Studying environmental science in Oregon

(Standing behind the jaws of Carcharodon megalodon, the most awesome extinct animal ever)

Last summer, I was afforded an opportunity to visit Oregon through a field course offered by Dr. Kevin Johnson from the Department of Marine and Environmental Systems. Dr. Johnson kept a blog of the trip while we were there, check it out. My group was the first group he took there and the experience was one I will never forget. Oregon is beyond beautiful and it has such a different spectrum of wildlife than Florida. It was fascinating.

I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into when I signed up for the trip but it turned out better than I had expected. It was two weeks of absolutely gorgeous weather, scenery, adventures and fun. We explored and collected all kinds specimens from different areas, such as rocky intertidals, mudflats and beaches. Some of the invertebrates we collected were sea stars, sea urchins, nudibranchs, crabs, shrimp, worms and snails.

The mudflats field trip was probably the most interesting. They were rough. More than one of us got stuck (I may or may not be included in that total). We all went into that trip clean and emerged mud-covered.

During some of these expeditions, we had the opportunity to see some wildlife we didn’t expect to see. We actually caught two octopuses while we were there – a red and a giant octopus, named Ocho and He’e Nui, respectively. Kaikea, one of the two students who caught the giant octopus, is from Hawai’i and named him He’e Nui because it is Hawaiian for “big octopus.”

The first week our mornings were spent gathering specimens and our afternoons were spent doing labs. Labs included drawing specimens, performing a sea urchin spawning and studying predator-prey interactions.

Besides the tours of different ecosystems in Oregon and the labs, we also made all kinds of fun field trips: hikes to Tunnel Point (which is gorgeous at sunset!), the Oregon Coast Aquarium, the Hatfield Marine Science Center and the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve. We went trawling, did a plankton tow, had a campfire complete with s’mores and ate crab that we caught ourselves.

Overall, the experience was unforgettable. With summer fast approaching, I highly recommend it to anyone – you won’t regret it. I’m so thankful to have been given the opportunity to get my hands wet on the Pacific shores. While I will not return to Oregon this year, I will be going to Peru to study the Andes with Dr. Bush and Dr. Aronson, which should be an awesome trip in its own right and one that I’m really looking forward to.

           Tunnel point

Liza holding a giant nudibranch.

A sunflower star

Simpson Beach

 The mudflats show no mercy!


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