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.