Reaching the End: Recalling my best (and worst) memories

As we approach the final week of our field site (crazy!!) I am flooded with all of the amazing memories we have created here on the Outer Banks. I couldn’t pick just one, so I decided to tell you about a few of my favorites:

  • The unfortunate ending to a beautiful day (how I finally broke my worst habit)
    On one of the first days of our orientation, I rode in the car with our instructor Lindsay, and in conversation told her about how I have a terrible habit of locking my keys in my car in very inconvenient places. Little did I know, I would be demonstrating this horrible habit to the whole group months later on a field trip to Hatteras (about an hour and a half from my house where my spare key sat in my room). At one of our stops on the way to Hatteras, I got out of my car to find a big, fuzzy caterpillar making its way across the parking lot. Excited to show everyone, I shut my car door with only my phone in hand. Minutes later, I stopped in my tracks, knowing what I had done. After the group helped brainstorm how I could break into my own car, Andy graciously offered to call his AAA and get them to come to my rescue. What we thought would be a quick fix ended up being almost two hours of sitting at a picnic table by the water waiting for the tow truck. Andy (my hero) waited with me while everyone else returned home. During this time, I observed a cormorant for far too long, then Andy and I got to watch a family of tourists attempt to paddle board for the first time, which was very entertaining. After feeling so guilty, I made a point to never lock my keys in my car again.

The cormorant that became my friend :’)

  • Visiting the mystical land of mermaids
    The Army Corps of Engineers Research Pier in Duck had always been a big mystery to me and my friends that grew up on the Outer Banks. It was always closed off to the public and has an ominous gate that opens up to a long gravel road. Since we were young, we were convinced that they had discovered mermaids and were keeping them somewhere on the end of the pier. A few weeks ago, when I found out that we were getting the chance to take a tour of the research facility, I was thrilled. I immediately texted my friends that I was on a mission to discover the mermaids. We got to the pier and were greeted by the lovely Heidi Wadman who gave us a brief tour of the area, some cool equipment, and explained some of the things that happen there. Due to COVID restrictions, we unfortunately could not go inside the building (so I did not get to find the mermaids, even though Heidi said there were none). We walked to the end of the pier and it was an amazing view (although it was covered with a thick layer of bird poop). It was amazing getting to tour a place that not many people get to see.


  • My peaceful escape from reality
    I think I can speak for us all when I say it was an exceptionally stressful few weeks of election season at the beginning of November, especially when we needed to be focusing on wrapping up our classes and getting to work on our Capstone. One of those mornings, I decided I needed an escape to calm my nerves and distract me for a while. As I was headed to take a walk on the beach, I decided instead to go to a place we visited earlier in our semester—Pea Island Wildlife Refuge. This is an amazing place that I have taken for granted all my life living on the Outer Banks. I grabbed my Front Porch coffee and began down the trail, passing several kind people who I can only assume were there for the same reason I was. I watched the billowing smoke of a marsh fire a few minutes down the road until I made it halfway down the trail where I sat down on a bench and watched the thousands of birds all gathered together on the water. The air was filled with only the sounds of the feeding birds, crashing waves in the distance, and occasional passing cars. I was overwhelmed with a feeling of serenity that I very much needed. It was a very memorable moment for me because I got so lost taking in everything around me, I didn’t even know how long I was sitting there. That feeling of peace turned my day around, and I will definitely be taking more advantage of that special place.



Not only has this field site introduced me to such amazing people, but it also made me appreciate my home so much more. 🙂

– Emma Bancroft (Class of 2022)

Cut the Cameras: It’s Almost Over?!

As an avid vlogger (although I have been slacking with the updates since my computer broke) I have the amazing ability to have a time capsule of the past. As the semester is starting to wrap up, I am getting very nostalgic about this experience looking at the pictures and videos I recorded! It is truly wild that we only have 2 more weeks until the semester is over.

Recently we have been very busy here at the field site. I am currently writing this as I take a break from studying for my last of 3 finals, and moving forward we will be extensively working on the capstone! It hasn’t really hit me that classes are over and that we are almost done with our capstone. 

