The Past Week at OBXFS

Hello! For my blog post, I’ve decided to talk about events for the past week of the field site, as it was very busy and a lot of fun.

On Monday, I had my internship with Quible & Associates, PC. My mentor, Warren Eadus, had me scour the internet and the Outer Banks History Center here in Manteo for aerial photographs of the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center. Warren said he couldn’t tell me exactly why I was finding these photographs, so I’m assuming the project is above my pay grade.

Tuesday was a normal class day, but Wednesday morning we left for Corolla and Corova to learn about the local history, ecology, and culture. We first went to the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education. We learned Corolla used to be one of the largest waterfowl hunting centers in the US, until over-exploitation lowered bird populations drastically. Now, this area has laws protecting waterfowl. Later in the day, we headed for Corova to see the wild horses, a major tourist attraction. We got up close and personal with the horses while Edna, our tour guide, told us about their group structures, called “harems”. Edna had quite a romantic, anthropomorphized view of the horses, but I understood what she meant when we were near them.

On Thursday, we went kayaking with a former student, Hadley, of the Outer Banks Field Site, which in her day was the Albemarle Ecological Field Site (I think the name change was a good one). She told us about some of the marsh characteristics and history of the area, noting some of the problems it is facing with the invasive Phragmites and climate change. Later in the day we visited the Historic Jarvisburg Colored School on the mainland side of Currituck. It is one of the only restored schools for “colored” people in the area. Along the walls were personal anecdotes of going to school, the times, the food, and many other aspects of life in the not-so-distant past. It spoke to me of how recently black and white people were placed in “separate but equal” (the “equal” part being highly questionable) institutions.

After this, we had some appetizers and root beer at a local brewery in Currituck to discuss our field trip. Of note to me was our discussion of the wild horses, as they seem to be a controversial issue. Much of the attraction of visiting Corova is for the wild horses, with several companies that specialize in driving tourists to them. There seems to be a romanticism associated with them. However, we also discussed that they are an invasive species that do bother some of the locals (the horse tours themselves also seemed to bother the locals [we saw a sign in one person’s yard that said “horse tours invade my privacy”]) and can trample marshland. The horses are protected by the Corolla Wild Horses Protection Act and the Corolla Wild Horse fund. The issue is wrapped up in local history, economics, privacy, and fascination with horses.

Overall, this trip taught me about the importance of local history in how people make decisions, whether it be to conserve land once hunted, to protect a species that doesn’t ecologically belong, or to preserve a school for its rich and important history. However, our week was not done.

On Friday, we awoke early for a sunrise ecology lab about ghost crabs.

Ghost crabs are often used as an indicator species for beach health, so quantifying their numbers helps to understand natural and anthropogenic impacts on beaches. We compared two methods of counting ghost crab holes: one involved creating a transect of the beach, dividing it into zones, and counting the number of burrows 1 meter of each side the transect; the other method involved throwing an object with a fixed area (in this case a very scientific hula hoop) three times in each beach zone. We are to compare these methods for next week’s classes.

Thus concludes my blog post about the events of this week. Thanks for reading (if you made it this far)!

Cool things I’ve done so far

Happy Fall Y’all!!

It’s officially been over a month since we all met at CSI for the first time (I checked, it was August 20th)!

Bodie Lighthouse

In honor of this anniversary, I think it’s only right for me to reflect on some of the cool things I’ve seen while here!

Before I came to Manteo this semester, I came up with a tiny list of things I absolutely must do while here.  The biggest task I wanted to complete was seeing all the Outer Banks lighthouses.  Because Bodie Lighthouse is the closest to us, it was the first I visited.  I would first like to point out how difficult it is to pronounce “Bodie” like “body” instead of like “boady.”  I don’t know why this is such an issue for me but it is!  Besides that hiccup, it was so amazing and dare I say fulfilling to finally see a lighthouse in person.  I can’t wait to visit more (Hatteras is next)!

