Saturday, April 21, 2018

A week of algae

Monday we started off the week with a new instructor, Sarah Henkel, and a new topic; algae! This is Sarah’s first year teaching the algae section, and we are all having a great time. There was a lot of material to cover in the first day so we hit the books with plenty of interesting lectures, learning about the morphology, diversity, evolution, and ecology. We also spent time in the lab getting to know the different algae specimens provided by Sarah and our TA, Miram.

Tuesday was our first day in the field looking at live specimens! We went back to Boiler Bay and both Miram and Sarah walked us through the different tidal zones pointing out and providing us with tips and tricks for identifying different types of algae. We then collected our own specimens for our projects! But this was a little different than when we went out and collected invertebrates. We went around in a group identifying species and talking about different wave exposures in the area.

The class climbing down the steep entrance to Boiler bay
Once we got back to the lab we learned how to properly deherbivorize our collected specimens by removing amphipods, isopods, worms and various snails. We also got instruction and practice using dichotomous keys in order to identify different algae species. We started our species key assignment by keying out Acrosiphonia coalita '18 and Ulva blade '18.In lecture learned about green algae, Chlorophyta, and brown algae, Phaeophyta.

Wednesday was spent learning all about the red algae on the Pacific Northwest coast and keying more specimens for our lab identification assignment. This helped us learn general information about every group of algae and really get comfortable with keying everything out. As a lecture break we went to our second doughnut break with the staff of Hatfield Marine Science center and interacted with them learning about ongoing research and other cool things that are going on at Hatfield. Then it was back to the lab to finish keying out our 10 species that took a lot of work, but was good for understanding small differences within different taxa.
Acrosiphonia coalita '18 under the compound microscope.
We did not get to go out and exploring but by the end of the day our minds were full with loads of information by the end of the day.

Thursday we went back out into the field, to a Seal Rock State Park that we had not visited yet. We spent the morning there with Annet, who was the previous instructor for this section. A former BI 450 student who is currently working at the marine studies initiative joined us for this trip as well. We were able to find many types of algae not found at Boiler bay on Tuesday including; Codium setchelli '18, Constantinea simplex '18, and Callithamnion pikeanum '18.
BI 450 student at sealrock with Egregia menziesii 2018
After spending time identifying our collected species, instead of having a lecture on the ability of sea grasses to handle stress we went to a seminar given by Jim Kaldy, a researcher with the EPA who is studying how dissolved nitrogen levels and warmer waters affect on the eelgrass Zostera marina. There was even coffee and cookies! To finish off the day we learned how to make pressings of algae, which we will be displaying for the presentations we give next Monday.
The highlight of the day was that the squid eggs we have been keeping for the past week and a half started hatching. The first squid hatched at 1:32pm, it had lots of spots and was too small to weigh. By the end of the day 2 squids had hatched.
Baby squid, about 10 minutes old
Friday morning started with going out into the field to conduct our research projects. Data collection seemed to predominantly consist of using quadrats for most groups.
BI 450 students collecting data along a transect using a quadrant
After spending a few hours collecting data it was back to the lab to perform cross sections and prep specimens! At this point we were pretty much done with lectures. Instead we were given time to work on our presentations and research projects. Our last lecture of the algae section was on invasive species, which, even though they are the second largest threat to biodiversity across the globe, there is not much research focusing on how invasive species are impacting the ecosystems they invade. Our lecture included discussing Zostera japonica, which is an invasive seagrass in our area. There have been strong actions taken in California aimed at eradicating it, as it is listed as both a noxious weed and an invasive species in California. In addition Washington has also indicated steps toward removal, as this grass is listed as a noxious weed in state waters, however, in Oregon there has not been much action taken toward removal because it does not seem to be a local problem. One of the reasons that Zostera japonica has not been a problem along the Oregon coast is that our native sea grass, Zostera marina occupies a different part of the inter tidal than Z. japonica.  Z. japonica lives in the higher inter tidal while Z. marina lives in the lower inter tidal, which has allowed for minimal competition between the two species. Now as we head off into the weekend we are all studying hard preparing our presentations for the beginning of next week, and the wrap up of our algae section.  

