Planning the Coast – Emily’s Internship with Kill Devil Hills

Hello, blog! My name is Emily Galvin, and my internship this semester was with the Planning Department of the Town of Kill Devil Hills. The office oversees a number of the workings of Kill Devil Hills, from participating in public forums to issuing building permits and designing public parks. 

Local governments like Kill Devil Hills have the unique position of meeting the concerns of local residents and also ensuring the coordination with federal and state policies. On my very first day on the job, my mentor, Meredith, and I attended a FEMA meeting with all of the other towns on the Outer Banks to begin assessing the damage of Hurricane Dorian. I was immediately impressed with the way these towns react to storms like this one and are prepared to meet with federal agencies in the aftermath. 

In my job, I spent time editing the Town’s CAMA Land Use Plan based on comments from the State, which is a major project that coastal municipalities must undertake to best prepare their town and residents for the realities of living on the coast. I learned a lot about how governments plan for resiliency – and, in many cases, how these local governments learn to design their own plans in ways not prescribed at the State level. 

Throughout my internship, I was impressed by how engaged citizens were in the decision-making process of local government and town planning. Since coming to the Outer Banks, I’ve been lucky to have been exposed to the way that members of a small community look out for each other and have a stake in the places that matter to them.

I was able to review videos from a town council meeting, and in it I could see the difficulty of local government — the balance of meeting the needs of the town residents and complying with existing ordinances. A few times, I met with residents and business owners throughout Kill Devil Hills about pieces of their land that did not comply with Town Code, and most of them were positively committed to making the changes to comply. This was a common mission in local governments, I learned, working with local individuals during one afternoon and federal agencies in another.

I learned a great deal about the careful balance of being a local government, and I’m sure this will shape the way I see the places I live in the future. A big thank you to the Town of Kill Devil Hills for having me. 

Statistics, Services and Success

How do we assign values to the environment and its services? Can we assign value to ecosystems? What factors influence people’s decisions to pay a certain amount for nature? 

These were all questions I had at the end of August when I embarked on my internship with Professor Andy Keeler. Three months later, and this research project on ecosystem services valuation has added statistical software experience, a couple hundred miles to my car and nearly a dozen questions to the list above. I’m bummed that the semester is coming to an end, because this project has become one of the best parts of the school year. It’s been no cake walk, but the challenge has made the project all the more worthwhile and relevant for further research. 

To start off, Andy assigned me two books to read. Yes, two entire books! At first I was overwhelmed and thought I had signed myself up for the wrong position, but that quickly changed when I realized a book can be read almost anywhere and doesn’t need to be confined to an office cubicle. 

Multitasking at its finest- sunbathing and reading about economic markets!

After reading Nature’s Services by Gretchen Daily, I was inspired to really dig into valuation techniques used by economists to attribute market values to ecosystem services. More specifically, I chose to look at how different individual attributes, such as ethnicity and income, influence how people make value choices towards the environment. In other words, I predicted that white people from higher income households would be willing to pay more money to protect, conserve or enhance the environment compared to nonwhite populations and those with lower income.

The next step was to start modeling. Andy and I were super excited to use Stanford’s inVEST software, that claims to give ecosystem service values as outputs in GIS. Sounds perfect for my project right?  Well, after a painful process of trying to learn how to use ArcGIS on YouTube, as well as understanding the different variables required by inVEST, all I ended up getting was a blank map and no numbers. Even though the model ended up being a dead end for my project, the software was a good starting point to work with and more relevant for research not focused on calculating willingness to pay. 

The next stage of my project was familiarizing myself with two surveys that I ended up using for my statistical analysis. One deals with NC hemlock trees, and the other looks at harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie. Both surveys were kindly supplied by ECU economics professor, Dr. Gregory Howard. I ended up driving to ECU to meet and discuss how to interpret the survey results and input it into statistical software. 

