Friday, April 22, 2011

Week 4: End of Fish and Beginning of Algae

Monday, April 18th, 2011

After working on the Marine Fishes section material Sunday, we continued to work hard all day to make sure we finished our assignments. With bloodshot eyes we stared at our lectures, notes, species profiles and research papers in hopes of doing well on the upcoming exam, but the stress did not wear us down. With the passion only a marine biologist could possess, we pressed on in pursuit of what we love. One thing that made it harder than usual to study is the unusually gorgeous weather we had Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. The weather doesn’t always seem to cooperate when we are out in the field, but it was at its best right before our tests for both the invertebrate and fish section. Even with the sun calling us out to play, we studied all night long in preparation for our test.

Tuesday April 19th, 2011

The test has arrived! We started our day with our lab practicum. We were tested on the basic anatomy of Marine Fishes, identification of specific local species, and our abilities to correctly use a dichotomous key. After our lunch break we took our lecture based exam. We were tested on the Marine Fishes lecture material, the purpose of fish in our oceans, and their life histories through evolution. After cleaning up the lab, we enjoyed the sun the rest of the day. Of course this meant we played volleyball with Wade Smith and Margot Hessing-Lewis in the beautiful sun!

A group of the students and Wade playing volleyball after our test

Wednesday April 20th, 2011

Algae week; it’s here!!!!! After sleeping in and catching up on the much needed rest we headed to afternoon lecture to learn about algae evolution and life histories. Annette Olson and Margot Hessing-Lewis are our instructors for the Marine Algae section of the class. We also spent time in the lab looking at the specimens Annette had collected during the week. Looking the array of algae in the tanks, we came to realize that classifying algae was going to be harder than we thought. Algae are very diverse and they are hard to identify to the species level without looking at them on a cellular level. We then knew this section would require intensive work that required microscopes, time, and lots of dedication. After getting into groups for our algae project, some of the groups met with Annette to get a better picture of what we could look for on our field trip out to Boiler Bay tomorrow. We sorted specific algae into our designated tank areas and went home to prepare for our early field trip.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

 Melissa, Annette, Karol, Alex, and Jessie (Left to right)
At 7:30am with coffee in hand, we left for Boiler Bay. Five minutes later everyone’s passed out for the drive to the site, but as soon as we arrived at Boiler Bay the sun greeted us with a nice view where we could see algae covered benches that seemed to go forever. Coming here many times before with other purposes in mind we all never gave a second thought about algae but with Annette’s knowledge fresh in our minds we were ready to see what we had learned the day before. We examined the algae with our “heads down and bottoms up” as Annette would say for our specific group algae. We were guided through the slippery algae beds as Annette pointed out various species. She told us about their morphologies and various environments and conditions each type of algae lived under. After collecting all the species we needed and hearing Annette blow her sea kelp horn, we headed back to put our samples in the lab. We continued our day with a lecture and spent time in the lab identifying specific green algaes (Chlorophyta) using microscopes and dichotomous keys. After lab we went home to sleep and prepare for our next day.

Friday April 22, 2011

Our morning started with our first trip to Seal Rock. We have been to the other sites more than once, so we were all excited to visit a new site. After our leisurely hike down to the water, we began our search for more algae to add diversity to our collection. We spent most of our time practicing saying the names of the algae as Annette pointed them out. Who knew learning a new language (Latin) was going to be a dominant part of our curriculum. We did take a couple breaks to have fun-- Hatfield style. Alan and Steven jumped in a big tide pool. People with cameras took pictures with the small tidepool waterfalls and we walked along the shoreline with the small waves crashing at our feet. Once we got back to Hatfield, we put our collected algae species in our tanks and a short lunch break to fuel up. We finished our day with a lecture on the brown algae (Phylum: Phaeophyceae). We had an early afternoon dismissal to enjoy our Easter weekend.
Seal Rock

