As the tide turns a new journey begins…

My time in TIDES has been the most memorable, vigorous, frustrating, and greatest learning experience of my life. I would like to take this final blog post to share my last thoughts on what I have learned, thank those who have been instrumental to my success, and share what is to come next.

During this two-year journey, I have learned more than I ever thought possible. As someone who once thought that non-scientists should be separated from the decision-making process for natural resources, I have developed a new perspective that calls for inclusion of all people in the decisions surrounding the use of our natural resources. This new perspective has been influenced by world travels, but also through the TIDES program, conversations with my cohort and Mimi, and experiences during my internship. Through this process I have found a new perspective that better outlines where I fit in the messy puzzle of natural resource management. I identify as an educator, collaborator, and scientist. TIDES showed me that I do fit into the puzzle and that I can make science education and public outreach a career. A career that I am very excited to begin and put my well-used skills in teaching and group managemnet, but new skills in collaboration, facilitation, conflict resolution, and inclusion of science in the decision-making process to good use.

Along this journey there have been many people who have supported and encouraged me. I thank Mimi for her guidance during this process. I have her to thank for encouraging me and giving me the desire to become a more active citizen of my community. I thank Dave for his support of the TIDES program, especially during the last semester of the program. He also taught me about salt marshes and dunes—two systems that are dynamic in nature and support many human and wildlife uses. Thank you to everyone at the National Estuarine Research Reserve National Science Collaborative. They have taught me so much about collaboration and science communication. I thank those that helped me during my internship at both New Hampshire Sea Grant and the Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. They all helped me grow as a person and professional. The opportunities during my internship have given me a much greater understanding of the field of coastal natural resource management and marine education. Thank you to my TIDES Cohort. I enjoyed working and learning with all of you and thank you for a great two years. Lastly, I thank my family and friends for beginning this journey up to New Hampshire with me many years ago. They have all been supportive of my decisions and eager to learn about my work. I cherish all of them and am thankful that have been with me since day one.

TIDES Cohort 2015 after our symposium for friends, family, colleagues, and the public. It was a wonderful day filled with great insight to our journeys over the past two years.

TIDES Cohort 2015 after our symposium for friends, family, colleagues, and the public. It was a wonderful day filled with great insight into our journeys over the past two years.

As I graduate from UNH in four days, I head back to Ohio, my roots. I have grown and blossomed during my time in New Hampshire, but it is time to return to my hometown and work with communities as they work to sustainably use the resources of Lake Erie and continue decade-long cleanup efforts of the Lake and its tributaries. Lake Erie is my home, playground, and now my new place of work. I am so excited to share all that I have learned with my new colleagues at Ohio Sea Grant and share some of my TIDESisms with the agency. Through this work, I will be able to give back to the communities that helped form the person I am today, as well as give back to the environment that has been my kayaking spot for many years.

TIDES has been a wonderful experience, but now it is time for me to make my difference in the world. Get ready because I am prepared to tackle these messy problems and work to help people more sustainably use their resources and shift behavior to foster appreciation and respect for our natural areas. Farewell East Coast its been fun!

 

Josh and I sitting on Cadillac Mountain watching the sun rise. It was a wonderful way to say goodbye to the East Coast, the ocean, and my home for many years.

Josh and I sitting on Cadillac Mountain watching the sun rise. It was a wonderful way to say goodbye to the East Coast, the ocean, and my home for many years.

Climate Science at the Mount Washington Observatory

There is a long history DSC_6030of monitoring weather on top of Mount Washington with the first group of determined scientists starting an expedition in 1870. Despite the predicted failure, the group gathered valuable observations and a weather station was on the summit until 1892. Decades later in 1932 the Mount Washington Observatory was established by Bob Monahan, Sal Pagliuca, Alex MacKenzie, and Joe Dodge. Two years later on April 12, 1934 the men proved the importance of the observatory when they recorded the world’s fastest surface wind speed ever observed by man at 231 mph! Following this event the Mount Washington Observatory became an established private, non-profit organization dedicated to maintaining a record of weather data, performing weather and climate research, and to foster a public understanding of the mountain and its environment.

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I was fortunate to receive the opportunity to travel up to the Mount Washington Observatory (MWOBS) with my dad as part of a joint birthday present from my mom. We joined a group of six other people in the adventure of a lifetime. On Saturday, February 28, 2015 the eight of us met in the parking lot of the Mount Washington Auto Road to receive a debriefing on the days activities, get to know one another, and walk down to the maintenance garage where the snow cat is kept.

