An OBXFS Internship: A Love for Writing and Science

I had just arrived in Manteo, with my family, one day before I was to move into the guest house with the other students. I went onto the balcony of the hotel to take a call, as my younger brother complained about the quality of the Wi-Fi in our room. He, of course, did not see a need to stop while I answered the phone. 

Cory was calling to talk to me about my internship placement, he told me I would be working with Parker Kellam and John McCord in CSI’s Public Outreach and Education Department. He explained that I would be writing content for the CSI website about current research while also providing insight into the field site. I remember telling him that the placement sounded perfect and that I was excited to start. My mom, who is always more excited than me about everything, was eagerly waiting to hear what I was going to be doing. I believe my exact words to her were, “science writing.” Of course I went on to give her more detail and basically repeat what Cory had told me, but I realized I still had no idea what I was about to embark on.  

Nonetheless, I was excited that I would be writing. I have always loved to write, in fact for a very short time in middle school I had convinced myself I was going to make a living writing fictional novels. I’ll admit, I still daydream about locking myself in a cabin somewhere in the woods to create the next best-selling fiction series, but my passion for the environment always wins out. Which is why the prospect of combining my love for writing and science into one thing brought a smile to my face even before I really knew what was going on. 

Lauren and Heidi Working
Heidi and I coordinated on many projects over the semester. Having her around added to the quality of every article I wrote.

During our first two weeks at the field site Lindsay managed to set up work spaces at CSI, for those who wanted them. I can’t remember if it was by chance, or on purpose, but I ended up being assigned to the same room as the Outreach and Education Department’s other intern, Heidi. On our first day, as Parker and John explained their expectations and suggested projects for us to begin, I had no idea how much Heidi and I would end up working together. 

The first piece I produced for CSI’s website was an article about the first two weeks at the field site. I really enjoyed working on it, as it gave me the chance to get to know my peers. While working on this story I learned more about Meagan, another student that worked in the same room as Heidi and I. She too would become a centerpiece of the memories I created while working at this internship.

Lauren Colonair at Internship
I spent a lot of time at CSI, in my workspace, writing stories for the website.

Still, I was ready to write about research at CSI. John suggested I talk to three different researchers, including Dr. Kimberly Rogers. As I worked on the article about Dr. Roger’s research on sediment and resilience in Bangladesh, I found my love for science deepening and discovered a new hunger to learn about new fields of science I hadn’t previously contemplated. This hunger intensified as I moved onto my second piece, which focused on research being performed by Dr. Jim Morley on oyster leases. 

This second project is when Heidi and I really got to know each other. John and Dr. Morley’s PhD. student, Andrew McMains, were kind enough to set up a day for me and Heidi to join Andrew as he carried out field work for the research. This, however, required us to drive three hours to Morehead City, spend the day on a boat, and drive three hours back to Manteo. It was the absolute best day of the entire internship.

Field work with Andrew
Andrew showed us how to tag fish with acoustic trackers during our time in the field.

I am not saying Heidi, Meagan, and I did not enjoy our internship days at CSI, but this day was special. Heidi and I woke up very early, at least in my mind. I had learned Heidi wakes up before the sun on a regular basis, and she was more than happy to be starting our drive to meet Andrew. We talked for the entire three hours there and almost the entire three hours back. The work we did with Andrew not only gave me interesting content to write about, but it also revealed that I do really enjoy field work of all types. Something I wouldn’t have known if I wasn’t afforded the experience. 

In short, once the day was over I found myself with new knowledge to carry with me into my future academic and career oriented endeavors, but more importantly I gained a friend I intend to keep around. 

Still shot from Student Interview
One of our fellow students, Todd Davis, was kind enough to allow us to interview him for our YouTube videos.

I continued to write articles about the field site and assist Parker with social media content for CSI. I am in the process of finishing up my last research article, and to be completely honest, I wish it wasn’t so close to being over. Luckily, Heidi and I decided to work together to create two YouTube Videos for CSI’s page. We still have a lot to do, so I don’t have to think about the end just yet. 

The internship was, overall, an integral part of my experience at the field site. It allowed me to do something I love while learning about my field of study, broader scientific topics, and what I want in the future. Through the guidance of Parker and John I feel I have become a better writer and have learned how to present information to the public in a more streamlined manner. I was even lucky enough to work with people I really enjoyed and gain life long friends through the experience. I’m proud of what I have accomplished, but I will miss working at CSI with John, Parker, Heidi, and Meagan.

Lauren Colonair, Class of 2021 

Making the Best of It

This week, Lindsay made a comment that filled me with more emotions than any one phrase has in quite some time; “We are more than halfway through the semester.” I sat there, at the metal picnic table I’ve sat at all semester, and stared at her. Thankfully, my mask hid my astonished expression. 

