Friday, June 4, 2010

Results: The Final week

The data have been taken, the numbers have been crunched, the papers have been written and rewritten, the presentations have been arranged, and now we are finally ready to present our project results in the 2010 BI450 student research symposium!

Samantha, Jack, and Aaron got to go diving for a week (for science!) and found that the black rockfish distribution along the South Jetty is complex – size is an important factor but there’s a lot more going on too.

Alyssa, Brittney, and Cameron found that the six-armed sea star comes out on the rocks at night and hides during the day, but their lab study showed that when it comes to eating, they don’t care what time it is!

Melissa found that as pH goes down, so do copepod hatch rates. Another reason why ocean acidification is REALLY BAD NEWS.

After a week of climbing around on rocks all over Cape Perpetua and Cape Foulweather, Sarah and Jennie found that local factors have the greatest effect on tidepool variability but that increased depth didn’t lead to the greater diversity they expected.

The Danielles discovered that although it is really hard to wade through deep estuary mud, it is doubly so if you stay out too long and the tide catches you! After washing the mud off, they also found something unexpected: Orthione griffenis parasitizes more female than male mud shrimp.

Caleb had a lot of cool results with his crab experiments, including that male Hemigrapsus shore crabs accumulate detritus in a patch of setae on their claws, and that this can feed them through a starvation period.

Shea found that to remove Pisaster from rocks without damaging them, the quicker you can do it the better! Also, a great way to transport them is in plastic baggies with water, because they don’t grip the plastic too hard and are easy to remove intact.

Matt looked at feeding differences in urchins with sunflower stars around, and though he did see that urchins eat less if there is a lurking Pycnopodia, he would need a lot more time and a bunch more tanks to demonstrate a significant result.

Wyatt and Kelsi went fishing and found that if you are a perch and want to have the largest, strongest babies, you should specialize in eating caprellid shrimp instead of gammarus. Yummy!

Emily and Shea developed mad algae-surgeon skills to remove the outer cuticle from Mazzaella blades, and found that unlike in terrestrial plants, that cuticle doesn’t help protect the algae from dessication.

Alex and Bekah’s experiment showed that octopus seem just as happy to find crabs by sight as by taste, as long as they get lots of crabs to eat! Also, that they have really good aim when spraying water out of their tanks to drench any nearby researchers. Those little suckers can really leave a mark!

After many hours of standing in traffic on the Alsea bridge staring at seals, Becca found that the temperature of the ocean water was an important factor in how many seals come up onto the sand bar for a snooze.

Finally, Kim looked at coloration of Pisaster sea stars related to the pigment levels of their mussel prey, and although the mussel colors have really vibrant differences, it wasn’t clear how or if that affected sea star color.

So here we are at the end. No more lab work, field work, data analysis, presentations, cold early mornings, exams, papers…. school is officially out! We’re happy to be finished, but equally we know we’re all a little sad to leave. No more bonfires, walks on the beach, fishing trips, Thai food, Gary the ground squirrel, Roxy the hummingbird, and more importantly… no more time together :-( We’ve had an epic 10 weeks, learned and partied in equal measure but always as friends. We all have the amazing people who work at HMSC to thank for the experience, and it almost goes without saying that we’ll remember this 10 weeks as one of the best of our college lives. Au revoir Hatfield, you will be missed!!

Sunday, May 30, 2010


Projects began this week and students quickly showed great diversity in their selected topics. From the Danielles’ mapping of mud shrimp beds, to Shea’s experiment investigating the metabolic cost of podia loss in Pisaster, tank space in the lab rapidly became a precious commodity. After complaining of early starts in previous weeks, some groups now experienced 4 a.m. tides, with no instructor to blame for bleary eyes and copious quantities of coffee. Working on our own schedules allowed for frequent forays to and from the lab, at all times of night and day, with Caleb tending to his crabs every six hours.

Spearfishing moved from a hobby to an integral part of the research for some studies, and fish cook-outs became the order of the day. Biggest catch has to go to Wyatt for his massive lingcod, speared off the South jetty while looking for perch for his joint project with Kelsi. Sam, Aaron and Jack spent most of the week in their wetsuits also, as they surveyed populations of black rockfish.