 

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Slim our snowcat operator.

Slim was our snow cat operator, and has been working with the MWOBS as their snow cat operator and mechanic for the last seven years. It was thrown around a few times that Slim could drive the auto road with his eyes closed. I have no doubt he could because he’s completed over 400 trips since he started. It was nice to know we were in experienced hands. In addition to Slim, Sam was our education trip leader for the trip. She has previous experience working with the observatory in their museum and now works in the Weather Discovery Center at the base of the mountain. Our second trip leader was Mark Van Baalen a geologist at Harvard University. The theme of the education (or edu) trip was climate change: how climate has changed, how it is predicted to change, and how MWOBS plays a role in climate research.

 

After filling out some final paper work we loaded our gear and selves into the snow cat and started the 8-mile journey up the auto road. The first four miles of the auto road are groomed because there are daily snow coach trips for tourists. A snow coach is basically a 12-passenger van, but instead of tires each wheel has tracks similar to the snow cat. We passed a few snow couches on the way up and down from the summit and everyone was taking pictures as the snow cat drove by. The trip up the auto road took a few hours and included two stops to get out and walk around. At the first stop we learned about how the presidential mountains were formed and how streams and glaciers helped create some of the defining features. The second stop overlooked the east and a few ski hills like Wildcat. We talked more about specific rock formations including the affectionately names ‘squiggley rocks.’ These rocks were a result of marine sand and sediments being compressed and folded overtime and now have the ‘squiggley’ appearance.DSC_6061 Our final stop was at the summit and MWOBS.

 

Once arriving the first task was to get some lunch, a safety briefing, and a tour of the facility. MWOBS shares the building with NH State Parks and the building is split between the two organizations. Each has separate work, living, cooking, and sleeping quarters in the basement of the observatory. To get to our living quarters you have to walk through the weather room and down a set of spiral stairs. There is not heat in the stairwell and the small windows have ice crystals covering them. Overall the facility felt like a maze with lots of doors, hallways, and rooms. Our observatory guide showed us the emergency exits and it was hard to keep track of all of them. I’m happy I didn’t need to test my knowledge of the exits during our stay.

 

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My dad feeling the wind out on the observation deck.

After lunch we all suited back up into our outdoor gear and headed outside. Our first stop was the top of the observation tower that typically only MWOBS have access too. We traveled up a flight of spiral staircase and then two ladders before reaching the top. On top of the tower there is equipment to measure temperature, wind speed, wind direction, etc. Most of the observations are conducted using this equipment. Because we were fortunate enough to have such a clear day on top of Mount Washington we could see for over 110 miles!

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A view from the southern end looking back at the observatory and the weather tower.

After spending time in the tower we headed wandered around the summit learning about the different buildings on the property. There is a replica of the original shack where Bob Monahan, Sal Pagliuca, Alex MacKenzie, and Joe Dodge lived and recorded the 231 mph winds. The building is chained to the summit to show how it was held in place back in 1932.

 

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A replica of the original weather station can be seen in top left. The chains that wrap around the building are only decoration now, but historically they were used to keep the building in place. You can also see the precipitation can here in yellow.There is a building called the Yankee House that houses a lot of radio and electrical equipment and is not open in the winter. There is also the Tapp House that used to be a restaurant connected to the former Mount Washington hotel by tunnel before the hotel burned down.

 

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The rock building to the right is the Tapp House.

We also learned more about how the observers collect data on precipitation (snow and rain) through the use of a precipitation can. When precipitation is falling the can is collected every 6 hours. The contents are then measured, melted if necessary, and then weighed. The precipitation can is out in the open away from buildings to keep blowing snow from collecting in the can. But this means that in 100+ mph winds the observers have to brave the elements to get to the can. In the summit museum there is a video of one of the observers collecting the precipitation can in 100 mph and it was amazing that he was able to complete the task despite the conditions.

 

 

We then headed inside to listen to Mark give a lecture about climate science and how it relates to climate change. He talked about a number of topics related to climate science including the role of climate models, how the models are produced, and the limitation of the models. Unfortunately there is still a lot to be learned about how clouds form which is a major limitation of the climate models. For example, models can predict increasing temperatures and thus increasing evaporation, but after that the model begins to make assumptions about cloud formation that do not accurately represent climate. If clouds are formed from the increase evaporation the Earth will be more reflective and thus begin to cool, but if clouds do not form and water vapor is instead suspended in the atmosphere the Earth will continue to warm. It’s these complications that limit the efficacy of climate models.

