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Hello all! We’ve had a very busy last few months, so I apologize for not posting too often. However, lucky for you we have our annual Groundhog Day card and letter for you to read to get you all caught up on our adventures.

GroundhogDay2014Final

Happy Groundhog Day everyone!

It’s that time of year again when giant rodents all over America come out of hibernation and predict the change of seasons for all of us based on the sighting of their own shadow. That also means it’s time for us to reflect on the last twelve months, which have had some ups and downs and big changes in our lives.

Shortly after our last Groundhog Day card, Stacy’s father, Gene Schacherer passed away on February 4. We came home for the funeral and to be with all of our family. There were a lot of sad and happy moments as we reflected on his 69 years of life. There was a very large turnout for the visitation and funeral – a testament to how much of an impact Gene had on everyone who knew him.

In June we celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. You can see Stacy with her anniversary flower bouquet on our Groundhog Day card. Also in June we went back to Iowa to celebrate Colby’s brother, Matt’s wedding. Matt and his bride, Amber were married in Altoona, Iowa, Amber’s home town. It was a fun wedding, and a great opportunity to see all of our family again. You can see Colby and his brothers all dressed for the wedding in the top-right picture on the card.

In late June Stacy’s mom, Carmen, and Stacy’s brother, LeRoy and his family came to North Carolina to visit us. We showed them around Raleigh and explored NC State’s campus, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, and tried out some great Carolina-style barbecue. We then took a day trip to Wilmington, NC to tour the USS North Carolina battleship and hang out on the beach. We also took a trip to Beaufort, NC to see a different part of the coast. The surf was up while we were there, so we didn’t get to go in the water. However we still got to walk the beach for shells, see some dolphins, tour the Maritime Museum, and tour Fort Macon–a Civil War fort that guarded the Beaufort inlet. When it started to rain we toured the North Carolina Aquarium. It was a busy weekend, but everyone had fun.

In August Stacy returned to Iowa for the centennial celebration of her home town of Wallingford, Iowa. She was home for a week and was happy to see all of the Schacherer clan. Colby stayed in Raleigh so he could continue working on his dissertation. He finished it during the fall semester and successfully defended his dissertation on December 18. Everything is now complete for his PhD except for the official commencement ceremony, which will be held in May 2014. His dissertation is entitled “Dynamics of Phosphorus Release from Wetlands Restored on Agricultural Land”. If you have insomnia and would like to read all 232 pages, let Colby know and he’ll email a link to where you can download it.

In December we packed up our apartment in Raleigh and started our move to Seattle, Washington (more on that in a second). Stacy’s mom and Colby’s dad came down to Raleigh and were incredibly helpful in getting us ready for the move. They stayed for almost a week to help box up our stuff and get our apartment in ship shape (so we could get our deposit back). While they were here, Adam and Marissa Howard very kindly hosted a going away party for us. It was a lot of fun, and made for a great send-off from all of our close friends we’ve made in Raleigh over the last five and a half years. We later shipped our stuff to Seattle in a “U-Pack Relocube”. We had to shed a bunch of our larger items (gas grill, couch, bed, etc.), but we got most of the rest of our stuff in the container. We sold Stacy’s car and drove Colby’s loaded-down Ford Fusion back to the Midwest for the holidays. We stopped in Illinois to celebrate Christmas with Colby’s Mom and her husband, Buck. We then moved on to Estherville to celebrate the holidays with the rest of our families. After the New Year we started the second half of our 2,800 mile drive. We stayed on I90 for two and a half days. It was a beautiful drive, and despite a lot of wind the weather was favorable.

On January 6 Colby started his new position as a “postdoctoral researcher” at the University of Washington Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He is still doing soil and root research, but has switched from studying phosphorus to studying methane-a potent greenhouse gas. He has also switched from Carolina bay wetlands to Alaskan bogs and fens. Colby will be headed up to Fairbanks, Alaska for most of the growing season (June-September) to study methane at a “Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) station”. He is working on some laboratory experiments on campus in Seattle in the meantime. The picture of both of us on the center of the card is on UW’s campus near Colby’s new building.

