You Run??

Over the past three months, I have had countless fun and enjoyable experiences in the Outer Banks. It’s bittersweet knowing we only have less than a month of the semester left. Nevertheless, I have decided to write one journey that has been consistent throughout the fall semester: training for my first half marathon!

On my second day here, I decided to go on a six-mile run early in the morning. The evening before, I reunited with Steve and met Rebekah and Jane. Steve and Rebekah expressed interest in joining me on my run, which surprised me. Normally when I tell people I’m going on a run, no one really wants to join. Rebekah was the only one who actually made it on my run, since Steve was unable to force himself out of bed (which would be a common occurrence throughout the semester). This first run of the semester was hot and humid, despite it being early in the morning. However, I still had a blast running with Rebekah. She ran with me for over a mile before deciding to take a break. I ran for a little bit longer, but since I didn’t want to abandon my newly formed friend, I turned around. But when I reached her, she insisted I keep going and began to cheer me on!

I did not have a running image of Rebekah (right) and I (left) running so here’s one of us biking.

Towards the end of my run, I was surprised to see Rebekah still running along the path. I was so impressed with her since she ran/walked four miles. Her perseverance was my main motivation to my first six-miler in the Outer Banks and she gave me hope for the rest of my training!

Me running at Jennette’s Pier!

 

 

 

One of my favorite runs in the Outer Banks was at Jennette’s Pier. Steve, Joseph, and I decided to run by the shoreline, which would later be hazardous since my shoes became soaked. During our run, I could not help but appreciate our surroundings. The sun was beginning to set, which gave off a pink hue. The sand was left with freshly made footprints from Joseph and Steve running ahead. The waves provided a soothing sound effect. It has always been my dream to run at the beach during sunset, but never did I imagine I would enjoy it with the new friends I made at this field site. After our run, we rewarded ourselves by cooling off in the ocean, which felt rich to the touch.

My half marathon took place on Ocracoke Island, which requires a ferry ride to reach it. A group of my peers came to cheer me on, and I was thankful for their support! We booked a motel room on Ocracoke since my race started at 7 AM, which would require us to wake up bright and early. On race day, my alarm went off at 6:20 AM, and I was excited to start the day. Steve, however, was not.

Steve = not a morning person.

Anna helped me get ready, and we went to group up with Rebekah and Blakely. I began my race and Blakely, Rebekah, Steve, and Anna cheered me on. I ran four miles until I saw Kenan and Jane cheering me on at the campgrounds. Shortly after, I saw Mackenzie and Caid sprinting from the bathrooms so they could see me run by.

The next time I saw my friends was from mile eight to mile ten. Rebekah held a sign that read “Run for the Sour Patches”, Steve taunted me to get me to run faster, Blakely and Anna were at the Ocracoke lighthouse, Jane and Kenan were at the Harbor, and Mackenzie and Caid cheered me on by a restaurant. At the end of the race, everyone was so excited for me; I, however, was dead and immediately looked for a chair to collapse in.

I am grateful for everyone who came out to cheer for me, both in-person and spiritually. I would not have been able to accomplish this goal without everyone at my field site. They helped me keep a great mindset by supporting and hyping me up for my runs. A special shoutout to the people who ran with me over the semester while I was training: Jason, Steve, Rebekah, and Joseph. Another shoutout to the people who came to support me at Ocracoke: Rebekah, Jane, Steve, Blakely, Anna, Mackenzie, Kenan, and Caid. For anyone reading this, make sure to go on adventures and to events with your peers. They might become some of the people you appreciate the most!

Top left to right (Mackenzie, Steve, Rebekah, Blakely, Caid, Anna). Bottom left (Harris), bottom right (Nathalie).

—Nathalie, OBXFS 21

shenanigans

My favorite part of the Outer Banks Field Site is the people. At the guest house, there is always something to do and always someone to do it with. Any event can be turned into a fun experience. For example, one Tuesday night, I was upstairs along with some of my best-est friends, watching a movie. Some of my other classmates were downstairs, cooking dinner. Then our relaxing evening was suddenly interrupted by a blaring alarm. Everyone in the house was just confused. There was no smell of smoke in the air and there were no flames to be seen. Those of us watching a movie wandered down the stairs to see if something had happened in the kitchen. All we found were people just as confused as we were. Our RA, Rachel, told us to go wait outside until we could figure out if there was truly any danger. So onto the porch, we migrated. One of my classmates, Steve, sat on the porch, still cooking his instant noodles.