The first rush of emotion was fear. There were many terrifying thoughts swirling through my mind. How were we, a group of ten students, going to finish collecting all our data for our capstone, analyze it, write a whole report on it, and finish our classes in less than two months. At that moment, it seemed close to impossible. 

Following the fear was sadness. I scanned the outdoor space we call our classroom, taking in all the faces around me, faces that, despite our masks, have become familiar. Each of the nine other people I have shared this experience with has made their own unique mark on my life. We will be leaving to walk down our own individual paths, yet again, in such a short amount of time. Although I know we all have exciting and bright futures waiting for us, as I heard Lindsay’s words, I realized I was not ready to let go of the present experience.

One of the best parts of living here is the countless opportunities to walk along the beach.

The last emotion I felt was a huge rush of excitement. The thought of all the crazy and cool stuff we will have the opportunity to do in the next few weeks brought a smile to my face. I feel as if there is an astronomical chance we will not find any significant scientific conclusions through the work we have done, but we get to try. That in itself is enough for me, we get to finally start putting together something to show everyone how hard we have worked this semester. And we have worked hard, every single one of the people here has put in extra time and effort they didn’t necessarily need to at some point or another.

All of this brought me to one singular goal for the remainder of my time here. Since August, I have had awesome experiences and have gotten a lot out of being here. However, for these last two months I want to make a conscious effort to make the best of my time here. The days following Lindsay’s terrifying, but true, statement brought many opportunities to do just that. 

Heidi and I spent a day near Cedar Island, as part of our internships, assisting a PhD. student with some field work.

This past Wednesday was an internship day. I have been interning with the Public Engagement and Outreach Department at CSI as a science journalism intern, all semester. I’ve enjoyed my time in this role immensely, however I was exhausted when I woke up and not exactly excited to go into work. (This is a dangerous thing to say because my mentor may very well read this) However, as I begrudgingly climbed into my car to make the eight minute trek from the guest house to CSI, I remembered what internship days met; I was spending the day with Heidi and Meagan.

We are all efficient and focused workers, but we find time to have fun too. My favorite conversations have been over our lunch as we discuss the existence of intelligent extraterrestrial life, conspiracy theories, comical YouTube videos, and so much more. I walked into CSI that day knowing I would have more of those conversations and I was going to create even more great memories connected to CSI and OBXFS. 

On Thursday, I was still very tired. (I am not exactly sure why I had absolutely no energy this week, but it is a common theme that has thankfully come to an end this weekend.) Class started that day at 9:30 AM. I woke up at 9:25 AM to Bri, whom I drive to CSI everyday, pounding on my door yelling for me to wake up. In quite the panic I got ready in seven minutes and drove us to class as fast as I safely could. 

During that drive, I have never been happier that Bri is the chaotic sweetheart that she is. All the way to class she bombarded me with jokes about our current situation. During class, I took in the beautiful sound side views that have been the backdrop of our academic work. I let myself reflect on how lucky our little group is to be here at this exact moment. We, unlike many people in school right now, get to study in person, interact with our classmates and professors, and do real work. No number of days that start off rocky could ever overshadow the gift we have been given by getting to be here. 

Collecting water samples, for our capstone, in the rain is actually kind of fun.

On the way home I found myself feeling even luckier to have the people I have to share this time with. There are people who may have reacted with anger towards my inability to be on time that morning. Bri found a way to make the best of the situation. She filled the morning with humor and was entirely relaxed the whole time. Like every other student here, she was selfless and I was reminded that I wouldn’t want to be here with any other group of people. 

Friday brought with it another field trip day filled with excitement and interesting lessons about the Outer Banks. We learned about the economic and community shaping dynamics of bridges and other infrastructure, the ecology of the northern side of the Outer Banks, and how coastal management decisions affect the future. We stopped at the Hatteras Lighthouse and discussed the decision to move it, along with the implications of that undertaking. At the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station we learned about the history of the area and how it has informed the current lifestyles now present.

This field trip gave me the opportunity to observe on how important our instructors are to the experience of this place. Lindsay, Linda, and Andy have demonstrated a desire for every student to learn and enjoy the semester that is more obvious than any other professor I have interacted with in the past. During lunch on Friday, Andy sat with Natalie, Heidi, and I and talked about our lives, experiences at UNC, and peppered in academic and life advice wherever he could. It was clear through the entire conversation that he really cared. I noticed, throughout the day, that Lindsay was always ready with water, snacks, and general questions aimed at making sure everyone was ready to move forward and having a good time. I’m sure part of this is her mothering instincts, but I know we all feel cared for and comfortable when she is around. Linda spent the day providing humor at just the right times, she always ensures the group’s spirits remain high. 

Andy gave a short talk about the economic impacts of infrastructure, like bridges, in front of the Herbert C. Bonner bridge. This bridge sits over Oregon Inlet and is the only way to get into Hatteras by car.

