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.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Week 8: Policy and Independent Projects

Enjoying the sun and spectacular view on Cape Perpetua while on the lookout for whales.
We started off the week with a beautiful hike at Cape Perpetua. Paul Englemeyer led us up to the top of Cape Perpetua and talked about Oregon’s marine reserves and conservation policies. His work involves rehabilitation of old growth forests for birds and stream restoration for salmon and other fish. We took a moment to whale watch from our high vantage point, but had no luck. However, a few sea lions were spotted playing in the water! We then walked along the Ten-Mile Creek trail, stopping from time to time to enjoy the scenery and talk about efforts to restore and protect the plants and animals in the area. We ate lunch along the creek and some students practiced their rock skipping skills while others waded into the water to cool off.
Hiking through the old growth forest at Ten-Mile Creek
Dr. Sarah Henkel and Paul Englemeyer showing us a map of northwest rivers and the health of the watersheds. Most of them (in red) have poor water quality.
Redfish Rocks, one of the first marine reserves in Oregon.
Oregon marine reserves are managed by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. These sites are dedicated to research and conservation, prohibiting all removal of species. The protected areas range from 3 sq km to 36.5 sq km. The first marine reserves became protected in early 2012 with the newest addition at Cape Falcon, in 2016, for a total of five along our coast. Each reserve has different attractions, from hiking trails, to sea lion caves and lighthouses. Despite their differences they all give  unique views of our beautiful coastline.

On Tuesday we went down to the docks to meet up with Laura Anderson, the owner of Local Ocean Seafoods. She took us to the docks where we talked to some fishermen about their work. They told us about the various regulations placed on the fish they were catching and showed us what types of gear they used to catch different types of fish. Afterwards we filed into Local Ocean to enjoy a delicious lunch! Once back at Hatfield we had lectures on tools used to aid fisheries management and  science policy. Thanks to the great weather we were able to sit out on the grass for a discussion on science, policy, and ethics. During the discussion we talked about ways to communicate science to the public, career ideas in the field of marine biology, and the difficulties of writing research papers.
Food is life.

Wednesday was our final day of class. We had lectures about aquaculture and wave energy in the morning and gave group presentations in the afternoon. These were different than our normal presentations because we had to pick a non-science audience (i.e. state lawmakers) and provide non-partial information about a current issue to guide their decisions. It was more challenging than we expected to provide options without “telling them what they should want to do.” Regardless, communicating science to non-scientists is important and we need to learn how to do it effectively.  We also wrote practice op-ed articles about our presentation topic. It was a long day, but none of us could believe that eight weeks have flown by and we only have two left!
Dana and Melissa presenting about plastic pollution in the ocean.
Thursday we decided on our final research project ideas and discussed them with the teachers and TA’s. They helped us hammer out kinks in our methods or steered us in the right direction if we weren’t sure what question to explore. After the meetings we started writing our proposals, which were due at 5:00 pm, leaving us only a few hours to finish! Several of us got up early to collect organisms for our projects, taking advantage of some of the lowest tides of the entire year. The tidepooling was excellent!
Science has begun!
Friday kicked off the start of our final research projects! Many groups took advantage of the low tide and were out in the field by 6:00 am conducting surveys or collecting organisms. The sunshine was worth the early start!

By: Katie, Miranda, and Melissa

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