Cut the Cameras: It’s Almost Over?!

As an avid vlogger (although I have been slacking with the updates since my computer broke) I have the amazing ability to have a time capsule of the past. As the semester is starting to wrap up, I am getting very nostalgic about this experience looking at the pictures and videos I recorded! It is truly wild that we only have 2 more weeks until the semester is over.

Recently we have been very busy here at the field site. I am currently writing this as I take a break from studying for my last of 3 finals, and moving forward we will be extensively working on the capstone! It hasn’t really hit me that classes are over and that we are almost done with our capstone. 

A lot of the past blog posts have already talked about the amazing parts of the field site: the people, the classes, having an engaging internship, and more. For this post I am going to talk about the things that brought me happiness that were unexpected!

Seeing a shipwreck:

One of my peers, Heidi, is an avid morning person. One day she asked if I wanted to watch the sunrise and also see a shipwreck, and I enthusiastically agreed! We saw a shipwreck, and I was amazed at the whole aesthetic! I find shipwrecks to be really fascinating, as each boat has a story.

Picture of the Shipwreck. Also was a beautiful Sunrise!

Getting a bike and bike rides:
Photographic rendering of Betty, my beloved bike.

One of the things that has brought me the most joy from this field site has been my bike! Betty, the name of my bike, has been a part of many memories and is the way I get around since I do not have a car. I have enjoyed riding on the bike path, biking a few times to the Coastal Studies Institute for class (which I do not recommend in the summer months because you get really sweaty), and just taking in the landscape on wheels. Manteo is pretty flat, which is convenient since Betty only has one gear. Whenever I get overwhelmed, I love to listen to music and bike. You definitely feel like the main character in a coming of age movie!

Gaining more experience in the lab:


A selfie of me in the lab. The lighting in this space hits different!

I have always been intimidated by labs and doing any sort of lab work. When I heard we had to do lab work for our capstone and classes, I was very nervous and dreaded it. However, I am pleasantly surprised at how comfortable I got with lab work! Measurements derived from lab work reveal a lot of interesting patterns, and using the fancy equipment was a great experience. I honestly started to really enjoy being in the lab!


When I learned there was a skydiving company in Manteo, I knew that I had to skydive before I left the Outer Banks. Thankfully, I was able to skydive in October! It was an incredible experience that brought me so much happiness. The worst part is the anticipation on the plane going up, but the freedom and awe during the actual skydiving part was unmatched. The video I got from my experience is also hilarious, and is a memory I will always fondly look back on.

At Skydive OBX with my sister!

These are just a few of the many unexpected things from this Field Site that have sparked joy. I am really sad I am leaving soon, but grateful for all the memories that have come from this experience!

-Janis Arrojado (class of 2022)


From Distress to De-stress: My Newfound Hobby

My legs bounce incessantly as I grip the paddle so tight my knuckles turn stark white. My throat is dry and my heart is racing. “Why am I doing this?” is an incessant thought as I attempt to move my arms. Each wave that approaches and every slight yaw of the kayak fills me with dread and inaction. It occurs to me how embarrassing this is, but I can’t seem to move the paddle. Bri gently reminds me that I need to help her paddle because while she is skilled, kayaking for two is difficult, and we are heading for land far too rapidly.

Weather station located on the Croatan Sound, North Carolina. August 2020.

It’s too late. The waves force us into the grass at the edge of the Sound. Bri gets out to push us back into the water and suddenly disappears with a splash up to her waist. The struggle culminates in Professor Andy Keeler paddling over to us on his paddleboard, jumping into the water, and pulling our kayak free. Thankfully, the waves are too strong to warrant going any further and we return to the dock.

As that story implies, I don’t know how to swim; water is my kryptonite. Yet, I am studying in the Outer Banks, a place surrounded by water. The water terrifies me, but it also draws me. And, what better way to tackle my fears than by immersing myself in a semester designed to conquer them? After the catastrophe of causing Bri and myself to become landbound for several minutes, I promised to never kayak doubles again. If I capsized or got into a tricky situation, I could get myself out.

OBXFS students kayaking on the Alligator River, North Carolina. October 2020.