Here’s where the really fun part begins. After a long spring semester of econometrics and Stata, I vowed to never touch the software again. Low and behold I’ve spent the past month maneuvering it, yet again, along with another program called JMP. Even crazier, this project has made me finally appreciate statistics and I’ll be taking applied econometrics next semester! 

My old friend, Stata.

Now, since we’re giving our internship presentations later this week, I’m not going to reveal my “results” quite yet. However, I can divulge the stuff I’ve learned, from a less quantitative perspective. First off, I learned that Andy is working in the coolest field there is. Having him as a mentor for this project and hearing his experiences in this field of economics has been eye-opening to the kind of opportunities I will have after college. For the longest time I thought I was beginning to make-up the term “ecological economics” because so many people told me it was too abstract to build a career, or even degree, off of. When I got my majors switched to Environmental Studies and Economics, the advisor told me it was “the weirdest combination he had ever seen in all his years of advising.” Thankfully, my doubts have dissipated; I think I’ve found my niche in academia.

No, I am not an expert in ecosystem service valuation methods and literature, nor am I even remotely qualified to complete advanced statistical analyses on large data sets, but I do know that this is what sets my curiosity on fire. I have found something that I can run with not only in my academics and career, but also from an advocate’s standpoint. Knowing that there are potentially gaps in how people view and value the environment because of something like ethnicity and income is not only concerning from a researchers perspective. Yes, they’re important gaps we need to understand and interpret, but more importantly they’re gaps we need to address. I think acquiring all of this knowledge and results the past few months has given me a responsibility to address these gaps, not only to make ecosystem service values more accurate and robust, but also to help people have a better connection with and understanding of nature. I know that’s not something I’m going to achieve today, but here’s hoping I can work towards my goal within my career and own personal contributions to society. This realization is ultimately what made this internship a success.

Hayley’s semester with The North Carolina Coastal Federation!

Hello, I’m Hayley and for the past few months I’ve been interning with the North Carolina Coastal Federation. I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside the staff of the Coastal Federation, but worked more closely with my mentor Leslie Vegas. Leslie Vegas works on the Ocean Friendly Establishments project and this was my primary project that I worked on with my time at my internship. When I first got to my internship, I learned about the different plant-based plastics. I got to see all of the products within the eco-products brand and was also educated about the downsides to plant-based plastics. This led me to one of my first projects in my internship. I made an infographic that outlined the differences between plant-based plastics and PET plastics, which is one of the most common forms of plastic. 

The infographic outlined the differences in production, environmental health and disposal. The purpose of this infographic is to be distributed and shown to restaurants and businesses that are being recruited to join the Ocean Friendly Establishments program in order to educate them on plastics. I also wrote a small paper about the differences between these plastics in order to emphasize that plant-based plastics can also be harmful to the environment, and that instead of searching for alternatives, it is more environmentally friendly to reduce plastic consumption overall. 

Another task I completed was creating infographics that communicated the harmful impacts of different single-use plastics. The three I completed were plastic bags, plastic straws and styrofoam. These are also intended to be shown to businesses to communicate the harms of plastics, in order to encourage a reduction in their business. Not only did I complete infographics for the Ocean Friendly Establishments program, I also went with Leslie to visit two locations for the program. One place we went was Jack Browns which is a burger restaurant near the beach. We delivered to them their certification and checked that they met the standards. We also went to Moms sweet shop to deliver to them paperwork to join the program. 

In addition to working on the OFE project, I also worked some on the NC Oyster Trail, and researched oyster trails in other states in order to learn about what we can do similarly in North Carolina. Additionally, I made a newsletter about plastics at my time at my internship. 

Overall, I learned so much from my time with the NC Coastal Federation and I would like to thank Leslie for being a wonderful mentor and providing me with experience. 

A collection of my experiences in OBX

The past few weeks have been quite busy for us here at the OBX Field Site as we are putting in hard work toward making an awesome capstone project while also completing work for our classes and individual internships. We’ve been collecting and testing water samples, gathering relevant scientific papers, and we’ve even begun conducting interviews. In fact, I had the opportunity to conduct the first interview of the project (which went superb).