During my second weekend here, my sister came to visit me and I knew that I wanted to show her the lighthouse!  During that visit, we even paid ($10 :/ ) to climb all the way up the stairs (10 flights!!).  This is a picture I took when we were at the top.  Before this trip, I didn’t think I was scared of heights but this has since made me reconsider.

That same weekend, my sister and I visited the Wright Brothers Memorial.  This was also an item on my list.  Talking to my sister, I think we felt the same way about this place.  It was something we had to visit and see as people who’ve lived in NC our whole lives.  The Wright Brothers are basically part of the curriculum here-every school-aged kid knows what they did more or less.  It also felt good to finally go to the very place that our license plates are designed after.

My box kite flying so high :”)

Also, I visited Jockey’s Ridge.  The group had previously visited it on our way back from our first CAB meeting.  That following weekend, I visited again after buying a new kite from the store across the street.  I had always wanted a classic box kite so I was thrilled when I saw one that matched the kite I’d pictured in my head.  I have a kite at home that I had forgotten to bring with me when I moved in.  It’s a huge sea turtle and the kite tail is made up of tiny baby turtles.  When my sister visited, she brought my kite with her and we flew them at Jockey’s Ridge.  After seeing both fly, I think the box kite might be my new favorite.

All in all, I have really reallyyyyy enjoyed my time here in the OBX so far.  I am getting to know my amazing classmates and explore this beautiful place more each day.  I can’t wait to see what this week brings!

Please enjoy this sunset I saw with my sister at CSI 🙂


Back at it!

After a week away due to the hurricane, we are back at it for the first full week of classes. We had our typical classes on Tuesday and Thursday including an economics game involving lots of candy and paper airplane flying in Andy’s class. Lunchtime for some of us means sitting on one of the porches at CSI with a beautiful view.

View from porch at CSI looking out at the sound, the canals that run to it and the marsh grass around the area.

Though we could do a lot of schoolwork from a distance during the hurricane, capstone work relative to this region was something we had to postpone. This week we began getting into the data collection aspect for our capstone project. We had three rotations to collect data for the different aspects of our study.

One station consisted of a discussion about who we want our podcast to be directed towards, what kind of questions we want to ask in interviews and how we are going to reach out to the study participants for interviews. We practiced using the microphones and interviewing each other with funny questions that sparked controversy like “Do you sing in the shower” and “What do you think of Garden Gnomes?”

Another rotation was mining through data at the Dare County Environmental Health Office. There, we were each assigned a certain number of files to go through and record data about septic tanks and the soil and water levels in peoples’ yards.

The third rotation consisted of traveling to the different well sites to learn where they were located and then capturing some water to run nutrient and bacteria tests. Once we got back from being at those sites in Nags Head, we learned the process for running those tests.

Peter provided us with the quote of the week when reminding other groups to be sure to label their sampling containers correctly– “There is a lot of very similar-looking water.”

Outside of the academics, parts of the group explored the Secotan Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning and attended PrideFest in Manteo later that evening.

Saturday farmer’s market
Artist booth at PrideFest

Next up for us is our first week with internships! Stay tuned for more excitements.



Two Islands, One Storm

This past week, instead of hanging out at the beach or studying at CSI, I was in Chantilly, Virginia. A mere forty minutes from the nation’s capital, I drove to my Aunt and Uncle’s house to evacuate for Hurricane Dorian. At the start of the evacuation, I had all the intention to drive into DC, go to a few museums and check out Georgetown coffee shops. In the end, I spent most of my time at the house doing homework while Scarlet, a 15-pound miniature labradoodle, snuggled next to my laptop. However, since this blog post can’t be a detailed description of the ridiculously cute antics of Scarlet, and her brother, Gus, I thought I’d talk about the Bahamas.

Scarlet chilling on the couch with me the day after we got evacuated.