Steve and his noodles

Another resident of the house came running out, wrapped in a towel and another towel in her hair. As you can imagine, she was thrilled. There was no sense of panic at all, just annoyance and confusion. Right at this moment, our classmate Kenan pulls into the midst of all this chaos. Confused, he joins the group in waiting for something to happen. Eventually, the firemen arrived. One had arrived before the engines and had gone into the house to detect smoke. Before he entered the house, he asked us to go stand far away, so we went and stood in the dark corner of the parking lot. When he exited the house, back up had arrived. Two fire engines and a whole fleet of police cars blocked off the intersection. He told them that he did detect smoke, so the firemen began to suit up. All of us just stood in the parking lot in disbelief. Steve ate his noodles. Another classmate and resident, Mackenzie and Caid, continued to eat their meal. Another resident sat down and took a nap. The rest of us looked on, waiting to see the house engulfed in flames. Thankfully that never happened; to pass the time we began to play Among Us. Eventually, the firemen arrived at the same conclusion we had: there was no emergency. Come to find out, the fire alarm was triggered by meatballs. As inconvenient as this situation was, cracking jokes and playing games made it seem like another regular night. 

Another example was our fall break. For our fall break, we decided to drive up to Washington D.C.

Blakely and Nathalie taking a picture of me on our way to D.C.

One of our classmates, Jane, and her family were nice enough to host us on their farm in Maryland. It was truly beautiful; we got to feed horses, ride around in a gator, and camp out. One of the days, a smaller group of us decided to head into the city. We drove to the train station and rode the metro in. There we spent the whole day exploring D.C. with its many museums and sites. After an amazing Italian dinner, we decided to explore the city at night. Nathalie, Joseph, and I rented scooters while Steve and Blakely took a relaxing stroll towards the Washington Monument. The city had become quiet in the night. The monuments were illuminated and the moon was shining bright; it was truly beautiful. It was a perfect night and the reflecting pool proved to be the perfect place to ride scooters. Since it was a long straight line, you could push the scooter to its max without having to be worried about being hit by a car. We weaved in and out of people, racing from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial. It was a blast and a night that I will remember. 

 

The Washington Monument

More recently, it was Halloween. Of course, we carved pumpkins. It was so fun to sit around, listen to Halloween music, and see what people decided to carve. Some went the creative route while others were more traditional. One of my favorites was my classmate Rebekah’s pumpkin. She took an out-of-this-world approach, making her pumpkin extraterrestrial.

Rebekah’s Pumpkin

Another one of my favorites was Jason’s. His pumpkin was so wholesome, embodying the spirit of fall. Joseph’s pumpkin deserves an honorable mention since this was his first time carving a Jack O’ Lantern. It was hard to believe that he had never carved a pumpkin before, but he took to it quickly. Halloween night a group of us watched the Shining. It was Blakely’s (who was Monica from Friends) and my (who was Rachel from Friends) first time watching the Shining, but Fran (who was a chef), Nathalie (who was Steve), and Kenan (who was Cheech) were there to enjoy our gasps of surprise and shock. After the movie, we talked about our favorite parts and other scary movies we love.

Joseph and his pumpkin

I guess the point I am trying to make with all these anecdotes is that it is the people that make these experiences so memorable. I have experienced a fire drill before, but not while wearing flame socks with Steve eating noodles. I have been to D.C. before, but never with friends and never having ridden a scooter around the capital’s monuments. And for Halloween, I have carved a pumpkin before, but only ever with my family. Each person here has changed my life, and that includes my professors, the people I have met at my internship, and all the random people I have met at the guest house. If you decide to experience the field site, the friends you make will change your life for the better. 

(left to right) Kenan, Steve, Nathalie, Fran, Jane, Blakely, Joseph in D.C.