Bob, a volunteer with the Baptist Men organization, as he wheels out debris at a residential property in Avon, N.C. that was damaged due to flooding from hurricane Dorian.

Despite our abundance of work, I’ve really come to enjoy my time here on the Outer Banks. One aspect that I’m continually enjoying is my internship with the OBX Voice. Over the course of the semester, I’ve gotten to travel all throughout the coast to photograph for the Voice on a range of stories. I’ve had the opportunity to meet new people, see parts of the coast I’d otherwise be unable to, and work on my skills as a photographer. One assignment I enjoyed was covering the efforts to rebuild in Buxton, NC, after hurricane Dorian. While it was sad to see the destruction, I found it truly inspiring to see the volunteers aiding with rebuilding and debri removal. Some of the volunteers even came from as far as Delaware and Texas to help with disaster relief. I’ve enjoyed my work thus far and look forward to what my future assignments may bring.

Me, attempting to catch a wave.

Outside of field site work, I’ve also been able to dabble in some of the activities exclusive to the coast. One such activity has been surfing. Thanks to Christin, a member of our Community Advisory Board, I’ve been able to try my hand at surfing near Jennette’s Pier. Despite falling in a few times (or most of the time), I think I’ve started to get the hang of it and I think that it’s a hobby, I’ll definitely try to keep practicing. 

 

In addition to the fun activities, I’ve also had the opportunity to volunteer with the OBX SPCA in my spare time. I’ve helped them out at a few of their events and gotten a chance to meet and spend time with a few of the awesome animals that they are currently looking after. 

I’m excited to experience even more of the OBX and look forward to continuing my work here at the field site!

 

Hello, Gourdgeous. It’s Fall in the OBX!

The last couple weeks have been a mix of fun and hard work. During the week of October 7th, we carved out Wednesday-Friday as extra time to collect data for our Capstone project. We took 2 water quality samples, as well as added a new sampling well in Nags Head Woods. Although we had to cancel our Friday field trip to Hatteras due to weather, we still had a fun Friday. My family was in town, and had everyone over to their AirBnB for tacos! We had fresh Mahi and vegetarian chorizo tacos, as well as some of my grandmother’s homemade coconut cake. I also caught the homecoming parade for Manteo High in downtown Manteo on Friday afternoon. This was my favorite part!!

The week of the 14th was only half a week, since our fall break started on Wednesday. I had my internship, at the Planning Department in Nags Head, on Monday and Wednesday. Wednesday was National Bosses Day, so we had a fall-themed party for my bosses with some pumpkin cupcakes and hot apple cider! I got a lot of work done on both Monday and Wednesday on my project with the Septic Health Initiative. I am looking forward to seeing the ways in which my project at work aligns with our Capstone research.

On Tuesday night, we had a CAB meeting. Instead of talking about our research, we painted and ate burrito bowls instead! Faye Davis Edwards, the creative director at the Dare County Arts Council, set us up with canvases and paint, and helped us paint oysters. Although mine ended up looking like sushi, or a pretty moldy avocado, others painted beautiful oysters! It was a fun meeting that was a break from the norm. We have also agreed to volunteer at the Dare County Art Council’s annual gala on the 26th. This year’s theme is Swing!, and we will be helping to check guests in and out, as well as drive them to their cars in golf carts. We also get to dress up!

I decided to stay in Manteo and enjoy the weather over fall break. It was very relaxing, and I enjoyed 3 beautiful sunsets, as well as carving a pumpkin on the beach. I can’t wait to hear about everyone’s fall breaks, and regroup on Tuesday. That’s all, folks!

 

Carving pumpkins on the beach!
The prettiest sunset I’ve seen in the OBX! Taken over fall break.

Are you ready for OBX? (Recommend You Try These Things)

Living a new place can be both overwhelming and exciting! Here’s how you can make the best out of your time while in the Outer Banks.

