Happy Friday!! It's been an insane week of a packed full schedule and every minute was at least interesting if not down right entertaining. Today's low tide wake up call took us to the mud flats. Our mission was simple: relearning how to walk. Shrouded by early morning fog, we arrived at Sally's Bend of Yaquina Bay and geared up...or, well, some of us geared down, way down. The key to mud mucking is to either wear a lot of gear or very, very little. I'm not giving names, but we even had a brave man sporting the Speedo! TOO FUNNY! What we wore didn't really matter; I think all of us lost a shoe at some point or another and DEFINITELY don't stand in one place too long. It sucks you in so fast! We had mud Frisbee, mud back stroke, mud wrestling...crazy, crazy kids I tell ya. We had a blast!! But most importantly we did get our work done.
The mud is a tan/buff color on the thin top layer with layers of very black underneath due to anoxygenic conditions (very low oxygen concentration). We discussed two habitat zones, middle and lower, with very different mud consistencies because of different mud shrimp species that inhabit them. We used a mud core to collect and identify specimens of each. Neotrypaea californiensis ("Ghost shrimp") are a sexually dimorphc species that are sediment feeders living in the middle zone. They are a waxy pale pink or orange color and can grow to about 10 cm. These are considered habitat engineers due to their ability to change the mud as they burrow and eat their way through it. VERY hard to stay afoot; don't forget to check for the photos. Pressing on further out into the flat we felt the mud consistency shift, signalling the lower zone where we found our second mud shrimp Upogebia pugettensis ("Blue mud shrimp"). It is tan to bluish-gray and grows to about 15 cm. In contrast to Neotypaea, it burrows into a hole and remains there throughout it's life. This behavior does not disrupt the sediments as much and allows us to walk with a bit more ease, and at this point we needed a break from the workout! Other invertebrates we collected included butter clams and various types of worms we haven't identified just yet. We took two salinity measurements at 25 and 27.
Returning from the field we set the specimens' new homes in the lab, hit the showers and headed into lectures by Dr. Sally Hacker and our guest from Dr. Weiss' lab, doctoral student Christine Schnitzler. We ended our day with a visit to our neighbors, the Oregon Coast Aquarium.
Time to take a breath. Sitting in the dark library I'm reflecting on the past week and I feel I could write an adventure novel on each individual day. I want to fill in every detail. What an amazing week. I can't believe I'm so lucky to be here. Not only are studying hands on and being taught by some of the worlds most famous scientists we also just inherited a whole new huge network of friends! We're getting to know each other better and are starting to settle in.
More to come. ~Micah