Moments ago I stood staring at my hands, thoroughly bashed by the barnacle-laden rocks upon which I landed when I went for an accidental swim in the ocean last week. Turns out, deciding which moment best represents the first six weeks of my graduate school experience at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology (OIMB) is more tasking than originally anticipated. Unintentionally biffing it into the Pacific seems as appropriate as any. I was out with part of the Coastal Trophic Ecology Lab (CTEL) family
collecting algae for ongoing urchin and isopod feeding experiments when the gravity surge occurred. To say I dove in head first implies a certain level of grace. In reality, I belly flopped in--to both the ocean that day and to graduate school in general.
For your viewing pleasure, there is photographic evidence from right before the fall thanks to our post-doc Julie, who was attempting to capture a photo of a rainbow (L: using the highly technical and scientific "Nereo-grabber" to collect bull kelp from the cement pilings around OIMB's intake line).
It would be an understatement to say the weeks here pass by quickly. Seriously--by the time Tuesday is over I blink and somehow it's the weekend again. Whaaaat? I think this has something to do with how our days are structured here. Rather than meeting for classes for shorter time slots throughout the week, OIMB's classes meet for an entire day, 8:30-5:00. While this sounds intense (it is), I quite enjoy this schedule for several reasons: 1.) on days I do not have class, I have uninterrupted days in lab; 2.) our professors appreciate breaks as much as we do, so an ample supply is incorporated throughout the day; and 3.) we get to go out in the field for nearly every class. Another oddity of weeks here is that everyone refers to them by the week's number. On a semester schedule, this would be rather excessive. Talking about "week 16" as the week before finals would make the semester seem grueling. But on the quarter system, when there are only 10-11 weeks of regular class, this number association is surprisingly useful (or daunting, provided how much needs to be accomplished in a such a short period of time...it really just makes falling behind happen faster). Regardless, here are a few brain-dump highlights of things I have learned/realized/accomplished in the past few weeks:
1. The best part about living literally above your lab is having the luxury of making late-night blueberry pancakes and eating them with your lab family. The proximity to my cuddliest cat Sampson (seen here making himself a pillow fort,
because pillow forts are obviously the best) and peanut butter pretzels is great, too.
2. I lived in Galloway Hall during my undergraduate time at Hendrix College. Now I live above the Galloway Lab. Coincidence? You decide.
3. Boots are a marvelous contraption, but as watertight as they may be, they still have two holes in the top. Womp womp.
4. I have a rough understanding of what research I will be doing! YAY! And, I wrote a brand spankin' new NSF GRFP project reflecting this proposed research. Third time's the charm, I sincerely hope.
5. Biology really is just about poop and sex, at the end of the day.
6. As much as I miss the Puget Sound, there really is nothing like the outer coast of Oregon. We are so fortunate to have the Oregon Beach Bill(which turns 50 next year!) that gives the public access to all 362 miles of coastline.
7. My general biology education from Hendrix (and my base knowledge of marine biology...lookin' at you, Dr. Dearolf) is really proving itself to be invaluable. I am grateful for the opportunities I had at Hendrix to explore the ocean, despite campus being in Arkansas.
8. Moreover, I am grateful for the folks at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center for teaching me everything I know about the NE Pacific/Pacific Northwest. The connections I made there were truly invaluable to starting my career as a young marine scientist.
9. Being surrounded by friends equally enthusiastic about marine science who are willing to go tide pooling in the middle of the night at the drop of a hat (see photos below...a healthy group of ochre stars (Pisaster ochraceus) (!!) and a newt) is pretty special. These are my people, y'all. I found them.
10. The faculty at OIMB are incredible humans and marine scientists. Not only are they experts in the field, they are also deeply connected to the broader OR Coast and marine science community. Truly, the deeper I get into marine science/education the smaller I realize the community is.
11. I will probably write an entire post on each of the respective things, but nonetheless: the past two weekends have been professionally and communally enriching. Some friends of mine in the Shanks Lab at OIMB presented their research on the gooseneck barnacle (Pollicipes) fishery down in Port Orford at the Oregon SeaGrant Field Station. And, last weekend my Marine Environmental Issues class went to the 2016 State of the Coast Conference up in Gleneden, OR.
12. Our lab got a new GCMS and I can't wait to play with it! New science toys are so much fun.
13. Speaking of science toys, we have a freeze drier (think astronaut food maker) that is used for freeze drying algae that Julie feeds to isopods. Picture this: tiny isopod astronauts. You're welcome, and welcome to the everyday entertainment of this new chapter of my life.
Pollicipes, during a tasting at the gooseneck barnacle fishery presentation in Port Orford (I opted out of the tasting, but they are quite a delicacy in Spain/Portugal, and people indicated they taste like lobster!). Left: View from the porch of the SeaGrant Field Station...not too shabby.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!