A lot of the past blog posts have already talked about the amazing parts of the field site: the people, the classes, having an engaging internship, and more. For this post I am going to talk about the things that brought me happiness that were unexpected!

Seeing a shipwreck:

One of my peers, Heidi, is an avid morning person. One day she asked if I wanted to watch the sunrise and also see a shipwreck, and I enthusiastically agreed! We saw a shipwreck, and I was amazed at the whole aesthetic! I find shipwrecks to be really fascinating, as each boat has a story.

Picture of the Shipwreck. Also was a beautiful Sunrise!

Getting a bike and bike rides:
Photographic rendering of Betty, my beloved bike.

One of the things that has brought me the most joy from this field site has been my bike! Betty, the name of my bike, has been a part of many memories and is the way I get around since I do not have a car. I have enjoyed riding on the bike path, biking a few times to the Coastal Studies Institute for class (which I do not recommend in the summer months because you get really sweaty), and just taking in the landscape on wheels. Manteo is pretty flat, which is convenient since Betty only has one gear. Whenever I get overwhelmed, I love to listen to music and bike. You definitely feel like the main character in a coming of age movie!

Gaining more experience in the lab:


A selfie of me in the lab. The lighting in this space hits different!

I have always been intimidated by labs and doing any sort of lab work. When I heard we had to do lab work for our capstone and classes, I was very nervous and dreaded it. However, I am pleasantly surprised at how comfortable I got with lab work! Measurements derived from lab work reveal a lot of interesting patterns, and using the fancy equipment was a great experience. I honestly started to really enjoy being in the lab!


When I learned there was a skydiving company in Manteo, I knew that I had to skydive before I left the Outer Banks. Thankfully, I was able to skydive in October! It was an incredible experience that brought me so much happiness. The worst part is the anticipation on the plane going up, but the freedom and awe during the actual skydiving part was unmatched. The video I got from my experience is also hilarious, and is a memory I will always fondly look back on.

At Skydive OBX with my sister!

These are just a few of the many unexpected things from this Field Site that have sparked joy. I am really sad I am leaving soon, but grateful for all the memories that have come from this experience!

-Janis Arrojado (class of 2022)


An Internship on the Water: My Experience with OBX Center for Dolphin Research

Growing up on the Outer Banks, I spent every summer on the beach watching the dolphins pass by every once and a while. Sometimes if we were lucky, we could watch them ride the waves or playfully splash in the distance. I always loved watching them, but I never really knew much about them or even thought of them inhabiting any other place than the ocean. Early this semester as I looked through past internships to decide what I would like doing for the next few months, an opportunity with the Outer Banks Center for Dolphin Research really stood out to me. I knew that I wanted to do something involving research or field work, preferably something where I could be outdoors. The start of the semester was filled with uncertainty and new challenges for all of us. We really had no idea what to expect from our internships due to COVID, but luckily I was able to have a safe, hands-on experience while many others had to do everything remotely.

This semester, I worked alongside Jessica Taylor—the executive director of OBXCDR. When the weather was suitable on the weekends (which unfortunately was not very often), I was given the opportunity to join her on boat surveys on the Roanoke Sound to locate and photograph bottlenose dolphins. On the surveys, I was the designated data-recorder while Jess would photograph their dorsal fins. I would write down observations and details about the dolphin sightings including group size, observed activity of the dolphins, and weather conditions. We also took water quality measurements such as water temperature and salinity in certain locations along the route and during sightings. On my first survey, I learned that each dolphin has a unique dorsal fin that makes them recognizable. When Jess started to refer to them by name as soon as she saw them, I was shocked. It fascinated me that these dolphins were so well-known and frequently sighted in the area, and knowing many of them had names made me feel more connected to them.

Also, on the first survey I went on, as we were stopped at one location to take water measurements, an 80-foot yacht casually cruised by us. As it continued ahead of us, we read “Catch 23” written across the back, and quickly realized it was Michael Jordan’s fishing boat. Sadly, we did not see him on it, but I like to think that he was inside observing our dolphin research.