Cameron, Alyssa and Brittany had some difficult moments running from waves at Boiler Bay while attempting to collect Leptasterias for their project, with Alyssa taking a plunge into the big blue.

Behavioural studies are well represented this year; with Becca looking at seal haul out patterns, Bekah and Alex observing octopus feeding habits and Matt looking at trait-mediated effects of Pycnopodia upon Strongylocentrotus.

Perhaps not as obvious as it seems, Shay and Emily considered the importance of the algal cuticle in desiccation rates between three Mazzaella species.

Jennie and Sarah were becoming well-travelled, as they notched up the miles between six study sites, comparing tidepool community structures along the coast. Kim spent hours in the field getting to know Pisaster, while looking at the relationship between feeding habits and varying color densities. Melissa, on the other hand, almost vanished from the social scene, becoming a lab rat and spending days with her microscope, searching for copepods to see the effects of ocean acidification. So, it's all go on the data collection, drawing everything together for our final week and bringing us ever closer to the end of BI450.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Community Ecology (continued)

Monday, May 17th began with group preparation and data analysis from the previous week of data collection at Boiler Bay and Strawberry Hill. Our class was divided into four groups; a group of eight students were responsible for community structure data collected from the transect-quadrats and belt-transects, a group of four students were assigned to analyze invertebrate and algae tide pool diversity, another group of four students analyzed predatory whelk and sea star diets, and the final group of six students compared biodiversity at Boiler Bay and Strawberry Hill. After group preparation we had a lecture on the structure and dynamics of communities becoming meta-ecosystems. The lecture described a meta-ecosystem has "a set of ecosystems connected by spatial flows of energy, materials and organisms across ecosystem boundaries." Group presentation preparation was continued after lecture. During the evening we had a guest lecture from a marine biology graduate student at Oregon State University named Sarah Close. Sarah discussed her graduate work and research on nutrient dynamics and macrophyte (algae :) assemblage structure along the Oregon coast and New Zealand.
Tuesday had a similar schedule with group presentation preparation in the morning followed by the last lecture of the section on the diversity and stability of marine communities. When lecture was finished we had the rest of the day to finish the group presentations.
Wednesday began with group presentations in the morning in the conference room of the library. Each group created a Powerpoint presentation which included questions about their topics, hypotheses to predict the answers to the questions, graphs displaying the data, results, interpretations of the results and finals conclusions. After presentations we had another guest lecture, Alison Iles who discussed her graduate work and research on body size and dynamics of the intertidal food webs. Since our community ecology final was the following day we had independent study time after Alison's lecture.
Thursday was the day of our last BIO 450 final! After the final we enjoyed relaxation in the sunshine and counted the months until the next time we would have to take a test.
Friday marked the beginning of our independent research section. Individuals or groups were assigned times to meet with Bruce Menge, Sally Hacker, Sarah Henkel, and Dafne Eerkes-Merdrano about project ideas. Once the projects were approved groups had until 5:00pm to submit the research project proposal. The proposal included the motives behind the projects, hypotheses, background information, project methods of data collection, a time line, and the importance of the research project. The last two weeks of the term will include independent data collected, writing the research paper, and a final symposium of the projects.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Community Ecology Begins

After a three day weekend, the class of Marine Biology 450 went full-speed into a rigorous routine of early mornings, late nights, and lots of learning. We started our week with an introduction to community ecology with our new instructor, Bruce Menge. We learned about community patterns, community structure and dynamics, and attended a guest lecture on from our TA, Dafne regarding her thesis.

After Tuesday night we prepared for a series of 5:30, 6:00, and 6:30 field trips that tested our dedication to the field of marine biology. Our field trip on Wednesday was to Boiler Bay, where most of the class collected transect-quadrat data. The rest of the students collected data regarding whelk diet, tide pool diversity, and belt transects. After our field trip we returned to HMSC for a invigorating round of lectures on biotic interactions and community structure.