The next time we kayaked, it was once again in the Sound, my fickle friend. The day was much calmer and the water only slightly undulated, perfect for the water tour our professors had planned. I set out on my own kayak and paddled with vehemence, determined to keep up with everyone in spite of my fears. The entire time, I kept pace with the group, arms stinging with pain, but I did not fall behind, capsize, or hit land. I sat in my kayak riveted by Andy’s stories of each location. A buoy marks the spot where Andy Griffith had a rowdy night and I made sure to remember the story for my parents. As I sat in my kayak, bobbing in the water, the stories distracted me from my fears.

By the time we returned to the dock, my arms were slacking from the tension that had glued them to the paddle. The pain was worth it though. I faced my fear and kayaked the Sound on my own. Yes, I had all of the professors and my classmates nearby if I needed help, but I did it myself. A not so simple feat for someone scared of the water.

Kayaking on the Alligator River, North Carolina. October 2020.

October 2, 2020: I wake up early and drive to Buffalo City. We are kayaking Alligator River. I am less nervous today and excited to get on the water. The sunlight filtering through the trees casts a shimmer over the river and fills me with a sense of calm. When I arrive, the guide says that there will have to be two doubles. Despite my fear of potentially causing one of my classmates to capsize, I kayak with Heidi. We crush it. Instead of focusing on all of the things that can go wrong, I focus on the abundance of nature and plants we have learned about in ecology. I spy Spanish moss and trees with knob roots. When we’re in the wide expanse of the river, I focus on improving my kayaking skills and eventually learn how to paddle to a stop and backward. This tour blew me away. The history of Buffalo City is fascinating– I won’t spoil it for anyone thinking about studying at the Outer Banks Field Site (OBXFS)– and the location is gorgeous.

OBXFS is truly a perfect place to grow, not only in terms of gaining field experience and figuring out what you want to do or not do in life but also in pushing yourself to conquer your fears. This semester, I have focused on expanding my comfort zone. I hope that any student reading this post and considering studying at OBXFS takes advantage of this opportunity and applies. There is a whole semester of growth and adventure waiting for you.

– Meagan Gates, UNC-Chapel Hill, Class of 2022

Turning Tides: Powering Communities with Water

The waves swiftly and powerfully approach, but I refuse to back down from my task. I will slow them. My arms raise, hands outstretched, palms facing the barreling waves. “Slow, slow, slow,” is the mantra repeating endlessly in my head as I urge the waves to bend to my will. For a second, I doubt my powers, but then, the waves spill forth in a spray of seafoam and coat my feet in a layer of sand. As the water recedes back to its home, I stare at my feet in awe of my power and upright position.

The moment of quiet triumph is succeeded by inevitable failure as the tide pushes in and my powers fail me. In spite of my powers, the waves refuse to slow and charge at me with full force, knocking me to the sand and filling my eyes and nose with saltwater. I emerge from the waves, spluttering in frustration, and trudge back towards my mom, soaking wet and stiff from the sand.

Ever since I was a kid, I have been captivated by the water and the power in its waves. However, my fascination has shifted from controlling the power held in the motion of water to harnessing that power. As a result, when I heard about the Outer Banks Field Site and the internship opportunities included in the curriculum, I leaped at the chance to apply.

During the summer, I had a Zoom call with Corey Adams, the internship coordinator at the Outer Banks Field Site. This call consisted of me expressing interest in renewable energy, public policy, and bridging the gap between the public, policymakers, and renewable energy companies. A broad range of interests, but he immediately mentioned the North Carolina Renewable Ocean Energy Program (NCROEP), located at the Coastal Studies Institute (CSI). After this call, I was assigned an internship with George Bonner, Director of NCROEP.

Marine hydrokinetic energy technologies (MHKs) have a plethora of applications in NC including electrifying ferries, desalination operations, aquaculture production, and powering microgrids. These technologies provide a means of addressing the NC Clean Energy Plan and contributing to more resilient coastal communities, especially those on the Outer Banks. This semester, I am interning with NCROEP and compiling a report entitled, Powering NC’s Blue Economy, to indicate viable markets for expanding the use of MHKs in NC. Additionally, this report will address how to engage stakeholders in discussions about implementing MHKs along the coast.

