Let it Grow!

It’s no secret that I love gardening. I really enjoy being able to grow good food right out of the ground and then sharing that love with other people.

This lovely sign welcomes you to the garden
This lovely sign welcomes you to the garden

Thanks to Robert Perry, former director of the field site and a member of the community advisory board, we got our own look into local agriculture systems this semester with a plot in the Roanoke Island Community Garden.

In the beginning of the semester, Robert showed us the community garden — a conglomeration of garden plots and communal fruit trees (and a bee hive!) near a wooded area in Manteo — and a plot that we could call our very own. The plot was covered in grass, so we had a lot of work ahead of us. The first few work days involved clearing out the grass, putting down compost and (hand) tilling up the land. Then, we got to plant our first seeds.

Tamara, Alex and Jack helping to clear the plot
Tamara, Alex and Jack helping clear the plot

We planted a lot of things, including beans, spinach, broccoli, kale, collards, bok choy, herbs and mustard spinach, and a few of us made the short trip to the garden (it’s practically next door!) a couple times a week to water and tend to our baby plants. Unfortunately, a few tropical storms and Hurricane Matthew (maybe you heard about it) wiped out a lot of the young plants we had growing and made way for a host of weeds to take root among our garden. The result was a whole lot of mustard spinach and kale, as well as some surviving bok choy, collards and cilantro.

What was left of the garden after Hurricane Matthew
What was left of the garden after Hurricane Matthew

While I don’t have very many pictures of the garden before the storm, what did survive ended up really thriving. Our mustard spinach plants grew huge, enough to harvest and get a few dinners out of for the group, and our kale grew to be tasty, too. A few weeks ago, we made white bean and mustard spinach soup (it was great!), and the other night, Jack, Alex and I cooked down some more mustard spinach and kale to eat with rice.

Yours truly with a big box of mustard spinach and kale
Yours truly with a big box of mustard spinach and kale

Right now, our collard greens are still growing, and we’re going to go check on them soon (finals season has sadly kept us away). Although we have to pack up and leave the field site in a week, I’m hoping we can harvest some collards for one last home-grown meal before we all leave. It’s been a great semester and a great time tending to this garden, and I’m definitely a little sad to have to leave it behind.


An Internship in Science Journalism

This semester, I’ve been taken a closer look at how the public stays informed about research and environment-related issues. My internship was different than everyone else’s in that it was largely independent — Andy Keeler, the director of the field site, was my mentor, and together we looked at examples of “science journalism” and tried to unpack that phrase.

I came to this field site with a strong background in journalism. When it came time for interviews to help select our internships, I had the idea of pursuing science journalism, which was what I always thought I wanted to do. Although that has since changed (I changed my major right before the semester started), this internship was still a helpful and interesting experience.

On internship days, which were every Monday and every other Wednesday, I headed to the Coastal Studies Institute to meet with Andy about what I was working on and where I was going. Normally, this meant talking about articles I read or about an assignment. Then, I either stayed at CSI or headed to the public library (such a quiet place to work!) to get through my to-do list.

The first articles I looked at spanned a large timeframe. Invention Factory by Malcolm Ross is a New Yorker article that is a good example of writing that has stood the test of time — the article is from 1931 and is exciting to read! For something a little more recent, The Social Life of Genes by David Dobbs was my favorite article I read for this internship.

(Not to load this post with links, but if you want to read my favorite remotely-science-y piece ever, head to National Geographic for To Walk the World by Paul Salopek)

I’ve also been looking at some longer works, too, like Silent Spring by Rachel Carson and John McPhee’s Annals of the Former World. I spent part of the semester working on writing some pieces, myself. I tried my hand at a press release about the Outer Banks Field Site, as well as a researcher spotlight about my mentor, Andy. I’m still working on an article about beach combing and laws relating to that, which I hope to have done soon.

All in all, I’m glad that my internship was low-stress and largely self-paced. When I applied, I was a journalism major, and having an opportunity to pursue that field while also studying the environment really drew me in. It’s just another example of how the Outer Banks Field Site really is open to students who come from all disciplines and backgrounds.