I spent the weekend working on assignments and tasks for the upcoming week all while finding time to enjoy the people around me. I found myself on a six hour Netflix binge with Todd and Janis on Saturday night. We shared countless jokes, great conversations, and created new memories that will definitely remain some of my favorites when I look back on this time.

Our tour guide at the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station told us many amazing stories about the beginnings of life-saving on the Outer Banks.

In short, all of us who have experienced OBXFS this semester could not be more fortunate to be here. We don’t have much time left, but we have so many more opportunities to make the best of this place. We all have each other’s backs, maybe more than any other field site in the past due to the circumstances we find ourselves currently in. Everyone works hard, and even though we have a lot more to accomplish, I know we can do it and do it well.   

I was not sure where I wanted to take this post when I sat down to write it, but now that I’ve reached the end, I’ve realized I simply wanted to convey that OBXFS is a great place to be. This past week has allowed me to come to that realization more conclusively. I wanted to give a glimpse into life here to encourage anyone who may find themselves on this page and consider coming to this program to do so. My semester here happened to fall during a pandemic and as a result it would be a lie to say we got the full experience of this place, still, I have never found myself in an academic or social environment quite like this one. 

In conclusion, thank you to my amazing classmates who have now become my amazing friends, and thank you to our incredible instructors for not only teaching us new things and caring about us as they do, but for dealing with our antics in general. I can’t wait to finish this experience with all of you.  

While we have kayaked in many places now, the Buffalo City paddle in Alligator River was one of the most unique areas.

Justice on the Outer Banks

My name is Caroline Pharr, I am a Senior at UNC Chapel Hill majoring in Environmental Studies and minoring in Public Policy. During my Fall 2020 semester, I am studying at the OBX Field Site, at the Coastal Studies Institute in Skyco, North Carolina. Part of my study program is an internship that began on August 24th. 

Outside of the Dare County Justice Center

I am interning at the Dare County Justice Center, in the Assistant District Attorney’s Office in Manteo, North Carolina. My internship mentor is Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Karpowicz Bland, a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill and UNC law school.

During my time interning with Assistant District Attorney Bland I have been able to  experience working in criminal justice while getting an insight for the demands of the position.  Assistant District Attorney Bland is dedicated to her role as a prosecutor and to serving in the Dare County Court system. While working and learning from the office, I have a greater understanding of how criminal justice law is practiced, and a profound appreciation for the work that the people in this office perform everyday for the Dare County community. 

Caroline Pharr leaving to go to her internship 

This Fall Semester has been like no other, being that we are taking classes and working on internships during a global pandemic. At the Dare County Justice Center, court is in session and social distancing measures are in place. When I go to my internship, I walk through the front doors with my mask on, and before I can walk through the metal detector, I have to stop and get my temperature checked. These safety measures are to help protect the public from the spread of COVID-19 .

Officer Jack Palmer in the lobby of the Dare County Justice CenterOfficer Jack Palmer in the lobby of the Dare County Justice Center

Additional safety measures include reduced seating in the courtroom, mandatory masks while inside the courtroom, and the District Attorney Office is closed to the public.  

While working in the District Attorney Office everyday is different, in the morning I could be analyzing a new case file, then that afternoon I would be doing research on legal statutes and precedents.  Many of the cases that I have been working on are related to drug crimes. While at my internship, I have been learning about the  issues that are problematic in the Dare County community. Drug related crimes are some of the most prevalent issues on the docket at the Justice Center.  These are issues that are not just happening in Dare County, but State and Nation wide as well. 

As part of my internship, my mentor assigned me as a research project on a new North Carolina law called HB 474/SB 375 Death by Distribution. This new law has been in effect as of December 2019, which would make it a felony to sell certain controlled substances to someone who dies by ingesting them. My task for this research project is to write a report about how this law is being used in North Carolina, what qualifies a person to be tried by the new law, and how it will affect the Dare County community. 

Dare County is my home. Having the opportunity to be able to work at the Assistant District Attorney’s Office with my mentor has not just helped me understand how I want to work in law, but has also shown me about the issues that are hurting my community that I had not understood the full extent of before.  

In environmental studies, we study the relationship between people and the planet, how the needs of people need to be met and balanced with the resources of our planet. We study how good public policy that protects the health and safety of people is also good for the environment. 

“Plans to protect air and water, wilderness and wildlife are in fact plans to protect man.”

                                                                                                                                  —Stewart Udall

Protection of our beaches and waters are an integral part to a healthy community, as is protecting the health of the community is an integral part of protecting our coastal ecosystems.  As someone who is passionate about the environment and protecting it, having the experience working in legal and policy enforcement at the Justice Center has given me an insight that I would not have been able to experience if not for this program. Environment health and public health are not separate.  They can only be as strong as their weakest link.  

~ Caroline Pharr (Class of 2021)



Because Who Doesn’t Want a Class Cheat Sheet?