Mr. Bonner has been an invaluable resource in expanding my knowledge of MHKs and my future opportunities in the field of renewable energy. During our first Zoom calls in August, we compiled a work plan that prioritized Powering NC’s Blue Economy, a means of incorporating all of the interests I had expressed in the initial call with Corey Adams. Since then, we have had weekly meetings that are the highlight of my internship. Every call includes new information and resources to help improve my report, an opportunity to see what Mr. Bonner has been working on and provide my own insight, and information about summer internships. The skills and knowledge that I have gained from Mr. Bonner make me more confident about my career path.

My average work day at the Coastal Studies Institute, North Carolina. November 2020.

From writing my report, I am most excited about the potential for electrifying ferries. The NC Ferry Division is facing problems from fewer passengers and therefore, less revenue. Additionally, the transportation sector in NC contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, reducing reliance on diesel fuel for ferry operations would reduce costs associated with fuel and contribute to overall greenhouse gas emission reduction goals in the NC Clean Energy Plan. Washington is already developing electric ferries which enables NC to learn and benefit from using Washington’s progress as a foundation. While there are barriers to electrifying ferries, the potential is immense and would benefit coastal communities, especially those that are reliant on ferries for supplies and evacuation in the case of emergencies. Hopefully, my report can illuminate the potential for electric ferries in NC.

The report culminates in a review of stakeholder engagement strategies and means of addressing stakeholder concerns. This portion of the report is of particular interest to me because throughout my time at the Outer Banks Field Site, I have learned about stakeholder engagement in Professor Linda D’Anna’s class. Stakeholders are essential to consider when examining the potential for MHKs because, without stakeholder inclusion and compromise, projects can be derailed. Additionally, it is important to consider the coastal communities that are reliant on the water and resources affected by MHKs. By including coastal communities, local government, fishers and fisheries associations, and other stakeholders in the discussion, a project gains credibility and support.

This has been a wonderful opportunity to learn more about renewable energy and my home state. I am proud of the strides that are being made toward a cleaner future in NC and hope that my report can help NCROEP further their goals for MHK development and operation.

– Meagan Gates, UNC-Chapel Hill, Class of 2022

Scavenging for New Friends

In the days leading up to my big move to Manteo for this program with nine other UNC-Chapel Hill students, most of whom I had never met, I was very concerned about making friends. I like to consider myself an outgoing person, but I was intimidated by the fact that I would be living and attending class with so few people. I would be with this small group for the whole semester. What if I was not outgoing enough and ended up feeling totally alone? In light of social distancing regulations for COVID-19, how would we be able to socialize and how often? Would we still be able to explore the new area together?

Thanks to the awesome staff at this field site and the very fun orientation they had planned, all of my worries went away. Meeting and talking to my classmates was so easy when we were doing our orientation activities together. Everyone had lots to talk about related to what we were experiencing (I went kayaking and paddle-boarding for the first time!). My favorite part of the two weeks of orientation was definitely the scavenger hunt activity!

The scavenger hunt was an out-of-class assignment where we were supposed to go out with a partner to explore and take photos of certain things in our new surroundings. However, we all wanted to get to know each other right away, so we decided not to have partners and instead go in groups as people were available! The instructors were super flexible with our request, and that turned out great because I was able to adventure with new people every afternoon to find whatever we needed to check off our lists.

I enjoyed going on my first grocery trip after move-in  (checking off finding an independent grocery from the list) with some of my new friends! Afterwards, we made a pit-stop by a small airport where some of us may skydive someday this semester!

My suitemate and I went to a fancy marina and a wooden pier. We got dinner after, where we also took a selfie with a pirate!

I also went to the “Unpainted Aristocracy” and a very unique lighthouse with others!

This was such a great experience to have in the first couple weeks of being here! We all got to know each other through travelling together and now I feel like I know everyone a lot more than I thought I would considering we are less than a month into the program. Now we are all comfortable with each other and are able to work well together, which is very important since we will be collaborating for our capstone project. In our team contract we wrote during orientation, we talked about how we want to help each other reach our personal goals for the semester, not just our academic ones, and I think that the orientation activities, especially the scavenger hunt, helped to instill that value.

Here is to a semester of new adventures and new friendships!

~Natalie Ollis (Class of 2022)

A Dopamine Pre-Thanksgiving Week

Howdy there people. Your host for the pre-Thanksgiving week OBX blog post is none other than Kurt… wait for it… Nelson.