Rooms

The first thing you should do is decorate your space. It’ll make you feel at home and can also be your sanctuary for when you need some alone time. If you’re missing something or want something new for your space, then you should thrift! There’s sooo many items that you can thrift and can find some awesome antique on the island too!

 

Activities

Don’t feel too pressured, but here’s a quote to abide by. “The warmer the island, the more tourists and more places are open.” As soon as the tourist season is over, there’ll be less places open. Therefore, you’ll want to get going quick to visit the fun-summer places, but no worries.. there are things to do during the winter months too..

Late Summer Activities

  • Ocean.. ocean.. OCEAN
  • Jet Skiing

Fall – Winter Activities

 

T<3M – Interning with the Town of Manteo

My internship for the the fall 2018 OBXFS semester has been with the wonderful Town of Manteo.  Centrally located in downtown Manteo, a pleasant 5-minute bike ride from our Manteo home, interning with the Town of Manteo has been one of my favorite parts of this semester.

The Town of Manteo is where all of the magic happens – it’s where public works, planning, police, water and sewer, and special events collide.  The people in Town Hall keep Manteo beautiful and running smoothly, while involving community members and listening to and supporting their ideas.

I’ve been working for Melissa Dickerson; a whip smart, tree hugging individual who is dedicated to her job in her (almost) hometown of Manteo.  Every Monday and every other Wednesday this semester, Melissa and I have been primarily working on the Community Rating System (CRS).  I spent many of my first few days reading up and gaining a better understanding of the complex FEMA program – essentially, communities can participate in CRS through accomplishing certain tasks that prevent the negative impacts of flooding on properties, and, in doing so, they accrue points that add up to a class rating which results in discounted flood insurance premiums for property owners.  The more activities the town completes, the better the discount for flood insurance policy owners.  I’ve helped to examine and understand flood zone maps; write, address, and mail out letters; and keep track of our documentation for our projects. I also participated in some damage assessments following hurricane Michael (pictured).

Photographing damage in Pirate’s Cove after hurricane Michael

While that has been my primary focus, I have also enjoyed seeing how Melissa works and how the town as a whole functions.  I’ve had the opportunity to get to know all of the department heads and understand more about what each of them do – from managing water and sewer to keeping all of the town’s files perfectly organized and accessible, to planning the Christmas celebration.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into with this local government internship, and I still don’t know if it’s where I’ll end up, but I’ve learned so much in my time with the Town of Manteo and have walked away with an overwhelmingly positive outlook on how local government works and an increased appreciation for all that they do.  This is a result of being a part of a relaxed, community-minded workplace environment.  I’m so thankful for the opportunity to live the beautiful outer banks of North Carolina, and I’m so thankful for having the chance to get to know TOM (pictured), and the many friendly faces that make up Manteo Town Hall.

One of my goals was to convince TOM to hang out with me in Melissa’s office, so I was delighted when Kermit Skinner, town manager, captured this photo

 

 

 

 

 

Horsin’ around

This week was our first full week back since evacuating for Hurricane Florence, and it sure feels good to be back. In short, our week started off with internships on Monday, class and Capstone session on Tuesday, a guest lecturer on Wednesday, and finally an overnight field trip on Thursday and Friday!

On Wednesday Dr. Alex Manda came to the Coastal Studies Institute (CSI) to speak to us about his research on groundwater and marine inundation. First, he walked us through an exercise which helped us all understand the groundwater table, and how exactly water runs through the ground right under our feet. The picture below shows the model we used to visualize how water moves through wells, layers of sediment, and aquifers.

After finishing our activity, we heard more about Dr. Manda’s research, and what exactly they discovered in their groundwater inundation research. Groundwater inundation in short is how much land may be out of commission due to sea-level and the water table rising. Dr. Manda and his team wanted to know if there would be more inundation, land out of commission, from groundwater or marine waters, specifically the Atlantic Ocean. His main conclusion was that the groundwater inundation may be more significant than the marine inundation due to the area covered by groundwater inundation being greater than that covered by marine inundation. If you would like to read more on his study it is titled, “Relative role and extent of marine and groundwater inundation on a dune‐dominated barrier island under sea‐level rise scenarios”.

