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South Slough Reserve E-News

Fall 2013

 
In this newsletter:

 

What Color is Your Carbon?

 
 
By John Bragg
Coastal Training Program coordinator
 
What color is carbon? Black, obviously, if you are thinking about coal mines. Carbon is called green by those who think about Oregon’s temperate rain forests, where towering firs and cedars are able to store large amounts of carbon as wood. Now scientists who think about oceans and estuaries are becoming aware of a different color of carbon – blue carbon.
 
That’s the name the scientists use to describe carbon that is sequestered, or stored, in the sediments of salt marshes, sea grasses, and mangroves.
 
In January, in partnership with Restore America’s Estuaries, a national non-profit organization that supports coastal wetland restoration, South Slough’s Coastal Training Program will host a workshop for coastal managers and wetland scientists to learn more about blue carbon, and its role in mitigating the emission of carbon dioxide. Carbon is a major component of all living things. Carbon dioxide is one of several so-called greenhouse gasses; it plays a significant role in warming Earth’s atmosphere and changing climate.
 
Some prefer the term coastal blue carbon to refer more specifically to carbon storage in estuaries. Whatever term they use, ecologists are becoming aware that salt marshes, sea grass beds, and mangroves can sequester carbon dioxide at rates that, acre for acre, greatly exceed those of temperate rain forests.
 
Of course Oregon does not have mangroves, but salt marshes, for example, are particularly efficient at storing carbon dioxide. That’s because each fall, when a salt marsh dies back, its detritus is buried in oxygen-free sediments, where it accumulates year after year, and the lack of oxygen prevents the carbon from oxidizing and escaping to the atmosphere. A salt marsh stores even more carbon than what it produces, because it is constantly sequestering organic matter brought in from far away by the tides.
 
Scientists are learning that carbon stored in the oxygen-free sediment of a salt marsh can remain undisturbed for thousands of years. An old-growth fir or cedar stores carbon dioxide for a few centuries at most, and when it dies and decays, or burns, the carbon returns to the atmosphere. Of course, if a salt marsh is diked and drained, or if its soil is exposed to the air as a result of geologic uplift, the carbon-rich sediments will oxidize and carbon dioxide once again will be emitted.
 
January’s workshop will also explore ways to realize both ecologic and economic values from blue carbon. As scientists and decision makers learn more about carbon sequestration, blue carbon, and the potential value of carbon as a manageable natural resource, they will be better equipped to help Oregonians, and especially coastal communities, adapt to the new world of climate change.
 
In coming months, we’ll report back to share more information about blue carbon, and summarize the results of January’s workshop. If you are interested in learning more on your own, use the links below to explore blue carbon on the World-wide Web.
 
The Coastal Training Program is a specialized branch of South Slough’s Education Program that provides training, information, and technical assistance to coastal managers and others whose day-to-day decisions affect the coast’s natural resources.
 
For more information about blue carbon see:
 
Mcleod, E., G. L. Chmura, S. Bouillon, R. Salm, M. Björk, C. M. Duarte, C. E. Lovelock, W. H. Schlesinger, and B. R. Silliman, 2011. A Blueprint For Blue Carbon: Toward an improved understanding of the role of vegetated coastal habitats in sequestering CO2. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 2011; 9(10): 552–560, doi:10.1890/110004 (published online 20 June, 2011).
 
Emmett-Mattox, S., 2012. Coastal Blue Carbon: A new opportunity for wetlands conservation. Presentation for the NOAA Library Seminar Series presented at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Silver Spring, MD. September 17, 2012.
 
Sifleet, S., L. Pendleton, and B.C. Murray, 2012. State of the Science on Coastal Blue Carbon: A summary for policy makers. Report NI R 11-06. Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, Duke University, Durham, N. C. 27708.
 
 

 
Summer 2013 not only brought fog, wind, and sunshine to the South Slough, four interns also swept by to leave their mark on the estuary. Science interns Kevin Kuhl and Sam Stroebel assisted us for the months of June-August, restoring oysters, monitoring eelgrass, and establishing GPS benchmarks. Kuhl, an Arizona native and recent college graduate from Northern Arizona University, spent most of his time tagging and tracking disease-resistant Port Orford Cedars. Stroebel, a college student from Ohio, gained hands-on experience with a variety of science projects, and is returning to Ohio State to begin his junior year in Environmental Science.
 