OBXFS 21: My Favorite Experience

While there have been many unique experiences during this semester so far, I would definitely say that our long adventure day in Corolla was my favorite experience. This trip started like many others, a talkative van ride where we wondered what escapades we would encounter together. 

We started at the beautiful Audobon sanctuary, where we were shown around the property and introduced to the planned bird conservation projects. We then traveled to the wildlife center, where we learned the history of Duck and Corolla and the towns’ cultural origins through the museum and a movie.  

After we climbed a random tree waiting for our lunch to arrive, we climbed something you are supposed to, a lighthouse. A few of us ascended into the Currituck Lighthouse,

where we could see miles in every direction of the beautiful landscape that we would soon explore further. We could even see the long dock where we would later launch our kayaks into the water. 

During our kayak tour, I had the best kayak partner, Rebekah, who had just turned 22 the day before. While we undoubtedly would have beaten anybody in a race, we decided it was best if we just enjoyed the scenery and did not embarrass any challengers. Thankfully I didn’t get too dirty considering all the milfoil and wild celery we encountered; however, not all of us (Steve and Joseph) were that lucky.

My favorite part of the day was the bumpy and windy ride across the beach in the back of the wild horse tour truck. The best times of the field site are when everyone is together and able to talk about our unique and exciting experiences. This was actually the first time I encountered the wild horses, and I was surprised by how many we saw grazing in people’s front yards. We were able to get quite close to the horses, and Joseph came feet away from a charging stallion. While the details are fuzzy, let’s just say that that horse was lucky it decided to swerve away. 

 

After another spirited ride back, we quickly ate down our Corolla pizza, which I would say is better than most other towns’ pizza, except for Nags Head which still stays #1 for me. We were blessed by two dogs who smelled our delicious food and came over to greet us. We thanked them for their presence with a few of our crusts and attempted to teach them tricks.

I don’t remember much about the ride back, considering I fell asleep from the busy day we all just had; however, I’m sure the rest of the field group cheeringly looked back on the perfect day we just experienced. 

OBXFS 2021: Our Trip to Corolla!

After visiting so many amazing places and having so many different experiences with lots of great people since arriving here in the Outer banks, it’s hard picking just one occasion to write about! Since moving out here, pretty much every day has been full of some kind of adventure or just spending quality time with all the great people that I’ve met through the field site. Whether it be going on field trips with the whole class and becoming more familiar with different parts of the Outer Banks, or coming home after a long day of class and going to the beach, playing backyard volleyball, or even having a bonfire on the beach, there is never a dull moment. I’ve really come to love living at the beach and at one point it even felt like I was on vacation!

Despite having so many great experiences with the OBXFS, if I had to pick just one, I would say our class field trip to Corolla was probably my favorite experience so far. We started the day off going to the Pine Island Audubon Sanctuary in Corolla which was about 60 acres of land located at the site of an old hunting club from 1913 located on the Sound which was later placed in conservation by the Audubon Society which is a non-profit environmental organization. Our guide was extremely kind and seemed very passionate about his job and the conservation of the land. He gave us a tour around the property and explained a little bit of its history as a historic hunting club, he also walked us around the property and pointed out different plants and wildlife and he also mentioned different ecological processes that are having an impact on the land. He took us to where the property met the Sound and he showed us the different methods that they are implementing on the property in order to offset some of the erosion that is occurring throughout the Sound. One of the methods they used was a living shoreline, which I believe has been giving them positive results but it is sadly super expensive to implement on a larger scale.

A Great Blue Heron spotted!

Next, we went to the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education which can also be found in Corolla. This place was like a museum that discussed the history of Corolla and Duck and how big the duck hunting culture used to be here back in the early 1900s. I thought the duck hunting history in the Outer Banks was extremely interesting and it was amazing to see the different tools and methods that hunters used in the past to hunt fowl such as the wooden decoy ducks that look so realistic, it is impressive how much detail went into some of them. Although the history of the hunt clubs throughout the Outer Banks was interesting, the Center for Wildlife Education also made sure to discuss the impact that this large-scale hunting had on the environment and how it was an example of the Tragedy of the Commons. Sadly, the Sound and many animal species have yet to fully recover.