The next morning we all woke up bright and early to leave for our overnight trip to Corolla! The day started off with with a hike at the Currituck Banks Coastal Estuarine Reserve with Kate Jones. We walked through the 300 acres of Maritime forest and it was breathtakingly beautiful. Maritime forests are forests impacted by the ocean, and so we could hear waves crashing in the distance all throughout our hike. Here’s a picture of a baby snapping turtle we saw during our hike!

  

After the hike we drove straight to the Currituck Lighthouse, where we climbed over 200 stairs to make it to the top. The views were beautiful and we all had fun at the top overlooking both the Ocean and the Sound.

Next, we had a tour at the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education. Our guide Sharon Meade informed all of us of the rich history of Corolla and of course the wildlife as well. The education center was extremely informative and we all learned about how much hunting has influenced Corolla. Duck hunting was a delicacy for Northerners, so much so that multiple hunting clubs arose and brought people and money to Currituck County. Later in this post I discuss the lovely home we got to stay in, which used to be a very popular Duck hunting club, and still is today.

Just a quick walk down the road and we were at our next stop, the Coastal Exploration Dock, where we met Hadley Twiddy. Hadley attended UNC Chapel Hill and was one of the first students to ever participate in the Outer Banks field site. She now lives in Corolla and was able to talk with us more about Corolla’s history, the Sound and Marsh ecology, and what it is like to be a permanent resident in a town made up of mostly tourists. Hadley also had an adorable dog named Junebug who we all enjoyed playing with.

After our conversation with Hadley we drove to the Pine Island Sanctuary, where we met our host Robbie Fearn. Robbie works for Audubon, a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to conservation.  Audubon now manages 2,600 acres of the Sanctuary with the goal of providing wildlife and birds with a safe, undeveloped, place to live. We helped Robbie clear some invasive species, olive trees, and then were treated to a lovely Italian dinner made by our professors Linda and Andy. After dinner the group settled in for a night full laughs and card games.

The next morning, we woke up early enough to see a beautiful sunrise, and then were off to see the wild horses. The tour with Brad was extremely fun, he horsed around a lot, but made us all laugh throughout the tour. The wild Spanish Mustangs all originated from Spain, and made it to the Outer Banks after swimming ashore from shipwrecks. The horses are free to roam around citizen’s yards as often as they want. There was one donkey named “Earl” however, Earl is unique due to the fact that officials are strict about letting other animals interact with the horses. This is to ensure the bloodline remains the same.

The first picture is Earl!

After the horse tour we were off to our final destination, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Field Research Facility. Heidi Wadman gave us a tour of the Facility after presenting her research to us. Heidi studies storms, from hurricanes to nor’easters to excessive rainfall she covered it all. She specifically focuses on how storms are or are not changing over the years, and what that means for coastal environments.

After our 1/3 mile walk out to the end of the pier and back it was time to return to CSI! This overnight trip was definitely one of my favorite experiences so far and I hope you enjoyed my post!

  • Elizabeth Kendrick

 

 

The Dog Days are Coming

I’m writing this post as we are currently being evacuated from the Outer Banks due to the incoming Hurricane Florence. While we had a great start to classes last week, we are now awaiting the return to our new home until the storm passes. To overview last week, which seemed to fly by, we had a Labor Day cookout at our house, the first day for our 3 courses (Coastal Economics, Coastal Management, and Ecology), the first day of internships, and our first lab out on the boat. I’ll go into more detail about each of those a little later.

Labor Day weekend was a fun time for all of us. A few of us made the trek down to see the Cape Hatteras lighthouse, the tallest brick lighthouse in North America. It has about 260 stairs and was quite exhausting to climb, but the view was definitely worth it. The climb definitely required a break to catch our breath every few dozen stairs.

