Let’s talk trash (and recycling)

Fall greetings from the coast! OBXFS ’18 student Emma Szczesiul is sharing a post about her internship for the semester. 

Do you like to talk trash? And recycling? Do you like to see the inner workings of local government in a thriving coastal tourist town? I got to do all these things this semester as I had the pleasure of working at the Town of Nags Head for my internship!

As one of 2 OBXFS student interns for Holly White, the Principal Planner at the Town of Nags Head, I had the opportunity to work on preliminary work and feasibility studies on commercial recycling for the town. With no current commercial recycling program (through residential recycling is picked up every week), I worked with my fellow intern to take an inventory of commercial dumpster size, location, and route for all commercial trash pickup spots in Nags Head. And yes, this did involve waking up at 4:30AM and riding around in a garbage truck! With a current need to switch from side-load dumpsters to front-load dumpsters, the inventory was needed to see which businesses have not yet converted. This data will also be put into GIS for route-tracking and management, and allows for the town to see which businesses still need to make the switch.

Aside from trash duties, I was able to attend monthly Board of Commissioners meetings and get a feel for how local government works. As a special treat early on in the semester, I traveled to NC State to see Holly speak at the screening of Tidewater, a documentary that discusses sea level rise (SLR) and its impact on coastal areas and the military.

First day on the job!

My other day-to-day duties include communicating project updates to other team members, reviewing documents with Holly, researching materials when needed, and, like any good intern, making sure my mentor is well caffeinated (coffee, anyone?).

Looking back on this picture from my first day at work, I can’t believe how quickly the time has passed! From riding around in town cars to spending long days in the conference room going through files, I’m thankful for this opportunity for professional development and the kind, hard-working people I’ve met along the way.



Emma Szczesiul

OBXFS ’18 / UNC ’19

A little more sand falling through the glass…

Greetings from the OBX!

The temperatures are dropping, the days are getting shorter, the crowds have left the beach, and we blinked and found ourselves halfway through the semester. If you’re wondering where the time has gone, so are we.

With Fall Break closing out this week, it seems appropriate to take a step back and look at what we’ve accomplished so far here at the Field Site.

But first, some quick hits:

  • As our interviews for our capstone research project have picked up, we learned from Linda how to use NVivo, a qualitative data analysis software that helps us comb through and analyze our interviews.
  • Only one day of class and two days of internships last week- happy Fall Break!
  • Many of us were able to vote early while traveling for Fall Break. Whether you partake in early voting or go on election day (Nov. 6), don’t forget to get out to the polls. Your voice matters!
  • Fall break arrived just in time for some much needed respite before the crunch time of the semester begins. Within the coming weeks, we are cracking down on our Capstone research project through conducting more interviews, obtaining more field data, and combing through existing historical data.
  • To jump right back into things, our second CAB (Community Advisory Board) meeting of the semester is taking place tonight at the Coastal Federation office in Wanchese. We will be updating our CAB members on our research thus far through mini presentations, and seek their ever-welcome advice and critiques.

When I think back over the time we’ve had together thus far, I think it can best be broken into 3 parts:

Getting Hooked (On this place and on each other)

Myself (Emma Szczesiul) and classmate Emma Karlok enjoy a relaxing afternoon fishing on Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head with Kat Bell and Jenn Allen in the background. 



During the first few days on the OBX, we fished on Jennette’s Pier with our classmates and professors. We caught it, cleaned it, cooked it, and ate it! During these first few days and weeks, we learned more about our classmates and had great anticipation for what was to come. We found ourselves often saying, “We live here?! We go to school here?!” in disbelief.





Flash forward a month or so to our Corolla retreat where we are looking snazzy and settled in as a group.

Feeling Flustered (Together!)

This category is quite large… as we learned during our team building exercises during orientation, there are several stages to group development. We sometimes joke during intense research work sessions that we are “storming,” as it is one of the phases. Perhaps the best photo to represent this is this photo of me almost breaking a very expensive piece of lab equipment on our first day in the lab. Fun fact: this photo has made it into our hydrology research protocol as what NOT to do!

My face when I realized I almost broke the Quanti-Tray sealer, which we affectionally call the Panini Press. Also Conor, Lynn, and Marium looking at me in dismay (and laughter).

Feeling Content (Just not always with the weather…)

Hurricane Florence threw off our schedule and we’ve been working our way back ever since, but now that we are at the halfway point in the semester, it really does feel great to look back at what we’ve done. We’ve finalized our research plan, started conducting interviews and collecting field data, completed a good amount of classwork (some of which I need to complete after this blog post…) and have grown both individually and as a group.

The weather has also proved difficult with our sampling, as we are hoping to experience a storm event to research how it affects our water sampling locations (stormwater + septic systems = gross). So far there hasn’t been a rainstorm deemed gnarly enough, but we’re feeling hopeful.

I’d like to finish off this post with one of my favorite pictures which was taken the night before we evacuated for hurricane Florence. We went to our favorite sunset spot, at the North End of Roanoke Island, and enjoyed some time together before we left for an unknown amount of time.

Alex and Kat taking in the views on our last night in Manteo pre-Florence.

This also seems like an appropriate time to give a shoutout to our professors and the staff at CSI for making this experience so meaningful for us. You guys work so hard and do so much for us, and it has not gone without notice! Looking forward to finishing out the semester strong.

Cheers to the next half being as good as the first!

Emma Szczesiul

OBXFS ’18, UNC ’19