Next, my favorite part of the whole day! Kayaking! I’ve been looking forward to kayaking in the Sound since before even moving to the Outer Banks so I was definitely excited for our paddling trip. We met with our guide, Liam, and he gave us a quick kayaking lesson and then he took us out into the Currituck Sound. I had a little bit of kayaking experience so I was feeling confident in me and my partner Steve’s skills, but some of the characteristics of the Currituck Sound made it a challenge. The Currituck Sound has low levels of salinity, it is very shallow, and there is SAV (Submerged Aquatic Vegetation) literally everywhere! I will admit, Steve and I got stuck in the patches of SAV a few times! Every time we tried to paddle we would end up throwing SAV all in the kayak and all over each other. Somehow, Steve and I finished the tour being literally the only ones completely soaked and covered in SAV! Regardless, everyone had a great time and we got to enjoy some great views of the Sound!

Steve and I kayaking!

To end an already action-packed day, we got to go on a wild horse tour in search of the wild horses that live on the beaches of Corolla. We hopped into the back of a truck and strapped ourselves in for a bumpy ride on the beach. Our guide drove us up the beautiful beaches of Corolla as we all laughed and held on for dear life all while trying not to lose our hats! Corollas’ beaches were unlike most beaches I’ve ever been to and I definitely recommend anyone to go visit them. As we drove around in search of wild horses, we finally found a few and we admired them from a safe distance. It was amazing to see the wild horses casually walking through people’s front yards like a neighborhood stray dog! Although the wild horses are beautiful, keep your distance! A wild horse is not the animal you want to find yourself face to face with. Trust me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OBXFS ’21: Settling In

It’s my turn for the blog post! Since my friend Rebekah already wrote about our *cough* amazing experience at Buxton woods, I think I’ll write about another one of my favorite memories here at the Outer Banks Field Site. But as I’m reflecting, I think this is more an overall feeling that I’ve come to realize while staying at the field site, but still an important one I’d like to share nonetheless. 

It was the evening of August 23rd and we had finished up our first Community Advisory Board meeting of the semester. It had been a long day filled with classwork, first introductions, and get-to-know-you games with the group of community members who were excited to assist us with our capstone research. They were kind, informative, and excited to meet this new group of young students who wanted to learn more about their home. After the meeting and despite the long hours, spirits were high, and someone suggested “Let’s go to Surfin’ Spoon!” and I swear I saw almost all of our eyes light up immediately. 

We all promptly hopped in our cars after a quick group consensus and set off for froyo. Woo hoo!! A short car ride later and all eleven of us were standing on the porch lit exterior of the joint, relaxing, unwinding, and talking amongst ourselves. I looked around, at everyone who came and who I had spent the last few weeks with getting to know, and I realized that these people felt like a family to me. Which was so crazy! I had known them for about two calendar weeks but I already felt right at home! I kept my little realization to myself and happily watched the conversation develop and shift throughout the evening. We slowly meandered through the line, chatting about class, surfing, and what flavors of froyo we wanted (along with favorite toppings!). Everyone eventually filed outside and we circled up contentedly, munching on froyo and enjoying the warm summer air. Behind us, there was a silly wooden cutout of Sebi the Spoon, Surfin’ Spoon’s mascot, where you could take a picture with the logo. Almost immediately we had everyone chanting “Mackenzie in the spoon!,” “Jason in the spoon!,” and taking pictures of us posing with this character, laughing the evening away. 

“Blakely in the spoon!”

That was the first night that I felt like our group was a little family. Since then, the feeling has only grown stronger. Through late night stargazing, epic Mario Kart battles, difficult (yet supportive) days in the field, and cooking dinner together in the evenings. It’s truly been amazing to be in such a unique ecological environment and also find a very supportive and encouraging group of individuals which I get to share my experiences with! So, if you are reading this as a part of the 21’ cohort, I appreciate you very much 🙂 If you are reading this in the future, I implore you to spend time with your cohort, get to know them, and appreciate the little day to day things during your stay at the OBXFS!

Despite a dreary lab day, Kenan, Franchesca, Rebekah, and Steve were all smiles!
Every Friday we try to go out as a cohort. This day, we checked out Greentails on a sunny afternoon after class.
The group, leaving Buxton Woods, and happy with our research progress.

