Previously on Bandon by the Sea…

Greetings readers!  I must admit that I have fallen a bit behind in my blog posts, but never fear because I have many new stories to tell, as well as some new adventures in my future!  A couple weeks ago I was fortunate enough to sit in on a call between my two mentors and some of the people who work in NOAA’s fisheries management department; the hot topic of discussion, Coho Salmon restoration on the South coast of Oregon.  More specifically the call was a discussion of how to go about creating a “universal salmon calculator” that would detail the benefits of restoration as well as identifying the permanent economic benefits such as number of jobs created.  While most of the conversation went over my head, I managed to understand the key points as well as the bottom line.  In order to get people to donate money to the cause, there has to be a way to determine the salmon’s value when populations return that is universal across all areas.  Currently there are many different ways to calculate this, each more confusing than the other.  One proposed idea was to look at the return in terms of its landscape value; i.e. how many total acres of salmon habitat have been restored or how many miles of stream have opened up.


In addition to the calculator conundrum is the lack of money to fund post-restoration monitoring.  This is very unfortunate since examining any kind of project after the fact is the most important step in conservation and restoration!  Without any kind of follow up there is no way to know if what you have done is sustainable, if it actually did what it was supposed to do, and if it is worth continuing.  Furthermore, this post restoration analysis makes it possible to create a metric of success that will interest funders.   Since money seems to be the issue, I think it would be a great idea to train community member volunteers to gather this post-restoration data.  Not only would this be relatively free of charge (besides the time it would take to train people), but I believe it would also be a great chance to educate local residents on a conservation issue that’s right in their backyard and create pride and enthusiasm for protecting their environment.  When dealing with any kind of conservation/restoration issue, the two main questions that I feel are most important are: 1. What are the benefits associated with restoration and 2. What are the values lost when harm comes to the environment?


As has been the case with other aspects of my internship, this phone call really exemplified the point that there needs to be better communication between the scientific and non-scientific community.  Issues and topics need to be presented in a way that makes them seem approachable and like something that the general public could take part in.

In other news, I have finished my research for Travel Oregon!  For the past four weeks I have been doing an online footprint analysis of each city’s webpages as well as collecting information on lodging, shops, food, places to go, things to do, and events and festivals.  Eventually this will all be fed into Travel Oregon’s orb so it can populate the site and beef up the information on the South Coast (since it is currently lacking basically all areas of information).  My next step will be to meet with people involved in the communities who are on our “Rural Tourism Steering Committee” to run all the information by them, and just get a general feel for each town as well as the possible pros and cons of increasing tourism in the area.  My hope is that the end product of this project will be two-fold: 1. A community calendar will be uploaded to the Travel Oregon site so that local events can be better publicized and visitors can plan trips around them. 2. That an interactive map will be available for each town’s asset such that when you search for something, a map with its location as well as the locations of things to do around it pops up.


My internship has reached the halfway mark!  This was celebrated at the Da Vinci Days festival in Corvallis where I got a chance to catch up with all the other interns and hear updates on their projects, work Sea Grant’s both at the festival, and explore Corvallis further.  Although the morning started off slowly, by the time noon came around (and the awesome all bike parade!) the festival was bustling and the Sea Grant booth had more visitors than we could handle.  While the occasional passerby was interested in our summer projects, the majority were fixated with the green turtle shell display and Bubbles our live and invasive red-eared slider.  As much as I would have loved to talk about my project (and believe me I could go on for hours…) I was more excited that there were so many people who were curious about marine biology and were actually asking questions.  Yay for the future generations of marine biologists!  Another highlight of this wonderful weekend was getting the chance to hear the awe-inspiring Jane Lubchenco speak.  To be in the presence of such a strong woman who has not only been an integral part in bridging the gap between the scientific and public communities, but is the first woman to serve as a NOAA administrator, gave me such hope for the future (not to mention many goose bumps)!  I was however saddened to see that with the exception of my fellow scholars, there was basically no one else around our age in attendance.  Just more proof that strengthening communication and involvement in science in paramount!


One trip down, one to go!  This next week I will be leaving Bandon and venturing down to coast to the towns of Port Orford, Gold Beach, and Brookings!  I’m so excited to get to visit the places that up till now have only researched on the Internet.  Curry County here I come!

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!