Every Monday afternoon, intern Mackenzie Litts assisted FOSS volunteer, Laura Mays, with accounting projects. Litts, who lived in Lakeside for the summer, learned how to manage Quickbooks and the budget. Litts, an accounting student at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, eventually wishes to work for a top accounting firm, but because she is also interested in environmental issues, she saw this opportunity as a perfect combination of her interests.
 
Unfortunately, aquaria intern, Maddie Budesilich, returned to her hometown near Portland early this month due to an injury. Even though she only joined us for about three weeks, Maddie helped out considerably under the mentorship of Education Coordinator, Tom Gaskill. Maddie, 16, cleaned the tanks and fed the animals in the aquaria at the interpretive center. She also assisted with the camps and workshops, and learned about the wetlands and salt marshes. Maddie thought South Slough was a perfect fit since she is interested in marine biology and was living with her grandparents in Coquille for the summer. Maddie eventually wishes to attend a university to study marine mammals.
 
These interns will be missed at the reserve, but South Slough is currently recruiting for the fall 2013. If anyone knows any eager future scientists or estuary lovers in (or out of) town, let us know! The work experience program needs to keep rolling, and we are always eager for more help, with new opportunities to conduct social science research and climate and energy assessments.
 
-Maggie Allen, AmeriCorps VISTA/work experience program developer
 
 

 

Coast to Coast - Eco Geek Webinars Share the Story of Native Oyster Restoration

Earlier this year, the GTM NERR near Jacksonville, Florida joined forces with South Slough to develop four web-based workshops designed to educate docents and the public about the value of native oyster restoration. The workshops used an innovative distance education approach incorporating Smart TV technology at the GTM NERR visitor center and live webcasts from the South Slough NERR to share expertise. The presentations experimented with three different distance learning technologies: Skype, WebEx, and Google Air to explore sharing of live narrated presentations and dialogue between researchers and audiences located in both Florida and Oregon.
 
Google Air, a program that incorporates YouTube streaming channel capabilities and Google Hangout allowed presenters to share screens and information while attendees watched via a YouTube link. The subscription to a YouTube channel allows the viewers to be notified when the program is live and on-air or an archive of the presentation is made available shortly following the airing.
 
Presentations featured research being conducted by three graduate students working on various aspects of native oyster restoration.  South Slough’s water quality data was presented by Ali Helms, South Slough NERR SWMP Coordinator, who uses environmental monitoring stations to determine where oyster restoration projects should take place within South Slough. The final webinar featured a joint discussion between Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife shellfish program leader Steve Rumrill and South Slough education coordinator Tom Gaskill concerning research conducted by former Graduate Research Fellow Matthew Gray on “The Filtration Services of Native Olympia Oysters (Ostrea lurida). 
 
Recordings of three of the webinars may be viewed here:  http://www.gtmnerr.org/EcoGeek-Series.php
 
 
 
 

 

Friends of South Slough
 


The Friends of South Slough (FOSS) board has been busy this quarter.  There has been much grant writing activity, meetings with potential donors and foundations, and research into how FOSS might grow and expand its programs and support of the SSNERR.  The board and its committees have also been tackling issues like how to increase our membership, improve our web and social media presence, and determine the next viable steps for the “FOSSfloats!” program (our series of infrastructure and capital projects focused on enabling and enhancing the ability of visitors to experience the SSNERR via the water trail system).  However, it hasn't all been only work; some just-for-fun activities like the FOSS annual picnic were also accomplished.