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Week Three: Fish Week

Steven and Wendel ready to dissect a rockfish

Monday April 11th: Today started our 2nd course of the term: fish. We met our teacher Wade Smith and his TA Margot Hessing-Lewis. The highlight of the day was going to the lab to partner up and dissect different species of thawed-out fish. Each team was responsible for identifying their fish using a dichotomous key, describing distinct external characteristics, and some major internal organs. Some of the more exciting species dissected were the ocean sunfish, Mola mola and the horn shark, Heterodontus francisci. The second part of the lab exercise consisted of breaking into groups and each creating a unique dichotomous key for a set of preserved species that were all fairly similar. Each group was responsible for thoroughly examining each specimen in their set, and being able to distinguish why one was a separate species than the next.

Tuesday April 12th: We went out to two locations today to start collecting fish! Our first location was the by the pumphouse in Yaquina Bay, and the second was the estuary flats of Yaquina Bay. Two large seine nets (a long and shorter trawling net with wooden poles attached on either end) were used to trawl small portions of the Bay in order to collect fish. A total of 10 trawls were completed between the two sites, with the students wading chest deep in the water and dragging the net landward once both sides were parallel to shore. All of the fish caught were counted in the field, and while most were released back to the bay, a few representatives were taken back to the lab for further identification.
Paul and Wade pulling the seine net to shore

Wednesday April 13th: The morning portion of the day consisted of going to the lab to each individually dissect a preserved fish to locate and extract a pair of otoliths. These are tiny, calcareous plates located near the brain that are used by scientists to estimate the fish's daily and annual age and growth patterns. We also were given microscope slides containing sample otoliths that we examined to practice counting the band patterns and estimate age. In the afternoon, the group headed back to Boiler Bay, this time to collect fish from the tide pools and channels. Low tide occured around 3:00 pm with sunny skies. 25 fish were collected, most of which were various sculpin species. Some of the other fish collected were Apodichthys flavidus (the penpoint gunnel), Gobiesox maeandricus (the northern clingfish), and Hexagrammos lagocephalus (the rock greenling).

Thursday April 14th: Earlier in the week, students were assigned some scientific research papers to read that covered an array of topics, such as adaptations to living in an estuary and some personal adaptations of Porichthys notatus (plainfin midshipman). Today, the students were divided into two discussion groups, where we critiqued and reflected on these papers.
Although the weather was unfavorable, a trip to Strawberry Hill took place in the afternoon with strong winds and heavy rainfall. We were collecting fish using a variety of sizes of nets in the tide pools. 34 sculpins were captured, as well as 2 more penpoint gunnels.

Friday April 15th: Jose R. Marin Jarrin came to class to give a guest presentation about salmon on the Pacific Coast, and his research related to them. He has been monitoring salmon abundance in the surf zones along the Oregon coast to see if these habitats play a significant role in their life history. Salmon are born in freshwater streams and rivers, and will migrate to estuaries in their juvenile stage, which is a mixture of fresh and salt water. This classifies them as anadromous, which refers to fish that are born in fresh water, migrate to the ocean, and then return to freshwater to spawn, die, and pass on ocean-derived nutrients for their offspring. After, we had our final fish lectures for the course, and had the afternoon off to catch up on lab work and various assignments.

Saturday April 16th: Yes, Saturday class! This was the only day available to use the Elakha aluminum research boat for some fish trawling within Yaquina Bay. The boat's name Elakha is the Native American word for "sea otter", and has been in Newport since August 2000. The students were divided into two groups, half of which went on the boat in the morning, while the other half went to the Oregon Coast Aquarium to complete a lab exercise. Students on the boat assisted in deploying the fishing net and also pulling it back on board to examine the catch. The boat had a large metal A-frame powered by hydraulics that was lowered in order for the trawl net to deploy completely. Three trawls were completed by each of the groups, catching a large assortment of fish as well as some invertebrates. Some interesting species caught were Platichthys stellatus (the starry flounder), Ophiodon elongatus (juvenile lingcod), Liparis cyclopus (ribbon snailfish), and Pholis ornata (saddleback gunnel).
Allan, Wade and Jessie lowering the net