(Since I was busy recording data during sightings, I unfortunately did not think to take my own pictures of the dolphins, but I do have a picture on the boat with Jess’s puppy Lulu in her fancy lifejacket.)

My semester-long project for my internship was to compare a set of frequently-sighted dolphins in the Roanoke Sound to an online catalog of dorsal fin photos from Beaufort, NC. The goal of this project was to update a previous comparison done in 2016 and have a better understanding of the travel patterns of bottlenose dolphin stocks in order to better manage and protect their populations. I used the Mid-Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin Catalog that includes various photo catalogs from different locations across the coast. The process of comparing the Outer Banks and Beaufort catalogs was very time-consuming and involved scrolling through thousands of photos of dorsal fins, all with slightly unique characteristics. Although it did take a lot of time, it felt like a fun puzzle trying to find matching fins. I ended up finding four matches from my sample of 25. It was a very interesting project for me, and I am very glad I was able to go on the surveys in person to see the actual photographing process as well.

Although I may not end up working specifically with dolphins in the future, this internship did give me great exposure to research experience and validated my interest in doing research and field work in my future career. Jess was a fantastic mentor and gave me opportunities to continue working and volunteering with them after my internship is over. For anyone in future field sites who has an interest in marine biology or research in general, this is a great experience, especially if you like being on the water.

– Emma Bancroft, UNC Class of 2022

Yeehaw: My Experience Interning with Island Farm

On my first day at Island Farm, I had no idea what to expect. I am a junior majoring in Environmental Science and Geography, with varied passions. My interests are in fashion, sustainability, and agriculture- and I hoped that I would be able to learn more about at least some of these during my internship. This past semester I have been able to explore these interests and more during my time at the Island Farm under Ann Daisey. My role as an intern was to help with archiving and record keeping, community engagement, assist with daily tasks, and gain a holistic understanding of Island Farm and history on Roanoke Island.


Island Farm is a real living history farm recreating life from the 1800s in Roanoke Island. This is done through interpreters, programming, workshops, and self guided tours at the farm. The property was restored by the Outer Banks Conservationists, and serves as a center for community engagement and provides hands-on learning. There is plenty of land, with chickens, cows, and even a windmill! 


A picture of the Etheridge house and kitchen garden at the Island Farm.

Thanks to the property being outdoors, I was able to have an in person internship experience at the farm following social distancing guidelines. Every day of my internship was different, and I never knew what to expect. Some days I would be helping with creating promotional materials for the farm, other days I would be helping in the garden. My tasks centered around helping out with activities at the farm, making engagement materials, and archiving and record keeping. 

Another activity I helped out with was the annual pumpkin patch. Every Saturday, there was a pumpkin patch where there were different vendors, activities, and of course pumpkins for sale. I helped out with the weaving station, where we upcycled fabric scraps to create a community tapestry. It was really cool to interact with all sorts of people and teach people (old and young) to weave. It was a great example of upcycling and using scraps to make something great! 

Weaving station at the annual pumpkin patch

I have learned a lot during my internship over the semester! Throughout the semester and touring the farm many times, I have learned a lot about the Etheridge family (the family owning the property Island Farm is on) and more about North Carolinian history. One aspect I have really liked was learning more about farming. I have learned about different crops native to the area and different gardening techniques. Another part of the internship I have really liked has been learning more about community engagement. It has been really interesting to see how Island Farm has stayed connected with the public despite COVID-19 restrictions through social media and socially distanced events. An example has been how members of the community have gotten seedlings of Hayman sweet potatoes, and people have interacted on social media to keep up with the growing. In addition, I have really liked creating tools such as virtual tours and scavenger bingo sheets for prospective visitors of the farm. I have liked the creativity and flexibility in my internship. 

Additionally, I have definitely learned more about what I want to do in the future. I have really enjoyed the hands-on experience I’ve had at Island Farm, and see a future in working at a nonprofit or an organization centering around sustainability and community engagement!  I also see how much I value variety in my work life, which is important as I think about what is next for me.

