating heavy machinery were a greasy lot, but many of them greeted us or at least did not seem disturbed by our presence. We met up with Dean, a 20-yr employee of the Charleston ODFW office, who was dressed in foul-weather gear, wielding a large knife and standing over an icy bin of black cod (which is actually not a cod, but a sablefish). He was making precise cuts into both the belly and head of the fish, to identify the sex and remove the otoliths, respectively. Otoliths, literally meaning “earstones”, are the ear bones of a fish and are used to age the fish and determine growth rate. He was also taking length and weight measurements of the fish. He is clearly an expert at what he does, and was eager to explain each step to me. He even cut a weird sac-like parasite out a fish and popped it so I could see the black, congealed blood inside. It was gnarly (a seagull was later seen eating it- again, gnarly). The smell of rotting fish and being surrounded by death did not make the dock my favorite place, but I did learn a lot. One of the things I was most happy to hear was that they do their best to find an economic use each part of the fish/shellfish they catch. For example, shrimp are boiled and peeled before being packaged. The peeled exoskeletons are then saved and sold as fertilizer!

Otolith King

This week had its up and downs but I am very much loving Oregon and looking forward to the weeks to come. Hope everyone has an enjoyable, safe Fourth of July!


Katie Gregory

Week 1: Introductions – To Oregon, my co-workers, program-mates, job, and more!

The Coast

*Please click on photos throughout to view associated captions*

Week 1:

After a long day of exceptionally smooth travel (still thankful for that) I arrived in Corvallis, OR at the Oregon State University campus ready for orientation the next morning. On Monday we met up for a small, informal breakfast to finally meet the program coordinators face-to-face rather than via email, as well as the other Summer Scholars. The lax atmosphere continued throughout the day as we played (dare I say) fun ice breakers and listened to presentations on what to expect from our summers/ what Oregon Sea Grant is all about. We even went to lunch at a great little café for Mexican food before heading out to Newport to the Hatfield Marine Science Station (OSU’s marine campus). There, I got my first glimpse of Oregon coastline and met my mentor for the first time; Tony D’Andrea, project leader/supervisor for Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife’s Shellfish and Estuarine Habitat Assessment of Coastal Oregon (SEACOR) project through the Marine Resources Program. I got to spend the night there and hang out with my fellow scholars and other students staying in the housing on campus, which was a very fun way to relax after a day of information overload and recovering from jetlag.

Day 2 began with a riveting session of paperwork and reading of lengthy protocols to learn just what it means/takes to be part of ODFW. We took the forms mobile as we started the drive from Newport to my final destination of Charleston- I signed many a form to indicate my understanding of safety procedures and agency policies (the scenic ocean views from the pacific highway were a frequent and welcomed distraction throughout). I felt very official and excited to be an employee of a state agency that does so much. Once we got to Charleston, a town on Coos Bay where I would be living and working, I checked into my room at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology (The University of Oregon equivalent of OSU’s Hatfield campus) and unpacked a little bit before meeting back up with Tony. We toured the lab we’d be using which is shared with researchers from the South Slough estuary, the garage where all our equipment is stored, the boat, and the ODFW office where I got to meet more members of the agency. Everyone was very nice and answered my barrage of questions (I feel like my first week was essentially me asking everyone a million questions). I learned that my position would be aiding in field work for the shellfish assessments of Coos Bay, which would help with informing fishery regulations for the area. I would also be an extra set of hands for whichever ODFW project needed me, and I expressed a desire to be part of their community outreach and education programs, as I have a growing interest in science communication.

Wednesday morning was a 5 AM start time for field work on the boat, using a sampling method called megacoring (more on that later, when I can use photos to accompany the description: a picture’s worth a thousand words, right?). It was a brisk day, with a LOT of wind. Common for these parts, but not what I’m used to calling “summer”. The water tends to stay in the 50’s so we donned dry suits paired with fleece onesies underneath, many base layers, extra socks, boots, and our ODFW hats (which I’m still stoked about) to stay warm. After a few hours in the field, we returned to land to rinse off the boat and sampling materials. I discovered there’d been a tear in my suit and I ended up soaked from the waist down- just my luck, but a good reintroduction to the joys of field work. Thursday (day two of 5 AM start time) was originally going to be like Wednesday, with more work from the boat and some new stuff (for me) surveying low tide habitat. However, mother nature had her own plan of very high wind speeds, so we opted to stay close to land and conduct the surveys at a nearby tidal flat site- Charleston Triangle.

Research Vessel used during megacoring


Methods: The sampling strategy used for these surveys is called the Rapid Assessment Method (RAM). Previous bathymetry data is used to map tidal levels across the study area, ensuring that samples were taken across all tidal elevations. A handheld GPS is programmed with randomly generated waypoints displayed both as a grid and as points spread intermittently between rows.

At each waypoint designated “grid” a 1 m2 quadrat is placed, and before any disturbance occurs, a photo is taken with the site location and waypoint number for identification purposes. Within the quadrat environmental data such as sediment temperature, anoxic layer depth, and sediment type are taken. Biological data including percent of algal or eelgrass cover on surface, shrimp borrow density, clam “show” density, and physical presence of clams living below the surface are taken. This is done by using a hand rake to disturb the top ~15 cm of sediment. Species observations are also made for a 2 m radius surrounding the quadrat, which can be used to dub the area a clam/shrimp bed, even in the absence of those organisms within the quadrat.

Raked quadrat

For the “random” waypoints the Detailed Assessment Method (DAM) is employed in addition to RAM. The supplementary data includes collecting above-ground eelgrass blades and sediment samples for total organic carbon and grain size analyses. The eelgrass samples were collected in a 0.25 m2 quadrat within the larger quadrat. The placement is determined by a random number generator. The same goes for sediment samples within the larger quadrat. These waypoints are also marked with a stake and attached buoy for future megacoring sampling.




By Thursday afternoon I was pretty much exhausted from traipsing in the mud (sorry for all the yawning, Tony) as we went over ODFW’s payroll system and I was given my employee computer login, with access to project files and agency documents.

5 AM Friday came all too soon, but as we had accomplished so much the day before, and Charleston Triangle is a fairly small site, we were able to finish the rest of the waypoints quickly, resulting in an early end to the day. J I used that time to take a sizeable nap, start this blog post, and spend some time in the nearby Marine Life Center (which I know I’ll be returning to since it’s free, interesting, and the volunteers are super nice!).

I also took time throughout the evenings/weekend to make friends with other interns living in my hallway and their friends from the South Slough Estuary Research Reserve. We lit off sparklers, took many a trip to Walmart, and hiked out to waterfalls at Golden and Silver Falls State Natural Area. The beauty of Oregon is absolutely awe-inspiring, and I am so glad I get to experience it.