North Carolina Coastal Reserves Internship!

Let me tell you about my internship this fall! I am interning with Scott Crocker, northern site manager, at the North Carolina Coastal Reserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve.  This semester we have been working on a couple of different projects on Currituck Banks Reserve.  Two of the biggest projects have been monitoring invasive animals and water quality of the Outer Banks.

Back in September I started taking measurements from different access point along the sound from Nag’s Head to Corolla.  With the passing of Hurricane Joaquin we were able to see some dramatic changes in the sound near Kill Devil Hills and Kitty Hawk.  At the NC Wildlife boat ramp I usually measured salinity at around 5 parts per thousand (ppt).  However, after the hurricane passed us soon after I recorded a measurement of 19 ppt.  This is a huge different from the stable reading that I was recording.  We are not sure why this happened at this area.  We have some ideas of what could have happened but have not spent the time investigating the actual cause.  At Currituck Banks Reserve I usually found that the water salinity was around 2 ppt.  The salinity is low in the Currituck sound because it is far from any inlet.  After the hurricane passed we found a salinity of .4ppt.  This can be assumed that the influx of rain lowered the salinity.  At each sample site once a month I collect water sample that we later put in a preservative so that a lab at North Carolina State University can analyze the plankton in the sample.

Within the Currituck Banks Reserve there is a significant problem with feral swine.  These animals are responsible for destroying various types of habitat within the reserve.  This reserve is unique in that the boundaries extend from the sound all the way to the first line of vegetation on the beachfront.  This means that there are many different habitats within these boundaries.  Feral Swine destruction has been found in each type of habitat.  I have been using trail cameras to monitor the population.  Each hog has different markings and I have been able to distinguish most of the hogs in this area.

In summation, I love what I am doing here on the Outer Banks of North Carolina!  Even though I grew up on the coast of North Carolina it is remarkable to see how an almost untouched barrier island function! My experiences here have truly made me realize how dynamic barrier islands are!