Monday, May 22, 2017

Community Ecology and Conservation Week 7

Image result for urchin barrens
Photo of an urchin barren from The Echinoblog
On Monday we had lectures on Structure and Dynamics: Communities to Meta-Ecosystems and Diversity and Stability. We learned that mesoscale and macroscale variations have complex effects on higher trophic levels. That complex interactions between biogeography and species of the coastal communities have various effects on the structure of the communities. Such as the interactions between otters, sea urchins, and kelp. When there are no otters to prey on the urchins, their population expands, as their population expands they start to eat the living kelp and leaving a barren benthic environment. Without the kelp to slow down waves and provide habitat for many species the diversity of the ecosystem decreases and the waves will change the dynamics of the intertidal area.
Later that day we had a guest lecture from Zach Randell. He talked about the role of kelp forests and his experiences doing scientific research within them.
An example presentation
Tuesday was a day for independent study and preparation for our presentations on our group research questions based off the data we collected in the field during week 6. We gave theses presentations Wednesday afternoon on topics such as Sea Star Wasting Disease, average size of Pisaster along the Oregon coast, and whelk diets. Wednesday night we had a group study session in the library in one of the conference rooms where we all went over graphs from the lectures and interpreted them.
Thursday was exam day for our Community Ecology Section, and then free time afterwards to enjoy the nice weather. We got most of the class out on the basketball court playing Bump, a game where you try to score a basket before the person behind you in line. It was a great way to de-stress after the test and bond as a class.
Friday was the first day of our Conservation and Policy course. In the first lecture we learned about the state of our oceans where we learned about how the oceans are not doing as well currently as they were in the past due to a variety of human activities such as overfishing, pollution and ocean acidification due to rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Our second lecture was on climate change and its impacts on the ocean. The third lecture of the day was about how marine reserves and marine protected areas were designed and chosen. In the fourth lecture we then talked about how marine reserves were designed and implemented in the state of Oregon. We discussed the different stakeholders and what demands they had upon the placement of the marine reserves. They needed to be placed somewhere that would protect enough habitat to keep species richness high and to boost the productivity of the fisheries in the surrounding area. We ended the day with a brief lecture on sea birds in preparation for our field trip on Monday morning.

By David Fletcher and Nick Patrick

Monday, May 15, 2017

Community Ecology! Week 6

On Monday we kicked off our community ecology section with Bruce Menge and Jenna Sullivan. We started with an introduction lecture that outlined the schedule and expectations for the class. We then took a short field trip out to the intertidal zone of Yaquina bay, so we could practice the proper procedures for performing a transect-quadrat survey. After lunch we had another lecture by Bruce that gave introductory information about sea star wasting disease that Jenna finished during our evening lecture by covering the effects of the sea star wasting disease on the intertidal community. When Jenna first started her PhD she had wanted to study the life of star stars but the sea star wasting disease changed all her plans causing a major change in the environment by decimating the Pisaster population and changing the intertidal community as Pisaster’s are keystone species. They control mussel populations by predation keeping the mussel population out of the lower intertidal areas. Jenna is now studying the effect that adult Pisasters have on new recruit Pisasters.

Students examining a adult Pisaster Ochraceus.
Tuesday marked our first early day of the week, we met in the lab at 5:15 am, meaning if we weren’t out of bed and ready for fieldwork, by 5:30 am, we were going to be left behind. The group was split in two, one group went to Forgery Creek while the others went to Manipulation bay, both sites were near Boiler Bay. Most groups worked on belt transect lines to record arm lengths of all the sea stars along a ten meter transect with a two meter width. While they did this, one group worked on recording the state and arm length of different sea stars in the area. Even though the day turned out to be beautiful and sunny, the tide was on it’s way in shortly after we started. This lead us to not being able to do as many surveys as we would have liked, but we were able to get back to Hatfield early and play volleyball, nap, and have lunch. After we were all refreshed, we had a lecture on biotic interactions and the effects they have on the communities.

Wednesday marked another day of beautiful weather in the field with the class going to Yachats bay and another going to Tokatee Klootchman. Again groups worked on belt transects while a single group recorded different sea stars around the locations recording over 3,000 sea stars for the day! After a nice lunch break we had a lecture on environmental modification of biotic effects, which discussed the effect of different stressors on the creatures in the intertidal zone and had an early night for our third early morning.

