Week 6: A Change of Direction


A multi-image panorama taken several weeks later in the estuary at Camp Westwind

Week 6 was spent counselling at Camp Westwind, the place of my internship. Basically, my job as a counsellor was to manage the lives of a cabin of 6th grader’s throughout the week, from morning until night, as well as to teach various groups about the estuary (one of the three field studies at Camp Westwind). It is an extremely exhausting yet rewarding full-time job that requires good leadership and improvisational skills to be successful. This would be my 5th time counselling, and it is the reason I have built such a close relationship with this place and wanted to do my internship here. I counselled to get back into the groove of camp life and acclimate myself to the camp environment, as well as start the first week off right for the camp and myself in order to set a good tone for the coming weeks.

However, I’m not here to talk about counselling and my time during this week. The most important part of this week came at the end, when I had my first meeting with Acer, my site supervisor for my internship (and camp site supervisor), about what my role should be at camp as a photographer.

Basically, she told me that she would be very happy if I would do some kind of field guide for the Salmon River Estuary, as she already has plenty of guides and information for the ocean/tide pools and the forest, the two other field studies here at Camp Westwind.

This is essentially what saved my project from being a complete disaster. At this point it was going to be extremely difficult to find enough herpetofauna to fulfill my original goal, as the coastal region is not very rich in interesting reptiles and amphibians, and I would be spending 3 out of the next 4 weeks on the coast. Understanding this, I decided to make my final product the field guide, and my research focused on how I would create it. This was the most pivotal moment of my research project.

My plan to tackle this undertaking was to first create a species list, marking definite present species based off of personal accounts and accounts by people who frequent the camp. Once I compiled a list of species on the camp, I consulted with both the estuary field instructor (Indusium) and Acer to decide what their priorities were as far as animals they wanted to include. Certain species of salamanders and invertebrates in general were either present within the estuary, or in nearby areas, but I did not include them. While the salamanders would fit in line with my original intentions to find herpetofauna, they did not represent species found within the estuary itself. There were simply too many species of invertebrates to create a comprehensive field guide for within a three week time period.

Having figured this all out, the plan was to make a field guide featuring the habitat types, all of the Reptiles and Amphibians, the most attractive and notable Birds (think Eagles), and important/unique mammals (that I could get photos of). As of this blog post, it is likely that the field guide will only be for Reptiles and Amphibians, as I have both the best photos and the best information for those animals. This could always change in the future if I ever come back to spend more time gathering photos.

With this change of direction I came into spring break a little more relaxed, as I was able to focus on researching the animals I needed and exploring Oregon instead of rushing outside to find things.

However, at the time I was still a little uncertain, and so I made a last ditch effort to find one of Oregon’s most interesting amphibians, the Oregon Slender Salamander. Check out my next blog post to hear about my epic adventure in the Western Cascades!


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