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