Dissected sand crabs in the PIRatE Lab

Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts. — Albert Einstein


We have been fortunate to have been running a Summer Institute for undergraduates from CSU Channel Islands and our regional Community Colleges since 2009.  Every June we pull in students from these campuses and embed them in intense academic research in a variety of disciplines.  Most recently Project ACCESO, a program funded by a grant from the US Department of Education, has been the funder of this summer work.  Our ESRM faculty have worked collaboratively to study beaches over the past three years.  This year, we adapted some of our planned work to document and assess the oiling of many of our beaches.  These 13 students were awesome and really stepped up to the plate.

When we talk about scientific work we frequently talk about the numbers of papers published in academic journals or the amount of grant money we are able to bring into our respective institutions.  This is usually a “we rock, you suck” type endeavor with the good ol’ boys or good old ways of doing things begetting more good ol’ boys or the same old same old. But there are many, many more important metrics that are often hard to quantify.  These are often intangibles or things for which we do not have a well-developed framework for assessing (although we could if we got serious about this).  The ultimate goal for those of us working on training people to better conserve our natural resources centers around an amalgamation of:

  1. better understanding our planet’s interrelated systems
  2. translating that understanding into working knowledge within our students
  3. deepening the practical skill sets of the budding researchers (in this case, our undergraduates) who are/will be doing the work
  4. materially improving our planet’s condition
  5. (we might list a fourth essential component of getting gainful employment which utilizes all this skill and knowledge but that can take time to get)

We have just compiled a small set of such metrics for our Summer Institute work (for the three weeks it ran in June).  They are fun to look over (if you are into these kinds of things).

Environmental Variables
Stressors62dogs counted
38off leash dogs
24on leash dogs
2,491cars counted parked at beach
326trash cans
5,131humans counted on the beach
2.8kg of tar collected from 0.25m 2 quadrats
Organisms Encountered146grunions seen
500grunion eggs found
12dead vertebrates (fish, birds, pinnipeds) found on beach
66crabs killed in EcoToxicology Experiments
3,332crabs measured
2,265birds counted
10,218infaunal invertebrates counted
3,488parasites encountered
Sampling Logistics
Things Sampled49beaches assessed
4Counties visited
78sand samples sieved for grain size
190infaunals transects
652datasheets filled out
5,358shovels/core scoops of sand
3,655quantiative cores of sand
1,703supplemental shovels to find crabs
Opinion Polling210opinion polls conducted
115people who were asked, but declined to take our opinion poll survey
Transportation84gallons of gas used
2,130miles driven (across all vehicles)
26km walked during quantiative bird surveys
2.45km 2 of beach surveyed intensely
Equipment Damaged1clam guns lost
3transect tapes compromised
23article of clothing lost to tarring
Surviving Our Sampling74cups of coffee consumed
512songs listened to
414metal songs
1parking tickets
14lbs of chips (primarily tortilla) consumed
12pieces of equipment needing de-oiling
8sand sifting screens destroyed by tar
25Sean's random additional surveys
Student Growth
13Summer Institute Student Researchers
4Summer Institute Faculty
2,584person hours
1,768person field hours
52person hours in the field in the rain
816person lab hours
3weeks of work
121people asked our students what they were doing
38people thanked students for doing their work
59rejected hypotheses
1games created
1TV News stories featuring Summer Institute Students
7students presenting scientific data (in poster form) for the first time
6students speaking in public for the first time about science
Summer Research Institute Carpinteria North Team 2015 06 05

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