Students performing transect-quadrat surveys.
Thursday we went to Boiler Bay and hiked down the rocky path to the tidepools in the typical Oregon rain. In the continued rain, we all grouped up and most of us did transect-quadrat surveys where we used a half meter square to observe the various algae and invertebrates. The few teams that were not doing the transect-quadrat surveys were collecting data about whelk diets. Whelks feed on mussels and barnacles. To survey them we measured their shell length (which indicated age) and determined whether they were feeding or not. This is important to understanding the life cycle of these snails. After the fieldwork, we entered the data and went to a lecture on complex interactions and community structure. This went through the prey-predator interactions that occur between marine animals and what affect them have on their surrounding ecosystem. To complete the day we went to a special lecture by Alissa Rickborn. She presented about the response of ocean acidification on Halichondria panicea, a common sea sponge on the west coast. She showed us her “homemade” aquarium set up where she can manipulate the seawater that fills the tank. In this tank she has constructed petri-dishes with a mesh top out of supplies anyone could get at Home Depot. She examined these petri-dishes every 5 hours until sadly, her aquarium contraption broke. She has fixed it and will be performing the same experiment, with a few tweaks, over summer 2018. After her presentation and demonstration we all went home to rest for our last 4:30 am wake-up-call.

A rainbow in between hail/rain and sunshine! 
Finally, Friday. After waking up at 4:30 am for the last time this week, we all gathered and left for Strawberry Hill at 5:30 am, arriving around 6:30 am. Here we went about performing the same tests we did on Thursday; we laid out ten transects and examined ten quadrats on each transect. During these examinations we were pounded with rain, sunshine, and hail in a conflicting pattern that left us cold and ready for lunch. After the lunch (and a nap!) we got back together for a lecture on barnacle larval transport. Barnacles are important factors to the rocky intertidal because despite living on top of the mussels and having seemingly no effect on anything around them, they provide another foothold in the elaborate web that makes up tidepools.

Overall, it was a fantastic week in the field. We all learned a great deal and had a lot of fun playing in the sunshine as well as stomping in puddles when it was rainy. We look forward to another great week at Hatfield in the 2017 BI 450 class.

by Heather Davis and Katelyn Stanley

Monday, May 8, 2017

Week 5

Measuring algae in a quadrat along a
  transect line.
            We jumped right back into algae with the beginning of week five, starting with a trip to Boiler Bay to complete our field studies. Despite the early morning and a cloudy sky with a few sprinkles, everyone was ready to go and gather the data needed for their projects. Once arriving at Boiler Bay, we all split into groups and scattered, taking advantage of the negative tide height to reach the lowest intertidal areas. After a few hours of collecting data, we collected people, getting everyone to the same spot so Allie could review algae identification with us.
A group discussing their field study.
            Back in the lab, we had a review of the ochrophytes, brown algae, and then completed our second lab assignment, keying out a brown alga to identify it. The afternoon consisted of a lecture on algal physiology and global change, followed by meetings with Allie or Miram for each team to discuss their data and how to analyze them. At the end of the day we retrieved our algae pressings from last week. We were excited about the results!
One of our finished algae pressings.
We started Tuesday morning with a lecture on Phylum Rhodophyta, the red algaes, followed by a lab demonstration identifying the many species we had in the lab. Using our newly gained knowledge of red algae, we completed four lab assignments, each identifying a different species. Following lunch, Miram gave a lecture about scientific writing, part tips and tricks and part reviewing our trawl reports from the fish section. The early afternoon was spent completing lab assignments and working on team projects. Our second lecture of the day, on algal communities. We rounded out the afternoon with a mini-review of brown algae and some lab clean up.
Wednesday morning saw our last two algae lectures, first marine angiosperms, land plants that have completely adapted to life in the water. Next up was algae and the food system, focusing on kelp. The importance of kelp forests has been discussed throughout the section, as they provide important ecosystem services including providing shelter for juvenile fish, and habitat and nutrients for many organisms. Because kelp is so cool and important, we wanted to share some of the ways humans use kelp. According to NOAA, we collect between 100,000 and 170,000 wet tons of kelp each year from California alone1. That’s a lot of kelp! We use kelp in products ranging from toothpaste and shampoo to various food products. Kelp pudding, anyone?
Porphyra sp. belongs to the phylum
                Rhodophyta and is used to make nori.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Hatfield Wednesday without some coffee and (non-kelp) donuts to complete our morning. After donuts, it was back to class, where Miram talked to us about graduate school. Next up was a mini-review of the red algae. The teams also had another opportunity to meet with Allie and Miram to determine how best to analyze field study data. Our afternoon was spent in a combination of wrapping up team projects and enjoying the sun.
That evening, we reconvened in the lab for team demonstrations. The event kicked off with several snacks made with algae, as well as some non-algae cookies. Then we rotated around the room, learning from other teams as well as sharing our algae knowledge and the results of our field studies.
            Thursday was spent reviewing for the final. We began the morning with a review of the lectures, followed up with a review of all the species we had in lab. The rest of the day was independent study. Unfortunately, we couldn’t enjoy the sun during our study breaks, as the fog remained the entire day and a thunderstorm rolled through.
            Friday brought the close of the algae section. We spent the morning studying, then ventured over to the classroom to take our final (the third one of the term!). A break between finals was profitably used to watch Mulan. The plan was to finish the movie before the lab practical, but since time flies when you’re having fun, we had to head back to the lab before the end of the movie. After completing the lab practical, we completed the quickest (and most water spilled) clean up yet. Then we were free for the weekend!
This end of this week marked the term’s halfway point. Time is flying by and somehow we’re now five weeks down, five to go.

