Horsin’ around

This week was our first full week back since evacuating for Hurricane Florence, and it sure feels good to be back. In short, our week started off with internships on Monday, class and Capstone session on Tuesday, a guest lecturer on Wednesday, and finally an overnight field trip on Thursday and Friday!

On Wednesday Dr. Alex Manda came to the Coastal Studies Institute (CSI) to speak to us about his research on groundwater and marine inundation. First, he walked us through an exercise which helped us all understand the groundwater table, and how exactly water runs through the ground right under our feet. The picture below shows the model we used to visualize how water moves through wells, layers of sediment, and aquifers.

After finishing our activity, we heard more about Dr. Manda’s research, and what exactly they discovered in their groundwater inundation research. Groundwater inundation in short is how much land may be out of commission due to sea-level and the water table rising. Dr. Manda and his team wanted to know if there would be more inundation, land out of commission, from groundwater or marine waters, specifically the Atlantic Ocean. His main conclusion was that the groundwater inundation may be more significant than the marine inundation due to the area covered by groundwater inundation being greater than that covered by marine inundation. If you would like to read more on his study it is titled, “Relative role and extent of marine and groundwater inundation on a dune‐dominated barrier island under sea‐level rise scenarios”.

The next morning we all woke up bright and early to leave for our overnight trip to Corolla! The day started off with with a hike at the Currituck Banks Coastal Estuarine Reserve with Kate Jones. We walked through the 300 acres of Maritime forest and it was breathtakingly beautiful. Maritime forests are forests impacted by the ocean, and so we could hear waves crashing in the distance all throughout our hike. Here’s a picture of a baby snapping turtle we saw during our hike!


After the hike we drove straight to the Currituck Lighthouse, where we climbed over 200 stairs to make it to the top. The views were beautiful and we all had fun at the top overlooking both the Ocean and the Sound.

Next, we had a tour at the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education. Our guide Sharon Meade informed all of us of the rich history of Corolla and of course the wildlife as well. The education center was extremely informative and we all learned about how much hunting has influenced Corolla. Duck hunting was a delicacy for Northerners, so much so that multiple hunting clubs arose and brought people and money to Currituck County. Later in this post I discuss the lovely home we got to stay in, which used to be a very popular Duck hunting club, and still is today.

Just a quick walk down the road and we were at our next stop, the Coastal Exploration Dock, where we met Hadley Twiddy. Hadley attended UNC Chapel Hill and was one of the first students to ever participate in the Outer Banks field site. She now lives in Corolla and was able to talk with us more about Corolla’s history, the Sound and Marsh ecology, and what it is like to be a permanent resident in a town made up of mostly tourists. Hadley also had an adorable dog named Junebug who we all enjoyed playing with.

After our conversation with Hadley we drove to the Pine Island Sanctuary, where we met our host Robbie Fearn. Robbie works for Audubon, a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to conservation.  Audubon now manages 2,600 acres of the Sanctuary with the goal of providing wildlife and birds with a safe, undeveloped, place to live. We helped Robbie clear some invasive species, olive trees, and then were treated to a lovely Italian dinner made by our professors Linda and Andy. After dinner the group settled in for a night full laughs and card games.

The next morning, we woke up early enough to see a beautiful sunrise, and then were off to see the wild horses. The tour with Brad was extremely fun, he horsed around a lot, but made us all laugh throughout the tour. The wild Spanish Mustangs all originated from Spain, and made it to the Outer Banks after swimming ashore from shipwrecks. The horses are free to roam around citizen’s yards as often as they want. There was one donkey named “Earl” however, Earl is unique due to the fact that officials are strict about letting other animals interact with the horses. This is to ensure the bloodline remains the same.

The first picture is Earl!

After the horse tour we were off to our final destination, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Field Research Facility. Heidi Wadman gave us a tour of the Facility after presenting her research to us. Heidi studies storms, from hurricanes to nor’easters to excessive rainfall she covered it all. She specifically focuses on how storms are or are not changing over the years, and what that means for coastal environments.

After our 1/3 mile walk out to the end of the pier and back it was time to return to CSI! This overnight trip was definitely one of my favorite experiences so far and I hope you enjoyed my post!

  • Elizabeth Kendrick