Thursday came as early as Wednesday, and we found ourselves at Strawberry Hill doing a more exciting and diverse set of data collections. Some of the class continued belt-transect and quadrat data collection, while others examined sea star and whelk diets or tidepool diversity. Thursday was a gorgeous day for data collection, and our early-morning field trip rewarded us with viewings of an orca and passing grey whales. After our field trip, we returned for an afternoon of lecture. In the evening, we attended a guest lecture by Jeremy Rose, a PhD candidate at OSU. Jeremy spoke to us regarding the ecological impacts of ocean acidification. Despite our long (15 hour!) day, we enjoyed this new perspective on an important ecological issue.

Friday morning awarded us with one extra hour of sleep (6:30!) and we headed out to Boiler Bay again to commence biodiversity surveys. Half of the class collected data on invertebrates and the other half searched for unique algae species. This set of data collection allowed us to comprehensively use all of the knowledge we have learned throughout the semester, and many of us were surprised as to how much we have remembered! The afternoon brought more information on complex interactions and community structure.

Since we were lucky enough to have Monday off, we more than made up for it by beginning our Saturday at 6:45 with a field trip to continue biodiversity surveys at Strawberry Hill. Despite our professor's noted absence from a back injury, the excitement continued with the sighting of a nearby newborn harbor seal pup. The class switched roles in looking for algae and invertebrates, and therefore were able to further test their ID skills of Oregon's rocky intertidal organisms. Due to Bruce's injury, Dafne led us in a discussion regarding larval dispersal and transport in the afternoon. We all looked forward to having Sunday off, and many of us slept in, went to the beach, and went out to dinner to make the most of our one-day weekend!

Monday would once again find us continuing community ecology, albeit without the early risings!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Conservation and Policy

After Algae ended, we entered the realm of conservation and policy. We learned about the state of the oceans, which for many of us cast a shadow on the beautiful weather we were having (as abrupt as some of the weather changes were, we did not have hail or sideways rain). We became immersed in the developing ideas that are currently being put into action in order to help protect and repair the damage that has been done to our oceans. In addition to this we also learned about new, more ecologically friendly ways that are currently being debated for producing energy through utilizing wave power.

On Wednesday we had a long, gorgeous hike to learn about the Ten-Mile Creek Restoration Project. Everybody with a camera had gorgeous pictures of the forest. We were given passionately delivered and highly detailed information over the course of the hiking. Everyone we encountered was able to shed light on the state of the creek, the fish using it, and the connectivity that is present between our terrestrial environment, the river/streams, and our ocean.

We had our long-expected meeting with the owner of Local Ocean Seafoods. She gave us a tour of the docks and provided an astonishing amount of information about local fisheries, each of the boats docked, and how her views of commercial fishing have changed over the years. She then took us back to Local Ocean where we had an amazing lunch. Along the way back from the docks, we were greeted and briefly accompanied by a very friendly dog.

On Friday, we presented on current policies that were in effect for many of different areas of marine conservation topics, including but not limited to labeling, hypoxia, fisheries, and aquaculture. The presentations flowed smoothly, especially when the chocolate was brought out. Two groups provided brownies to the class, in order that we appreciate being the top of the food chain (which with brownies close to lunch time, I’m sure we all were).
With the three day weekend following, a lot of people went home, fished, attempted to crab, engaged in sword fighting in the sand pit, and in various other ways relaxed. With this three day weekend behind us, hopefully we are ready to tackle the final stretch of class before our final projects. Onward and forward we go- welcome to Community Ecology!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The sun sets on algae!

After two days of algae last week, we jumped into a full, and final week of algae after a very relaxing weekend. Students were frantically working to complete their species identifications on time, and we were beginning to think of the impending final that lay before us at the end of the week. Lecture and lab carried on as usually, but this week was a little different because we went on another field trip, displayed and discussed projects on algal groups, and finally had our finals on Friday to finish the section that is... Algae.
On Friday of last week, after our lecture on algal systematic, we met at the lab at 2pm for our trip to seal rock. Once each seaweed team had equipped themselves with scrappers, clipboards, Zip-lock bags and buckets of various sorts, we divided into two groups, one for each van, and were off. Twenty minutes later we had passed the local fudge shops and were wondering just what went into an “Evil Brownie”, when we arrived at our destination. We got out of the vans and made our way to the viewpoint where our instructor, Annette, pointed out the various features of the landscape. As we made our way down the slope, we noticed the spectacular waves crashing against the rocks in the distance. This caused many of our group to stop and take pictures.

