All the Commotion of the Ocean

What are you waiting for? Hop in! We’re going on a field trip! I would always get excited to go to school on a day that had a field trip; not only did I know that I would be learning something fun and exciting, but the idea of going somewhere you’ve never been is an adventure itself. With this internship, I’m going through an adventure by visiting different places and learning new things everyday. We, the team at Yaquina Head, want to give that same experience to the school groups that come to visit the park. We want to leave a long lasting impression by immersing them into the world of the tide pools. Everyday would bring a new group with new experiences, and some groups may have never been to the coast before or even seen tide pools! Reflecting on my childhood, I’m amazed at the idea that I stand on the other side of the journey, welcoming schoolchildren to the world of environmental science.

 

We are just about finished with our training on the education programs, and are ready to take on the roles of educators ourselves. To prepare for what comes next, we went on a couple field trips of our own! To begin our journey, we took a short drive to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, which is dedicated to showing the world the marine life of the Oregon coast. We got a closer look at some of the seals and sea lions as they hopped on land and dove in the water. I like to think of the seals and sea lions as the cats and dogs of the sea. Seals tend to be on the calm, quieter side while the sea lions bark and are active all around. Part of the aquarium is the ocean aviary that houses feathery friends I’m acquainted with like the Common Murres and Pigeon Guillemots, and other birds I haven’t seen before such as the Tufted Puffin. Up close, I was able to witness the behavior of some of these individuals. For example, one of the Common Murres seemed to enjoy poking other birds by sneaking under them through the water, like a shark. The Black Oystercatchers preferred the high ground, as they can be very territorial. One of my favorite parts of the trip was getting to meet Jojo, a female Brown Pelican who’s been admitted to the rehabilitation center. I was glad that Jojo was courageous enough to go in front of the crowd to perform some of her learned skills, including a little dance!

Common Murres at the Oregon Coast Aquarium

 

A couple days later, we took a trip to the whale center at Depoe Bay, one of the greatest hot spots in the world for seeing gray whales. We learned the behaviors of whales, their feeding habits, migration routine, predators, and a plethora more. Although we could not see whales that day due to the high waves and stormy weather, we had some great images of the whales that come by Depoe Bay. One of the most popular whales goes by the name of Scarback, because she carries a large scar on her back potentially from an exploding harpoon decades ago. While an injury like that is more than likely to be fatal, Scarback has recovered to good health because of the whale lice that have “cleaned” the wound. She continues to swim and raise calves to this day! I think she’s an inspiration to us all: never give up!

 

To celebrate Marine Science Day, I finished my field trip at the Hatfield Marine Science Center. It was like any other day at the Center, only with EXTRA MARINE and EXTRA SCIENCE. Hatfield became the center for many expositions and tables that covered topics from lava rocks and tectonic plates to endangered species in the Sea of Cortez. It was amazing to see much of the marine life in action because these are behaviors and reactions we could not observe easily. I had the pleasure of watching the octopus eat and play, as well as observing how a clam uses its “foot” to move away from a potential predator. Best of all, I got to meet the Seabird Oceanography Lab of Oregon State University! I’m excited to help the lab in surveying nest sites and banding Western Gulls in the next couple weeks. It’s crazy to imagine that I’ll be doing surveys for shorebirds one day and then helping visitors at the Yaquina Head park the next day, and the day after that…trudging through water to band gulls! It’s just another awesome day in the life of an #EFTA intern.

 

Christian Cortez
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