By Janis Arrojado
When I tell people I was in the Outer Banks for a semester, their first question is usually “Is it like the Netflix show?” After being there for four months, I can say that although it is not like the TV show, my time at the Outer Banks has been filled with adventure, learning, and fun! I spent the fall semester as a part of the Outer Banks Field Site through the Institute for the Environment. In this field site, I have been taking classes, conducting research, and interning with a local nonprofit.
Becoming Acquainted with the Outer Banks
In the first two weeks of our program, we had an orientation to get familiarized with the environment and people in the OBX. We had many field trips, a scavenger hunt (which I won!), and learned about the ecology of the area. As someone unfamiliar with coastal ecosystems, it was really cool to learn about the different environmental and social processes that makeup the Outer Banks.
Picture of our field site hiking Jockey’s ridge, where we learned about the infamous sand dunes and environmental management.
Taking Classes and Internships
After orientation we began taking classes. The classes center around coastal management, economics, and ecology; and often have material that overlap. We are also doing a capstone about septic systems and groundwater contamination. With COVID-19 we have a hybrid method of learning: where we have our lectures online and recitations in person. I honestly look forward to class as the material is really interesting and has real-world applications.
In addition, we have field trips that contextualize what we learn in class and give us a deeper perspective into development and management of the Outer Banks. Throughout this semester I have developed my analytical skills, gained experience with sampling and lab research, and have a more holistic understanding of coastal ecosystems and management.
Our outdoor classroom where we have in person recitations. We socially distance and wear our masks the whole class period.
Sampling well water for our capstone class! This is when we were collecting water samples to analyze.
I have also been interning with Island Farm this semester, which is a living history museum! The site is a restoration of the Etheridge family house and farm from the 1800s. Island Farm displays traditional agriculture, blacksmithing, living in the 1800s, and more. For my internship I filmed a virtual tour, assisted with gardening and community engagement, and volunteered with the annual pumpkin patch. I have learned a lot in my time as an intern, and have loved my experience with the Island Farm!
Me on the Island Farm holding a chicken! The chicken breed is what would have been on the farm in the 1800s.
Fun and other Shenanigans
Outside of class my classmates and I have taken advantage of everything to do in the Outer Banks! We have visited multiple beaches, have movie nights, and explore different parts of the Outer Banks. It is challenging to socialize and social distance, but we have definitely made it work! The friendships I’ve made are one of the best things about the field site, and we have a bond from going through this crazy semester together.
A picture of our pumpkin carving contest we did! We really have some creative people on our field site!
I am so grateful I was able to do the Outer Banks field site this semester! It has been a lot of hard work and full of challenges, but I wouldn’t trade my time here for the world!
To learn more about UNC’s environmental field sites visit: https://ie.unc.edu/education/field-sites/