 

Fortunately many of the observers at MWOBS are working on their own research to help inform climate models and make better predictions about climate. MWOBS provides these observers and researchers with a lab to test their predictions and a support system to bounce their ideas off of. I was pleasantly surprised to see that MWOBS goes beyond weather observations, and that observers are taking advantage of their time at the observatory to move climate science forward.

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The weather room.

After Mark’s lecture, we had a private tour of the weather room where the observers spend roughly the day in 12-hour shifts taking observations every hour. They record temperature, wind speed, wind direction, and pressure from instruments on the tower that are hooked up to the weather room. Additional observations require an observer to go outside to the observation deck. These include visibility, precipitation, and blowing vs. falling DSC_6131snow. Observations are taken from a single location on the observation deck marked by a white ‘X’ on the tiles (see below). Following each observation they have roughly 7-minutes to report out to a number of sources who provide hourly weather conditions to the public. From the sounds of it, there is mostly paper work to be completed between observations. During the day there are roughly three observers and one intern who do all of the work, then at night it’s one observers job to do it all.

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The weather wall that houses the equipment used to track temperature, wind speed, and barometric pressure.

 

The rest of the day was spent taking small excursions around the summit and experiencing the weather first hand. We all gathered on the observation deck to watch the sunrise and experience the ever-increasing winds. By sunset the winds were exceeding 50 mph sustained.DSC_6143

 

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Testing the wind speeds with a handheld anemometer.

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Next we had dinner and a social hour to get to know more about the people who work at MWOBS and to get to know the other people in our group. We all shared stories of places we’ve been or would like to go, extreme weather events we had experienced, among other stories. After dinner a few of us decided to go back up to the tower to see the summit at night. It was beautiful, but unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures this time. We could see many of the surrounding ski hills including Wildcat, Loon, Bretton Woods and cities and towns. Then it was time to retire for the night in our bunk rooms.

 

Sunday morning started early with a 6 AM wake up call to see the sunrise. Fortunately we had a great view from inside the observatory and didn’t need to suit back up to watch the sunrise. Below are a few pictures of the sun coming up over the east.

 

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After the sunrise we had breakfast. After eating biscuits and sausage gravy we all decided we needed to walk off some oIMG_2895f the food we had just eaten and decided to take a small hike around the summit again. This time we traveled in front of the observatory and down the auto road a bit. Weather on Sunday wasn’t quite as clear as it had been the previous day and the clouds started to roll in.

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Walking along the cog railway.

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Following the hike we finished the second part of the climate change discussion. The focus for the afternoon was on how climate change is talked
about among country leaders and how people continue to talk past each other. During the presentation I kept thinking about the great local work being conducted in the Piscataqua Region. How communities like Rye, Hampton, Hampton Falls, Seabrook, Exeter, and Dover among others are looking at how climate change is impacting their communities and working together to adapt and build resiliency. When climate change is discussed at the global scale I often get discouraged because policies are watered down to reach a consensus. Local action is far more affective at making changes to planning and policy today and it’s already happening right here at home. Hopefully the momentum of climate change adaptation will only continue here in the Piscataqua Region and other regions across NH and the United States can use these success stories as inspiration for climate adaptation in their communities.

Shortly after the presentation we had a quick lunch and packed up all of our gear to head back down the auto road. Overall it was a fantastic experience and a once in a lifetime chance to see how scientists at MWOBS are contributing to climate science every day. I hope to have the privilege to go back some day.

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Updates from the TIDES ’15 cohort

Here’s a quick update on what the rest of the TIDES ’15 cohort is up to these days. Everyone has had such different internship experiences. It’s been great to share what we’ve learned with each other and to see how the TIDES experience can be so diverse.

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Happy New Year from TIDES!

Happy New Year from the TIDES crew!  It’s going to be an exciting year for us.  Our cohort has a lot going on, between portfolio writing, continuing internship work and other jobs, courses, and looking ahead to post-graduation opportunities.  And there are two new TIDES students gearing up for their internships.  If you had told me a year and a half ago that my master’s would fly by, I would not have believed it.  It’s still sinking in that this is my last semester…but I am really excited about the next few months and starting to look beyond that.

Great Bay, December 2014

Great Bay, December 2014

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Christmas Day on Great Bay

Christmas Day on Great Bay

Fog covers the Bay on Christmas Day.