I am so grateful to Island Farm for an amazing internship experience and will take all the lessons I learn for my future.

-Janis Arrojado, class of 2022


GIS & Ecology Restoration

My name is Todd Davis and this is my last semester at UNC. I am graduating with a major in environmental studies and a GIS minor. Thanks to Corey Adams, I have gotten to work with the Jason Brown, the northern sites manager for the NC Division of Coastal Management. I told Corey during my internship interview that I wanted some more experience using GIS for conservation efforts. Luckily, that is exactly what I have been able to do throughout the semester. Many people may not know or are not familiar with GIS (geographical information system), so I will try my best to explain it. It is basically modern mapmaking that uses satellite images and/or any attributes that can be mapped out that can then be used to visualize and manipulate data. Most of the calculations are distance-based using GPS coordinates hence the geographic in the name.

I was tasked to use past and find my own GIS data to calculate erosion rates on the sound and ocean side of the Currituck Banks Reserve. This reserve is one of three that was managed by Jason including Buxton Woods and Kitty Hawk. Unfortunately, Jason moved jobs to Raleigh very early into my internship so I never got to meet him. However, he still helped guide me with the many GIS problems that ultimately arise with any project. I know GIS is not for everyone, but I wholeheartedly believe the common cliche that a picture is worth a thousand words. In my case, I am able to use maps to show information and data in a much more creative and intuitive way than the inferior graph.

I was able to spend a cool, windy day to visit the Currituck Banks Reserve in person.

I learned that working with a GIS system such as ArcMap uses a lot of problem-solving. Anyone who has used GIS or really any computer-based software knows that problem-solving is a very useful skill in data analysis. There were many problems that came up with using a new shoreline analysis extension that I have had no previous experience with, but my mentor Jason was always by his phone with great advice.

Jason along with my classes this semester have taught me the importance of marshes for the estuarine ecosystems. Marshes have been studied extensively and is a key wetland ecosystem because they can help grow in elevation with sea level rise, slow shoreline erosion, and improve water quality. I am glad that I was able to map erosion rates over a 10 year period for the sound and ocean (but also saddened that the whole estuarine study area in Currituck Banks is eroding).

One example of a finished map from my internship using GIS

I am very happy with my role in the internship as well as the capstone to be able to use GIS and make maps that have real world implications. Since there is no current northern sites manager, my results for the internship will be sent to the research director in Beaufort, NC. It will be used as a basis for locations of future marsh restoration projects in the Currituck Banks Reserve.

My time at the OBX and UNC as a whole is coming to an end very soon. I do not think it has hit me yet, but boy am I glad to be doing class outside every day and interning for the DCM instead of ending it with a full semester of online class. I will probably spend the rest of the night applying for more jobs in the triangle area with the help of this internship tying a perfect bow on my ecology restoration experience.

~ Todd Davis, UNC Class of 2020

From Distress to De-stress: My Newfound Hobby

My legs bounce incessantly as I grip the paddle so tight my knuckles turn stark white. My throat is dry and my heart is racing. “Why am I doing this?” is an incessant thought as I attempt to move my arms. Each wave that approaches and every slight yaw of the kayak fills me with dread and inaction. It occurs to me how embarrassing this is, but I can’t seem to move the paddle. Bri gently reminds me that I need to help her paddle because while she is skilled, kayaking for two is difficult, and we are heading for land far too rapidly.

Weather station located on the Croatan Sound, North Carolina. August 2020.

It’s too late. The waves force us into the grass at the edge of the Sound. Bri gets out to push us back into the water and suddenly disappears with a splash up to her waist. The struggle culminates in Professor Andy Keeler paddling over to us on his paddleboard, jumping into the water, and pulling our kayak free. Thankfully, the waves are too strong to warrant going any further and we return to the dock.