Seattle is beautiful so far. It’s is actually as warm as or warmer than Raleigh in the winter, and isn’t nearly as rainy as everyone says. It is surprisingly hilly though. We haven’t explored the area too much yet, but we’re working on it. Our new mailing address is 6189 Radford Drive, Apt. 1911, Seattle, WA 98115. We’ll keep our current cell phone numbers and email addresses.

We had to leave our foster dog, Forrester with the Triangle Beagle Rescue when we left Raleigh. We had him for almost two years, and he was featured in our Groundhog Day card/letter last year. We’re missing him, but hopefully he finds a permanent home soon. Our beagle, Maisie is doing well. She handled the road trip to Seattle well (with the help of some meds from the vet). She’s adjusted well to Seattle, and is happy that there is a dog park across the street. The park goes all the way down to a beach on Lake Washington, as shown on the card.

In other news, both of Colby’s grandmas are now in the Good Samaritan nursing home in Estherville, IA. They both have Alzheimer’s, but seemed stable and happy while we were home over the holidays. They both have great men taking care of them too, so they’re in good hands.

That’s it for our news since the last Groundhog Day. If you are interested in visiting Seattle, give us a heads-up. We hope you and yours all the best.

Happy Groundhog Day!

Stacy, Colby, and Maisie

That concludes our Groundhog Day 2014 letter. Now that we’re caught up we’ll try to post more frequently with pictures and stories from our adventures in Washington and Alaska. Thanks for stopping by!

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Hello everyone,

Source: Wikipedia
(c) University of Washington

As all of our friends and family know, I’ve been working on my PhD in soil science at NC State for a while now. I’ll be finishing up in December, so I’ve been in the midst a thorough job search over the summer and the beginning of the fall semester. That job search is officially over now as I have accepted a position as a postdoctoral researcher in the University of Washington Civil and Environmental Engineering Department. I will be working with Dr. Rebecca “Becca” Neumann. I will be working on a project studying methane oxidation in the rhizosphere of wetland plants.

Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 20 times more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere than CO2. Methane is produced in wetland soils. Plants can act as both a route for methane to move from the soil into the atmosphere, and as a way for oxygen to enter the soil and oxidize the methane in the rhizosphere (the zone of soil immediately surrounding roots). The objective is to put a number on the percentage of methane that’s oxidized in order to refine climate change models. We also want to predict how that number changes with different plant communities, and how those communities might change as the climate warms. The field site is about 40 minutes west of Fairbanks, Alaska. The field site has two types of wetlands – a bog and a fen. It is called the Bonanza Creek Long Term Ecological Research Station. I’ll be in Alaska for their growing season (June-September), and in Seattle the rest of the time working on laboratory experiments.

I’ve been told the UW campus is really nice. Here’s a flyover I found on YouTube. It’s looking good so far!

My start date is January 6, 2014. The current plan is for me to defend my dissertation in December. We’ll ship our stuff from Raleigh to Seattle via a U’Haul “pod”. We will drive from North Carolina to Iowa for Christmas, then drive from Iowa to Washington after the holidays. My official graduation date will be May 10, 2014, and we will be back in Raleigh for the commencement and hooding ceremony. All of our friends and family will be welcome to attend. There’s a lot to do between now and my start date in January, but in the mean time Stacy is making plans for the move, and I’m working on finishing my dissertation on time.

Stacy is starting her job search now. The company for which she currently works has two hospitals in the Seattle area. She’s looking into transferring within that company for now. I know some of her family was a little sad we weren’t moving back to within driving distance of Wallingford, Iowa. On the bright side though, this is a temporary position that is renewable, so I should be able to work in Seattle for a few years until the perfect position close to home opens up.

The position is exactly the type of postdoctoral research position I was looking for in my job search, so I’m really happy I got it. Stacy and I are both excited to see what the West Coast is like, and we now have an excuse to visit Alaska. I think my brothers are already planning big game hunting trips in Alaska, and Stacy’s siblings are already planning road trips to Seattle. I’ll try to post here a few times between now and the move, but we’re really busy so we’ll see.