Monday, April 11, 2011

Week Two: Invertebrates Continued

Sylvia Yamada
Monday April 4th-  
The week began with two guest speakers Sylvia Yamada and John Chapman. Sylvia took us out to check crab traps that had been set out the day before. We identified the species of crab we caught and tallied how many of each we found.  In the deeper traps we found Cancer productus (Red Rock Crab) and Cancer magister (Dungeness Crab) and in the shallower traps we found two species of shore crab; Hemigrapsus oregonensis (Green Shore Crab) and Hemigrapsus nudus (Purple Shore Crab). One way to differentiate between these two species of shore crab is to remember that Hemigrapsus oregonensis is hairy and like Sylvia reminded us, “Oregon girls don’t shave their legs!” 

Sylvia’s lecture focused on the introduction of the invasive European Green Crab, Carcinus maenus, which we learned was introduced to the San Francisco Bay in 1989, or at least that's when it was discovered.  It was later brought Northward by the El Nino event in 1997-1998, which resulted in unsually warm water temperatures, unusally strong poleward currents, and downwelling, all of which contributed to creating the extremely large year class of 1998.  We learned that the strength of the each year’s recruits dependes heavily on ocean conditions, because as larvae, Carcinus maenus is pelagic and at the mercy of the ocean’s currents and temperature.  

John Chapman
 Our second guest speaker was John Chapman, an expert and researcher on a parasite of the of Upogebia pugettensis (Blue Mud Shrimp).  Orthione griffenis is a parasitic isopod newly introduced to the Pacific North West that attaches to the gills of Upogebia pugettensis and feeds on its blood.   Upogebia pugettensis is capable of living with this parasite, but it has been found that mud shrimp with the parasite were an average of 7.8% lower weight than similar sized individuals without the parasite.  After prolonged parasitism, Upogebia pugettensis is unable to reproduce as most of its energy and nutrients are being diverted
 to the lump on the side of its carapace.

                                                                                     Tuesday, April 5th-
The following day we had the opportunity to go find our own mud shrimp at Sally’s Bench in the mudflats at Yaquina Bay. Nothing like a morning spent sinking, swimming, sloshing, and trudging through the mud! It was quite the sight to see everyone crawling on thier hands and knees through the stuff and we had a lot of fun. We found two species of mud shrimp, including the Upogebia pugettensis (Blue Mud Shrimp) and Neotrypaea californiensis (Bay Ghost Shrimp). We found the parasitic isopod, in addition to a small clam attached to Upogebia pugettensis.  We also collected an interesting scale worm and other creepy crawly critters.

Wednesday, April 6th-

In addition to our last three lectures on Wednesday, Tom, the sea water system maintenance guy, was nice enough to give us a tour of the sea water system that keeps Hatfield up and running.  Maintaining the sea water system is a constant job and is more difficult than one might think. For example, marine fouling is a huge problem in the pipes, so every so often they send a “pig” through, which is a large object that shoots through the pipes, taking any marine organisms with it, and out the other side. It can shoot out of the pipes with a lot of force, and has been known to achieve long hang-times before finally landing on the beach. Remember, if you’re walking on the estuary trail, always be alert.

That evening was the 6th Annual Marine Invertebrate Presentation and Dessert Extravaganza! We all gave presentations on our favorite invertebrates in creative ways. There were a lot of laughs, and some of the highlights included: Pin-the-Parts-on-the-Nudibranch, a talk show featuring a crab with a (strangely) southern accent, a horseshoe crab piƱata, an octopus rap, a sea nettle sales pitch, and an edible, chocolatey sea cucumber. There was even a guest appearance from David Attenborough! All around, it was a night of great educational entertainment.

Thursday, April 7th-
Thursday was devoted to preparing for our final exam.  We started it off with extremely helpful review sessions for our invertebrate final and lab practical (thank you Sally and Allie!). The rest of the day was ours to study, and study we did!