As that story implies, I don’t know how to swim; water is my kryptonite. Yet, I am studying in the Outer Banks, a place surrounded by water. The water terrifies me, but it also draws me. And, what better way to tackle my fears than by immersing myself in a semester designed to conquer them? After the catastrophe of causing Bri and myself to become landbound for several minutes, I promised to never kayak doubles again. If I capsized or got into a tricky situation, I could get myself out.

OBXFS students kayaking on the Alligator River, North Carolina. October 2020.

The next time we kayaked, it was once again in the Sound, my fickle friend. The day was much calmer and the water only slightly undulated, perfect for the water tour our professors had planned. I set out on my own kayak and paddled with vehemence, determined to keep up with everyone in spite of my fears. The entire time, I kept pace with the group, arms stinging with pain, but I did not fall behind, capsize, or hit land. I sat in my kayak riveted by Andy’s stories of each location. A buoy marks the spot where Andy Griffith had a rowdy night and I made sure to remember the story for my parents. As I sat in my kayak, bobbing in the water, the stories distracted me from my fears.

By the time we returned to the dock, my arms were slacking from the tension that had glued them to the paddle. The pain was worth it though. I faced my fear and kayaked the Sound on my own. Yes, I had all of the professors and my classmates nearby if I needed help, but I did it myself. A not so simple feat for someone scared of the water.

Kayaking on the Alligator River, North Carolina. October 2020.

October 2, 2020: I wake up early and drive to Buffalo City. We are kayaking Alligator River. I am less nervous today and excited to get on the water. The sunlight filtering through the trees casts a shimmer over the river and fills me with a sense of calm. When I arrive, the guide says that there will have to be two doubles. Despite my fear of potentially causing one of my classmates to capsize, I kayak with Heidi. We crush it. Instead of focusing on all of the things that can go wrong, I focus on the abundance of nature and plants we have learned about in ecology. I spy Spanish moss and trees with knob roots. When we’re in the wide expanse of the river, I focus on improving my kayaking skills and eventually learn how to paddle to a stop and backward. This tour blew me away. The history of Buffalo City is fascinating– I won’t spoil it for anyone thinking about studying at the Outer Banks Field Site (OBXFS)– and the location is gorgeous.

OBXFS is truly a perfect place to grow, not only in terms of gaining field experience and figuring out what you want to do or not do in life but also in pushing yourself to conquer your fears. This semester, I have focused on expanding my comfort zone. I hope that any student reading this post and considering studying at OBXFS takes advantage of this opportunity and applies. There is a whole semester of growth and adventure waiting for you.

– Meagan Gates, UNC-Chapel Hill, Class of 2022

OBXFS Interning at the Dare County Justice Center

My name is Caroline Pharr, I am a Senior at UNC Chapel Hill majoring in Environmental Studies and minoring in Public Policy. During the Fall 2020 Outer Banks Field Site I had the opportunity to work at the Dare County Justice Center, in the Assistant District Attorney’s Office in Manteo, North Carolina. My internship mentor for this semester is Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Karpowicz Bland. Assistant District Attorney Bland is a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill and UNC law school, and is a long term Outer Banks resident.

Caroline Pharr on the right and Assistant District Attorney Bland on the left

One of the highlights of my internship has been the opportunity to observe court. At the Dare Center I have had the opportunity to observe and assist in Superior Court.  It has been my goal to pursue a career in environmental justice, either in policy or law. Working with my internship mentor over the fall semester has shown me what a career in environmental law might look like.

In addition to working in Dare County, I had the opportunity to travel to Currituck County to observe District Court. I was able to see the difference in the Dare County and Currituck County court proceedings. On this trip to the Currituck County Justice Center, I was able to see a community with different social economic groups then that of Dare County, and how those differences affected the dynamics in court. One specific contrast was the civil violations between farmers and land owner rights.

Currituck County Justice Center

What I have learned during my internship is that North Carolina District Courts can be divided into four categories; civil, criminal, juvenile, and the magistrate. District Court civil cases involve hearings for divorces, custody over children, child support, and cases involving less than $10,000. It also deals with minor criminal cases involving misdemeanors and infractions. Whereas in contrast to District Court, proceedings in Superior Court involve all felony criminal cases and civil cases involving more than $10,000. In addition, appeals made for misdemeanor and infraction cases from District Court are also tried in Superior Court.

