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.