Stephen Grubbs – Summer Mornings on the York River

Hello again! It’s been a few weeks since my research has started in earnest. I think that I have just now really gotten the hang of it. This is what an average day looks like for me:

My partner, Holly Funkhouser, and I wake up bright and early! We’re always at the Keck Lab by 8am – and our advisor Dr. Chambers is always there to greet us. We have to get an early start on our research because it is all outside on the river, so we make an effort to avoid the hottest part of the day.


After loading up the ENSP van with our gear (life jackets, paddles, data logs, rulers, calipers, etc) we set off to the Yorktown Naval Weapons Station! It’s a bit of a drive, but it gives us long enough to get pumped up and ready to work. We’ve found it is a struggle to find music on the radio so early in the morning. Why do radio stations think we want to listen to talk show hosts? After showing our special passes and our driver’s licenses at the gate, we drive another 10 minutes to the outskirts of base to our research sites.


We have two sites: one at Indian Field Creek (near the Colonial Parkway) and one at Felgate Creek. We usually go to Indian Field first – the traps are farther away and the site tends to have more crabs. Once we get the hard part of the way, we pack up and drive over to Felgate Creek. There the traps are nearer to the canoe launch, and we find a turtles more frequently!


The vast majority of our work takes place on the water. Each site has 12 crab traps divided between 4 areas. We canoe to each trap and take out the crabs and any turtles that might be caught, then measure everything. Occasionally we catch fish, too! We find turtles pretty infrequently, but that’s a good thing because it means the BRDs we are testing are functioning well. Measuring crabs is difficult because they’re quite angry little crustaceans. I’ve so far been pinched on 6 of my fingers. That always hurts.

After a long day of crabbing and turtling we stow our canoe and throw our equipment back in the van. Upon arriving back at the lab, we have to rinse ourselves and our equipment. We never fail to be covered in the thick, sulfurous mud of tidewater Virginia. Every few days we input data into a spread sheet or craft parts to repair those that have eroded in the streams.20160601_093022

It’s a lot of work, much of it laborious, but it’s fulfilling. I haven’t had a day yet this summer that I felt has been wasted.