As you may know by now, the beginning of each week and every other Wednesday is reserved for internships. Personally, I have been doing a lot of research on European energy policy, specifically Germany, and I’ve learned some interesting stuff (fun fact: approximately half of German renewable energy is owned by everyday citizens!). Everyone else is up to their regular (electric) internship duties too: Mark is installing doggy poop bag holders in Nags Head Woods, Emily Inkrote is still looking at dolphin fins, and Paris is making the OBX a safer place at court. God only knows what Cassandra has been doing though (Just kidding, she’s been working with sea turtle eggs).

On Tuesday, we had a super full day of classes and Capstone work that ended with our second to last CAB meeting. During the CAB meeting, we presented the human dimensions and scientific methods and preliminary results of our Capstone project. The presentation gave us a chance to make some preliminary observations and an excuse to begin compiling our thoughts. The CAB gave us some great advice at the end of the presentation and we can’t thank them enough for continuing to advise us over the semester.

Thursday was another full day of classes and meetings. We got to some fun stuff on Thursday though such as taking a hiking trip to Nags Head Woods where we learned about the ecology of maritime forests. It was nice to get out of the classroom and also educational to actually be able to see what we were learning about. After the trip to Nags Head Woods, Bill Smyth met with us over coffee and snacks in order to discuss public speaking. It was very helpful to get some feedback from him and now we can give a better Capstone presentation in December. Thank you Bill, you have been so kind, hospitable, and enlightening during our stay here on the Outer Banks!

Brett strikes a pose in Nags Head Woods while he listens to Lindsay teach us about maritime forests.

The final day of the week was also (you guessed it) another full day. Lindsay picked us up in the morning so that we could all go to the Manteo Division of Marine Fisheries Field Office. We were given a tour of the office and learned about how the division provides recommendations through scientific studies to policy makers. We also got to see a red drum get its otolith taken out, which is used to identify a fish’s age. Brett was very enthused to see the fish get cut open (not really though).

The red drum with its otolith removed.
A Division of Marine Fisheries biologist discusses significant fish in NC for fisheries management while I listen intently.

And finally, everyone celebrated Friendsgiving together at the Elizabeth II Guesthouse on Friday night by making a Thanksgiving-esque dinner. It was a scrumptious meal and helped us to prepare for our Thanksgiving meal next week.

The Friendsgiving Feast!

Thanks for reading and have a great Thanksgiving!

Sea Turtles and Sunrises? Count Me In

Hey y’all it’s Danielle here ready to share a little peak into my internship this semester!

When Corey called me in August to discuss my internship he gave me the choice between two different opportunities. The first one sounded interesting, but once he said the words “National Park Service” and “baby sea turtles” I was sold on option number two. A fun fact about me is that I am obsessed with national parks (just got back from Shenandoah two days ago) so the idea of working for the Park Service sounded perfect.

When I got my first email from my mentor, Paul Doshkov, explaining that I had to report to work at 6am this internship suddenly seemed slightly less perfect. 6am!!! WHAT!!!! Little did I know that I would soon be reporting at 5:30am. Good thing sleep is for the weak.

Sea turtle patrol was the reason I had to report so early for the first few weeks of work. Turtle patrol consists of driving along the beach between the Bodie Island Lighthouse (ramp 1), and the beach just south of Rodanthe (ramp 30), excluding Pea Island. We were looking for turtle tracks leading from the ocean to the dunes, thus indicating that a nest had been laid. Unfortunately, despite the fact that many nests were still incubating when I started my internship, only one additional nest was laid between early September and late October, so I never actually got to see the turtle tracks myself. I did get to see, however, many amazing sunrises while driving along the beach so early.

Despite the lack of new nests, there has been plenty of work to do with the pre-existing nests. On my first day of work I was lucky enough to take part in an excavation. Approximately three to five days after a turtle nest hatches, the Park Service excavates the nest. This means that we dig out the nest and take inventory of hatched eggs, unhatched eggs, and live hatchlings still buried in the sand. On my first day we excavated a nest with 30 live hatchlings! Even cooler than the live hatchlings are the unhatched eggs, hear me out. We need to record what stage of development the eggs are in, therefore we have to rip open all of the unhatched eggs and examine the contents. It is so. cool. Turtle embryo goo shooting into your face is slightly less cool, but seeing a partially formed animal still in its early stages of development is fascinating. Also, just as a disclaimer, if the eggs have not hatched by this point they are not going to hatch, so we aren’t causing them any harm by opening them up.

