Early Rising

Good morning! It’s 5 am, my favorite time of day. I can do anything I want in the morning – right now I’m writing this blog post (I’ll probably post it later though). At sunrise, I’m going to head over to the Coastal Studies Institute (CSI) to take some photos of plants for the Coastal Landscape Initiative, but right now I’ll let you know what we’ve been up to.

My early mornings are usually spent alone, but these past two weeks I’ve had the rare opportunity of spending time with people before 10 am (which is like my late afternoon). I’ll start with Friday, Sept. 18th; the plan was to get SOAKED. It was a storm sampling day for our capstone research, and we had to get data on rain’s effect on water quality. Emma, Caroline, and I headed out at 9 am for our second day of fieldwork. We had so much fun bailing water out of the wells. Of course, not everything was perfect – the rain stopped for us and we didn’t even get to get wet. But, we still got our storm-day data! Afterwards, we brought our samples back to CSI to be prepared for coliform and E. coli readings, which I got to do with Bri and Lauren the next day!

Sampling Supply Box. Always be prepared.
Vista Colony Well after Storm Water Sampling










This week, on Wednesday Sept. 23rd, Lauren and I started our days at around 4 in the morning. We had a three-hour drive to Morehead City to shadow a grad student’s research. For our internships, Lauren was writing an article on the project (which you can check out at CSI’s website) and I got to take photos. We had a blast on that trip from our conversations, to fish tagging, to wild horses. I’m not going to talk too much about it here because Lauren’s article isn’t out yet, but here are some sneak-peak photos.

Lauren releasing a sheepshead fish after tagging.
Wild horse near Cedar Island, NC.

And finally, this Friday, Sept. 26th, our whole class got to wake up early to meet in the town of Duck at 8:30 am. Duck is about an hour from where we’re staying. We met with CAB member Matt Price who talked a little about shoreline protection/living shorelines in Duck as well as the septic system they use. Then we drove to Corolla for kayaking/stand-up paddle boarding, a meeting with Hadley Twiddy about ecotourism, and a meeting with the wonderful Sharon Meade about wildlife and hunting history on Corolla. My favorite part of that day was an eastern box turtle we saw along the side of the road.

Eastern Box Turtle
Eastern Box Turtle

Anyways, I know this blog post is a bit rambling. My point is the best days are the ones I start early. I have so many more stories from shipwrecks to shark eggs! I’d encourage you to watch the sunrise at least once a week – I’m going to go watch it now. Thanks for hanging out with me for a while, Heidi signing off. Carpe diem.

First week of sampling!

Over the past few weeks of our field site, we have been doing LOTS of talking. We have devoted countless hours to discussing various aspects of our research, including the survey which we will be sending out to Nags Head residents. While our survey and background knowledge for the capstone will be vital in the next few weeks, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t ready for a change of pace. This week was the first time we as students were able to go out to our different sampling locations to collect our water samples. When we first began discussing the instruments we would be using at the sites and in the lab, I was quite nervous and unsure if I would be able to understand much.

Most people at the field site are either environmental science or studies majors, but I have not had much experience with science at all. As a political science major, I have been mostly in humanities classes which means I knew virtually nothing about the collection and analysis of our samples. Earlier in the week, I was getting pretty anxious about not knowing if I would be able to pull my weight with the rest of the group.

Thanks to how helpful Lindsay was by devoting her day to spend with each group, I was able to fully understand how the instruments worked and was able to participate with my classmates. Once the process got started, it was not intimidating at all and I ended up enjoying it. I was able to use the YSI tool to gather measurements of various factors that impacted the water quality at the sites. I also learned how to measure the depth to the water from the top of the well using a probing instrument.

After spending so much time watching online lectures and having recitations, it was refreshing to be able to get some hands-on experience for the day. It was also quite rewarding for me personally, as this was the first experience I had with collecting data and analyzing it. While the collection was fun, my favorite part of the day was going back to the lab to prepare the samples for analysis the next day. While it was time-consuming, it was nice to see how we are able to take the samples and make something out of them. It was satisfying to make everything come together and give meaning to our water.


Overall, I am grateful for this experience and how it pushes me out of my comfort zone. The field site is allowing me to expand my skill set and become a more well-rounded student and individual. At times I still feel a little lost when everyone starts using unfamiliar science-y jargon, but I like knowing that I am able to learn something new every day.

~Gabriella Paone (Class of 2023)

Scavenging for New Friends

In the days leading up to my big move to Manteo for this program with nine other UNC-Chapel Hill students, most of whom I had never met, I was very concerned about making friends. I like to consider myself an outgoing person, but I was intimidated by the fact that I would be living and attending class with so few people. I would be with this small group for the whole semester. What if I was not outgoing enough and ended up feeling totally alone? In light of social distancing regulations for COVID-19, how would we be able to socialize and how often? Would we still be able to explore the new area together?

Thanks to the awesome staff at this field site and the very fun orientation they had planned, all of my worries went away. Meeting and talking to my classmates was so easy when we were doing our orientation activities together. Everyone had lots to talk about related to what we were experiencing (I went kayaking and paddle-boarding for the first time!). My favorite part of the two weeks of orientation was definitely the scavenger hunt activity!

The scavenger hunt was an out-of-class assignment where we were supposed to go out with a partner to explore and take photos of certain things in our new surroundings. However, we all wanted to get to know each other right away, so we decided not to have partners and instead go in groups as people were available! The instructors were super flexible with our request, and that turned out great because I was able to adventure with new people every afternoon to find whatever we needed to check off our lists.

I enjoyed going on my first grocery trip after move-in  (checking off finding an independent grocery from the list) with some of my new friends! Afterwards, we made a pit-stop by a small airport where some of us may skydive someday this semester!

My suitemate and I went to a fancy marina and a wooden pier. We got dinner after, where we also took a selfie with a pirate!

I also went to the “Unpainted Aristocracy” and a very unique lighthouse with others!

This was such a great experience to have in the first couple weeks of being here! We all got to know each other through travelling together and now I feel like I know everyone a lot more than I thought I would considering we are less than a month into the program. Now we are all comfortable with each other and are able to work well together, which is very important since we will be collaborating for our capstone project. In our team contract we wrote during orientation, we talked about how we want to help each other reach our personal goals for the semester, not just our academic ones, and I think that the orientation activities, especially the scavenger hunt, helped to instill that value.

Here is to a semester of new adventures and new friendships!

~Natalie Ollis (Class of 2022)