What Didn’t I Do: A Look into Environmental Consulting

The first time I met my mentor for this semester, it was during an APPLES Fall Break trip in the Fall of 2017. My APPLES group was helping them with a marsh restoration project along the waters surrounding the idyllic downtown Manteo. Below is a video recap of the project, where Warren describes the why and how. If you catch a glimpse of a blonde girl hauling oyster shells, that’s me!

My mentor, Warren Eadus, has a Bachelors in Science with a major in Geology from East Carolina University. Hearing him talk about all of the projects they worked on from many different environmental fields was so cool! Before this encounter, I had never even heard about environmental consulting.

Quible & Associates P.C., the firm that I interned at that Warren owns, is located in Powells Point in Currituck County. (Trust me, the drive is so worth it!) Quible works on a variety of planning, surveying, environmental science, and engineering projects for customers all over the Outer Banks. These customers can range from commercial, residential, nonprofit, federal and state, municipal, and industrial entities. A link to their website can be found below.

http://www.quible.com/index.php

I was thrilled to find out that the dress code was business casual (yes, this means jeans!) and I often found myself doing work outside of the office! I even got to go out with Brian Rubino, the Vice President of the firm, to Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge to map out an area for an oyster restoration project. Below, you’ll see me alongside Troy Murphy, the surveying king of Quible, walking around in succulents at Pea Island.

Troy and I surveying at Pea Island for an oyster reef restoration project.

In order to have more freedom going out into the field with everyone from the office, Warren was kind enough to buy me an OSHA HAZWOPER certification class. This certification allows me to go to hazardous sites with him for projects. For an example where this could be necessary, we went to a sand mine where toxic substances were spilled in the land, and Quible was responsible for making sure that these substances were removed properly. Below is a picture of the sand mine. I didn’t even know these existed!

Sand mine

Something that I thought was really great about working with Warren and everyone else at Quible, was that they really focused on what I wanted to get out of the internship. The project that I worked on the most at Quible utilized my love for data analysis, and really showed me where this takes you in the environmental field.This project is the Cape Currituck project.

Essentially, Quible is attempting to get the permitting needed to dredge a channel that would connect a pond on private property to the Albermarle Sound. Below, you can see the plat of the project.

Cape Currituck Project

Quible has been surveying and monitoring various parameters at this site for months. Below, you can see my mentor, Warren, out in the field gathering data for this project!

Warren Eadus

Below you can see one of the monitoring stations for this project. It’s crazy how even boring pictures of weather monitoring devices can turn out so pretty in the Outer Banks.

This data will be used to determine the effects on the two ecosystems if the channel were to be connected. In order to best model this, Quible is using a software called EDFC through a program called EE modeling systems. EDFC allows us to model the probable effects of connecting these two channels based on the data gathered by Quible.

The wiz behind this program is Brandon Harris, a civil engineer and ex-AP Calculus teacher  (which has really come in handy for this project sometimes!). It’s been a tough process, but an incredibly interesting one. Below, you can see our model so far.

EDFC model

My internship this semester has been on of the most rewarding parts of my Outer Banks Field Site experience. I have gotten an inside look at so many different environmental careers and tracks! If you want to be outside a ton, learn about an exciting field, and be around some really great people, definitely consider Quible for your internship in the Fall!

The Real Storm Came After Florence…

During our orientation at the OBX Field Site we participated in a group dynamics workshop in order to make us more comfortable with working in larger groups. This was particularly aimed at creating a more aware environment during our capstone work. The capstone is a large research project undertaken by OBXFS students every year. We learned about the different stages of group formation, as described by Bruce Tucker. They are Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing. As a collective, we realized we hit the storming phase after we got back from Florence.

Team development stages

The capstone is one project for all of the students at the field site. Our capstone this year is on wastewater in Nags Head. How does it affect the environment in storm water or by entering the groundwater? How do residents and business owners perceive it? Do people maintain their wastewater?

Our project is split into two groups: human dimensions and ecology. The human dimensions side is focusing on the people in Nags Head and what they think about the wastewater issues in this area through interviews. The ecology side is focusing on water samples to prove or disprove contamination.

So, essentially, all 13 of us in this 2018 class are tasked with completing one research project together. This might sound as though the process would become easier from more people, but with so many smart, determined, and independent pieces working together, we are bound to hit some road bumps.

It might seem daunting to take on all of this work, but we are more than determined to handle it as a team. Even more important, we still make time to hit the beach!

Chillin’ on the beach!

Perhaps spending even more time together could end poorly, but we are proving that fun activities outside the classroom are the best way to combat any ill feelings from the classroom!

Enjoying the sunset at Jockey’s Ridge after a full day  of capstone work!

From sitting around our kitchen table and figuring out each others’ love languages, to hitting the gym together, to playing cards while waiting for baby sea turtles to hatch, getting through this week has shown that we are capable of overcoming any storms thrown our way–take that, Florence!