Students gather as Annette describes the various species at different elevations.

While there, we noted many varieties of seaweed from the three phyla. Red, or Rhodophyta, was most prominent as we neared the tide pools. There we saw Mazzaella splendens, M. parksii, multiple coralline species, Mastocarpus species, as well as a variety of kelps and green algae.

Various Algae in a large tide pool at Seal Rock

Then on Wednesday morning we embarked on our second field trip to Boiler Bay. It was a dark and stormy morning when we met Annette at the lab at 6am for our trip to Boiler Bay. At this point in the section we had collected many samples already, so our mission this time around was to collect species we did not have or to collect specimens to replace the ones dying in our lab. The drive up was interesting. As we went farther north, we encountered heavy rain mixed with hail and began questioning the sanity of our instructor when, all of a sudden, the weather cleared up. We came to the public view point where Annette and our TA, Orissa, got out to talk strategy. We soon learned two things: 1) one of the benches was no longer available due to increased sea levels, and 2) we had not quite arrived at low tide as expected, so we couldn’t go as far out as planned.

Once down there, we split up into our groups and searched for new specimens. Every once in a while, Annette would summon us with her whistle to look at an interesting specimen or feature we couldn’t see in lab. It was nice to see our knowledge of invertebrates was still with us, as many of our number either sought out or happened across many different species. After a few hours it soon started to rain (harder), so it was time then to leave. When we got back to the lab, it was discovered that a Pacific Rock Crab, Cancer antennarius, had hitch-hiked its way back with us in Caleb’s sweatshirt pocket.

Wednesday afternoon finally rolled around and we all needed to present our projects that night at 7:00 pm, the only problem was that none of us were done! The good news is that after a brief lecture in the morning Annette let us have the rest of the day to prepare. The groups consisted of 2-3 students, and each group was responsible for a lab-like presentation of a specific group of algae. The groups were dominated by red algae, which seems to be the most common in these here parts, and the groups were as follows; green algae, small brown algae, coralline red algae, filamentous red algae, finely branched red axes, coarsely branched red axes, coarsely branched red blades, thin red blades, and finally the thick red blades... phew, that's a mouth full of algae!
Melissa, Shay, and Em showing off their Filamentous Reds

Once each group was organized and ready for a lot of research, they set about creating notecards for the species of algae that belonged to their group. The notecards were used in lab, along with fresh specimens from our previous field trips, to help explain to the other students the general information on those species, what to look for in the field and lab when identifying them, and of course similar taxa to look out for. Along with the thoroughly descriptive notecards, each group was also in charge of keying out two tricky taxa in their group that are both similar in looks and morphology, and explaining the minute differences between the two. Before 7:00pm the groups set up their stations to look like a normal lab, complete with pictures, descriptions, specimens, dissecting scopes, and even cross sections of the species in their group (we got awesome pictures seen below), and when everything was finally ready to go at 7:00, the fun filled algae fest began! Annette and Orissa provided the snacks and the students provided the entertainment, and between the excellent descriptions and first hand experience, all the students went away with a lot more than they came in with. The night provided a great experience for us all to get intimately acquainted with the diversity of of algal species along the Oregon Coast, and we all felt a little more prepared for the lab final that was scheduled for Friday afternoon.
Cross section of Acrosiphonia coalita hooks at 40x magnification.

By far, week 5 was the most demanding and stressful week yet...Half the class came down with a cold, sleep was a rarity (and commonly accompanied by nightmares of algal ID sheets), and to top it off, the weather took a slight turn for the worst. However, Annette's energy, enthusiasm, and poetry helped us through the gloomy week. Of course, getting a few hours of extra sleep due to a cancelled field trip always helps too. Caleb found a small pacific rock crab that hitchhiked back to the lab in his coat pocket, we became masters of keying out algae, learned about the various life cycles, and even got an ecology lecture on how summer neap tides and limpet grazing effect algal zonation.