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Week 2: Crunch Time

Monday 9 April 2018
We kicked off invert's finals week by having a really neat guess lecture, Sylvia Yamada, come by and present about Carcinus maenas or the European Green Crab. As we learned from her, this species is invasive and came to our coasts by means of transporting shellfish from Europe to the Americas. They love to eat soft-shelled clams and have declined its population dramatically on the east coast. It is also heavily destroying many of the eel grass beds by snipping at the beds looking for food. This effectively made the surrounding habitat a barren and non-productive ecosystem. When these crabs came to our coasts, many researchers began to study why they would be so successful and how their populations move up from Oregon/Washington into British Columbia. Their success is attributed to El Nino and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation patterns: warm weather, strong currents, and down-welling. They've been found to easily move from coast to coast in the British Columbia by means of ocean currents. Because of the 2015 El Nino event, the 2015 year class and the subsequent year classes, will persist and produce larvae until 2023. However, with La Nina's and POD's pattern, this 2018 year class will have a smaller population.

After the lecture, we went to collect these crabs off of the mudflats surrounding Hatfield. We caught 30-40 C. maenas and collected a few other crab species including Cancer magister, Cancer productus, and Hemigrapsus oregonensis. We then collected data on C. maenas and peacefully froze them to their deaths (for science and for the environment!).
A few C. maenas (2018) caught by the mudflats surrounding Hatfield

Tuesday 10 April 2018

After some lectures on Tuesday, we went to the Newport docks in the rainy spring weather to hopefully collect some cnidarians or ctenophores. We came up seemingly empty for the most part, save a dead pyrosome and a hydrozoan. But, we gave them a look under the microscope and the view was still pretty impressive. On what seems to be some seaweed are some goofy looking skeleton shrimp (Caprella alaskana ‘18) bowing to own another. And what they were using their sharp claws to cling on to, what we thought was seaweed, was actually a type of cnidarian called a hydrozoan, which is related to a jelly fish.  

                             One of the many C. alaskana (2018) found clinging to a hyrdrozoan at the docks as seen from under a dissecting microscope.

Wednesday 11 April 2018
Wednesday morning started with learning about Phylum Echinodermata, all the urchins, sea stars, and sea cucumbers. It was also our first Donut Wednesday! We had 30 minutes to go and introduce ourselves to the top scientists and staff at Hatfield and get to know who's all here. Once we got there, we went straight for the food and kind of awkwardly stood around waiting for an encounter... I personally stood around with a few others sipping my coffee till (thankfully) Itchung came and had a chat with us. Then he graciously introduced us to Rick Brown the programs manager at NOAA!!! This was suuuper awesome; we had chatted away until our TA, Rebecca, had to come and tug us away back to lectures... :( 

After our final inverts lecture on Phylum Chordata, we all buckled down on getting our notebooks finished, studied for our exams, and getting ready for the 13th Annual Marine Invertebrate Presentation and Dessert Extravaganza. My group including Caroline and Beth decided to do our favorite invertebrate on a local ctenophore: Pleurobrachia bachei. To represent our favorite jellies we had our classmates make their own ctenophores using jello! Not only did we get donuts and jello, but Sally also brought some cheesecake!
Our cute P. bachei
Class picture with their own cute ctenophore

Thursday 12 April 2018
Thursday was an intense day of sticking it out in the library to study. Pretty much everyday since Monday we had studied and a few us stayed up till the late hours studying away for the lecture exam and the lab practical. The Guin Library is so perfect for nights like these! Equipped with multiple whiteboards, colorful markers, and lots of space, we went HAMShout-out to the Guin librarians for letting us steal ALL THE WHITEBOARDS for our notes.
All the invert species ID'd and organized in preparation for the practical
Group study is the best kinda study!
There are so many types of invertebrates with so much diversity to learn about. It’s crazy to think that Sally taught us so much in such a small period of time.  So much so that some of us were in the library until 2 am. 