Another experience that has been a highlight is getting to meet the Candidate for Chief Justice of North Carolina Paul Newby.

Justice Paul Newby

This being an election year, the Dare County Justice Center was a stop for Justice Newby to meet and speak with the Dare County voters, and he toured the court house and met with those of us working at the Justice Center. I had the chance to speak with him about the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as well as how college students are adjusting to online university in the wake of COVID-19.

As someone who will be going to law school after graduation, it was very exciting to meet one of the few people whose interpretations of the law will affect the lives of the people who reside in North Carolina.


~ Caroline Pharr (Class of 2021)


Interning with Dare County’s Planning Department

Hey, everyone! 

My name is Gabriella Paone, and I am a sophomore at the Outer Banks Field Site. I am a political science major but chose to participate in the field site because of my interest in the environment. Before coming to Manteo, everyone from the field site met with Corey Adams, the internship coordinator. During my meeting, I gave Corey very little to work with as I had no idea what I wanted my internship to look like, or even who I would like to work for. I told him I was interested in public government, but that I did not have a preference to be placed anywhere. Thankfully, Corey was able to get creative and placed me with the Dare County planning department. 

One topic I was asked to research – the demographics of Dare County

I have been working with Donna Creef, who is the planning director of Dare County. The work I have been doing has been quite relevant to the things I have learned in Professor D’Anna’s class, which teaches about coastal management practices. My work over the course of the semester has been assisting Donna in updating Dare County’s land-use plan for the new zoning ordinance. Per North Carolina state laws, coastal land use plans must be updated every five years to ensure management procedures are up to date and still efficient. This allows states to develop coastal management programs and includes coastal communities within this process. Donna Creef’s job to update this plan is immensely important to ensure that development and protecting the environment is a balanced act in the Outer Banks. 

A map made using GIS, which classifies land uses

Throughout my internship, I have mostly assisted Donna with creating tables, research, and making the land-use plan overall look more presentable and easier to understand. I have written up documents for multiple sections of the land use plan including demographics, locating maps, and have become familiar with other zoning ordinances to look at similarities. Dare County also has its own “GIS guy” who I used information from to make new classifications of land uses. As a non-environment major, it was cool to see the skill be used to solve a current knowledge gap within Dare County. Although the zoning ordinance is a government document, it is important that the zoning ordinance is accessible to everyone, especially developers who need to adhere to the guidelines within. I had the chance to write up a few drafts for various sections of the land use plan and had to consider that those reading this may not know the technical terminology of planning. Coming into this internship with no prior knowledge of zoning helped me to make sure the sections I wrote were easy to understand to any audience.

I have enjoyed working under a local government department, as it allows me to learn more about the place I have lived for the past semester. While it has been a challenge to work remotely, especially with unfamiliar terminology and concepts used in planning, I have appreciated expanding my knowledge about the importance of local government practices. Before my internship, I had no idea what a planning director or department actually did, but I have now realized the importance of giving smaller communities greater influence and choice to handle issues that impact them. I have enjoyed my internship because it has opened my eyes to more career paths that help people and the environment simultaneously. 

-Gabriella Paone, Class of 2023

Turning Tides: Powering Communities with Water

The waves swiftly and powerfully approach, but I refuse to back down from my task. I will slow them. My arms raise, hands outstretched, palms facing the barreling waves. “Slow, slow, slow,” is the mantra repeating endlessly in my head as I urge the waves to bend to my will. For a second, I doubt my powers, but then, the waves spill forth in a spray of seafoam and coat my feet in a layer of sand. As the water recedes back to its home, I stare at my feet in awe of my power and upright position.

The moment of quiet triumph is succeeded by inevitable failure as the tide pushes in and my powers fail me. In spite of my powers, the waves refuse to slow and charge at me with full force, knocking me to the sand and filling my eyes and nose with saltwater. I emerge from the waves, spluttering in frustration, and trudge back towards my mom, soaking wet and stiff from the sand.

