Soil and Water

I’m Autumn and I’ve been interning with Ann Daisey, the Community Conservationist for Dare County, at the Dare County Soil and Water Conservation District. I’ve mainly been tasked with revamping the Dare County Soil and Water website. Ann needed some help collecting more information on things like cost share programs, stormwater best management practices, wetlands, native plants, etc. to add to the website. I only had minimal experience with webpages coming into this. I have taken a couple INLS classes at UNC and I have helped a personal friend with their own webpage. But that’s the cool thing about internships. You can have little to no experience coming into them. They are a great opportunity to explore your interests in a field that you haven’t experienced before, or haven’t experienced much.

The Dare County Soil and Water Conservation district helps property owners do voluntary conservation of our natural resources and to know what the needs of the environment in Dare County are. Ann provides assistance to businesses, homeowners, and municipalities with natural resource management, stormwater management, and water quality and soil erosion problems. She helps property owners by providing educational and technical assistance with things like implementing stormwater best management practices, soil testing, and other things like land surveying for soil smoothing. Some common stormwater best management practices in Dare County include: marsh sills, permeable pavement, rain barrels and rain gardens. Rain gardens are highly recommended by the Dare County Soil and Water Conservation District. Ann can offer advice on how to design and implement a rain garden including how to select the best vegetation for stormwater drainage. Rain gardens are easy to install, easy to maintain and cost effective. I had the opportunity to take part in a rain garden restoration project at Roanoke Island Festival Park in Manteo, NC.

Before planting my plant, I had to separate the roots. This is important because you want to make sure that the roots can branch out in the soil. I also planted a few needle rushes along the edge of the rain garden using a dibble to create holes in the ground. In the end, with everyone helping, it didn’t take long at all to restore this rain garden back to its full potential. When I returned to the rain garden a few days later, after a rain event, the rain garden was holding water (some of which it collects from a French drain leading to the area). Success!



Diving into field work. Literally.

This week started off like most others. Everyone attended their internships on Monday and classes on Tuesday (Coastal Resource Economics, Sustainable Coastal Management and Capstone). The Capstone session on Tuesday was very interesting. This was the point where we had most of the project figured out, teams were divided and we we’re planning on field sampling and interviewing on Friday. But before that, we have two more days to discuss…

Wednesday was a standard internship day for most. Thursday was an interesting, yet, kind of a long day. We came into class 30 minutes earlier than usual to kick-start the eventful day. Linda and Lindsay showed great concern for our tired brains by bringing in black coffee, pumpkin spiced coffee, cookies, doughnuts, and clementines. Side note: the cookies were not only gluten free, they were also dairy free, soy free and peanut free. Linda and Lindsay always do such a good job when it comes to catering to people’s dietary restrictions for any event.

We had our usual Coastal Resource Economics class that morning. Following that class, we were privileged to have a guest speaker, Dr. Bryan Giemza, Director of the Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, UNC Chapel Hill. Dr. Giemza has a background in environmental law but has since transitioned to working with archives at the library. He gave a presentation on sustainable archives and talked a bit about why people might choose to archive their resource(s) at the library. He mentioned things like: discoverability, safekeeping, and prestige.

We followed his presentation with two hands-on activities. (I) We read an excerpt from an interview and tried to interpret the meaning, the interviewee’s feelings, etc. Then we listened to the audio of that interview to see if we still felt the same way about the interview. I feel that the message was this:

Listening to someone talk can be very different from how we read their words on paper. When we conduct our interviews for our Capstone, it’s important that we listen with awareness so that we can correctly interpret what we hear. It’s also important to note that, what you read doesn’t always encompass an individual’s full range of emotions about a particular topic. Emotion can be more easily conveyed through conversation, than through text.

(II) Dr. Giemza had us explore the “Southern Oral History Program” webpage. Through the main splashpage ( you can access the interview database. Each student went into the database and typed in something that they thought was relevant to our Capstone. This exercise was cool because it really illustrated the scope of available topics that I didn’t necessarily think would exist in this database.

Lunch this day was catered by Freshfit Cafe of Nags Head. This is one of my favorite places to eat. They have a wide variety of vegetarian and vegan options. They really have something that will cater to almost anyone’s tastes and diet. I had the chickpea wrap. Yum! Also, their portobello mushroom burger is delicious, as well. Check it out next time you’re in the area!

Ecology class (Ecological Processes in Environmental Systems) was the last thing on the agenda for Thursday. Thankfully, Lindsay took us outside for class. Otherwise, I’m sure everyone was about ready to fall asleep inside. Class was jam-packed with paper presentations and nutrient cycling information.

Friday-the BIG day.
Friday was our first day of field work and interviewing. The students that decided to conduct the hydrological field work portion of the Capstone did that while the students that decided to conduct interviews for the human dimensions’ aspect of the project worked on that. I decided to go out into the field to collect water samples with a few other students and Lindsay. We gathered everything that we thought we would need in the field-we gathered some items that we didn’t end up needing and we didn’t bring some items that we later wished we had. Today was our first day of field sampling, so we were still learning…trial and error!

We sampled 3 surface water locations (ditches), 2 groundwater locations (wells) and the ocean-all of which were in Nags Head.

Some students put on boots and waders in order to get into the ditches to collect water samples in bottles and to obtain measurement using our YSI meters. The YSI meters gave us readings for salinity, conductivity, temperature and dissolved oxygen (DO). Some of the ditches had frogs, tadpoles, small fish, or even aquatic vegetation, like duckweed.

(pictured left to right: Harris Kopp and Emma Szczesiul)

Sampling from the groundwater wells was interesting because we had to use a bailer to pump the groundwater out.

(pictured left to right: Lindsay Dubbs and Emma Szczesiul)

Sampling the ocean was by far the most challenging due to all of the wave action. A few students ended up pretty wet by the end of it but poor Danesha Byron ended up soaked from head to toe after being knocked over twice by two waves!

(pictured left to right: Alex Kellogg, Danesha Byron, Emma Szczesiul and Emma Karlok)

(pictured left to right: Alex Kellogg, Emma Szczesiul, Danesha Byron, and Emma Karlok)

After collecting all of our field samples, we headed back to the lab. We prepped the samples to be tested for E. coli, enterococcus, and total coliform. We had to incubate the samples for 24 hours before reading them. We also filtered portions of our samples (see image below) and froze them so that we can test for nutrients at a later date.

As the 24 hour incubation period arrived, it was time to check the bacteria samples…on a Saturday.

We went into the lab on Saturday to read our samples and document the results. Let’s just say, I don’t think we we’re really all that surprised by what we discovered.

If you would like to find out more about what we found in the water this week and what we will find in the water of many more samples to come, then join us for our community Capstone presentation December 13, 2018 at 2pm at CSI! I’ll see you there!

-Autumn Pollard, class of 2020