Field trips, finals, and lots of fish!

We’ve been been busy as ever out here on the Outer Banks as the semester winds down! Measurements have been taken, interviews conducted, and we are ready to tackle finals and finally see our Capstone project grow into a product we’re proud of.

Now that going to the beach is no longer our sole extra-curricular activity, we’re hunkering down with work. After months of collecting data, we now have a clear idea of how we’re going to write the paper, prepare the presentation, and put together the podcast that will debut in mid December. We’ve broken up into smaller groups based on deliverable and are working through our first stages of those final products.

In the podcast group, we’ve been working on shifting mindsets from the very methodical, detailed tasks of collecting data from the past few months to the creative work of making a podcast from scratch. We have a lot of goals, from trying to communicate the value of coastal waters to residents of Nags Head, share issues related to septic systems, and more — all in a few twenty-minute podcasts. It’s certainly no easy task. But I keep coming back to a saying from one of my high school history teachers — that you don’t truly understand something unless you can explain it to a fifth grader. Now, we’re expecting our podcast audience to be a bit older, but it’s still a valuable exercise in applying a semester’s worth of knowledge in a creative medium that is accessible, entertaining, and educational. It’s helped to show us just how much we’ve learned these past few months, too.

As Capstone amps up, our classes are winding down. It’s hard to believe our classes are already almost over after what feels like just a few weeks. But we’ve still found a way to apply what we’ve been learning in class to some of the conservation and coastal management centers throughout the Outer Banks.

Last week, we spent a windy Friday visiting the Buxton Woods Reserve and Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station. At Buxton Woods, we helped with trail maintenance  and learned about some of the state’s National Estuarine Research and Coastal Reserve systems. The land of the Reserve was meant to be converted into a golf course, but a group of community members worked together to preserve the land. This wasn’t the first field trip we took where the natural spaces wouldn’t exist without the activism of community members — it’s just one of the things I find special about the Outer Banks. We also visited the Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station for a glimpse into the life of the surfmen on the frontlines of the Graveyard of the Atlantic.

Some of the awesome wild mushrooms we saw on our hike in Buxton Woods!

After another busy week of classes, internships, and Capstone, we took another field trip to O’Neals Seafood and the fish house in our very own Wanchese Harbor. Sara, a fisheries specialist with North Carolina Sea Grant, gave us an awesome run-down of fishery management on North Carolina’s coast, and we even got to see the behind-the-scenes workings of how the fish we had eaten for lunch got from the ocean and sound to our plates.

The heads of the shrimp brought into the Wanchese Harbor.
Me posing with a crab straight from the basket and still alive!

I’m so grateful that our field trips on the Outer Banks have opened up our experiences to a space far greater than our classrooms. Even when we’re busy, getting out into the community is a helpful way to step back and take a look at the greater picture of what we’re learning here.