The annual picnic at Sunset Bay was a great event that allowed FOSS members to paddle in Chmoosh, the native style Clipper Canoe, on a beautiful, sunny early-evening at Sunset Bay. Several members of the Coos Bay chapter of Surfrider Foundation also were on hand and brought their Stand Up paddle boards to enjoy on Sunset Bay's calm waters, and some of the Surfrider members paddled in the Chmoosh as well.
The picnic was also a chance for board and committee members to reflect on progress made on “FOSSfloats!”.  This past quarter committee members performed a great deal of investigation into zoning regulations inside and outside the reserve boundaries, researched legal definitions of floating platforms vs. docks vs. floating building structures vs. vessels, and determined what options are allowed/available for mooring/storing something classroom-sized.  The result is that the “FOSSFloats!” initiative has taken a new direction: rather than going with a traditional float-house, the future planned floating classroom facilities are envisioned to take the form of a shallow draft sternwheeler paddle boat such as used to ply the waters of the estuary a century ago.  This proposed vessel would function as a South Slough Floating Estuarine Research Reserve Interpretive Center, providing space for a fully equipped classroom that is able to travel about the bay and its estuaries, enabling a direct, close-up and personal estuarine-science experience for visitors and students.  Although propelled and styled so as to reflect the sternwheelers of yore, this vessel would use solar power and electric motors to power the paddlewheel so that a near-zero carbon footprint could be achieved.  This melding of the old and the new would capture the advantages (well known a century ago) of scow shaped hulls propelled by paddlewheels, including extremely shallow draft, ability to embark/disembark passengers from the banks of a river/slough via on-board gangway, and the exceptionally small amount of power required to transport passengers and cargo.  The initial design concept is for a 35 foot long steel hull that is 12 feet wide on the deck. The overall length of the vessel would be about 45 feet and would be propelled by an eight-foot diameter by six-feet wide stern paddlewheel.  The paddlewheel would be driven by dc motors powered from banks of batteries carried within the lateral sides of the hull, and the battery banks would be charged via solar panels affixed to the roof of a mezzanine deck.  The above-the-waterline architecture of the vessel will be configured to provide not only an efficient and effective estuarine observation space, but also function as an artfully done, attention-getting attraction that draws in more visitors to the SSNERR.
 
Speaking of art, the Friends newly established “Artist-in-Residence” program hosted a film artist from Portland for two weeks this summer. Ashby Lee Collinson documented South Slough research and education projects in the field as well the work of other local agencies.  Ashby hopes to return once all her editing work is finished and provide a traveling screening that will start here and travel to other areas, including Manhattan!
 
FOSS has lots of interesting projects, committees, and volunteer opportunities, and we invite you to get involved.  Stop by the SSNERR Interpretive Center for more information, or come join us at our board meetings (every fourth Tuesday of the month at 5:PM at the Charleston Marina RV Park).
 

 

 

Teachers Tackle Climate Change


Incorporating climate change education into the classroom in a meaningful way can be challenging at the best of times for teachers.  The difficulty of approaching a complex topic is compounded by public perceptions that aren’t always founded in facts and may lead to contentious conversations with the parents and the students themselves.  This summer, the Oregon Coast Education Program, with the help of funding from the NOAA B-WET program and the National Estuarine Research Reserve Science Collaborative, helped classroom educators to learn about the science of climate change and how they can use this research with their students.  By exposing teachers to scientific investigations and data being collected at places like the South Slough NERR and the Waquoit Bay NERR, groups of elementary, middle, and high school teachers were provided with tools and techniques that will help them to explore the topic further with their classes.

 
 The teachers investigated basic science such as how carbon behaves in the environment, where it is stored, and how greenhouse gases such as CO2 in the atmosphere have accelerated the rate of climate change.   Collaborative work between teams of educators in Oregon and Massachusetts has led to the development of curriculum designed to highlight a research project called “Bringing Wetlands to Market” taking place at the Waquoit Bay NERR in Massachusetts.  The studies are designed to understand the role coastal and estuarine wetlands play in storing or sequestering carbon and how these values can be used to support conservation of these important places.  Similar studies are currently being planned for Oregon.
 
At workshops held this summer in Oregon and Massachusetts, teachers at each grade level were provided with hands-on, field-based experiences to better understand the topics involved and the relationship to climate change.  The workshops provided a variety of compelling experiences for educators including paddle trips, marsh explorations, development of inquiry-based investigations, and collection of data to better understand how climate change is studied. 
 
One of the best received activities involved excavation of a marsh sediment core containing roots and peat to demonstrate the value of salt marshes in sequestering carbon.  Teachers were provided with a simple PVC coring tool and selected a location to excavate a core sample.  The sample was then weighed and dried in a convection oven to remove any water.  Once a stable dry weight was achieved, the sample was incinerated in a high temperature furnace to burn off any carbon and the remaining inorganic matter was then weighed.  The difference between the two weights was used to calculate the total percent of carbon stored in the samples.  A comparative sample of upland forest soil yielded a content level of 15% organic matter.  In the case of the marsh soils, over 39% of the mass was comprised of carbon demonstrating the importance of these tidal wetlands in the uptake and long term storage of carbon.
 