(Note: not a Rock Crab, this is a very red Kelp Crab)

It was a lecture on a field study that Annette herself did and it was very interesting as it showed the natural history of the area by showing us how different climates can have differing affects on the local diversity. Because the summer tides are often so calm, even the high tides don't splash essential water to the higher growing algae, and in short, they die, which sends the limpets to lower zones to find food. Yes, it was an action-packed week of algae to say the least. And congratulations to Orissa Moulton on completing her masters program, and good luck with whatever the future may hold!! We had a great time with you as a T.A., and we know everyone here at HMSC will miss you greatly.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Swimming into Algae

FISH! week came to an end Tuesday of week 4. Frazzled students studied HARD on Monday night. Studying continued into the wee hours of Tuesday morning. The studying paid off because we, brilliant and competent students of marine bio 450, conquered the FISH! final. Hook, line and sinker!
Many of us celebrated by taking part in Hawaiian shirt Tuesday at the Rogue Breweries. The evening carried on with friendly games and an epic dance party. PRIME TIME style! We were all extremely thankful for having Wednesday off for a mental health day. Many students relaxed by fishing and painting.
After the mental health day, students started the week off by being late to the first algae lecture, just call us all Jack. (Except Shea, Sarah, and Jennie who paid attention to the updated schedule. ) Despite this minor setback, we all charged on with our heads held high throughout our lab, and learned how to identify Chlorophyta.
Sunshine returned Friday to highlight our field trip to Seal Rock.This was an amazing hands on experience that complemented our morning lectures and lab time that focused on Chlorophyta and Ochrophyta. We saw a plethora of red, green and brown algae in a multitude of tidal zones. We are looking forward to a relaxing weekend before we penetrate deeper into the algae!

Saturday, April 17, 2010


FISH! Well week three is here and gone now and we learned more then we ever wanted to know about FISH!, including how to fillet, fry, and eat them. We started off the week with some great lectures and some disappointing news about not having the proper vertebrate permits in order to collect FISH! Local Ocean, a local seafood shop and cafe graciously donated some blue and black rock fish (Sebastes mystinus and S. melanops) and English sole (Parophrys vetulus) for us to dissect. We learned how to remove the otoliths from just below the brain and saved them for a later lab. That night Itchung Cheung brought us a wonderful spread of pizza, soda, salad and ice cream sandwiches for desert! We got to meet the director of HMSC, George Boehlert, who reveled us with tales of his travels.

Tuesday we did some catch and release beach seining right out front of the visitors center. We caught a few juvenile English sole, various sculpin (Family: Cottidae), Eulachon (Thalichthys pacificus), pipefish (Syngnathus leptorhynchus), Juvenile Chum Salmon (Oncorhynchus keta). In the afternoon we examined the otoliths we had removed Monday.

Wednesday a brave few ventured down to Seal Rock to return the inverts from the previous week and collect rare delicious scones. After that the day was sprinkled with interesting lectures about FISH! habitat and ontogenetic shifts. That evening a different set of brave few ventured out to Boiler Bay to examine tide pool FISH! on their own, they were mostly disappointed in their find of nothing but various sculpin, but they did find a cool cave...

Thursday morning we had a very interesting lecture on Dr. Heppel's research on the Nassau Grouper (Epinephelus striatus). His research involved some interesting stuff on their aggregation spawning. They used satellite tags to track currents from the aggregation spot to figure out what happens to the eggs and larvae after fertilization. It turns out the FISH! know exactly which day to spawn after the full moon so that the planktonic larvae head south in a curly cue pattern and then loop back around to return to Little Cayman Island. That afternoon we visited the Oregon Coast Aquarium and took a look at numerous FISH!. Our assignment was to find our randomly assigned FISH! by picture alone and write down a few things about it in our notebook.

Friday was the day we were all waiting for! Behold the Elakha, Oregon State University's 54 foot coastal research vessel. We were randomly assigned (like a good lab experiment should be) to two groups. We did a single bottom trawl and only brought up a few FISH! and numerous shrimp. We caught and released a few Shiner Perch (Cymatogaster aggregata), and a couple of American Shad (Alosa sapidissima).

