Dare County Soil and Water Conservation District Internship

The Dare County Soil and Water Conservation District has been a great place to work for my internship this semester, despite not being sure who I am working for. The district is a county agency that is not even funded by the county but by the NC Coastal Federation and the State of North Carolina. Therefore I spent every Monday at the Coastal Federation offices in Wanchese and every other Wednesday at the Dare County satellite offices in Kitty Hawk. However the strange circumstances the that I operated under actually gave me a unique opportunity to get much more out of my time there than otherwise possible.

Each morning of my internship I headed in to my office for the day and settled in to work on my main project. Ann Daisey, my intrepid mentor for the semester and the only employee of the district, had me working on watershed restoration plan for the sound side beach at Jockey’s Ridge State Park. The only problem was that the plan itself, which she would submit the to EPA after I am long gone, was far to large a task for one intern a couple times a week. I therefore contributed what I could for the project, which was collecting and analyzing data for the watershed and getting the historical context for the area. This included collecting the bacterial data for the beach over the past 20 years, and then looking at the trends that cause the levels to rise so much as to cause a no swim advisory. In addition I collected historical aerial photographs to establish a baseline, created a stakeholder list for the whole watershed, and found zoning maps for the whole area.

The watershed restoration project wasn’t the only thing I did in my time with Ann. Spending much of my time at the Coastal Federation unexpectedly gave me look into the world of non-profits which I greatly appreciated. I even helped make the list of invitees to their economic development submit next year. In addition I helped out with another watershed project in southern shores, albeit in a much more reduced capacity. Some of the most interesting moments of my internship came from just being around the Coastal Federation and joining in on normal operations of the day. I helped educate some Manteo middle schoolers on water quality, and also helped bag oyster shells to be used in living shorelines projects. Little things like that, stuff that broke up the normal process of my main project, were some of the best parts of my time this semester.

The OBX Ghost Town

Last week we had our very last Capstone retreat. This time it was a day long journey south down the outer banks to the little town of Ocracoke and beyond. Along the way were stops at the Hatteras Lighthouse, the Orange Blossom Cafe (we couldn’t miss the infamously huge apple uglies), and NCCAT building in Ocracoke. But the main reason, at least in my view, for trek down south was across the Ocracoke inlet in the abandoned town of Portsmouth, NC.

Courtesy of our friend Alton of NCCAT, we were able make the trek over to the deserted island on a rattling old boat. Lindsay of course had made sure we were prepared, and then some, for the conditions on the island but everyone had just assumed that it was not nearly as bad as she described. After all, how could there be any mosquitos at the end of October, even if it is the Outer Banks?

So we arrive, having no real idea of what we are going to find on this island we didn’t know existed before last week. As we approached the village, one major characteristic stuck out; every building in the area were still in great condition. No one had lived there in over 40 years, but the park service had kept up the appearances of the place for visitors like us. Of course we understood the reasoning for the upkeep, as it was a very historically significant place, but at the same time it seemed to be some post-apocalyptic scene out of a TV show. The pristine graveyards definitely did not help the matter as well. All I could think about while entering the town was what it was like at night, and whether or not the ghosts that inevitably lived here were friendly.

And right on queue, I got dragged back to reality by mosquitos the size of quarters and a grin of Lindsay’s face that screamed, “I told you so”. We pressed on through the town and then into the woods following some trail that we had seen Alton disappear down. Finally we arrived at the life saving station, and realize that yes, this place can indeed get more creepy. An empty house full of replica lifesaving equipment was just the thing to get my mind going again. We went up to the top of the station where Alton had just cleared of wasps with nothing but a hat and took in the view of the whole island. The place was both beautiful and scary at the same time.

We stayed up there for a while, but eventually came down in order to make it back in time for the ferry. The boat ride went back as I sat back thinking about how lucky I am to be out here seeing things like this. We continued to do other things for the rest of the day, including doing actual Capstone work, but I was thinking the whole time when I’ll be able to spend the night in Portsmouth and see if my imagination was right.