While the topic of climate change and its impacts can be overwhelming, teachers in Oregon and Massachusetts took time this summer to dig in a little deeper, sharpen some new tools, and prepare themselves to help their students tackle this tough topic.   South Slough and our partners look forward to the opportunity to help them meet that challenge.


 

 

 

Water Quality Station in Lower Coos Bay


South Slough and Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians Scientists Partner to Maintain a Real-Time Water Quality Station in Lower Coos Bay

 
 
South Slough science staff completed installation of telemetry equipment for a water quality station that is run by the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians (CTCLUSI) at the North Spit BLM Boat Launch sonde station (sosnswq) in lower Coos Bay this summer.  The partnership station is supported by two projects: 1) the NERRS Science Collaborative Partnership for Coastal Watersheds Phase II: Partnership Indicators Program and Hydrodynamic Model for the Coos estuary and 2) the Northwest Association of Networked Ocean Observing System (NANOOS).
 
This station is run in partnership between CTCLUSI, who maintain the water quality equipment as one of their routine stations and SSNERR, who maintains the telemetry equipment.
 
Water quality parameters collected include water temperature, salinity, specific conductivity, dissolved oxygen, pH, turbidity, and depth.  Data are collected every 15 minutes and are transmitted via a satellite every hour.  The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite system (GOES) is operated by National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) and the GOES West satellite supports transmissions for all of the South Slough water quality stations.
 
There is a lot of equipment required to run a real-time water quality station, including a piling to install equipment, a water quality instrument called a sonde with sensors to measure water quality conditions along with a field cable and protective tube, a solar panel and 12 V battery for power, GPS, antenna and transmitter for data transmission, copper grounding system for lightning protection, and an enclosure to house the telemetry equipment.
 
The raw data from this station is currently available through the Hydrometeorological Automated Data System (http://www.nws.noaa.gov/oh/hads/; NESDIS ID 346F229A).  We are currently working with the programmer and telemetry coordinator at NANOOS to try to make the data available through the NANOOS Visualization System web services, which provides access to the other South Slough water quality stations.    


 

 

Summer Science Camp

South Slough Summer Science Camps Provide Nature Education and Exploration
Opportunities for Children of All Ages
 
2013 saw 87 campers from kindergarten through 9th grade. We added 2 weeks of camp to provide the opportunity for more campers to attend without having to increase the class size. Next year we hope to be able to serve at least 20 more campers, bringing our total of campers to over 100! The Friends of South Slough provided 5 scholarships and received $140 in camp scholarship donations.
 
Campers completed evaluations and let us know some of their favorite camp activities:
·         Making t-shirts
·         Canoeing
·         Going on hikes
·         Ice cream at the end of camp
·         Observing animals in the estuary from the dock
·         Building light traps
·         Making presentations at the end of camp
·         Tidepooling
·         Silent hike
·         Beach
·         Seeing Wildlife
·         Tideflats
·         Meeting new friends




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Reserve Hosts Chamber
Oregon’s Bay Area Chamber of Commerce Visits the South Slough Reserve After Hours
 
The last Thursday evening of each month the Bay Area Chamber conducts the “Business After Hours” event which is hosted by a member business giving participants the opportunity to meet and network with other fellow Chamber members and to highlight the hosting business.  On Thursday, August 29th the Chamber Ambassadors arrived first at the South Slough Interpretive Center wearing their red vests ready to help South Slough staff welcome the guests.
 
Visitors were given punch cards encouraging them to go to information booths set up in the auditorium and classroom and then to enter the punch card into a drawing for a door prize. Tickets for three other door prizes were also handed out at the check in table.  Attendees participated in everything from seeing live animals under a microscope to learning how teachers engage their students to water quality sampling instruments and more.  All the South Slough staff and Friends of South Slough board members helped to provide food and information to the guests.  Acting Manager Louise Solliday acted as MC and helped to present information about the Reserve as well as give away the door prizes which were generously provided by the Friends of South Slough Reserve, Inc. to happy ticket holders.  Over 35 guests attended the event and South Slough staff felt it was a worthwhile experience and were glad to have been given the opportunity.
 




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