When hurricanes Jose and Maria were off the coast things started to get a little rough. For one, the tide was too high to drive on the beach so we had to hike over the dunes. You never really notice just how far it is from the road to the beach until you have to walk through thorns and cacti while wearing jeans in 80 degree weather. Good times. While the dune hiking was a slight inconvenience, it wasn’t the end of the world. The bigger issue was the sand accretion caused by the storm surge. One of the nests was buried 124cm below the beach surface! To put this in perspective, a transponder ball is buried next to all of the nests so that we can use a GPS device to locate them. The amount of sand accretion was so extreme that the tracking device couldn’t even register the transponder ball. Our nest excavation that day may have resembled the set of the movie “Holes” just a little bit. Even more upsetting is the fact that the storms caused the level of the water table to rise to such a degree that multiple nests were entirely dead due to the eggs drowning. Luckily, since the storms have passed we have had two successful nest hatchings in the past week. Heck yeah.

I could probably write for a really long time about my internship but I suppose I’ll cut it off here. Overall, I really value the time I have spent working with the Park Service. I get to be in the field every single day. I get to watch the sun rise over the Atlantic. I get to work with amazing baby sea turtles, and the humans aren’t so bad either. I love it.


Retreat to Corolla

Despite Maria’s best efforts to deter our plans, we had a successful (albeit slightly abbreviated) retreat to Corolla this past week. Our trip started bright and early on Thursday morning with an 8am departure from CSI. First stop: The Currituck Center for Wildlife Education. Here, we watched a short film about the history of Currituck and learned about the duck hunting and decoy making industry. As someone who isn’t native to North Carolina, let alone the Outer Banks, it’s always interesting to discover more about the area. After checking out the various exhibits at the wildlife center, we made our way over to the Currituck Beach Lighthouse. Our tour started with what must have been the most thorough explanation ever of the lighthouse’s history by Megan Agresto. It was phenomenal. After receiving a textbook’s worth of education in under an hour, we were ready to climb. Although I’m partial to the Bodie Island Lighthouse since my internship is based right next to it, the Currituck Lighthouse is definitely one worth visiting. The view from the top allowed for a nice opportunity to get oriented with a new part of the OBX.

After our climb we took a brief lunch break before meeting up with CAB member Hadley Twiddy for a walk along the pier behind her waterfront business, Coastal Explorations. Hadley talked to us about her stretch of coastline, pointing out different marsh plants along the way. The real star of the show, however, was Hadley’s trusty sidekick June Bug, a golden lab with quite the love for running through water and mud alike.

After our talk with Hadley we checked into our accommodation for the night, the Pine Island Sanctuary Guest House, where we were greeted by Chandler Sawyer, local waterfowl historian and hunter. Chandler described both the history of the area as well as plans for the future. Interestingly, he told us that renovation plans for the sanctuary included raised boardwalks between buildings to account for flooding issues that may occur as a result of sea level rise. In my experience it is rare to see people practically planning for environmental issues which will result from climate change so it was refreshing (if not somewhat upsetting that this is what the planet is coming to) to find someone who was taking these issues seriously.

The remainder of the night consisted of tacos, sunset walks to the water’s edge, and card games; pretty ideal if you ask me.

Friday came with another early start that was made slightly more bearable by the promise of seeing wild horses. As the sun rose we all piled into the back of a pickup truck and journeyed our way through Corolla on a wild horse tour. Despite the lack of actual horse sightings (there were two), the tour was a fun time. We were able to see the unique area that is Corolla (psh who needs roads?) and made it all the way to the Virginia border.

After the tour and a brief stop back at the guest house to pick up our bags we met up with another CAB member, Matt Price, for a tour of the Duck Waterfront Shops, of which he is a co-owner. Matt showed us around and explained the ways in which he and his business partner are actively trying to prevent the shoreline from eroding. He also shared insight on what it was like to grow up in the area and how the property has changed over time. As someone who is concerned with conservation, I found it interesting to hear about development from the perspective of the property owner, a viewpoint which I do not often consider. Once we finished up our tour Matt treated us to lunch at a restaurant on the property. If there is one way to make a group of college kids instantly love you it’s to take them out to eat (thanks again Matt, feel free to bring some French fries to the next CAB meeting).