Oh yeah, this is your campus building
Oh yeah, this is your campus building

It happens to everyone. You take a risk and sign up for a class and you have literally have no idea what to expect. What even is The Reel World?

That first day of walking into the unknown is full of anxiety, maybe even a small ball of dread right in the pit of your stomach. Should you drop the class now and save yourself the stress? Oh man, what if the teacher hands you a 10-page paper due that same day. Or even worse, speaks in a monotone voice (collective internal groan).

Like I said friends, we’ve all been there before.

In order to alleviate this pesky dread ball, I’m providing you with a brief cheat guide to the classes here at OBXFS. Spoiler Alert: they’re actually really good classes.

So this is Andy
So this is Andy

First up to bat: economics. For me, this meant a huge yuck when I heard I had to take an econ class. But, it’s taught by Andy Keeler, who is probably one of the most interesting individuals I’ve met thus far. The man worked for the president when the whole climate change fiasco hit the country, and he has some pretty funny/insane stories to tell. He’s also in a band that you should definitely make a point to hear while you’re at the field site. They can do a mean cover of Budapest! Back to the class. Honestly, the workload is totally manageable and huge perk, he does activities with candy rewards. Man oh man, I’ve never focused so hard for class in my life. This one time we went fishing with paperclips… Well, I’ll let that one be a surprise. More incentives to come to the OBXFS! There’s a ton of reading, par to pretty much any UNC class, but the textbook is interesting and doesn’t make you want to burn it (insert applause). I’ve also personally learned a lot from the class, which is saying something because me an economics have never been too friendly. More like arch nemeses actually… But learning about economics in relation to the environment is pretty neat.

Isn't she awesome?
Isn’t she awesome?

Next up is law and policy. Let me just tell you, Lee Leidy is one of the most sweetest, good-hearted people. She frequently comes to class laden with muffins, donuts, and apples just for the heck of it. Awesome right?! She works for a law firm in Elizabeth City so it’s kind of hard to picture her standing up in court tearing up the competition. But the woman knows her stuff and she absolutely loves what she does. I’ve learned a lot just from the simple fact that she’s passionate and really knows how to get the information across. She does however grade you on participation so if you’re not used to talking in class, it can be a bit of a struggle at first. Pro tip, if you read the assignments beforehand, it’s pretty easy to participate in the case discussions. Plus, she really cares about what you have to say. The subject matter covers an array of coastal issues and why you can go sit out on your beach chair and sunbathe in NC. Neat, huh?

Lindsay and Corey keepin' us on track
Lindsay and Corey keepin’ us on track

The last class is coastal ecology, which is my favorite because I’m a total science geek. Lindsay Dubbs teaches the course and covers a pretty big range of information about coastal environments. Plus, Fridays are lab days, which consist of exploring different coastal environments to go along with what we’ve been learning about in class. Hands-on learning is the best learning. Hands down… See what I did there? Anyways, it’s difficult to understand how dynamic and intricate the coast is until you’re immersed in learning about it, which is exactly what this class does. It’s fairly reading intensive and you’ll have a few quizzes and presentations, but overall not too bad. Lindsay geeks out about nature as much as I do, so I really appreciate how much she loves this stuff. She’s involved in like a million research projects so she’s pretty much superwoman and knows everything… And if she doesn’t know, she will find out. Hence, super great education!

Yup. This would have been us
Yup. This would have been us

While the capstone is technically research and not a class, I consider it a course just because of how much I’ve learned in the process. Lindsay and Linda D’Anna both lead the project and have taught us a crash course in natural and social science research. I’m not going to sugar coat it; doing collaborative research is hard work. It’s not just learning everything you can about what you’re studying through literature review, it’s also learning to work with a group of people to move forward with the project. And let me tell you, being Chapel Hill students, saying we’re a bit driven is an understatement. So it can turn into rough waters at times. But, seeing your hard work progress to actual data and results is so incredibly rewarding. I promise you won’t be disappointed. Yes it will make you want to gouge your eyeballs out sometimes, but just stay strong and keep the finish line in mind. A huge shoutout to Linda and Lindsay for putting up with our overachieving streak, our 5-hour discussions, and our exasperation. Seriously, they were the only things keeping us from derailing and exploding into a fiery wreck sometimes.

So, those are the courses you’ll be taking here at the OBXFS. Now there should be no first day sweats or surprises. You’ll learn a ton, see even more, and be up to your eyeballs in everything coastal.

By the way, this is the view from the classroom. What?!
By the way, this is the view from the classroom. What?!

Seriously though, I’ve learned more here than I probably have in an entire year at UNC. It’s awesome being taught by such passionate people. You’re also in a super small classroom so they know who you are, they’re there whenever you need them, and they actually care if you understand what they’re teaching. But if you oversleep, they will call your butt to get you to class. Just a friendly forewarning.


