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Week 1: The calm before the storm...getting ready to dive right in!

What a first week at CMOP! Well, technically first 3 days. This is my first time visiting Portland, and already I’m astounded with its natural beauty. I flew in to Portland on Tuesday night, so I began my first day on Wednesday. I met my frontline mentor, Grant Law, and discussed some of my academic background and interests. I was then able to sit in on Logan’s presentation to our research group of mentors, which proved to be quite interesting and helpful in getting somewhat of an idea as to what we are striving for in terms of illustrations and results of our project. I was introduced to the group and briefly had the chance to meet with Dr. Antonio Baptista, my senior mentor. I received my ID, but didn’t get a chance to run through orientation materials with Vanessa that day. I have a pretty solid understanding of the program mission and expectations. The intern group also took a picture together, then attended the Lab Training lecture in the Primate Center for proper emergency protocol.
I talked to Grant about more details of the project and was assigned readings. They served as background information, introducing the study area, environmental dynamics of the Lower Columbia river, and Chinook and Steelhead salmon habitat from what I have read so far (I am still in the process of completing the articles, drawing useful points and questions from them). During this meeting with Grant and Logan, Missy entered the office, inquiring about Cunningham Slough data and if we would like to go in the field to collect the data. I thought this was a fantastic idea, seeing as how I’d already shown interest in being able to explore and experience the actual study location. 
On Thursday, Missy, Logan, and I drove out to the site on Sauvie Island. We hiked to the sensor point, which was then retrieved from Cunningham Lake by Missy, wearing waders due to the high water level. The sensor was then plugged into the laptop and pressure data, I believe, was downloaded. We then made our way back to the car and drove back to CMOP. Upon returning to the center, Logan and I learned how to recalibrate the pressure data so that the values were correct for our location and could be utilized for Matlab in our project. I was glad that we had the opportunity to partake in that field trip because I feel that though our work includes detailed analysis of the model grid and data of our study sites, it is very beneficial to be able to visit the site and get a sense of how it appears and functions in reality, going beyond projections and values we work with on our laptops.
On Friday, I had the pleasure of listening to our guest speaker, Elizabeth Furse, who happened to be a former congresswoman and civil rights activist. She presented challenges being faced by Native American tribes, specifically the breaching and upholding of treaty rights in historical and modern instances. I wanted to personally thank her for presenting such important topics and making it very apparent that we as scientists and researchers should keep these issues in mind because even though we may not think they’re relevant to us, they’ll more than likely spring up in our work somewhere down the line. Being a Native American myself, I was pleased to have the basic understanding of treaty rights conveyed to the CMOP intern group so that there is at least an awareness of the tribal situation with fishery rights in our Oregon area.
My project consists of using computational models (Matlab and ArcGIS, for example) to understand and predict the habitat and survival issues of juvenile Chinook salmon in the Columbia River estuary. I will be working with Logan to pinpoint errors or shortcomings of the model, through analysis and comparison of observational data and model figures. It is still under discussion, but we may be doing similar work for different study locations along the Columbia River. We will also be working with the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission so that we are all on the same page, perhaps exchanging perspectives on the topic and sharing our inputs as to what we hope to gain from the results of the project.
A very busy 3 days, but very fulfilling and productive nonetheless! Great start to the program, and I’m looking forward to working with my research group on this amazing project.