I have officially finished my first two weeks as a Summer Scholar working for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife on their SEACOR (Shellfish and Estuarine Assessment of Coastal Oregon) team! These first few weeks consisted of some intense fieldwork on the tide flats of Tillamook Bay (Figure 1). We are focused on two main projects this summer. The first, and most extensive, is shellfish and habitat data collection. The goal of this project is to figure out where recreationally significant clam species are in Tillamook Bay, as well as the abundance, biomass, and preferred habitat for each species. The four major target species are cockle clams (Figure 2), butter clams (Figure 3), gaper clams, and native littleneck clams. Data collected from this field season will later influence management decisions regarding the commercial harvest of bay clams in Tillamook. To get these data, we dig a bunch of holes in the tide flat and collect any critters we find! We’ve already dug up loads of clam, crab, and shrimp. Since we rely on low tides to get a lot of our work done, we’ve had many early mornings!
The second smaller project involves using drones to map eelgrass beds. Since eelgrass acts as important nursery habitat for a variety of fish and invertebrates, the goal of this project is to see exactly where eelgrass is growing in the bay. This is a collaborative project with the Coastal Drone Academy which is based out of the Career Tech High School in Lincoln City. While the students operate the drones, the SEACOR team helps set up the GCPs (Ground Control Points) at known locations (Figure 4). GCPs allow us to overlay all our imagery data later on!
A large portion of Oregon Sea Grant’s vision and mission involves studying the human dimensions of coastal and marine fisheries. Currently, there is a lot of controversy regarding the recreational and commercial harvest limits in Tillamook Bay. Data collected from this project influences harvest limits which can cause conflict between different fishing communities. This bay has not been surveyed by the SEACOR team since 2012, so there is a lot of interest (and some pressure) to get all the tide flats surveyed.
I am super excited to be a helping hand on this project in hopes we can collect lots of good data this field season! I’ve already learned so much about Oregon’s marine ecology as well as research in general. I can’t wait to see where the season takes us. Here’s to more gorgeous 4 A.M. mornings! ;)
More information regarding Oregon clamming can be found on SEACOR’s website: https://www.dfw.state.or.us/mrp/shellfish/seac or/index.asp