Thanks for stopping by,

Colby

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I had my preliminary, aka oral exam for my PhD on Monday, and passed! This exam is basically a verbal exam given by my PhD committee, which is a committee of four faculty members that vote on whether my research and abilities are PhD caliber… and if I actually get my PhD). The oral exam is about a three hour long, verbal exam with the goal of evaluating my knowledge and skills as a PhD level soil scientist. PhD students take this exam at the end of their traditional coursework to ensure that they have the knowledge needed to continue.

Now that I passed, I am no longer just a normal grad student, I am called a “PhD candidate” which means I’m smart enough to get a PhD, but I just haven’t finished my research and dissertation yet. That will come soon enough. For the time being, I’m going to relax… and work hard to get my research done on time. It also means I can officially start my job search. That is all for now.

Thanks for stopping by!

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Hello all,

Stacy and I sent out our annual Groundhog Day card and letter last week to family and a few friends. Since I’ve been a little too busy with grad school lately, I haven’t really updated this blog as often as I should, despite there being a lot of big news in the last 12 months. I’ll repost our letter here. Consider this our “catching up on blog posts” post.

The 2013 Moorberg family Groundhog Day card.

The 2013 Moorberg family Groundhog Day card.

Happy Groundhog Day everyone!

It’s that time of year again when giant rodents all over America come out of hibernation and predict the change of seasons for all of us based on the sighting of their own shadow. That also means it’s time for us to reflect on the last year. This last twelve months have been pretty busy for us. Stacy is still working at the hospital. She’s also been busy working on a variety of crochet projects, including some afghans that will be auctioned off to benefit the Relay for Life. Some other notable projects include an afghan wedding gift for Colby’s mom and husband (more on that later), and some bearded stocking hat Christmas presents for Colby and his brothers.

Colby has been busy with school and research. As you read this he’ll be just finishing up with his preliminary exams for his PhD, and will be preparing for the oral exam to become a “PhD candidate”. He’s also been homebrewing in his free time, making a bunch of different styles of beer and hard cider. Some notable recipes include the “10YR Amber Ale” (a soil science inside joke), the “Hot Mess Pale Ale” (included 10 roasted Anaheim peppers that were soaked in tequila prior to fermentation), and the “MoBro American Black Ale” which was brewed during “Movember” (more on that later) and  included five ounces of hand-picked hops from the Department of Soil Science’s hop field trial plot.

For Memorial Day weekend, Stacy’s sister, Brenda and her kids, and sister, Corey came to visit us. It was the kids’ first time to the coast so we took them down to Wilmington, NC. There we visited the USS North Carolina (picture on the card). We also checked out the North Carolina Aquarium, and then headed to the beach so they could swim in the ocean for the first time.

In June we took a trip to the North Carolina Zoo for our fourth anniversary. It was a really fun trip, and one of the best zoos we’ve visited. We also did some traveling out of the state for some big events on Colby’s side of the family. In May we flew to Iowa to see Colby’s brother Matt graduate from Iowa State University with his bachelor’s degree in Agronomy. It was nice to have a break and get back to Iowa at the end of the semester to partake in the celebrations. Congrats to Matt!

In September we flew to Wisconsin to participate in Colby’s mom’s wedding. Ruth married her husband, Buck in the end of September in an outdoor ceremony with the foliage at peak colors. It was a pretty wedding, and a great opportunity to see all of the Green family. Congrats to her and Buck!

In November Colby’s grandmother, Dorothy turned 90 years old. It’s quite the achievement! We couldn’t make it back because Colby still had class, but we were celebrating from afar and over the phone. Also in November, Colby’s dad came down to Raleigh to celebrate Thanksgiving with us. All three of us also had a blast that weekend at a NC State football game (two of the pictures on the card).

