Oyster Update – Feb 2018

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So you thought the oysters went dormant? Never you fear, this busy grad student is here to update you.

The crowdfunding campaign we ran was successful and helped add $700 to my research budget! I have to sheepishly admit I didn’t as of yet get around to recording my oyster “ted talk” as a busy semester got the best of me, but with the help of my friend and collaberator, Natelle of Natelledrawsstuff.com, we sent out some very cool stickers and postcards.

Though it did come with some challenge, I’ve also been able to accrue a small collection of interviews and am starting to analyze my results. Here’s a little detail on both these aspects:

I’ve collected:

  • 5-6 informal interviews to give me context while developing interview questions
  • 11 formal interviews, one of which had 3 interviewees for a total of 13 participants

Some of these were with local fishermen and fishing guides, some were with commercial oystermen, and some were with other individuals who occasionally harvested oysters in a non-commercial setting.

So what happens next you ask? Now I start to pull out themes and central ideas I see occurring within my interview transcripts and notes. We call this kind of approach qualitative content analysis, and the process of identifying and categorizing themes is referred to as “coding”. I will develop a codebook starting with the ideas I might expect to see based on prior studies, not surprisingly referred to as “expected codes”, and add the concepts that emerge during closer analysis of the interviews or “emergent codes”. Transcripts will be examined several times in order to refine the codebook. I can then start to develop ideas about how these groups may differ or be similar in their perspectives on oysters in the regions.

I will be presenting some preliminary results at upcoming meetings and conferences, but full analysis may take a little time. I may also try to add another interview or two to round out the ideas I’m seeing and to make sure I’m capturing most of the key people within this community. Stay Tuned for additional updates as I get further into this process!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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8/3/17 Oyster Update – Word of Mouth

 

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Oysterman on the Chesapeake – Photo Credit: Robert De Gast

Thanks in part to the generosity of donors to my crowdfunding campaign, I’ve started the process of listening to fishermen and oystermen in St. Augustine and nearby!

In order to capture different ideas and access multiple types of people, I am using a technique commonly called snowball sampling. Every time I interview someone, either formally or informally, I ask them who else I should be talking to. The idea is that eventually there will be enough overlap in the answers you’re getting that you know you are starting to capture the population you’re interested in.  This approach is known to have some drawbacks in that it can be challenging to not talk exclusively to people who think similarly to one another. However, when your target populations are small, this method may be the most effective way of accessing them.

While not giving too much away, I’ll also say that I’m already noticing some common themes in the answers I’m hearing to my questions which is exciting. I’m learning interesting details about what fishermen and oystermen look for in reefs. One of the most enjoyable aspects however, is the extra details that are being shared, the personal history and anecdotes people are peppering in with their responses. The experience of local oyster roasts has been mentioned, with each telling rich in explanation about methods of cooking and cultural significance. Stories about growing up on the local waterways abound as well. This kind of research is affording me a chance to really root around and understand the complexity of ways these groups are identifying with this resource, and I’m excited to have the opportunity.

Keep an eye on my blog for continued updates on all things oyster!

Depth of Field #4 – The Giving Tree

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Recently, I had the rare and exhilarating opportunity to spend part of an errant and lazy Wednesday afternoon at the beach.

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Anastasia State Park is a striking coastal stretch in the St. Augustine area. You walk a long, angled boardwalk right into these beautiful dunes. Wispy sea grasses dot the sand, and every time the wind blows, the blades cut these little furrows around themselves.

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I walked the length of the beach taking photos and was drawn to what seemed like a visually interesting tree. I took a couple angled shots and then noticed what I had originally mistook for some kind of buds on the tree were ornately woven adornments. Some unknown person or persons had up-righted what was a tree weathered and uprooted perhaps by some past storm, and decorated its branches with braids of sea grasses and shells. I watched as passersby casually searched for nearby elements to add.

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The most beautiful aspect of this experience for me was both the enigmatic and unknowable origin of the act, and the momentum it took on afterwards. Each person has an intimate connection with this surprising find, but every experience is singular along a continuum of time. Not a shabby way to spend time at the beach.

 

Depth of Field #1: Coquina and the Palm Coast

“Photography is the only language that can be understood anywhere in the world” – Bruno Barbey

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So I’m one of those people who use facebook as an image repository – a sort of dusty social media shelf where I can look back and browse through digital photo albums filled with virtual Polaroids (I grieve the fact I never owned a Polaroid camera). However I recognize that the often interesting stories related to these images are buried relatively quickly.

This is the first entry into what I plan on making a regular feature (perhaps weakly-ish?). I will unearth what will generally be a nature or ecology-centric photo and jot down a few words about the context in which the photo was taken. If nothing else, I think this develops some nuance to my interest in cultivating a presence as a science communicator.

The first photo I’m featuring is taken very near where I work on my dissertation research. The shoreline is from Washington Oaks State Park in Palm Coast, Florida – a half hour or so south of St. Augustine. This was winter in Florida which is still punctuated by the vibrant green of algea growing on coquina rocks.

Coquina is a very marine phenomenon – the sedimentary rock consists primarily of Donax variabilis shell – the tiny little Coquina clam. Shells originating from other molluscs and invertebrates may join the mix. The rock was used for many of the Spanish Colonial structures – primarily forts – in the St. Augustine area.

One of the most notable and striking features of the Coquina are the circular depressions weathered through the rock. The shells that comprise the rock are largely composed of calcium, making Coquina a type of Limestone, which is relatively soft and easily shaped by the elements and other influences. A couple sources I’ve found suggest these holes are from Coquina forming around cabbage palms at one time. They certainly make for a visually arresting landscape.