Monday, May 25, 2009

The Adventures of the BI 450 class: week 8

This week the BI 450 class continued to work with renowned ecologist Bruce Menge and his teaching assistant Alison Iles. No more field work for us. Nope, it's time to crunch the numbers! The class was divided five ways, each studying a different set of data including tide pool diversity, transect quadrats, belt transects, algae and invertebrate biodiversity, and Whelk and Pisater predator/prey studies. The projects proved to be a lot of graph making but we ended up with some interesting results.

After Bruce's test on Thursday, the BI 450 students worked furiously to write and turn in their project proposals. Though projects don't officially start until week nine, some students have already been collecting data. For example: Students Mackenzia Sullivan, Tyler Van Demelen, and Chelsea Stover were able to set up 20 pit-fall crab traps on Tuesday in the notoriously muddy Sally's bend in Yaquina Bay, Oregon. Also Kailtyn Mac Leod and Kaley Lischke have recently been seining in South Beach for bay Pipefish as part of their project. You may be wondering what students are studying. Well you'll have to wait and see!!!

In other silly news, in celebration of the return of beloved invertebrate professor Sally Hacker, the BI 45o class collaborated to surprise Sally with their own 80's day, dressing in the finest fashions of the 80's. Needless to say Sally got a good laugh and the class immensely enjoyed themselves!

Well that's all the news for this week. Stay tuned for next weeks adventures of the BI 450 class!!!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Ecology and Biodiversity Galore!

Hello all! This week brought Dr. Bruce Menge, world-renowned ecologist, out to Hatfield to show us the ins and outs of Community Ecology on the Oregon Coast. This was a week that could make or break any aspiring marine ecologist. With Bruce came very early tides, forcing us out of bed in the early morning hours for field outings to collect as much data as humanly possible. Most days included morning field trips followed by data entry and a lecture. In addition to learning data collection techniques in the intertidal zone, the week was a culmination of everything we have been working on up to this point.

Monday began at 5 am when we crawled out of bed for our first field trip of this section for some community sampling and transect surveys. We loaded up and by six we were headed out to a familiar spot: Boiler Bay. There we received a crash course in field sampling methods for the intertidal zone and every group was able to play a part in collecting data. This allowed us all the opportunity to gain valuable hands-on experience which some of us might even use this summer for internships.

On Tuesday we were allowed to sleep in a tad longer before we took off to another well-known spot: Strawberry Hill. There we had a day much like Monday where each group was assigned a different task for collecting data. Luckily by Tuesday we were all somewhat well-versed in data collection and the day went more smoothly for everyone.

Wednesday and Thursday we spent time at Boiler Bay and Strawberry hill again, respectively. But on these two days we all individually focused on Biodiversity Surveys. This meant that we all had a data sheet and we separated ourselves into three zones (low, mid, and high) and spent half an hour in each zone marking off all of the either algae or invertebrate species which we could find. These were both more relaxed fun days for us. And Thursday even brought us surprises in the form of adorable seal pups at Strawberry Hill and a couple members of our class enjoying the cool, refreshing tide pool water…

Outside of class on Thursday, during a rousing game of sand volleyball, we learned that there was a washed up baby whale in Depoe Bay! So those of us present took off North up the 101 and scoured the beaches for a dead whale. Unfortunately we learned that the whale was in a small cove inaccessible from land and we were only able to see it from a distance.

The end of the week brought us a very short day with only one lecture in the morning. This allowed us time to work on our biodiversity projects in groups, and to play some sand volleyball in the afternoon. After an intense week this was a much needed break.

Overall the field section of Marine Community Ecology was a fast-paced, fun-filled, whirlwind of a learning experience which was valuable to all.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A conservative week for conservation

After three fastball weeks of memorizing species and working hard in the field, the Bio 450 class threw us a change up last week with regular days and only one in the field. Three out of the five days had very similar schedules. Lectures were regular and discussions in the afternoons were a great trade from the late hours of drawing in our notebooks and identifying species till early hours in the morning. Karen McLeod gave a variety of lectures on marine conservations issues. She started by giving us a good overview of the state of the oceans and what policies were in place as well as what that meant in the science world. Karen then moved on to talk about marine reserves, fisheries, and other economical roles of the ocean. After each morning lecture informing us of these issues, she would always follow with an afternoon lecture on how to best approach them. The highlights this week included a field trip up ten mile creek: Hiking through a beautiful forest in the rain, learning about fish habitat restoration projects, and learning about endangered birds in the area. At the end of the week we had a full day of student presentations where we could dive deeper into the issues that we wanted to become learned about, and then present them to the class.