Oh, and I almost forgot the best part. You can study on the beach. Need I say more?


XOXO An OBXFS Student Keeping Away that Pesky Anxiety

Best Field Trip EVER

Now that is a day well spent
Now that is a day well spent

So, I recently just went on the coolest field trip of my nearly 16 years of schooling. Jeez that makes me feel old…

Christy showing proper paddle technique
Christy showing proper paddle technique

For our ecology class, Lindsay took us kayaking up Lake Drummond, one of two freshwater lakes in Virginia, to learn about coastal wetland habitats. For those of you who have never been to the Great Dismal Swamp (where Lake Drummond is located), 10 out of 10 would recommend. It’s absolutely ah-mazing.

Also, shoutout to Lindsay for being in her third trimester of pregnancy and kayaking for about 9 miles. Future life goals right there.

Fun history fact: back in the day, people used the word dismal to refer to swamps, so “dismal swamp” literally means swamp swamp. Things in life that make you go hmm…

Bland teaching on the go
Bland teaching on the go

Speaking of history, Bland Simpson, a professor at UNC Chapel Hill, led our wetlands tour and made it even more of a great experience than it already was. The man is a natural born storyteller. He even has his own bonafide book about the Great Dismal Swamp and everything. Some of the stories he told from his time there are pretty interesting and hilarious as well. If you ever meet him, definitely ask about the bear and the tiny little car!


So, during this adventure, we paddled up the lake canals about 3 and a half miles, had lunch at a charming little picnic locale, and then paddled about another half a mile to the lake basin.

Fun ecology fact (man it was an interesting day): Lake Drummond is a pocosin, or swamp on a hill, which means that it’s at a higher elevation than the rest of the area; so this big circular lake can drain into the canals and then flow into the ocean because it happen to form “on a hill.” What?!

See what great pictures you make when you smile Brady?
See what great pictures you make when you smile Brady?

Back to us on the lake, it was gorgeous. Like, one of those moments in life that make you pause and really appreciate how incredible nature is. We paddled out into this huge open, circular expanse of water with the opposite shoreline a mere pinpoint on the other side.

It was like being in a big, tea-colored swimming pool. Except way cooler because well, nature.


IMG_4964Once we tired ourselves out from paddling around like maniacs, we all gathered together in a kayak tortilla and Bland read us a ballad written by Thomas Moore about a ghost story on the swamp. Because who doesn’t love a good ghost story?!

I mean…probably not late at night in the dark but it was totally fine while the sun was shining and I was in the middle of our kayak group. So I’m kind of a wimp?

Also, the ballad is called A Ballad: The Great Dismal Swamp. The title is lacking a bit of originality, but it’s a great ballad as far as ballads go. Or at least I thought so.

Nature's so cool!
“Nature’s so cool!”

Afterwards, he talked about how important the wetlands were, the history of the swamp, and how he spent a huge portion of his life studying them. It was incredibly interesting and awesome to be able to physically see what he was talking about. I now have quite an appreciation for how important and misunderstood these areas are.

Whew. I’m telling you, this field site gets me fired up about the environment.


Just taking a casual break from learning
Just taking a casual break from learning

But anyways, that’s how we spent our Friday- kayaking and learning about the environment around us. Then we all went home, ate anything we could get our hands on, and passed out by 10 o’clock. Learning’s hard work…




XOXO Someone Who Just Developed a New Found Love of Kayaking

The Who’s Who at OBXFS

So when I was considering what to write about for this week’s blog post, I realized that while I’ve been saying the names of the students in the field site with me, most people have no idea who they are. And that’s unfortunate…because they’re awesome. So here’s the low-down on the 9 other students who I see almost 24 hours a day. We’re so close, I know them by their footsteps down the hallway. Wow that sounds creepy…


They’re probably also going to kill me for this, but hey, I get a blogger’s pass! Right…?


AnnaFirst off, Anna Brodmerkel. Super embarrassing secret, it took me 2 weeks to figure out how to say her last name. Anna is the initiator/organizer of our group. In layman’s terms, she gets our butts in gear and makes sure we’re on track for our hectic schedules. Which is a chore because we’re kind of a lot to handle most of the time. We’d be lost without her. She has also helped us be super active in the community and do cool things like pumpkin picking. Plus she’s ridiculously sweet, sassy, and funny. And she’s always game for going to hang out on the beach with me so she’s awesome.



Caitlin2Caitlin Seyfried is the surprise of the group. It took a few weeks for all of us to realize just how funny and sassy this girl is. And let me tell you, I’ve had some pretty serious laughing fits at her under the radar comments; they’ll come out of nowhere though and when you least expect it, so you’ve always got to be ready. Fun fact, this girl can bake. I’m talking bread that will make you forget your mama’s name, but only for like .25 seconds so don’t be alarmed. She also gets incredibly hyper at night, which kind of freaks me out and impresses me all at the same time. Like, the girl goes on night runs sometimes because she has so much energy. What?


