Beaufort Days

As a Durham-dwelling MEM student, I am fortunate to have a boyfriend and many other friends who are coastal environmental management (CEM) students spending their second year at the Duke Marine Lab. This means trips to the coast as often as I can (especially because this Long Island native desperately misses the beach). Due to Hurricane Florence, I was only able to visit Beaufort once last semester, and have already managed one trip this semester. Each time, I explored all that the area and the marine lab have to offer.

Back in the fall, it was still warm enough to spend more than five minutes on the beach, so this meant a lot of beach-combing and watching the sunset. One of the coolest things I did that weekend was go flounder-gigging with my friends at Radio Island. For those who have never heard of this before (as I hadn’t), it involves walking in shallow water along the shore at night while shining an extremely bright light under the water. If a large enough flounder is encountered sitting on the bottom, another person stabs it with a spear. Unfortunately, we didn’t find any flounder big enough to keep, but we did see crabs, lizardfish, and oyster toadfish.

Another new experience for me was hunting for shark teeth. Along the banks of the Neuse River are sandy strips of shoreline that house countless fossilized shark teeth- and if you’re lucky, megalodon teeth. On a particularly windy day, we spent a few hours combing through the sand for teeth and other treasures. We each found well over a dozen, so I now have a cool addition for my slowly-growing collection of shells, rocks, and other fossils I’ve collected over the years.

Searching for shark teeth along the Neuse River.

During my second trip in January, it was far too cold to spend more than a few minutes on the beach, but I did still brace the cold to watch the sunset. This time, I took a trip to the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, where I saw sharks, rays, all kinds of fish, and even a baby sea turtle. Though more time was spent doing homework and watching movies, at the end of this cold, gray weekend I even watched a group of my friends jump into the ocean in a spontaneous polar bear plunge.

Even though most of my time in Beaufort is recreational, I have still managed to take advantage of the Duke Marine Lab. Last spring, I participated in a field trip with my GIS Field Skills class, where we learned all about using drones for research and spent an entire day learning how to post-process the imagery. Last semester I attended one of my Advanced GIS classes in Beaufort, which was conveniently video-conferenced from Durham. And finally, though I am in the ecosystem science (ESC) concentration, I have been attending CEM seminars due to my marine-related masters project about sea turtle nesting trends in Costa Rica. I foresee at least a few more Friday afternoons this semester spent at seminar at the marine lab, in addition to as much time as possible on the beach.

The pier at Atlantic Beach, which was damaged by Hurricane Florence.