Finding My Footing (Among Other Things) In the Outer Banks

Whenever I go to a new place, I find exploring is the best way for me to find my footing in my new surroundings. At the minimum, I want to figure out how to get to where I need to go. At best, I want to find secret little spaces that I can claim as my own. So I was very grateful when we were assigned an Outer Banks scavenger hunt during our first week of orientation. Its goal was to familiarize us with the Outer Banks, geographically, historically, and culturally. Beyond that, it gave me a purpose to my explorations, a map of sorts to direct me along the Outer Banks.

Our scavenger hunt
Unpainted aristocracy

Before I could start off on my adventures, however, I needed to do my research. The first item on the list, “Unpainted Aristocracy,” had me stumped. One google search later (https://www.ourstate.com/the-unpainted-aristocracy/ ), I learned “Unpainted Aristocracy” was the name for a row of old, wooden beach houses in Nags Head. These houses were built more than a century ago, surviving hurricanes, nor’easters, and Nags Head’s rapid development. Excited to see this part of history, I set out for Nags Head one morning before class. Driving along Virginia Dare Trail, I passed the rows of wooden houses, a stark contrast with the newer development around them. They seemed a testament to the resiliency of the Outer Banks, and a reminder of a simpler beach experience. One quick photo later and scavenger hunt item one was completed.

House in the surf zone

The next morning, I woke up ready to do some more exploring. I grabbed my keys and headed for Rodanthe. The scavenger hunt item for this trip: houses in the surf zone. The weather for the trip was perfect, a bright blue sky and light breeze rustling the sea oats. Crossing Oregon Inlet, I marveled at the beauty of the waves breaking on the shore and the brilliant blue of the ocean. Everything was so picturesque. Before I knew it, I arrived in Rodanthe, where I immediately noticed the mounds of sand along the road, indications that this town was slowly moving closer and closer to the ocean. I found my way to a beach access, and only had to walk a little way before I found what I came here for: a wooden house stood jutted beyond the dunes, the water lapping at its stilts. I noticed a rental sign in the window, indicating this result of rising sea levels has now been turned into a quintessential tourist experience. Another quick google search as I write this lets me see exactly how it’s being marketed, as a beach home with “waterfront views from almost every room” that’s “only steps from the beach.” It just shows one of the ways the Outer Banks have adapted to situations thrown at them, a resiliency I’d learn a lot more about in the weeks to come.

Throughout the next week, I got to explore downtown Manteo with Jason, where we were able to check more things off our list. One item, however, differed from the rest, as it was time dependent, requiring us to get up early enough to see the sunrise. A group outing was made of it, with plans to leave the house at 5:55am to get to the beach in time to see the sun rise over the ocean. And so the next morning a group of us left the house in our pjs or other cozy attire, perhaps not all the way awake and missing our beds, but committed to seeing the sunrise nonetheless. We went to Jennette’s Pier, layed out our towels, and settled into the sand. We didn’t talk much as we watched the sun make its way above the horizon, but that space was filled by calls of gulls and the waves crashing onto shore. We all just sat there, taking in the beauty of the morning. After the sky’s colors faded, we picked up our towels and headed towards breakfast, chatting and laughing amongst ourselves.

The sunrise group. Left to right: Jane, Fran, Joseph, Rebekah, Nathalie, Me, Anna. Photo creds: Mackenzie

The rest of the scavenger hunt items were slowly collected during the next week, on everyday trips with various members of the group, but it still served its purpose. From road trips to sunrises, each item helped me get a little closer to the Outer Banks and my classmates.

 

 

OBXFS ’21: Woods and Waves

I convinced myself that each wave was washing the ticks right off of me. We were swimming in ocean water so turquoise, it looked straight out of a Caribbean island tourist magazine, and the shore was glistening with shells.

The very blue waters that revived us at the end of the day.

The exaggerated luxury of this swim and the false assurance that being pummeled by waves washed away ticks was in contrast to our day in Buxton Woods. We had finished our first day of fieldwork for our Capstone research project in Buxton Woods down on Hatteras Island. With the help of GPS coordinates from a 1988 survey and Lindsay’s bushwhacking a few days prior, we made it to our plot area. We were conducting vegetation surveys, which included measuring tree diameters, taking plant samples, and digging soil samples.