Our last stop of the trip was at the Field Research Facility where we met up with yet another CAB member, Heidi Wadman, for a discussion and a tour. Heidi described to us the various undertakings of the FRF, showed us some of the machinery, and accompanied us on a walk to the end of the (really insanely long) pier.

And that’s a wrap! Thank you once again to all of the people we met along the way during our retreat. We would not have learned nearly as much without the help of all of you. To anyone reading this that hasn’t visited all of these places yet, what are you waiting for?

Boat Days are Better than Field Trips

Week of 9/11-9/15/17

Hey, y’all! This is Cassandra, writing to tell you all about how miserable (read: exciting), exhausting (as in exhilarating), and completely dreadful (meaning absolutely and positively amazing) the second real week of classes here at the OBX Field Site has been! I’m going to start off by giving props to Corey Adams, our internship coordinator, for setting me up with the most amazing program I could have asked for; I’m at the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education, which means on Monday I got to set up wildlife cameras, learn about sea turtle strandings, and help create a trail for the Center’s new herping expedition! If that isn’t cool enough, some of my other duties include story time and teaching kids archery.

My internship mentor invited me to come to a sea turtle nest dig on my second day!

Tuesdays and Thursdays are when we take “actual” classes, all of which have so far been both interesting and relevant in terms of this area and environmental topics in general. Since we are only in the second week, much of the material has been introductory, but I’m definitely already learning a lot, and having such a small class size means that we are all able to get clarification when we need to, which is great compared to many of the huge lectures I’ve taken in the past. However, this Wednesday we had our first intensive Capstone day, and by intensive, I mean INTENSIVE. It’s really incredible to me how much a group of people can get done in a single day when we all work together. Right now, we’re working in two different directions: learning how to conduct qualitative interviews and write an interview guide on one side, and planning our ecological sampling methods and testing them out to see what will work best for our sampling sites on the other. We started off with an interview workshop, then took a mini field trip to the living shoreline at Festival Island Park, where we tried out different potential sampling methods and ate our lunches on the boardwalk. Finally, we returned to CSI for a second interview workshop, and left for the evening with a far better understanding of how our interviews are going to work and what we need to do now.

As you can see, we all rocked our waders and enjoyed the break between interview workshops to go to Roanoke Island’s Festival Island Park for sampling practice.

In the spirit of ending the week on an especially high note, this Friday we took a boat trip around the Roanoke Sound in order to practice different water measurement and sampling methods, as well as to get a firsthand look at an oyster aquaculture facility in the area. We definitely learned a lot about different measurement methods and tools, how much water quality can vary, and how to handle some extremely expensive equipment, but I think it’s safe to say that our educational drive momentarily disappeared when we encountered a pod of dolphins, not once, but twice! There was also time built in to explore an island near CSI and take a dip in the Sound. The day was a blast, and our professors and faculty know exactly how to plan a trip that’s a lot of fun while still giving us research skills and educating us along the way!

I have high hopes for the rest of the semester, but this week was a winner. I’m so grateful to have been accepted into this program and can’t wait to see what we do next!

Spotting dolphins in the Sound!
Some of the equipment we used to test water parameters including salinity, turbidity, and oxygen content.

A Week of Firsts

With orientation solidly in the rear view, the thirteen field site students faced the perpetually daunting task of getting back to class after a hot summer and a long labor day weekend. Tuesday brought plentiful classroom time, reminding us all that while the beach is only a quick trip across the bridge away, we are, in fact, here for school! That Tuesday night we attended our very first (and significantly less terrifying than originally expected) CAB meeting, which Mark discussed in his previous post. I personally had interesting dinner conversations with Heidi Wadman from the Army Corps of Engineers, and Mathew Price, a coastal developer. After a very full first day, everyone headed home eager to face the next first of the week–internships!