Friday and Saturday 13/14 April 2018
Thus the fateful day, and to make it spooky, it was Friday the 13th. Staying up so late didn’t stop us from waking up early again to get the last few hours of studying in before our 12:30 exam and 2 pm practical. We had done all we can and in we went... and I think we all did pretty well! And so the marine invertebrate section came to a close. It was stressful having to learn the 50+ Latin names of the invertebrates we collected but everyone had studied so well the last few days . It was so gratifying to finally be able to identify these animals. Now that we know this information, we will hopefully be able to use it for the future. We just need to remember that to identify a shore crab, we need to check to see if it shaves it legs. If it does, it’s a Hemigrapsus nudus. If it keeps its legs hairy, like a hipster Oregonian, It’s a Hemigrapsus oregonensis. It's that simple! Kind of...
It may not look like it but we were cleaning up the lab in this photo.

These past two weeks were challenging but rewarding in that we've learned so much more and got a better grasp on how each section will be. Next week we start on the marine macroalgae section. We've all already said it in person, but we want to give them a shout out on the blog: thank you, Sally and Rebecca for being amazing teachers!

Before we dive into the algae, Saturday was the annual Hatfield Marine Science Day! I got to volunteer with Scarlett Arbuckle who is head of the Marine Team. We had an awesome time talking to visitors about fishing and sustainability with a really cool activity.
Scarlett Arbuckle and the sustainable fishing activity!

Week two has been a blast and we are looking forward for what's to come with algae this week! 

Closing off the marine invert section with a happy crab!
(Gif by Chris Jones, Dribbble)

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Week 1: A Wet and Muddy Welcoming

Monday, April 2, marked our first day towards becoming professional marine biologists. After meeting, our class was toured around the campus, and shown all of the little details that make the Hatfield Marine Science Center so awesome. Rooms filled with fishtanks, presereved animals, and dried algae were not a rare sight as we went through the campus. After a little break, our professor, Dr. Sally Hacker, explained to us why marine biology is important not only to the scientific world, but to the general population as well. Likewise we also learned about some of the important physical processes that make the Oregon Coast so special. For example, did you know that the Oregon coast has some of the largest sand dune flats in North America? Finally, after a walk up to safe haven hill where we would go in the case of a tsunami, we all met up for some pie and ice cream on campus to get to know each other a little more, and talk about what we would be looking forward to in the weeks ahead as well as our dream jobs, which ranged from scientists, to comic book editors, to even professional ice cream tastors with golden spoons. It was a great way to get to know each other a little more, and it's obvious just by the first day that this term is going to be awesome.

Tuesday was our first packed day. We met up at 7:30 in the morning and headed for our first field day at a site called Boiler Bay, locate just north of Depoe Bay, Oregon. This field site is unique because it sits as a bench stretched far out into the surf allowing unique organisms to settle that we wouldnt see in a more protected area. We spent around two hours here collecting a wide range on invertebrates from crabs to chitons to seastars, all to bring back and study in the lab. We had fantastic weather and truly could not have had more fun outside. Once we were back we took a lunch break, and met back up to cover more about what exactly it means to be an invertebrate. On the same note we continued lecture talking about sponges which are in the taxonomic phylum porifera and has some of the oldest invertebrates on the planet. Then we took a quick break and spent the next three hours in lab talking about, and identifying the animals that we had collected during the field trip. By the end of the day, everyone was completely exhausted but excited for what was yet to come.
An image of a giant boiler which was part of the ship that wrecked here in the 20th century

Wednesday began with another great field trip to a site named Tokatee Klootchman recreation area. While the forecast looked spotty, the weather held and we were able to run around the intertidal without getting too wet. We saw many different animals from those at Boiler Bay, including a Grey Whale that a few of us saw just shy of 100 yards into the surf! Once we arrived back at Hatfield and put our new critters into tanks, we learned all about cnidarians and ctenophores, which are basically jelly fish and anemones. Both of these groups of animals make up quite a bit of the marine wildlife one might see on the Oregon Coast, and it was exciting learning about these animals that grow right in our backyard. After lecture we once again had a three hour lab, followed by the beginning of some studying, hiking, fishing for clams and mussels, and getting used to living here.