Loaded in the back of the truck on our way to our site! (author Rebekah pictured on far right)

Going into this day, there was a nervous anticipation amongst the group. All we kept hearing about Buxton Woods was that it was the breeding ground for the peskiest mosquitoes, the most Lyme diseasiest ticks, and the best place for poisonous snakes to test out their fangs. It was going to be hot, humid, and we would be pestered non-stop all day with bugs. We had mosquito nets covering our faces and layers upon layers of deet soaked clothes in our best effort to prepare for the day.

Despite our best preparation, we faced several logistical and methodological challenges throughout the day. We were all amateur plant identifiers. We constantly had to ask Kathy, our guiding plant expert, questions and consult our picture-less wordy guidebooks to determine each specific species. It was hot, the bugs were biting rampant, and we had a bit of logistical confusion. It was the perfect recipe for group discord, frustration, snappy attitudes, and irritation.

However, even after several hours in the woods, I heard Jane, Steve, and Nathalie laughing from the other side of the plot. Jason was still yanking on vines and Blakely continued to measure tree trunks with patience and accuracy- yelling out our absurd and incorrect pronunciations for each species’ Latin name.

Nathalie, Steve, and Jane could be heard laughing from across the woods! 

Any tension or nervousness going into the day had disappeared. I was continually encouraged by the flexibility, perseverance, and genuine spirits of the group. I was proud of how we not only managed to stay sane and support each other throughout the day, but many of us actually had fun. I stepped out of the woods exhausted, but happy. Our swim on the beach at the end of the day was just the cherry on top of a great day.

Jason and Blakely held our team together recording tree diameters.

This short anecdote is merely one day of laughter and friendship. In the first month here, I have loved getting to make new friends, learn outside, and try new things! I am soaking it up and am enjoying each day here. Here’s to the rest of the semester of bug spray, laughter, friends, the woods, and pummeling waves!

 

OBX 2021: My Experience So Far

Reading the previous blog by our fellow classmate Jason really warmed my heart and I feel great getting ready to write this blog out on the white porch in this autumn-like summer morning. And I see Jane! She looks happy cycling back from her trip to somewhere. Future OBX students, it seems September is a great time to go walking or cycling, so go use those sidewalks and trails. Anyways, I feel like we’ve had multiple FDOCs (First Day

2nd Floor porch of the Friends of Elizabeth Guest House II where I wrote this blog

of Class in case this isn’t a thing anymore for our future reader) these past two weeks: we started our first class, our first internship, our first capstone trip to the Buxton Woods, our first group Mario Kart, and so much more. I want to talk about my experience with my internship at the Nags Head Planning Department, but I hope that our readers will be able to read about our Buxton Woods experience from future blogs because it was a very special one.

Looking for one of our friend’s house on an aerial map of Nags Head

I was very nervous on my first day. I couldn’t help but fidget around in my chair as I waited for Michael Zehner, the director of the Nags Head Planning Department. Soon, I was ushered into a room filled with cabinets bulging full of files, big maps and arts taped onto the wall, desks clustered with blueprints, and the planning staffs, Kate, Kelly, Kylie, Holly, and Michael, typing away in their offices; everyone was so friendly that I felt my sense of nervousness melt to excitement. I’m going to plan something!

We started to talk about the community of Nags Head and went on a tour around the town. Nags Head is a town on North Carolina’s Outer Banks that has a community centered around the coast, tourism, art, and parks. Most residents and industries rely on

Information about Typical Residential Driveway We Received During our Meeting about Sewage

septic systems, with the exception of the village of Nags Head, which means water quality control is an important task for the planning department. Nags Head is also vulnerable to floods, yet due to inconsistencies in floodplain mapping and modeling standards, many residents do not carry flood insurance, hindering the department’s vision of a resilient community. Next, to get a better scope of my ideal project, I attended meetings with the Public Works department, the local arts community, and the coastal federation and listened in to their projects.