There isn’t too much news from Stacy’s side of the family, other than everyone is healthy, especially Stacy’s dad who is now three years cancer-free!

Our beagle, Maisie is doing well. She’s had a new buddy for the last twelve months though. Forrester (the tri-color beagle on the card) is our current foster dog with the Triangle Beagle Rescue, and is our sixth foster dog so far. He is a senior foster dog who is around 11 years old. The older foster dogs don’t usually get adopted too quickly, so we’ve had him for a while. If we still have him by the time Colby finishes his PhD, he just might end up becoming a permanent member of the family.

As usual, we’ve done a lot of cycling this year. We took part in just one charity ride though.  We rode in the inaugural Velo4Yellow bike ride in September which raised money for the Livestrong Foundation. Off of the bike, Colby also organized a team in his department for “Movember”, a charity that raises money and awareness for men’s health issues, testicular and prostate cancer in particular. For “Movember”, each of the participants, referred to as “MoBros”, grow mustaches during the month of November. The team of four MoBros raised over $760! Colby also helped out with his Masonic Lodge’s barbecue fundraisers that sell hundreds of plates of Eastern Carolina style barbecue and brought in over $8,000 for the North Carolina Masonic Home for Children, and the Masonic and Eastern Star Home.

As you can tell, it has been a busy year. During all that, Colby has also been feverishly working on his PhD research. He submitted his first paper for peer review last November, but is still waiting to hear any news on that paper. He’s also currently working on finishing up his three PhD experiments, which will be wrapped up by the end of the spring semester. The plan is for Colby to complete the data analysis and writing as soon as possible, successfully defend his dissertation, complete his PhD, publish his current research, and become gainfully employed by the end of 2013. There’s a lot to do between now and then though, as Colby’s PhD adviser would surely tell you.

We hope all of you are doing well, and we’re always happy to get news from home – whether it is over the phone, in a letter, in an email, or on a Google+ hangout. We’d love to hear from you! If you want to keep up with us, Colby posts occasionally on <colbyandstacy.wordpress.com> with big news, or interesting stories and adventures. Colby also has his soil science blog <colbydigssoil.com>, just in case you want to learn about soil science, or Colby’s research.

 Happy Groundhog Day!

Stacy, Colby, and Maisie

So that’s our news from the last 12 months. As it turns out, Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow, so he is predicting an early spring. However Sir Walter Wally, the groundhog from the North Carolina Natural Science Museum, did see his shadow, so apparently North Carolina is still a ways away from spring weather. Also, Foursquare offered a Groundhog Day badge.

Happy Groundhog day everyone!

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This fall semester ended up being a very busy semester indeed. As a result, posts on our blog have been lacking – not because we haven’t had anything to blog about, there just haven’t been enough time. Anyway, here is a post about a field trip I went on in the beginning of October.

I took a course named Watershed Hydrology here at NC State. It was taught Ryan Emanuel. We took a field trip to a research station 7 hours away from campus called the Coweeta Hydrologic Lab.

Coweeta is a large watershed that drains into the Coweeta River.Despite being pretty much all Appalachian mountains, once it was clear cut for timber it was farmed for years causing lots of erosion. The US Forest Service, recognizing the need for scientific study of east coast forest systems, turned it into a research station.

Here is a blog post from Peeling Back the Bark that gives a pretty good history of Coweeta.

Coweeta Experimental Forest entrance sign with administrative building at right, 1942.

As for our field trip our discussions focused on many topics that had been, were, or would be discussed in our class, including: measuring water discharge using stream gaging stations, methods to measure evapotranspiration and other climatology data, the effects of changes in the plant community on the water budget, and much more.

Here are some pictures from the trip. The concrete structures are gaging stations used to measure stream water discharge. The scenic mountain views were taken from the lookout tower on Albert Mountain overlooking the research lab. Enjoy!

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For the weekly Dept. of Soil Science happy hour this week a bunch of graduate students went to a boutique chocolate shop named Escazu Artisan Chocolates. We were given a tour by one of the owners who walked us through the entire process of making chocolate.