View from the bottom

After a long, tiring climb to the top. The view was beautiful (from left to right: Conor Howachyn, Emma Szczesiul, Lynn Tran, Marium Konsouh, Danesha Byron, Alex Kellogg)

Sunday night was a relatively relaxing night as we watched movies and played a lot of Rock Band. On Labor Day, a few of us had the chance to go to the local water park H2OBX, on the mainland, as our house manager had some extra tickets. No pictures from that unfortunately, but we had a great time despite it being extremely crowded because it was the last day of the season. We rounded the weekend off with a Labor Day feast. We used the charcoal grill in our backyard for the first, and despite some early difficulties (including the flames going out a few times and some meat falling through the grate, because we are environmental majors, not grill masters), the end result was delicious. The food included turkey burgers, veggie burgers, grilled bell peppers, mac and cheese, and grilled peaches for dessert. We also had a delicious salad made by Alex. Most of the food is pictured below.

We were chilling hard indeed, Snapchat. You can tell I’m enjoying that burger.

On Tuesday we finally began classes after what seemed like 2 very long weeks of orientation (we still haven’t fully grasped that we are living in this beautiful place!). We started off with a Coastal Resource Economics taught by Dr. Andy Keeler. While many of us had already taken a basic Economics course, the first day, along with Thursday’s class, were mainly dedicated to review of basic economics concepts and ideas. Following that class, we had our Sustainable Coastal Management class, taught by Dr. Linda D’Anna. This class is more focused on human dimensions of coastal usage and takes a socio-cultural approach to coastal management. We will also be learning about collection of qualitative data, which will be a huge part of our Capstone project.

After a lunch break, we had a Capstone, where our professors offered critiques and suggestions on the proposals we had submitted the week prior, and gave us some good practical feedback that will help us narrow down what we will be researching.

Wednesday was our first day of internships! All of us were placed in different internships, and it was interesting to hear about everyone’s experiences after our first day. The internships vary from positions at the District Attorney’s office, the Town of Nags Head, an environmental consulting firm, the Outer Banks Center for Dolphin Research, and many more. My internship is at the latter. The Outer Banks Center for Dolphin Research is a non-profit dedicated to logging the various dolphins seen in the Sound through photo identification and tracking their movements up and down the East Coast. It promotes conservation as well as education of the bottlenose dolphins. They are actually able to identify the dolphins based on distinctive markings on their dorsal fins, and enter them into the national database FinBase. Some of the “famous” dolphins include Onion, who has been spotted as early as 1990, and Flounder.

My first day consisted of going on two dolphin tours, which included mostly tourists itching to see some dolphins. Both sightings did not disappoint, as we saw around 12-15 dolphins on each survey. I was also tasked with recording the data, including how many dolphins we saw, their activities, any recognizable dolphins we saw, as well as things like salinity and water temperature. The data sheet is pictured below, along with a few of the dolphins we saw.

Don’t ask me which dolphins are pictured. I am not an expert on the identification part (yet).

Thursday was another day of classes for us, as we had our second day of the Economics and Management classes in the morning, as well as the first day of Coastal and Estuarine Ecology class with Dr. Lindsay Dubbs. This class is one day per week, but Fridays will consist of a lab or field trip (overnight in some cases).

Our first lab of the semester was the following day, as we arrived at the Coastal Studies Institute at 9 AM and boarded a boat to go out on the Sound. We collected water samples, and recorded data from 3 different sites around the Croatan Sound. We spent almost all day on the boat, and it was definitely a fun yet informative experience. We took measurements on water temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll A, photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) at multiple depths at each site. We also used something called a Secchi disk to measure the clarity of the water. After visiting the 3 sites, we stopped at a small beach to learn how to take soil cores (which was very difficult) and have some free time to roam around before returning to CSI.

Marium and Emma (respectively) collecting some data

All in all, it was a great first week of classes, and we ended it on a good note by going to First Friday in downtown Manteo, with live music, great food, and beautiful views of the Sound.