The Emilys enjoying a beautiful post-CAB meeting sunset

Wednesday morning rolled around and it was time for the squad to split up, all heading our separate ways. From excavating sea turtle nests and completing dolphin surveys to attending town board meetings, it’s safe to say that everyone had a unique first day on the job! More to come on those internships later as each of us will be explaining our adventures in individual posts. Thursday brought in a new day of classes along with beautiful weather. [Specifics on the material covered in class?] With the afternoon free, we spent our free time volunteering at the Dare County Animal Shelter, working on our plot at the community garden, and taking some much appreciated nap and Netflix time. Coming back together later that evening, a couple of us took on (an Andy Keeler favorite and an Outer Banks classic) Food Dudes Taco Thursday. Fried avocado tacos and coconut shrimp tacos were both fan favorites of the evening as we headed off to bed before a sure-to-be-exciting first Friday of field work.

Friday morning was our first day of field work for our capstone project! We set our sights on two living shoreline projects for various tests which included soil cores, biomass analysis, salinity measurements, and measures of other ecological variables. As it turns out, trial and error is a huge part of scientific field work… our soil cores didn’t come out quite as well as originally anticipated, but we still gathered valuable data and knowledge to make our next attempt at data collection go more.. smoothly. We also got to visit two living shoreline projects and see the concept in action, in addition to showing off some super fancy waders. (modeled below)

Making observations about the living shoreline at Jockey’s Ridge
Stellar display of the utility of waders and waterproof research equipment

As always, Friday night provided the perfect time for some group shenanigans! We started the night with chips and salsa on the porch because the weather was absolutely beautiful. Afterwards, we piled in our cars and made our way to Mutiny Bay where we proceeded to played a mean round of mini golf. Mark was the winner, but Emily P. was a close second; unfortunately, Kurt lost. Bianca got so many hole-in-ones that she ~won~ a stuffed shark named Chantel. We really bonded over our sporty endeavor and decided to go to sonic to refuel. Overall, the night was full of wholesome fun and laughter.

Columbia, NC Population: 891, now 905

Who knew that we were just miles away from one of the smallest towns in North Carolina?! Columbia, NC has a population of just 891, so the students were a little more than dismayed to find out that “nightlife” is pretty nonexistent. However, that did not stop the OBX family from having one heck of a good time!

The field trip to Columbia, NC was a part of our two-week orientation to get us acquainted with our new territory.

Orientation week: team bonding on the pier!

We started off the day with an art class at Pocosin Art Lodge. There were no crayons, markers, or pastels in sight. Instead, this art class contained saws, bowls of sulphur, and a drilling machine! Needless to say, as a very clumsy person, I was afraid to touch anything!

Watching Laurel guide us through the process.

Our class was taught by the very talented Laurel who has been studying art for years. She told us that we would be making key chains with pictures of either wolves or bears. These key chains would have a copper back and plastic front held together by copper bits drilled through to hold the back and front together.

We selected our pictures and got to sawing and drilling. While the process took a lot of patience and concentration the end result was magnificent. The key chain Gods would be proud of us!

The rest of the morning was spent discussing the human dimension of our capstone but afterwards, we were let loose to discover what lies in Columbia. We found a few gems: an antique store that sold 300 dollar vintage dolls, Red Wolf Coalition headquarters, and Elements cafe that looked like it belonged in a magazine.

We had a fantastic dinner from catered by Elements Cafe where Laurel and David Clegg, who is the county manager for Tyrell, joined us.  Mr. Clegg told us everything there was needed to know about Tyrell county. A politician with a theatre background made for an interesting discussion about how Tyrell county involved into what it is known today.

The night continued with catching Pokemon and an encounter with a couple who manages Scuppernong Gazette. We landed a picture that was posted on the Scuppernong Gazette Facebook page.

Finally Famous!! Posted on the Scuppernong Gazette Facebook page!

We spent the night in the Pocosin Art Lodge which ended after Julia and I whooped Jack and Andy (Economic professor) in spades. GIRLS RULE!

Julia and Tamara. Spade masters of Columbia, NC

img001-2The next day we spent with Ken Cherry, the richest man in Tyrell county. We asked about the history of the town and how people have formed opinions about the wildlife among them. We looked through his art gallery and were later taken to his farm where bears, wolves, and coyotes frequent.

All in all Columbia, NC is a hidden gem. Big memories made in such a small town!

We can never take a serious photo haha!