This weekend was the first real weekend the REU's as a whole group didn't have something planned, so Natalie and I enjoyed the freedom. We decided to explore some of downtown Charleston, first adventuring down to Amethyst and Alchemy. Inside the store was really cool! I ended up getting a $10 grab bag and two candles. Next, we went for coffee at Bayside Coffee. Well, Natalie got coffee. Not being a coffee drinker, I got a Strawberry Italian Soda. After enjoying sitting the sun for a while, we ventured into Thrifty Sisters. Inside, I found the coolest mug! It has a little pocket attached on the outside for teabags!!! For only $.50, it was mine. Later, I went into the South Slough work area, and I put some time into my Excel database. Sunday was a super lazy day, I binged a lot of Netflix.
Monday was a fantastic day to start my week off with. I completed adding the past data to my Eelgrass Density and Percent Cover graph, along with calculating the standard deviations and standard errors, which allowed me to add error bars to my graph. This data and graph focus on showing the startling differences in Zostera marina (the eelgrass species I am studying this summer) populations in South Slough and other places in Oregon (in this case, Coos Bay). Another shout-out and thank you to all involved OSU people (especially Caitlin and Jen) for letting me use their data, along with Oregon Department of Fishery and Wildlife. The Coos Bay data I received for all of you really has helped the dataset I have from South Slough have something to be compared to. Once I upload South Slough's 2018 data to the graph and do all the calculations for it, the graph should be complete. Ali and I spent time trying to color coordinate which datasets in the graph shared similar locations like all the South Slough sites were various shades of green. The downside of working on the computer is that they really like to freeze on me, especially just before I try to save my work. I saved frequently though, so I never lost any data when Excel would freeze or crash.
Tuesday was another day of working in Excel. Although I didn't accomplish as much as I would have liked, I completed sorting through South Slough's hobo temperature data for 2005 and 2007-2008. I would use 2006 data, but 2006 was a transition year among South Slough staff, so no data were collected. Sorting through data might not sound impressive, but some files were entered in by different people, so they weren't always labeled clearly. Also, there were a LOT of files. The data is supposed to be gathered and entered quarterly (January-March, April-June, July-September, October-December), for both sites A and C. So: 4 files per site per year, times 2 sites, times 3 years... that's 24 files to find. And when I find the files, I have to edit the data so I only have the temperature of when the temperature logger was in the water, and not when the logger was taking the temperature of the air before and after it was retrieved from the estuary. I also get to tackle 2016-2018 (successfully finished 2016 already!). This data will be used to see if there has been a shift in temperature in the Slough, seeing how Global Warming is warming the entire planet. It's possible the increase in temperature could be a factor in the decline in eelgrass, which is good for my project, not so much for the planet.
Wednesday was a nice slow day in contrast to the quickly paced computer days and the fieldwork days I knew would follow. Ali had an early morning meeting, so I did some mild work in Excel on my temperature data. Ali then gave me a few hours off, because I was still ruffled up from my presentation. I'm really lucky to have a mentor like Ali, someone who gets on my level to tell me to take a break, someone who tells me to tell them when I'm feeling overwhelmed. I'm never one to back down from a challenge, and I know I have a mild perfectionist complex when it comes to my work, add that to my fear of letting people down, the result is often a stressed army-of-one that isn't productive. The staff of South Slough estuary is a fantastic representation of why asking people for help and splitting up tasks is healthy for everyone. Everyone has strengths and plays towards them, whether it's field and lab work, education/outreach, coordinating, or office work. They take days off for personal reasons or family time, they help each other, they help change the world. I'm sure it's more complicated and isn't all sunshine and rainbows, but it's definitely a work environment I thrive in. Later in the day, we had Seminar, this week by Grant McDermott. I liked his presentation because he openly confessed to not knowing much about Marine Science, as his focus was on Economics. He also really slimmed down the math and economic, so I understood what was being talked about. I was going to go with Wyatt for jellyfishing, but ended up going to bed early because I was exhausted.
Thursday arrived with an early morning, bright and early at 5:30 AM. Ali, Amanda, and I were joined by another South Slough intern named Kerrigan on our adventure to Valino Island for Eelgrass Sampling. On the way, we picked up SAMI and SeapHOx instruments. SAMI collects data on CO2, while SeapHOx does high resolution pH. While on Valino, and in-between eelgrass shoot counting, Ali and I took sediment samples and put new Hobo loggers in the field. Hobo loggers are how the temperature data is collected, that's the data I pull for the South Slough temperature data. Kerrigan and Amanda were real troopers because the mud at Valino was treacherous, and the foggy morning was very cold. I was saddened by how little eelgrass was at Valino, only 3-4 of our sampling areas had eelgrass. For an area that once held epic meadows, that almost barren mudflat was heartbreaking, especially after looking at photos before 2016, before the mass decrease in eelgrass density in the Slough. The ride to Valino in the skiff was a lot of fun, but getting back in the boat after getting stuck in the mud was hard. I was certain I was going to lose my shoe again and fell multiple times before safely clambering ungracefully into the skiff. As cold and muddy it was, none of us lost our sense of humor during the whole process, and there was much laughing. We ended up finding golf ball and a metal fork in the mud, so we took them with us to properly dispose of them.
To get to Danger Point, we had to hike from Hinch Bridge. Ali lead the way, followed by Amanda and I. The mosquitoes were bad before entering the forest and during certain marshy parts of the hike, but once we were in the forest or had a cool breeze they left us alone. Ali was really nice and did most of the mud walking once we reached Danger Point, Amanda stayed on the bank, looking at the map and recording data. While in the mud, Ali found a molt of a European Green Crab, which isn't a good sign. The most disheartening part of the whole trip was the lack of rooted eelgrass on site. All the eelgrass we found were strands that previous tides had washed up, but I couldn't see any that was growing. Since Ali and I are helping at the Interpretive Center tomorrow, she gathered some of the shoots and bagged them, as a visual aid. On the way back to OIMB, we hooked up the kayaks to the truck, and are prepared for kayaking on Monday.
My project encompasses trends in water quality, eelgrass density, percent cover in eelgrass, and the metabolic rate of Valino. Water quality encompasses things like water temperature, nutrients, the amount of chlorophyll, pH, and so many other things. Comparing present day to past data can be a challenge, but I have a network of support behind me. Ali is going to use the data I assemble in a grant for South Slough, and I can't put into words how cool I think that is. Even though the turn Zostera marina took is sad, being the person looking for conditions that may have attributed to the decrease is an honor and an amazing experience. I get to collect the data, use past data, and have amazing people willingly giving me their data to incorporate into my project. I get field and lab training, have interpersonal skill development, and so many opportunities to try new things. Sometimes this whole experience feels like a dream, and I surprised to wake up in the morning and find myself still here.