Boat Days are Better than Field Trips

Week of 9/11-9/15/17

Hey, y’all! This is Cassandra, writing to tell you all about how miserable (read: exciting), exhausting (as in exhilarating), and completely dreadful (meaning absolutely and positively amazing) the second real week of classes here at the OBX Field Site has been! I’m going to start off by giving props to Corey Adams, our internship coordinator, for setting me up with the most amazing program I could have asked for; I’m at the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education, which means on Monday I got to set up wildlife cameras, learn about sea turtle strandings, and help create a trail for the Center’s new herping expedition! If that isn’t cool enough, some of my other duties include story time and teaching kids archery.

My internship mentor invited me to come to a sea turtle nest dig on my second day!

Tuesdays and Thursdays are when we take “actual” classes, all of which have so far been both interesting and relevant in terms of this area and environmental topics in general. Since we are only in the second week, much of the material has been introductory, but I’m definitely already learning a lot, and having such a small class size means that we are all able to get clarification when we need to, which is great compared to many of the huge lectures I’ve taken in the past. However, this Wednesday we had our first intensive Capstone day, and by intensive, I mean INTENSIVE. It’s really incredible to me how much a group of people can get done in a single day when we all work together. Right now, we’re working in two different directions: learning how to conduct qualitative interviews and write an interview guide on one side, and planning our ecological sampling methods and testing them out to see what will work best for our sampling sites on the other. We started off with an interview workshop, then took a mini field trip to the living shoreline at Festival Island Park, where we tried out different potential sampling methods and ate our lunches on the boardwalk. Finally, we returned to CSI for a second interview workshop, and left for the evening with a far better understanding of how our interviews are going to work and what we need to do now.

As you can see, we all rocked our waders and enjoyed the break between interview workshops to go to Roanoke Island’s Festival Island Park for sampling practice.

In the spirit of ending the week on an especially high note, this Friday we took a boat trip around the Roanoke Sound in order to practice different water measurement and sampling methods, as well as to get a firsthand look at an oyster aquaculture facility in the area. We definitely learned a lot about different measurement methods and tools, how much water quality can vary, and how to handle some extremely expensive equipment, but I think it’s safe to say that our educational drive momentarily disappeared when we encountered a pod of dolphins, not once, but twice! There was also time built in to explore an island near CSI and take a dip in the Sound. The day was a blast, and our professors and faculty know exactly how to plan a trip that’s a lot of fun while still giving us research skills and educating us along the way!

I have high hopes for the rest of the semester, but this week was a winner. I’m so grateful to have been accepted into this program and can’t wait to see what we do next!

Spotting dolphins in the Sound!
Some of the equipment we used to test water parameters including salinity, turbidity, and oxygen content.