I’ll be honest, I still have no idea what my project will be about. I don’t know whether I’ll be filing paperwork, doing fieldwork, researching law, or making maps. But from talking to the planning staffs and watching their hard work, I got the sense that they have done a lot for the community but that there is still so much more to do. Maybe my project will make a big change. Maybe it’ll just be a small blimp. But I know that whatever I do, I’ll be working to improve the lives of OBX residents and their interaction with the natural world. I am grateful for this opportunity.

My First Day at the Nags Head Planning Department

 

 

 

 

 

OBXFS ’21 (so far!) and fun at Jockey’s Ridge State Park

As I try to think of some way to introduce this post, I can’t help but realize that I’ve only been at the OBX field site for three weeks; but that isn’t to say it hasn’t been eventful! Already I’ve been on multiple exciting trips to new places, participated in fun activities, and made memories with the great people I’ve met so far. I would like to now walk you through some highlights of my time at OBXFS.

I’d like to start by commenting on the amazing and supportive people I’ve met at the field site. I mention supportive because I will admit there have been some challenging moments so far. But through any personal or professional hurdles, I’ve always felt that I have people who are willing to listen and help me get through it. From my fellow classmates to the directors, professors, and community members, I always feel welcomed and appreciate the strong sense of community that even a new member such as myself can feel at the OBXFS. I look forward to strengthening the bonds I’ve already made throughout the rest of the semester!

Besides a few enjoyable trips to the beaches and other local spots, I’ve been able to explore and learn a great deal about the OBX through visits to historical sites such as lifesaving stations, parks, and communities such as Buxton, home of Buxton Woods. I’ll leave the specifics of those trips to other students who I’m sure have better photos to go along (I’m not always much of a photographer myself), but I will say that the OBX has a rich history and I’ve enjoyed what I’ve gotten to experience and learn so far. Learning history through the stories of locals is unique in itself, and comparing it to other things I’ve heard creates a better picture of the living history of the OBX. One of the living sites we visited that was one of my favorite activities, was Jockey’s Ridge State Park!

Jockey’s Ridge was a short field trip but I enjoyed it so much because it emphasized one of my favorite aspects of being near the coast: the view of the horizon. As an active dune system, sand is continuously being moved and reshaped by the wind. This results in the formation of some large sand dunes that make for great views of the rest of the park and beyond. From the different peaks, I was able to see the maritime forest within the park, the Sound, and the human structures surrounding the park. I personally also enjoy just being able to see such large areas of open space, especially when it is storming outside (thankfully it was a clear day when we visited!). 

Although I don’t have a picture of one of those views, here’s one of a few classmates and myself walking toward the peak of a dune, as well as one of the many picturesque trees (I believe a loblolly pine) in the more forested regions of the park. These regions were just as interesting to venture through, as we could easily see how small elevation changes resulted in dramatic differences in vegetation, one of the key aspects of a maritime forest. It also gave the ranger time to provide some background to the park and share fun stories in her time working there. What I found to be the most interesting bit was about the low-lying areas and how they often hold vernal ponds in periods of higher rainfall. Although we came during a drier time and were unable to see them, it was still fun to learn about the frogs and other organisms that can call these transient ponds home. 

(Above; right to left) Blakely, Anna, and me making our way to the top of the dunes at Jockey’s Ridge! The blue sky itself was one of the many beautiful views from the day.

(Above) A tree that certainly stood out for its simple beauty, if my short experience with taxonomy and plant identification serves me well, we are seeing a Pinus taeda, or loblolly pine tree!

Overall, I enjoyed my time at Jockey’s Ridge, much like I’ve enjoyed my time at the OBXFS. In many ways, the field trip is a good representation of the field site as a whole: some challenging moments, a great deal of time outdoors, learning a lot about the environment around you, and friendly and knowledgeable mentors to lead the way! I truly have had many fun experiences at the OBXFS so far and can’t wait to experience more as the semester goes on. In addition, the capstone project so far has been interesting and looks to provide me with great field skills to complement the program coursework. Although I still have many weeks to go, I’m sure this field site will provide me with great professional skills and development.