Thursday stood out from the rest in that we had our first day digging mud pies for a grade in our college careers. We spent our morning searching for worms and burrowing shrimp on a coastal estuary called Sally’s Bend. The mud was incredibly hard to walk through, due to the work of some incredicly busy shrimp digging holes beneth our feet, and in the end some boots had to be sacrificed to the field site, but we still had a great time. We found a ton of brand new organisms, that somehow looked nothing like the animals we've seen so far, but are still living within a mile of one another. The change in the atmosphere was not only a blast but a super interesting experience. While the rest of the day was routine, trudging through the mud was one of the most fun I have ever had in a class.

Friday began as a rather gloomy day weatherwise. We loaded up in the vans, and while we were excited, we were all disappointed to realize that our hike to a beautiful viewing point on Cascade Head would most likely only give us a nice view of the rain clouds. Once we arrived at our hike just passed Lincoln City, we all became mystified by the forest around us where we saw salmonberry flowers blooming, and heard threshes and hummingbirds zip by. When everyone reached the top, we had completely forgotten to care that there should be any view, and had lunch in the clouds all hanging out with one another, just listening to the crashing waves of the Pacific coming from the mist. After lunch, we took a class picture, and as we began to wander around Cascade Head the sun started to appear and the clouds began to part to reveal a magnificent view of the coast. The hike was a fantastic way to end the week, and we are off to a strong start for the beginning of what will be a fun, but study filled weekend.

The view from Cascade Head.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Week 10: Presentations and Goodbyes

For the last two weeks, we have been conducting personal research projects - investigating our own research questions and testing our own hypotheses. This week, most students were focused on finishing their research papers and preparing for the public presentations on Friday. Above the frantic keyboard tapping and heads-banging against desks, the air hangs heavy with a mixture of emotions. Summer is just around the corner and with that comes all the joys of sunshine and summer vacation. But our course is also coming to an end and our days at the Hatfield Marine Science Center are limited. This is was truly a unique and invaluable experience for all of us.

Looking back, we learned lots of thing throughout this course. Not only the marine biology stuffs but …….
We agreed that First, crafty people belong in this field!
When you try to deal with feeding or larvae there's always mini inventions that can save you from expensive equipment.

Second: Intertidal walking is a thing for marine biologist. You’ll be amazed how Bruce Menge can out walk you on the intertidals. Oh, and not to mention how hard it is to walk on mud. Mudflat walking

Third, sleep deprivation will make a robots out of you. Robots that particularly good at calculating percent covers. And by that point our brains have “Eat. Sleep. Tidepool. Repeat” on repeat. Except for Wednesdays, we add donuts after tidepools.

Fourth, tidepool organisms isn’t the most cooperative animals you use in an experiment. Some would rather starve to death than move, some were just born escape artists.

Fifth: Spending everyday, stuck in Newport Hatfield Marine Science Center, and being in classes with the same people for the whole term, creates an inseparable bond between people. We arrived as strangers and acquaintances, we are leaving as friends.

Presentations were a huge success. Topics ranged from the feeding behaviors of crab,urchins, limpets, and sea stars to the effectiveness of zinc in crab pots.
 Sean goes over the results of his experiment comparing feeding efficiency between green crab, red rock crab, and dungeness crab.
Melissa explaining the difference between specialist and generalist predator
For many of us, our experiments did not go as planned. We were constantly dealing with design problems and our test subjects never doing what they were supposed to. But as Sarah noted in her remarks, this is a part of real science. It’s not all about discovery and generating statistically significant results. Science is complex and sometimes messy. It doesn’t always behave in the way you want it to. But we as scientists learn to deal with these problems and move forward despite the obstacles. Every bit of knowledge, even the 1000 ways how not to do something, contributes to our overall understanding of the world we live in. And this is the gift that the Bi 450 program gives us. Because this is not a lesson we could ever learn in a classroom.