My Aunt works for a company called the Martin Group and goes to the Bahamas frequently for business. Don’t ask me exactly what she or the company does though, because I could not tell you. She was already planning to fly out on Sunday to Nassau for a week of meetings, before news of Hurricane Dorian broke. The entire week leading up to her departure, she ran to every Target and Walmart in Loudon county to purchase supplies for relief efforts. One of the days I was there I went with her to a local Walmart, and we filled up three shopping carts with toothpaste, diapers, ibuprofen, soap and other basic necessities. We emptied entire shelves and eventually managed to pack everything into bins so we could fit it all into her car. While checking out, one of the store clerks wandered over to our aisle to watch the absurd number of products move from my hands to the conveyer.

Aunt Erin, AKA the “Selfie Queen”, snapping a picture of the Bahamas supplies we collected before dropping them off at the airport.

The Bahamas are a chain of islands. They rely heavily on tourism and have a deep connection with their own coastal ecology. Manteo rests on Roanoke Island, and similarly relies on a steady churn of tourists. As we’ve experienced, the locals love their coast and the respective processes, wildlife and weather that comes with it. In the Bahamas, people spend early mornings fishing. Last week, we did the same. On weekends, those who seek adventure fight for the perfect wave in the Abacos. Last Thursday, we spent an entire afternoon at a surfing competition. In the evenings, Bahamians gather around tables to eat a meal with family. The first week we were here we met our Community Advisory Board and bonded over a Country Deli dinner.

The WRV Pro Surf Contest at Jennette’s Pier!
After thirty minutes of attempting to catch one of these elusive crabs, I finally “reeled” one in (and threw it back in the water, of course)!

Last week, the Bahamas and Roanoke Island were impacted by Dorian. Bahamians took shelter and waited, while Roanoke natives packed up their cars and drove inland. In the middle of the Atlantic, parents first hand watched their children drown, while a Roanoke “evacuee” stared blankly at a television screen in the suburbs of Virginia. On Friday night, Bahamians ransacked homes to try to find supplies, while a “displaced” North Carolinian munched on a $5 vegan cupcake. Last week, thousands of Bahamians died, even though the news will tell you it was less than fifty. Last week, thousands of trees fell to their death on the east coast of the United States.

No, Roanoke Island and the Outer Banks have not gotten off scot-free from the hurricane. Fallen trees, flooding and loss of power can harm businesses and private households financially for years to come. The process of moving your family is a challenge in and of itself. Trying to find and afford a place to stay for an entire week, in addition to not making money from a job, is a heavy burden. First hand responders put their lives at risk trying to aid individuals who decided not to leave. While the majority of people remained safe and comfortable, damage to a small community can be a difficult problem to fix. We’ve seen that over the course of orientation with the septic tank leachate just in a small part of Dare county. One small leakage in the OBX system, whether ecologically or economically, can create large challenges for business owners, city managers and citizens.

Looking at this from a broader perspective though, I have realized just how much privilege I have. I would never want to oversimplify the damage from Dorian on our coast, but in comparison to what happened in the Bahamas, I am appreciative for the resources and infrastructure we have. Whether or not people left, it is a privilege to know that it was possible to leave. From bridges, highways, cars and planes we were able to get out of the path of the storm. In the Bahamas people did not have that basic privilege and were forced to endure Dorian’s wrath. Pity is a complicated feeling. I think a lot of American pity comes from a place of feeling bad for people because they do not have the same life as us, one filled with comfortable suburban mansions, Saturdays spent at the baseball field and 24/7 access to a McDonald’s. Whether or not the hurricane hit, you will hear people saying they feel bad for Bahamians because they don’t live that lifestyle. I don’t want to pity these people because they lost their loved ones, homes and businesses. Pity is to merely recognize that someone else is suffering, there is no attempt to understand or feel it. We need to move more towards compassion, where we actively feel for people who are in pain, and try our best to listen and alleviate it.

Now, I’m no saint; I acknowledge that this is something I also need to work on. As inconvenient as it was to pack up my dirty laundry and hit the road for a five-hour drive filled with traffic, it really was a privilege to be able to do that. And as horrible as downed power lines and broken trees are, I know that the nation as a whole will not violently suffer from Dorian. While the Bahamas has no choice but to focus on the devastation, the people on Roanoke Island, and elsewhere in the U.S., should take the time to actively appreciate the security and love we have not lost.