But beyond this development and what I’ll leave you with has been personal development. In many ways, this program has pushed me far outside of my comfort zone. I’m far away from home, meeting many new people, putting in some long days, working on new projects in new concentrations, and more. As I mentioned earlier, I have had some personal challenges so far, but I have felt a sense of community from the members of the field site that has pushed me to take things in stride. The best example I have so far is when we all had the amazing opportunity to go surfing. I didn’t think much about it at the moment, but a few years ago I was pretty afraid of the ocean, and just a couple of weeks ago I spent a few hours out surfing in deep water, having a great time, and subconsciously conquering and burying that fear. Moments like this make me glad I chose to come to the field site, I look forward to many more of these and certainly encourage anyone looking for overall growth in themselves to apply for the program!

Reaching the End: Recalling my best (and worst) memories

As we approach the final week of our field site (crazy!!) I am flooded with all of the amazing memories we have created here on the Outer Banks. I couldn’t pick just one, so I decided to tell you about a few of my favorites:

  • The unfortunate ending to a beautiful day (how I finally broke my worst habit)
    On one of the first days of our orientation, I rode in the car with our instructor Lindsay, and in conversation told her about how I have a terrible habit of locking my keys in my car in very inconvenient places. Little did I know, I would be demonstrating this horrible habit to the whole group months later on a field trip to Hatteras (about an hour and a half from my house where my spare key sat in my room). At one of our stops on the way to Hatteras, I got out of my car to find a big, fuzzy caterpillar making its way across the parking lot. Excited to show everyone, I shut my car door with only my phone in hand. Minutes later, I stopped in my tracks, knowing what I had done. After the group helped brainstorm how I could break into my own car, Andy graciously offered to call his AAA and get them to come to my rescue. What we thought would be a quick fix ended up being almost two hours of sitting at a picnic table by the water waiting for the tow truck. Andy (my hero) waited with me while everyone else returned home. During this time, I observed a cormorant for far too long, then Andy and I got to watch a family of tourists attempt to paddle board for the first time, which was very entertaining. After feeling so guilty, I made a point to never lock my keys in my car again.

The cormorant that became my friend :’)

  • Visiting the mystical land of mermaids
    The Army Corps of Engineers Research Pier in Duck had always been a big mystery to me and my friends that grew up on the Outer Banks. It was always closed off to the public and has an ominous gate that opens up to a long gravel road. Since we were young, we were convinced that they had discovered mermaids and were keeping them somewhere on the end of the pier. A few weeks ago, when I found out that we were getting the chance to take a tour of the research facility, I was thrilled. I immediately texted my friends that I was on a mission to discover the mermaids. We got to the pier and were greeted by the lovely Heidi Wadman who gave us a brief tour of the area, some cool equipment, and explained some of the things that happen there. Due to COVID restrictions, we unfortunately could not go inside the building (so I did not get to find the mermaids, even though Heidi said there were none). We walked to the end of the pier and it was an amazing view (although it was covered with a thick layer of bird poop). It was amazing getting to tour a place that not many people get to see.

 

  • My peaceful escape from reality
    I think I can speak for us all when I say it was an exceptionally stressful few weeks of election season at the beginning of November, especially when we needed to be focusing on wrapping up our classes and getting to work on our Capstone. One of those mornings, I decided I needed an escape to calm my nerves and distract me for a while. As I was headed to take a walk on the beach, I decided instead to go to a place we visited earlier in our semester—Pea Island Wildlife Refuge. This is an amazing place that I have taken for granted all my life living on the Outer Banks. I grabbed my Front Porch coffee and began down the trail, passing several kind people who I can only assume were there for the same reason I was. I watched the billowing smoke of a marsh fire a few minutes down the road until I made it halfway down the trail where I sat down on a bench and watched the thousands of birds all gathered together on the water. The air was filled with only the sounds of the feeding birds, crashing waves in the distance, and occasional passing cars. I was overwhelmed with a feeling of serenity that I very much needed. It was a very memorable moment for me because I got so lost taking in everything around me, I didn’t even know how long I was sitting there. That feeling of peace turned my day around, and I will definitely be taking more advantage of that special place.

 

 

Not only has this field site introduced me to such amazing people, but it also made me appreciate my home so much more. 🙂

– Emma Bancroft (Class of 2022)