EmmaEmma Boyd is definitely the thoughtful one of the family. She got up the other morning at 6 a.m. and baked cookies for us all before we went on a field trip. Emma also biked across the United States so she’s pretty much kick-butt. I’m just saying. Speaking of cookies, she’s the other residential chef in the group. Pizza, soups, and oh my gah, her cinnamon rolls. And I’m not just saying that because I’m a strong advocate for cinnamon; they’ll literally change your life. She’s also super funny. And sassy. Notice the common sass trend?



ChristyChristy Korzen is Miss Optimist. She’s my suite-mate so I’m luckily a subject to her optimism every day. No matter what situation arises, she throws a positive spin on it. Thanks, love! This girl also sings all the time. In the car, in her room, walking up the stairwell… She joined a local chorus group at the OBX so it’s a pretty big passion of hers. Oh and one of her favorite movies is Les Miserables so we were pretty much destined to be friends.



Brady2Brady Blackburn is the sweetheart of our little family. He’s game to try or do anything with us, and doesn’t even complain when he’s got a car full of girls begging him to play Taylor Swift on the radio. Bless his soul. Fun fact, he lost two of his teeth to an unfortunate incident with a golf club wielded by his brother and he frequently loses “his teeth” around the house. It’s been 2 months and hearing that still cracks me up. He’s also going to kill me for sharing that haha… But anyways, he’s the best.



ClaireClaire Johnson is just multifaceted. She’s incredibly sweet and thoughtful. Plus she loves coffee as much as I do and is a speed demon, so we’re pretty much kindred spirits. She also helps keep us on track during classes and research. She’ll be real with us, which is what we need most of the time. (We tend to get a bit rowdy). And she can throw some sass. I’m telling you, this group is filled with sass-masters.



indexHolly Roberts is our feisty one. You never truly know what she’s going to do next. Which keeps things super fun. And she loooves cats. Her cat Salsa is her baby. Super fun fact, this girl can knit like nobody’s business. She made a Teridactyl that was freaking awesome! She’s also game to watch movies with me all the time and do awful workouts in the backyard, so I love her.



NicNic Reschly is the jokester of the group. Big time. I rarely see the guy not playing around, but he keeps conversations that can get pretty monotonous, lively. That and you never really know what’s going to come out of the boy’s mouth. He’s also an avid, avid hunter and fisher. Looking at his Instagram is like looking at a fishing magazine. Being the house beach native, he grew up around the ocean so it’s a huge passion for him; as is surfing.



CokerCoker Holmes is also the wildcard. You never know what he’s going to do or say. He’s one of the 3 seniors as well so he’s a frequent traveler to Chapel Hill during the weekends. He’s also puts all of us to shame by donning a suit for internship (he’s with a law office this semester). Secret fact: he cooks frequently but has set off the fire alarm once and has almost set it off a few times so we keep a careful eye on him. But that’s on the down low.



I could write pages on just how awesome and unique these people are, but I feel like that may be overkill. We’re a diverse group and we cut up pretty much all day every day, much to the exasperation of Lindsay. But, we have fun. These people have become close friends to me and they’ve helped make this semester ah-mazing. And the fun will continue when I’m living with some of them next year!


For all those thinking about the field site, you’ll probably make some kick-butt friends/partners in crime so reason number 8,605 to come here! Not real crime…just some devious activities. But nothing too bad… No worries.



CinnamonXOXO   The resident reporter

CAB Meetings? Are We Learning About a Taxi Service?

Thankfully, no. I don’t even know what that would look like…


When I began my OBXFS journey, I had no idea what a “CAB” was. Yeah, they said it’s a community advisory board but what does that even mean? After the first couple of meetings, I found that the people we meet with give us a real insider’s view on the local perspective, which was an enormous help with our Capstone project. Plus, it’s pretty cool just learning about the Outer Banks from a non-touristy point of view.


To really show what the meetings are all about, here’s a synopsis of the last powwow.


So we arrived and socialized for about half an hour, learning everyone’s names (aka re-learning because this is the fourth time meeting them and I suck at remembering people’s names yet they mercifully take pity on me and keep introducing themselves) and caught up on the local gossip. They also love hearing about what we’re doing and they all lead super interesting lives so it’s fun listening to what they’re involved in.


Then, all of us students presented what we’ve done with the capstone research since the last meeting, what we hope to get done, and answered any questions the CAB members may have. During this particular presentation, they helped us come up with a list of people we could contact and interview for the social science aspect of our project. The great thing about the meeting is seeing their perspective on things: what locals may be thinking, people we should talk to, and other avenues we may consider. Most of the people have lived a large portion of their life here so they know what’s up and have connections. Kinda like the mafia… the in-the-name-of-science mafia.