Honking geese give notice that it is still there

beyond the thick air.

The tide rushing in

so that the festivities can begin.

Hunters sit in wait

to shoot ducks to fill their plate.

A shot is heard

and all pauses with the heartbeat of that bird.

Songbirds frolicking madly around the feeders

growing their fat storage to be little heaters.

The red oak seems to have forgotten some leaves

as tufted handfuls remain on the trees.

Squirrels run around

waiting for the cold to tuck them in safe and sound.

Oh the things you see and hear

when you sit and wait at this time of year.

Take a break from the rush,

just sit and hush

and celebrate Great Bay

on this Christmas Day.

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Busy days in the Hudson Valley

Falling leaves and temperatures are a daily reminder of the dwindling days I have remaining here for my internship.  I realized it’s been a while since my last post – here are some snapshots of what I’ve been up to.

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Got a boat’s view of the Hudson, heading up north to help out with some monitoring of one of the shoreline demonstration sites.

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Clean Water Concert Series

Last Thursday I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Clean Water Concert Series at the Kittery Trading Post in Kittery, ME. The Clean Water Concert Series is a partnership with the Kittery Trading Post, the Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership (PREP), and the Spruce Creek Association to benefit Spruce Creek’s water quality monitoring project.

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The Spruce Creek Association is a group of waterfront, non-waterfront residential and commercial property owners and renters. The group is also made up of seasonal and year-round residents, taxpayers, and voters who are committed to protecting the Spruce Creek Watershed. Their mission is to “provide an organized framework to coordinate the assessment of the Spruce Creek watershed’s conditions and to implement and monitor proven management practices that support environmental and economic stability for the Spruce Creek Watershed.”

The Spruce Creek Watershed is located in southern Maine and drains 9.8 square miles in the communities of Kittery and Eliot. Adjacent to the Piscataqua River, the creek is tidal with a significant estuarine area of approximately 2.25 miles long and 0.5 mile wide.

Unfortunately Spruce Creek is located in a residential area and development pressure has lead to an impairment in the creek.  Recent monitoring efforts show that Spruce Creek contains high levels of bacteria and toxic substances from storm water runoff and groundwater seepage. Shellfish harvesting has been negatively affected because of the impairment and many shellfish beds have been closed for health concerns. To address the impairment the Spruce Creek Association has been conducting water quality monitoring surveys both at end of pipes and for nonpoint sources of pollution.

For more information about their ongoing projects visit http://www.sprucecreekassociation.org/projects.html

To raise awareness about the organization and to educate residents about the association and ways to improve water quality in the Spruce Creek, the association has partnered with the Kittery Trading Post to host a series of three concerts throughout the summer as part of the Clean Water Concert Series. PREP has been involved in helping coordinate and organize the concert and to help table at the event.

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The third and final concert for the series will be help Wednesday, September 3 from 6 PM to 8 PM on the front lawn of the Kittery Trading Post. The event is free and is a fun family and dog friendly way to get out an enjoy the end of summer while support a great cause to clean up Spruce Creek. For more information about the concert series please visit http://www.ktpevents.com/interior.php/pid/11/eid/701

Photos courtesy of http://www.sprucecreekassociation.org/sprucecreek.html

 

 

Eel Encounters in the Hudson River Estuary

Last Friday I got to get out of the office and into some waders!  I volunteered to help out with a SUNY grad student’s fieldwork for the day, which involved catching and measuring eels.  Fieldwork I’ve done in the past has mostly consisted of measuring trees and collecting mushrooms and leaf litter…I gained a new appreciation for these stationary research subjects.  Eels are tricky!  All in all, we caught over 100 eels in a couple of hours.  This involved wading through the river, one person with an electroshocking backpack and two with nets, ready to scoop up the temporarily shocked eels (they recover!).  We took the bucket of eels back to the shore for a variety of measurements, then released them back into the stream.

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Conversations about Hudson River Shorelines

Shorelines PhotoToday was a great day!  The last two weeks have been packed with planning and preparing for the Hudson River Sustainable Shorelines Project (HRSSP) workshop – a day-long training for engineers, landscape architects, ecologists, and regulators to share some of the information and tools produced by the HRSSP.  For the past 8 years, the Reserve and its partners have been working to engage end-users, conduct research, produce tools, and implement case studies to provide guidance on making shorelines more sustainable on the Hudson River.

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