Student presentations were much more formal than the presentations about inverts or the in-lab presentations of algae. Dressed in our best we delivered presentations on current issues. Throughout the day we learned about hypoxia, coastal development, Humboldt squid, ocean acidification, jelly fish blooms, shark fining, wave energy, harmful algal blooms, and even seafood origination labeling. This was a very mixed array of knowledge but never the less enthralling. We also got to eat cookies shaped like squid and some that were not.
Tuesday Morning we got a special talk delivered by Karen describing her work with COMPASS. She explained to us how the organization compiles credible research data and facilitates the scientific community. By developing a concerted front, the labor of many professionals can be channeled into an effective political tool. The focus is kept away from public education and outreach, in order to reinforce the goal of commitment towards policy amendment.
On Wednesday we got the chance to hike at Ten-Mile Creek, the site including the largest stand of old-growth remaining in the nation! It was pouring rain almost continuously, so we kept morale high by calling in the owls (unsuccessfully). The focus of the trip was to give us a tour of the stream restoration project, and to show us the methods used for sampling fry and smelt. We got to see Salmon, river Sculpin, and even a Lamprey! The fish were chemically sedated so we could take a closer look. We had a brief talk regarding the restoration of the stream, including the removal of old roads, and the input of timber utilizing helicopters. We also had the chance to learn about a unique species that nests in the Pacific North-West. The Marbled Murrelet uses moss platforms high in the branches of old-growth evergreens. It will fly in from the ocean, travelling many miles inland to find protected home sites. Flying back and forth to the ocean to gather food for the young is not uncommon. This site at ten-mile creek is one of the last remaining habitats suitable for the species. Corvids, mainly crows, have begun to compete in most areas because the chicks are left unattended.
The most notable topic from our field-trip was the discussion about fry-boxes for hatchery steelhead and salmon. We learned that attempts to include the public in raising stocks have perhaps been counter-productive. Usually the hatchery stocks lose much of their natural instinct, as well as the ability to sense a home range. They also compete strongly enough with native fish to have become a serious threat. In the end it doesn’t matter whether we retain all that we heard. We have all been struggling to cope overstressed. And as it turns out, school doesn’t get much better than this!

Monday, May 4, 2009

A is for Algae...

…And Freakin’ A!!!! Week 5 started Monday April 27th at 6:45am, which was rough as most of us are not morning people.We headed out to Boiler Bay to continue our algae education (the algae section started Thursday of week 4) collecting brown and red algae specimens to bring back to the lab. Annette tried to teach us about the algae in the lower intertidal but was pretty well thwarted by uncooperative waves. There were a lot of mixed feelings on this fieldtrip, some were tired and possibly a little bored, some were trying to be optimistic, but most of us were trying really hard to focus on what Annette had to say. Upon moving to another section of the intertidal, some of our classmates found a very special algae, Egregia, which is commonly known as the feather boa. We all agree that this is a very classy look. The rest of Monday was filled with lectures and lab time focused on phylum Ochrophyta, aka the Phaophytes, aka brown algae.

Tuesday turned out to be a beautiful day, despite the forecast of rain and 40 degree weather. We left for Seal Rock at 7:45am with a much needed extra hour of sleep. We had some reminders of our days studying inverts, which now seems like a long time ago, but then quickly returned our focus to algae. On this trip we found another interesting algae, Desmerestia which secretes an acid and should not be stored with other algae. The next neat looking algae is Postelsia palmaeformis, which ironically looks like something tropical here on the Oregon coast. Back in the rocks at Seal Rock called the “needles,” there was algae that couldn’t be seen from the beach which was a treat for those who dared to climb through. Finally, we found that algae can be fun! This bull kelp makes a great jump rope! Rock encrusting Codium setchellii

could be found surrounded by other algae including Mazzaella spp. and a bushy branched red algae that would have to be identified in the lab. Tuesday and Wednesday we spent a lot of time in class and lab learning about phylum Rhodophyta, aka Red algae, aka the ”Dreaded Reds.”

Wednesday came quickly and we spent a large portion of the day setting up for our group projects. The projects entailed each group becoming experts on a specific type of algae through out the week and presenting them to the class Wednesday night with the main focus of helping each other out for the final and lab practicum. This also came in handy on Thursday when we had lab review because then we were not fighting over Annette like usual because there were experts at all the sections. We then studied all day and all night Thursday for our finals Friday. After the final and lab practicum some parents showed up for Mom’s weekend and we had an awesome chicken dinner/ get together to finalize our week of FREAKIN’ A!!!!