When all is said and done and we convinced them and ourselves we’re making some type of progress, we (insert trumpets and disco lights) ate a free dinner. So far, the food has been spec-tacular. Like, go back for seconds and sometimes thirds if you planned ahead and didn’t eat all day to save room kinda good. This week, it was BBQ, slaw, mac and cheese, and salad. And they always have vegetarian options, so everybody’s happy. Plus, don’t even get me started on dessert. If you’ve read my later post, you know it’s a soft spot for me and lets just say, I have not been disappointed.


After dinner, it’s up to the hosts to decide what’s next. This week’s meeting found us all gathered around Albert Gard hearing childhood stories of growing up on the Outer Banks, unsolved ghost ship tales, and how WWII affected the coast. Yes, he did insert dramatic pauses and yes, it was some grade-A story telling. I was sitting on the edge of my seat at some points. No shame in my game.



Afterwards, we got a week worth of leftovers and then busted our butts home to do homework. It’s the glorious life we live.


I’ll be the first to say I was skeptical as what to expect at these meetings, but I think those involved added some really great ideas to our project and they’ve helped us make connections that pretty much got our social science research work off the ground. Plus, they’re all just wonderfully nice, interesting people who really care about us and want to help in any way they can. They can also get you really involved in the community or connect you with any interests you may have. For instance, one of the members helped me find a gym to go to while I’m here (I’m a gymoholic so I was borderline singing her praises when she got me in).


So moral of the story: you’ll get free food (music to any college student’s ears), great conversation, and meet super cool people. CAB meetings are definitely highlights of the week. Trust me, you’ll enjoy them. Just make sure you talk to the people while you’re there and maybe work on the presentation a bit beforehand so you’re not completely winging it. Lindsay will know if you do…


XOXO Doing cool things and loving it OBXFS student

Data data everywhere and not an answer to derive.

Actually, that’s not totally true, we do have some possible answers for our Capstone research… But that’s beside the point.


So as a current update yours truly along with the fabulous 2015 OBXFS crew have compiled a hefty load of natural and social science research data and will keep it streaming in for the next month or so.


To fill you in on this year’s research, it entails those delicious little morsels called oysters and if oyster aquaculture (farming) is beneficial or detrimental to the areas where the farms are located. To do this, we’re looking at all of the environmental aspects associated with the farming, plus how the local communities perceive it.



Ooo the suspense of what’s what.


For those wondering why in the world we’re looking at oysters in the sound, North Carolina has the smallest oyster aquaculture industry on the east coast, but has prime real estate for the little pearl bearers. Things that make us science enthusiasts go, “Hmm…”



As of now for the natural science aspect, we’ve collected what seems like endless measurements of light extinction (how far light travels through the water), turbidity (how clear the water is), chlorophyll (hints at productivity in the water) and a long list of other stuff. I, along with Holly, have been in charge of a device called YSI which takes about 8 different water quality measurements. Holly and I named it Buzz on account of its bazooka like appearance.  You get pretty close with something after going through torrential storm downpours and hours of taking measurements…


And oh man, we’ve been up to our eyeballs in SAV (aka Submerged Aquatic Vegetation aka sea grass). Now you may be thinking I’m being dramatic, but some of us have literally been up to our eyeballs… underwater… collecting the SAV. So it still counts. While I understand the importance of SAV, I’m not the biggest fan in the world. Mainly because in order to get an idea of how much of the stuff is out there, we randomly sampled a whole bunch of areas, rinsed what we gathered and then sorted it into roots and stems. Every. Single. Piece. Needless to say, we’re hoping the results are freaking spectacular.


As for what’s next, the SAV has reached the end of it’s season (collective sigh of relief), so we’re going out one more time to get water measurements and then we are doneski.


On the social science side, the good news is we’ve conducted some interviews but we’ve still got a loooong ways to go. However, we’ve gotten some great perspectives on aquaculture from stakeholders and it’s just fun to hear what they have to say. Or at least I think so. As of this week, we’ll be compiling our transcribed interviews (oh yeah, we typed out every single word) and coming up with trending topics.



The weird thing about social science is that you actually don’t have research questions until about mid-way through the process. So we came up with a general direction of what we wanted to know, wrote up a list of questions to ask them, and then we’ll look at what people say in order to determine what’s important and what we want to ask future interviewees. Weird, I know, and it goes against what every natural science teacher beat into us in high school.


Essentially, we have a long way to go but it’s nice being able to take a step back and see progress. I never thought of combining natural and social science, but it’s a pretty intertwined thing if you think about it. Plus, this is my first research project so it’s cool knowing I’m contributing to science not just learning about what others have done.


Also lets be real. I’m getting school credit for spending days on a boat, meeting new people, and doing cool things. That’s just awesome!





Okay, I’m done.