1 NOAA. 2014. How do people use kelp? online. National Ocean Service: NOAA. Viewed 8 May 2017.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Week 4
Monday: The week began with finishing our trawl reports and turning them in by 9:00. After that we had our final lectures and discussion for the fishes section. At 13:30 study time began and between working on lab notebooks and studying for the section final exam everyone was busily scurrying between the library and the lab.
Tuesday: In the morning there was some time for us to study before sitting down for the exam at 13:00. The general feeling in the room at 12:50 was that we were pretty well prepared yet chronically sleep-deprived. The test went well and afterward students headed to the lab for finishing touches on their lab notebooks due at 18:00
Wednesday: It was time to begin the section on marine macroalgae—after taking the morning off to catch some extra Zs, of course.  We met Allie Barner, the instructor for the section, who enthusiastically introduced us to the different phyla of marine macroalgae and presented their unique evolutionary history and plastid origins. The three phyla of algae evolved from three distinct endosymbiosis events.  The first (primary) endosymbiosis event produced the common ancestor to all eukaryotes.  The second of these events (a second primary endosymbiosis) caused this common ancestor to diverge producing the clade which contains chlorophytes (green algae), rhodophytes (red algae), and land plants. Finally, there was a secondary endosymbiosis event in which a eukaryotic cell engulfed a red algae cell forming the ochrophytes (brown algae).
After that we split into different teams, each tasked with a different set of algae, and prepared for going on a field trip the next morning.
Thursday: Most everyone seemed quite tired as we met up in the lab at 6:00 am to leave on our field trip.  We went to Boiler Bay where each team was tasked with finding a key species of algae and recording is distribution, as well as collecting samples. Upon returning to HMSC, we had a break for elevensies followed by an ID lab and some lectures.  In the lab we were introduced to both micro and macroscopic characteristics used to identify algae using a dichotomous key.  One of these lectures focused on the different life histories found in algae.  
 Identifying the red algae growing on a wall in Boiler Bay's protected intertidal zone.

There are three distinct life history strategies that are observed in algae.  Haplontic life cycles consist of a macroscopic haploid gametophyte, whereas diplontic life cycles consist of a macroscopic diploid sporophyte.  The gametophyte produces haploid gametes, and the sporophyte produces haploid spores.  Haplodiplontic life cycles alternate generations between a haploid gametophytes and diploid sporophytes.  Haploid stages are characterized by having a single copy of each chromosome, and diploid stages are characterized by having two copies of each chromosome.
After our lab and lectures, we learned to press algae for artistic purposes and to preserve specimens.

Friday: Once again we had to get up early in lab by 6:15.  From there we went to Tokatee Klootchman where we collected and took notes on at least two more species of algae in our group.  On this field trip we were shown examples of many of the important algae found in the intertidal.  The rest of the day consisted of one lecture followed by team meetings to design a field study.  These field studies will be conducted on Monday May 1st.