I didn’t quite remember all of the details, but if you really want to know how they make (real) chocolate from only the traditional ingredients (not the fake way Hershey’s/Nestle do it) then I highly suggest going to their “Our Process” page on their website which walks you through each step with pictures.

I will just show a few of the pics I took but not go into any details on the process of making chocolate.

This is the owner/tour leader in front of the cocoa bean roaster (which they had shipped in from Spain).

In this picture the beans on the left are how they come in the bag straight from Central and South America. The beans on the far right are how they look after roasting. The crumbles in the front are the husks of the beans he let us try (they are pretty bitter before they are processed). The brown thing in the back is a carving of what a cocoa bean pod looks like off of a tree. The cup had a collection of stuff they found in the beans when they brought them in – everything from bones to nails to rocks.

These are two of the mixers that were some part of the process.

This is the big stone grinder they used (I think) to make cocoa butter – one of the main ingredients in chocolate.

Here is their display case in the front. I couldn’t believe the amount of detail they put into each little piece. They are truly each artwork in themselves. Click on the pic to make it bigger, though the picture doesn’t do the sweets any justice.

Stacy couldn’t make it to the tour, she had to work late. So I bought three of their chocolate bars to take home. This stuff is amazing. Hands down the best chocolate I’ve had… ever. Left to right, the flavors are “The Beaufort Bar – Sea Salt” (a dark chocolate with sea salt added), “Pure Dark Chocolate” (name says everything), and “Chipotle Chili & Vanilla” (again, name says it all). Each of these are amazing. The chipotle and the sea salt ones are my favorite, leaning towards the sea salt. They had a bunch of other varieties that they sell throughout the year so this is just a small sampling of their line.You might also wonder what the percent on the label represents. From what I understand, that is the percent of the candy that actually comes from cocoa beans. The remaining would be added sugar, or dairy if it is a milk chocolate. As a reference, a Hershey’s bar would be ~10% with lots of different sources of fat that replace the expensive fat from cocoa butter.

They sell some of their beans (nibs) and husks to Fullsteam Brewery to make their “Working Man’s Lunch” session beer (read more about that bear here). They also sell the nibs and husks to the public for homebrewing. This summer when it’s time to start brewing heavy beers for the winter I plan to stop by and take advantage of such an ingredient.

After the tour we went to Market Restaurant for dinner which was right next door. The prices was a surprise but the food was pretty good, and not what you normally find on the run of the mill Raleigh restaurant. The wait staff was great. It was a fun night. A special thanks goes to fellow graduate student Stephanie H. for organizing the tour.

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Some of the members of the Soil and Water Conservation Society at NCSU, and graduate students from the NCSU Dept. of Soil Science helped teach soil science to local Envirothon students at two different events in the last week. Envirothon is a academic “decathlon” for junior high and high school students through which they learn about aquatic ecology, forestry, soils and land use, wildlife, and current environmental issues. I won’t go into too much depth about the contest in which these students participate, but if you want to learn more you can ready my post about this event last year, or go to the Canon Envirothon website.

I On Saturday, February 26, six SWCS members and/or soil science graduate students helped train about 15 or so students at one of the research and extension sites of the Dept. of Soil Science. We six “teachers” took turns describing the 5 soil forming factors, redox reactions and hydric soils (I taught this), soil texture and structure, soil horizons, county soil surveys, and best management practices and soil conservation. On Friday, March 4, Stephanie, a fellow grad student, and I helped one of our soils extension professors, Dave Lindbo, teach more Envirothon contestants about soils. This time there was somewhere between 60 and 90 participants and it was held at the North Carolina Natural Science Museum. Stephanie and I teamed up to teach them about soil texture (the proportion of sand, silt, and clay) and soil structure (the arrangement of the sand, silt, and clay into discrete soil ped shapes). Both of these events were a lot of fun since we get to spread the good word about soil, how soil science applies to every one of us, and just how cool soil is… to us soil scientists anyway. Here are some pictures from the soils trainings.

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