XOXO Sleep deprived and loving every second of it OBXFS student



The Ultimate Guide to All Your Problems

So there you are, sitting on the precipice of deciding what do with your life next semester. Should you go abroad to somewhere exotic, stay in Chapel Hill because let’s face it, we’re all still trying to figure out if we’re even in the right major, or go to this “field site” in the same state you’re already going to school? Well, good news. Here’s the answer to all your questions. About the Outer Banks Field Site at least, which lets be honest is definitely the right way to go.

So I might be a little biased… But the information’s still pertinent!

What is this field site thing anyways?

Glad you asked! So the field site is literally a living classroom. You’ll take classes at the Coastal Studies Institute on Roanoke Island, conduct research around the Outer Banks, and actually be able to see the stuff you’re learning about. You’ll hear about this amazing environment in class and then be able to drive down the beach and say, “Hey, I know why I can hang out here on this really cool beach,” or, “I know how this whole island was made.” (Spoiler: It’s actually pretty freaking cool.) Being able to physically see and experience what you’re learning about is an experience 10 out of 10 would recommend. Plus, you’ll gain a whole new appreciation for a fairly narrow strip of sand.

So, lets get down to what’s really important. How close will I be to the beach?

Good news. From the house, you’re about 10, maybe 15 minutes away (depending on traffic) from a public access to the beach. All you have to do is jump on the highway and you can get to any place you want to go. Speaking of beaches, for those who haven’t been to the Outer Banks, this isn’t like your normal super hot, super uncomfortable beach. The water’s warm and clear, the weather’s wonderful, and the sand’s…well sand but it just feels better. And for anyone interested in surfing, you have access to a pretty large surfing culture with fairly decent waves for North Carolina. As for fishing, you’re on a barrier island. Literally walk 10 feet and you can cast in the water. Plus there are awesome fishing guides you can access as an enormous population of devoted fishermen and women who know the area.


Am I going to be out in the middle of nowhere or is there some civilization?

Bad news, the closest Wal-Mart is about 45 minutes away, as well as the Target if that’s your poison. But never fear, everything else you could want is within a half an hour drive tops. Two grocery stores are five minutes away driving (15 if you bike) from the house as well as a Food Lion and Harris Teeter 20 minutes away, which is pretty much the same distance at Chapel Hill. If you’re in need of souvenirs, just throw a rock and you’re bound to ping pong it off of about six different stores selling Outer Banks gear. Downtown Manteo is also within walking/biking distance and is a great place to hang out and grab a bite to eat. As for food, there’s everything from Japanese to Mexican and of course, all the seafood you can eat. For you vegetarians and vegans, there are a few places that serve veggie burgers. Oh and don’t even get me started on the number of ice cream shops… Two words: Booty Treats. Just trust me.


Is there stuff to do out there, or are you trapped doing homework all day?

That really just depends on what you’re interested in. Right now, students are involved in a local softball team, a chorus group, and a community garden project. There are tons of volunteer opportunities including the SPCA, local charities hosting fundraising events, and interest groups. For all you gym-goers, there’s the YMCA, small local gyms, and my personal favorite-the Outer Banks Sports Club. If there’s another niche you need filled, you have access to a huge resource pool of people there that will figure out how to fulfill your heart’s desire.

As for nightlife, you’ll have your pick of restaurants and bars hosting live music and a few places that boast karaoke (which always leads to hilarious stories). A few beaches allow bonfires and beach volleyball at night can get pretty intense. The nightlife isn’t as crazy as Chapel Hill, but the chill, relaxed vibe is still fun.


How’s the workload?

I’m not going to lie; you’re going to be busy pretty much all the time. But on the upside, it’s fulfilling and interesting work. The teacher’s all love what they teach, you’ll be doing interesting research, and you’re going to be working in an internship getting hands-on experience in what you’re passionate about. It’s pretty much a school related dream come true. The people here really care about helping you get the big picture and you’ll make relationships that will absolutely last into the future. Aside from all the sappy stuff, it’s just plain fun! Plus after class, you can go do homework on the beach, aka my newly found favorite way to do work.


How’s the housing arrangement?

The house is absolutely amazing and is close to pretty much everything you’ll need: classes, food, and the beach. There are only two rooms to a bathroom, lots of space for all your stuff (great news for the overpackers), and it’s not at all sketchy. There’s a huge back yard for cookouts, playing games, or just hanging out, common rooms with cable TV (score!), and a kitchen the has pretty much anything you’ll need. Also major perk, parking is included.


Is it going to cost me an arm and a leg to do this?

Absolutely not. The tuition is the same as if you were still attending UNC with a little extra added in for housing. The books aren’t excessive so the only thing you’ll have to worry about is food cost. Insider tip: you’ll be super tempted to eat out every day, but it can get pretty costly. I suggest cooking enough to have leftovers or get ready for a close and personal relationship with sandwiches.