Ever since I was a kid, I have been captivated by the water and the power in its waves. However, my fascination has shifted from controlling the power held in the motion of water to harnessing that power. As a result, when I heard about the Outer Banks Field Site and the internship opportunities included in the curriculum, I leaped at the chance to apply.

During the summer, I had a Zoom call with Corey Adams, the internship coordinator at the Outer Banks Field Site. This call consisted of me expressing interest in renewable energy, public policy, and bridging the gap between the public, policymakers, and renewable energy companies. A broad range of interests, but he immediately mentioned the North Carolina Renewable Ocean Energy Program (NCROEP), located at the Coastal Studies Institute (CSI). After this call, I was assigned an internship with George Bonner, Director of NCROEP.

Marine hydrokinetic energy technologies (MHKs) have a plethora of applications in NC including electrifying ferries, desalination operations, aquaculture production, and powering microgrids. These technologies provide a means of addressing the NC Clean Energy Plan and contributing to more resilient coastal communities, especially those on the Outer Banks. This semester, I am interning with NCROEP and compiling a report entitled, Powering NC’s Blue Economy, to indicate viable markets for expanding the use of MHKs in NC. Additionally, this report will address how to engage stakeholders in discussions about implementing MHKs along the coast.

Mr. Bonner has been an invaluable resource in expanding my knowledge of MHKs and my future opportunities in the field of renewable energy. During our first Zoom calls in August, we compiled a work plan that prioritized Powering NC’s Blue Economy, a means of incorporating all of the interests I had expressed in the initial call with Corey Adams. Since then, we have had weekly meetings that are the highlight of my internship. Every call includes new information and resources to help improve my report, an opportunity to see what Mr. Bonner has been working on and provide my own insight, and information about summer internships. The skills and knowledge that I have gained from Mr. Bonner make me more confident about my career path.

My average work day at the Coastal Studies Institute, North Carolina. November 2020.

From writing my report, I am most excited about the potential for electrifying ferries. The NC Ferry Division is facing problems from fewer passengers and therefore, less revenue. Additionally, the transportation sector in NC contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, reducing reliance on diesel fuel for ferry operations would reduce costs associated with fuel and contribute to overall greenhouse gas emission reduction goals in the NC Clean Energy Plan. Washington is already developing electric ferries which enables NC to learn and benefit from using Washington’s progress as a foundation. While there are barriers to electrifying ferries, the potential is immense and would benefit coastal communities, especially those that are reliant on ferries for supplies and evacuation in the case of emergencies. Hopefully, my report can illuminate the potential for electric ferries in NC.

The report culminates in a review of stakeholder engagement strategies and means of addressing stakeholder concerns. This portion of the report is of particular interest to me because throughout my time at the Outer Banks Field Site, I have learned about stakeholder engagement in Professor Linda D’Anna’s class. Stakeholders are essential to consider when examining the potential for MHKs because, without stakeholder inclusion and compromise, projects can be derailed. Additionally, it is important to consider the coastal communities that are reliant on the water and resources affected by MHKs. By including coastal communities, local government, fishers and fisheries associations, and other stakeholders in the discussion, a project gains credibility and support.

This has been a wonderful opportunity to learn more about renewable energy and my home state. I am proud of the strides that are being made toward a cleaner future in NC and hope that my report can help NCROEP further their goals for MHK development and operation.

– Meagan Gates, UNC-Chapel Hill, Class of 2022

An OBXFS Internship: A Love for Writing and Science

I had just arrived in Manteo, with my family, one day before I was to move into the guest house with the other students. I went onto the balcony of the hotel to take a call, as my younger brother complained about the quality of the Wi-Fi in our room. He, of course, did not see a need to stop while I answered the phone. 