(Group 1 returning on left, and group 2 waiting on the dock below. Both pictures were taken at the exact same time almost causing a rift in the space time continuum.)

That evening our gracious instructor, Dr. Scott Heppel, gave us 4 Black Rockfish he had caught and we fried them up along with some other great food.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

2 down, 8 to go

So, week two is over, and we sadly say goodbye to Sally, Margot, and the invertebrates. We did have some good times this week though. Monday we heard an interesting lecture from Sylvia Yamada about Carcinus maenas, the invasive European Green Crab. These sneaky creatures moved in after being introduced in San Francisco in the early '80s. The strong El Nino of '97/'98 gave the larvae a warm current to ride up to our part of town, and here they have managed to hang on, despite the fact that they require very specific ocean temperatures for the larvae to survive. After the lecture we went out to explore the crab traps Margot had set the night before, and lo and behold, some crabs were found. We even found two green crabs! We let most of them go but we did keep a Dungeness (Cancer magister) and a Red Rock (Cancer productus) for our lab.

Tuesday was lots of fun as we finally got to go on our Cascade Head trip. This 300 mile long basalt lava flow was formed when a volcano erupted near idaho around 15 million years ago. It was a good thing we waited for the trip instead of going last Tuesday. The weather cooperated for once and it turned out to be a beautiful day (relatively speaking. :-P)
We all hiked up, getting our boots and pants muddy, but it was worth it. Some elk even decided to grace us with their presence on the next hill. A few people were brave enough (or foolhardy enough) to climb all the way to the top on a much steeper trail, and when they returned we took the customary picture before heading back down the trail. All in all, a good day.

Wednesday was the annual Marine Invertebrate Presentation and Dessert Extravaganza! But we don't actually know which number it is :) . Everybody had great presentations and there were tons of creative ideas. We got to see an octopus eat a crab, watched some crab racing, ate many delicious creatures (made of pastry items, of course), got little sea pens, were eviscerated on by a sea cucumber, got taught by a visiting crab, saw the dreaded Vampire Squid from Hell, learned about the medicinal properties of a new phylum, and played a game of jeopardy. It was both entertaining and informative.

Alas, the end has arrived. Thursday we had two study sessions, one for each exam, and Friday is the day of reckoning. Good luck to everybody. We shall all do fabulously. Bring on the invertebrates!

Next stop the fishes!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Spring 2010 Week 1!!!

Our term started with a tour of the science center on Monday, introducing new students to the in's and out's of Hatfield. Tuesday's schedule included a trip to Cascade Head, but poor weather turned our field trip into a journey to the Newport dock's instead. On the docks we searched for invertebrates living near the surface and under discrete hiding spots and came upon a sea nettle. This was our first excursion, and all students had a chance to learn more about the town we now live in. The day ended with pie and discussion about our dream jobs.

Wednesday we went up to Boiler Bay, a site 20 minutes north of Newport. Here we happily collected tidal organisms in teams and brought them back to the lab for further investigation. We collected a wide variety of invertebrates including sea stars, nudibranchs, peanut worms, crabs, anemones, and urchins.

Thursday we ventured out to Strawberry Hill at Cape Perpetua. This unique ecosystem is habitat for a multitude of mussels. Since Strawberry Hill has a shallow shelf heading out to open ocean, upwelling events create trapped water and an area in which phytoplankton thrive. Since abundance in phytoplankton reduces visibility and light availability, algae have less opportunity to colonize. Because algae are mussel's greatest competition in tidal zones, this lack of algae results in an over abundance of mussels. The day ended with a guest lecture by John Chapman about biological invasions.

The week ended with a field trip planned to the mud flats in Yaquina Bay. Only a small group decided to brave the near hurricane conditions to go out and collect mud shrimp. The rest of the day was dedicated to lecture and laboratory work. Our first week went by quickly, and after a much needed couple days off, week 2 will surely be an exciting challenge.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Its that time of year again!

Marine Biology 450 is about to gear up for action again.
The first week of class is just around the corner, after Spring Break.
We look forward to a fun term, and especially to the first section of the course - Inverts!
Updates from the field shortly,
Sally and Margot