The northeast office of the North Carolina Coastal Federation is where I have been interning this semester. The organization as a whole promotes a healthy coastal environment that supports thriving coastal communities. The northeast office in particular focuses on issues specifically in this region and educating local students. Beyond the region, there are staff that also look more broadly at oysters in North Carolina, including my mentor, Erin Fleckenstein, who is also the manager of the Northeast Regional Office. As an intern under her direction, my focus was on oyster mariculture in the state.
I was tasked with researching the environmental effects and dependencies of oyster growing and making a fact sheet that could communicate the key information about oysters. I also worked on building a database of oyster growers and oyster-focused restaurants that the Coastal Federation is in relationship with so that they can better organize with them in the future. I used this database to start profiling oyster growers and farmers for “On the Half Shell“, the Coastal Federations’ quarterly publication on oysters in the state. I also assisted with another ongoing oyster project by researching the strategies for monitoring water quality for ensuring the safety of grown oysters in different states. Below is a photo of me sitting in my work area of the Northeast office, where I worked on these projects.
In addition to the previously mentioned projects, I engaged in some office wide activities. Because my internship days were on Mondays, I was able to attend the weekly staff meetings and get a better sense for what all of the office was doing and give some input on that coordination. I also sat in on one of the meetings to refine and establish goals for the next year. In addition to those events in the office, I joined the Northeast office in traveling to Raleigh to attend the 2017 Albemarle-Pamlico Ecosystem Symposium. There I had the opportunity to hear about the latest research and efforts related to monitoring and managing environmental issues in this unique region.
For the first two weeks of our semester, we were on an orientation schedule in which classes did not meet regularly and we were guided through trips and presentations that acquainted us with our surroundings and our course of study and also encouraged us to take time to explore the area ourselves. Here are several of the elements of orientation that were most meaningful to me.
First Day Activities
Our very first day at the Coastal Studies Institute coincided with the solar eclipse. We all got eclipse glasses and were able to watch from the front patio of the building. We observed as the sky changed shade to a deeper blue, the vegetation cast crescent-shaped shadows, and our own shadows on the concrete started to look a bit fuzzy. Supposedly we viewed over ninety percent of the sun being covered by the moon, though that meant we still had to keep our glasses on the whole time and it never really got close to darkness.
Shortly after the peak of the eclipse we drove out to Jennette’s Pier where we participated in a class called “Catch it, Clean it, Cook it”. We learned how to fish from the pier and fish that we caught that were big enough to eat were saved for preparation and consumption on site. I caught two fish that were not suitable for eating and threw them back in the water. India was lucky enough to catch two sizable atlantic spadefish. Since then, some groups of students have taken trips back to the beach next to Jennette’s Pier to catch ghost crabs after dark and to watch a world-class professional surfing competition.
Roanoke Island Exploration
One of our tasks during orientation was to do a photo scavenger hunt that prompted us to familiarize ourselves with the human ecology of the area. A unique part of my experience at the field site is that I do not have a car. Because I wanted to work on this project independently, most of my photos were taken on a kick scooter trip I took around Manteo. We were prompted to find evidence of development pressure; my response is below.
As previously mentioned, I do not have a car this semester and while it is easy to hitch a ride with a classmate in the mornings to the Coastal Studies Institute or elsewhere at other times, I sometimes do want to travel on my own or get in a little exercise on the commute. Until this year, it was not feasible for students to bike to CSI due to the lack of an adequate shoulder past the Highway 64 Bypass. Now a path is finally completed that runs from the Dare County Government Complex to CSI entirely on trails and back roads. Back in Chapel Hill last semester, Lindsay brought up this exciting development and I was eager to check it out as soon as possible. Even before I arrived in Manteo, I looked online for a map to see where the trail was and how I could navigate it. There were no maps or directions on the Dare County website or popular map sites like Google Maps or TrailLink I could not even find any mention of the trail in local news or public records online. Fortunately, Tara had already scouted out the trail early in the first week, I think with the help of one of our instructors, and she was able to show me the way. Still, I wish there was more publicly available information about this wonderful trail so that it could be used by people who need to commute to CSI as well as fitness and nature enthusiasts. I decided to make a map of the route from the Friends of Elizabeth II Guesthouse, where we live, to the Coastal Studies Institute. It is relatively simple right now and mainly includes the turns and landmarks, but I have taken photos along the route as well and would like to include them eventually. I hope to also submit the data I have collected and will continue to collect for inclusion in the trail databases I had previously searched unsuccessfully.