Many of us will be graduating in the next year or so and with that comes the promise of the “real world”. Also a lot of uncertainty. This class taught us not only skills, but it gave us just a tiny taste of that “real world”. It’s hard to say what the future holds - some of us may leave the scientific field and pursue other dreams - but I think our individual futures became just little bit clearer after this class. We may not know where we are going, but we can take our steps with confidence and we can take them together.

Thank you, everyone, for the best term and lifelong memories.

Special thanks to our absolutely amazing instructors and TA's for this course: Sally Hacker, Allison Barner, Sarah Henkel, Bruce, Menge, Su Sponaugle, Miram Gleiber, Caitlin Magel, and Jenna Sullivan 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Week 9: Individual Research

Week 9 marked the beginning of our individual research projects. The long weekend served us well as optimal low tides allowed for ample time of marine sampling in the intertidal. With lectures and exams finished, individuals and groups visited Boiler Bay, Tokatee Klootchman, Yachats Beach, and many other coastal sites to begin answering their research questions. Some projects include topics like gastropod abundance on varying algal species, factors influencing crab claw strength, density of Katharina around Saccharina beds, and the effect of parasitism on Upogebia pugettensis; a type of mud shrimp. The two week effort is to be concluded by the construction of a research paper and presentation open to the public. Symposiums will be held June 9th at the Hatfield Visitor Center.

Alanna and Sonora spend their morning moving 90 lb crab pots for their experiment at Tokatee Klootchman. All smiles :)

Haley and Tyler's urchin feeding experiment involving inclusion and exclusion of Pisaster.
The quick segue into the middle of the week dampened the responsibilities of field work and demanded attentive lab time. As if overnight, the lab was transformed from its dull, empty state to a factory of engineered curiosity. Previously bare bins now held an abundance of creatures of the intertidal, from sculpins to sea stars. Many of us carefully ran through trials of experimentation and intrigue. With minimal casualties, experiments started to fall into place.

Kate and David patiently observe feeding preferences of Pisaster in their handcrafted Y-maze. Troublesome sea stars were aptly nicknamed "Steve".
Sierra looks into shelter material preferences of tidepool sculpins.
In an interesting turn of events, the first octopus of the course was found! It is hypothesized that this is a young Enteroctopus dofleini. Sonora and Alanna found the little guy in a tide pool at Manipulation Bay.

A momentary greeting occurs.
Octopus are very smart and strong creatures. They can fit through almost any crevasse large enough for their beak. Interestingly, the arms of the octopus contain two thirds of their neurons. This makes the arms somewhat autonomous - they literally have a mind of their own! Disc-like suckers lining the arms can taste and smell anything they touch, allowing them octopus to sense nearby prey. When this juvenile octopus grows up, it can have up to 280 suckers per arm. That's like having 2240 mouth-noses. Best of luck to you, small friend!

A baby seal hangs out in the high zone of Fogarty Creek.

By the time Thursday had arrived, most groups were finishing their data collection. With the help and guidance of some awesome TAs, students began running (and troubleshooting) statistical analyses on software programs such as RStudio and Microsoft Excel. For some of the students, this was their first time working with statistical softwares such as R, but individuals quickly became accustomed. Many cups of coffee and tea were consumed in this phase of the research.

Chris outwits RStudio to form an ANOVA table.

A feast of freshly caught crab to end the week! 
In attempt to unwind after many hours spent on research, we closed out the week by spending an afternoon cooking crab! Students who spent the better part of the week catching crab wrangled their test subjects into pots and even grabbed enough crab for the whole class to enjoy. Specimens that weren't consumed were safely returned to the intertidal. Who knew science could be so delicious!

Friday also brought a bout of sunshine, which had many students basking in the sun all afternoon. It was truly a wonderful way to ring in the weekend.