Cory was calling to talk to me about my internship placement, he told me I would be working with Parker Kellam and John McCord in CSI’s Public Outreach and Education Department. He explained that I would be writing content for the CSI website about current research while also providing insight into the field site. I remember telling him that the placement sounded perfect and that I was excited to start. My mom, who is always more excited than me about everything, was eagerly waiting to hear what I was going to be doing. I believe my exact words to her were, “science writing.” Of course I went on to give her more detail and basically repeat what Cory had told me, but I realized I still had no idea what I was about to embark on.  

Nonetheless, I was excited that I would be writing. I have always loved to write, in fact for a very short time in middle school I had convinced myself I was going to make a living writing fictional novels. I’ll admit, I still daydream about locking myself in a cabin somewhere in the woods to create the next best-selling fiction series, but my passion for the environment always wins out. Which is why the prospect of combining my love for writing and science into one thing brought a smile to my face even before I really knew what was going on. 

Lauren and Heidi Working
Heidi and I coordinated on many projects over the semester. Having her around added to the quality of every article I wrote.

During our first two weeks at the field site Lindsay managed to set up work spaces at CSI, for those who wanted them. I can’t remember if it was by chance, or on purpose, but I ended up being assigned to the same room as the Outreach and Education Department’s other intern, Heidi. On our first day, as Parker and John explained their expectations and suggested projects for us to begin, I had no idea how much Heidi and I would end up working together. 

The first piece I produced for CSI’s website was an article about the first two weeks at the field site. I really enjoyed working on it, as it gave me the chance to get to know my peers. While working on this story I learned more about Meagan, another student that worked in the same room as Heidi and I. She too would become a centerpiece of the memories I created while working at this internship.

Lauren Colonair at Internship
I spent a lot of time at CSI, in my workspace, writing stories for the website.

Still, I was ready to write about research at CSI. John suggested I talk to three different researchers, including Dr. Kimberly Rogers. As I worked on the article about Dr. Roger’s research on sediment and resilience in Bangladesh, I found my love for science deepening and discovered a new hunger to learn about new fields of science I hadn’t previously contemplated. This hunger intensified as I moved onto my second piece, which focused on research being performed by Dr. Jim Morley on oyster leases. 

This second project is when Heidi and I really got to know each other. John and Dr. Morley’s PhD. student, Andrew McMains, were kind enough to set up a day for me and Heidi to join Andrew as he carried out field work for the research. This, however, required us to drive three hours to Morehead City, spend the day on a boat, and drive three hours back to Manteo. It was the absolute best day of the entire internship.

Field work with Andrew
Andrew showed us how to tag fish with acoustic trackers during our time in the field.

I am not saying Heidi, Meagan, and I did not enjoy our internship days at CSI, but this day was special. Heidi and I woke up very early, at least in my mind. I had learned Heidi wakes up before the sun on a regular basis, and she was more than happy to be starting our drive to meet Andrew. We talked for the entire three hours there and almost the entire three hours back. The work we did with Andrew not only gave me interesting content to write about, but it also revealed that I do really enjoy field work of all types. Something I wouldn’t have known if I wasn’t afforded the experience. 

In short, once the day was over I found myself with new knowledge to carry with me into my future academic and career oriented endeavors, but more importantly I gained a friend I intend to keep around. 

Still shot from Student Interview
One of our fellow students, Todd Davis, was kind enough to allow us to interview him for our YouTube videos.

I continued to write articles about the field site and assist Parker with social media content for CSI. I am in the process of finishing up my last research article, and to be completely honest, I wish it wasn’t so close to being over. Luckily, Heidi and I decided to work together to create two YouTube Videos for CSI’s page. We still have a lot to do, so I don’t have to think about the end just yet. 

The internship was, overall, an integral part of my experience at the field site. It allowed me to do something I love while learning about my field of study, broader scientific topics, and what I want in the future. Through the guidance of Parker and John I feel I have become a better writer and have learned how to present information to the public in a more streamlined manner. I was even lucky enough to work with people I really enjoyed and gain life long friends through the experience. I’m proud of what I have accomplished, but I will miss working at CSI with John, Parker, Heidi, and Meagan.

Lauren Colonair, Class of 2021