The three phyla of algae evolved from three distinct endosymbiosis events.  The first (primary) endosymbiosis event produced the common ancestor to all eukaryotes.  The second of these events (a second primary endosymbiosis) caused this common ancestor to diverge producing the clade which contains chlorophytes (green algae), rhodophytes (red algae), and land plants. Finally, there was a secondary endosymbiosis event in which a eukaryotic cell engulfed a red algae cell forming the ochrophytes (brown algae).

The finely branched rhodophyte Ptilota, found by a student at Boiler Bay.

Feather boa kelp (Egregia menziesii), an ochrophyte, found at Boiler Bay.

There are three distinct life history strategies that are observed in algae.  Haplontic life cycles consist of a macroscopic haploid gametophyte, whereas diplontic life cycles consist of a macroscopic diploid sporophyte.  The gametophyte produces haploid gametes, and the sporophyte produces haploid spores.  Haplodiplontic life cycles alternate generations between a haploid gametophytes and diploid sporophytes.  Haploid stages are characterized by having a single copy of each chromosome, and diploid stages are characterized by having two copies of each chromosome.

Sunday, April 23, 2017


After a brief break in both classes and coursework, a new week brings a new professor, a new TA, and a new subject: FISH!
Group photo from day one at Tokatee Klootchman
We dipped our toes into the new subject right away, spending the morning sloshing through the tide pools at Tokatee Klootchman in search of intertidal fish. In our rainiest field trip yet, we scooped up sculpin and gathered gunnels, bringing the best specimens back to the lab. After a brief lecture on general anatomy, we tried our best to apply what we learned, attempting to identify a number of fish specimens.
Paige and Nick wading through the water to do a beach seine.
Everybody loves a beach day! We spent the afternoon at an estuary beach, while a select few braved the water to drag seine nets and capture fish. We sorted, counted, measured, and identified a number of species, including pipefish, flatfish, and juvenile salmon. Our biggest catch of the week, with a TL of approximately 22cm, was Leptocottus armatus, the Pacific Staghorn Sculpin. This little excursion was followed by lecture on reproduction and life history, allowing us to better understand the journey of the young fish we had just caught.
As everyone was beginning to tire, we fought the mid-week blues with break in the morning for coffee and donuts. This was followed by a guest lecture from Dr. Bob Cowen about kelp forests and rocky reef habitats. We managed to experience a number of other habitats while escaping the stormy weather with an afternoon adventure to the AQUARIUM. Naturally, everyone gravitated to the open ocean exhibit, where sharks and rays take center stage.
Enclosed in the Aquarium’s longest tunnel, the class relaxed into a state of admiration and awe at the wonders of the deep. Sketching and photography ensued, along with identification of species and discussion of anatomical differences. The “Open Sea” exhibit houses 5 species of shark, schools of mackerel and anchovies, and bat rays. The largest shark species on display was the Broadnose Sevengill shark, Notorhynchus cepedianus. This shark is common along the Oregon Coast and can be identified by its unusual number of seven gills. Because of their gill number, they are thought to be related to ancient sharks, as fossils from the Jurassic period also boast seven gills. This oddity gives them the Guinness Book of World Records title for most gills!
Elakha cruise group two posing as their favorite fish: the English sole!
Thursday was the most highly anticipated day of the week: we got to spend the morning out on the Elakha, beam trawling and sorting fish for our research project. The early morning crew fought rain and sleepy eyes, but managed to have a blast. The afternoon crew was a bit luckier with the weather, and had just as much fun measuring and identifying fish. After a much needed lunch break, the afternoon took a slower pace, with a lecture on swimming and schooling followed by analysis of the trawl data. A small group of students then assisted Su and Miram in deploying light traps off the Pump House dock.

The final day of the week was all about the class room! We had the pleasure of two guest lectures, from Dr. Wayne Hoffman and Dr. Christian BreseƱo-Avena, about herring and plankton, respectively. Our lecture on plankton was immediately followed by a plankton identification lab. We used microscopes to identify species and count plankton, determining that in one light trap we had collected over 125,000 planktonic organisms!

This week was packed full of lectures, field adventures, and fish! The week went swimmingly, but there is still a lot more schooling to do before we finish up the section on fishes.