We all decided to dress up for the occasion. Only 8 of us are pictured here, as the rest of the group had gone to the beach and met up with us later on in the night. Front row (left to right): Jenn Allen, Elizabeth Kendrick, Kat Bell, Emma Karlok, Emma Szczesiul, Marium Konsouh). Back row: Harris Kopp, Conor Howachyn

 

Swamps, ropes courses, and planes, oh my!

      Our second week of orienting ourselves to our surroundings here in the Outer Banks proved to be as fun and informative as the first.  A brief overview includes hiking in the swamp, completing the equivalent of most of a 300 level GIS class in one day, and taking turns flying in a tiny plane, but I’ll zoom in closer on some of the highlights.

Monday was our first official Community Advisory Board (CAB) meeting – we all gathered in a meeting room at the Nags Head Woods Preserve and got to know each other over enormous sandwiches, chips, and cookies.  We enjoyed rotating through stations of CAB members to bounce our project ideas off of them and hear where their concerns lay in wastewater management. Following our lunch, a few CAB members and our motley crew of 13 went for a short guided walk through the woods.  With no shortage of “get out me swamp!” references, we saw turtles, snakes, grasshoppers, and lots of spiders.  

Students and CAB members admire snakes, birds, and turtles in Nags Head Woods Preserve.

“Get out me swamp!” – probably someone while I took this picture when we first arrived

On Tuesday, we remembered very fondly the previous day’s exploration in the woods as the day was filled with what Andy’s daughter (and current UNC grad student and GIS expert), Cory, aptly names “GIS headaches.”  We were inside all day, looking at computers for most of it, and very confused for a large majority. I think everytime she asked if we were ‘all good’ my response was a confused ‘no,’ and anytime she asked if anyone needed help she looked straight at me as my hand went up and computer screen filled with things that no one else was looking at.  We can all agree, however,  that finishing the day with somewhat decent-looking, hopefully accurate maps of water temperature, pH, and E. coli in Dare county was an extremely satisfying experience.  The workshop is epitomized in the below picture of Kat:

Kat visually demonstrating how we all were feeling, photo credits to Emma Szczesiul

 

After such a frustrating day, Wednesday easily ranks as one of the best of the semester so far for me.  From 10AM-3PM we were outside together completing group bonding activities like champs and then climbing like monkeys on the high ropes course.  The course was challenging and incredibly fun – with three vertical levels each consisting of 3 different courses, it’s safe to say most of us finished the day bruised, sore, with huge smiles on our faces. The physically exhausting day was topped off with a wonderfully relaxing evening on the beach.

 

I don’t think any of us really realized just how soon all of the group dynamics information would become so scarily relevant – but Thursday sure showed us exactly that.  After staying up Wednesday night to finish our individual proposals, we spent Thursday afternoon reading and critiquing each others and then trying to agree on two ideas to expand upon for our group proposals.  There was lots of back and forth, but not as much arguing and stalemate as one might expect from a 13 person group project, luckily we had our handy group dynamics toolbox from the previous days’ workshop to thank for that. After hashing it out a bit at CSI, we met up again at the house to complete and turn in both proposals by 10PM the day before they were due with minimal interpersonal damage sustained, which I count as a group win in my book.

 

I’ll end this post with a photo series to describe our beautiful Friday morning plane rides over the outer banks.

 

From left, Danesha, Marium, Autumn, and Jenn begin boarding the five passenger plane.  Jenn and I rock-paper-scissored for the cockpit position.

Autumn and Marium were all smiles with their headsets on just before taking off…

 

A view of Jockey’s Ridge from above – making it look a lot more flat than it felt climbing up the dunes.

 

A selfie to commemorate Danesha’s FIRST EVER plane ride!

I find myself constantly needing to remind myself (and anyone who’ll listen) that “We LIVE here!!!!” – looking at this picture is one of those moments

A group picture with our pilot

We talked to this beautiful pup’s owner and pilot in training the entire time the last group was in the air – I think we all came away from the conversation seriously considering getting a pilot’s license.

 

From left: Danesha, Lynn, Alex, Harris, and Marium leaving the beach.  That’s a wrap on orientation, folks.