Friday, April 8th-
It was time to put our knowledge to the test and determine how much information we had absorbed over the last two weeks.  After finishing our final and lab practical, we cleaned out the lab and decided which invertebrate pets to keep.  Most people took off to Corvallis and beyond for a rare weekend free of homework!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Week One: Intro to Invertebrates

The group at Cascade Head

Sunday, Mar 27th - Students arrived to a rainy, wind driven Newport to unpack and get settled in before class the next day. One thought on all our minds….is the weather going to be like this ALL term? Rain or shine we’re here all for the same reason: our love for the ocean.

Students in the lab
Monday, Mar 28th - Bright and early, we make our way to our first class at the Hatfield Marine Science Center. For once, we get to study what we came to college for…marine biology! For the first two weeks we are going to be immersed in invertebrates with Dr. Sally Hacker who has taught this class for six years and this year she brings Allison Barner to be our TA for this section. On this first day Itchung Cheung the HMSC administrator launched a comprehensive introduction to HMSC introducing key staff on site that we need to know. We trekked out to the docks at Hatfield and toured the research vessels Elakha (50’) and the Wecoma (185’). The Elakha is used in local ocean research by staff from OSU and other agencies like the EPA and Sea Grant, which are also part of Hatfield. The Wecoma travels the Pacific and can hold up to 18 scientists.
Boiler Bay

Tuesday, Mar 29th – Today we covered the geophysical history of the Oregon coast and its unique features. Due to the heavy rainfall and 35 mph winds, we switch our schedule hike to Cascade Head to Friday and instead set up the lab for our soon to be thriving collection of invertebrates. After lunch we traveled to Port Dock 5 – one of the two major commercial docks on the north side of the bay – to collect our first invertebrate specimens. Our findings included barnacles, isopods, but most exciting of all, a giant sunflower star (Pycnopodia helianthoides – see invertebrate species list).
We concluded the busy day with a review of Komar’s book, The Pacific Northwest Coast, introductions, and lots and lots of pie.

Alan with the giant Pacific chiton
Wednesday, Mar 30th – Sponges (Porifera) was the phylum of focus for today’s lecture. Afterwards, we were off to Boiler Bay, north of Newport about 20 miles for a rainy afternoon of collecting tidal and intertidal invertebrates to add to our lab collection. One of the many cool findings included a giant Pacific chiton (Cryptochiton stelleri) found by Alan, several purple urchins (Stronglylocentrotus purpuratus), various anemones and other invertebrates.

Thursday, Mar 31 – We begin in the classroom again with a lecture covering phylum Cnidaria and Ctenophora (includes anemones, corals, and jellies) and then go to the Oregon Coast Aquarium to see all of them in action. Students focused on the invertebrate exhibits, exploring various species that would not be gathered on field trips.
Sea nettle - Chrysaora fuscescens
We continue our day with a field trip to Strawberry Hill (large tide pool area amonst three major basalt benches) for more invertebrate collection. The weather has improved, and we bring back even more specimens to add to the tanks – including the opalescent nudibranch (Hermissenda crassicornis).

Friday, Apr 1 – We concluded our hard work with a hike up to Cascade Head. The rain had finally stopped leaving us walking through fog. The first summit was reached, but the fog prevented us seeing the incredible view of the Pacific coastline. In efforts to keep warm, the second summit was conquered with still no yielding from the fog. By the time we turned back and reached the first summit, the fog began to clear giving us a spectacular view of the coast. From Monday’s reading of our coast’s natural history, we were able to see two of the dominant geological formations of the northwest coast: estuaries and rocky intertidal coasts. Like many Oregon headlands, Cascade head is at the tip of a 300 mile long Columbia River basalt lava flow that erupted in Idaho over 15 million years ago. A hard, rocky headland and the Salmon River Estuary is what we see today after subsequent uplifting of the coast range. Cascade Head is now a preserve implemented by the Nature Conservancy in aim to protect and provide essential habitat for native prairie grasses, wildflowers and the Oregon silverspot butterfly. We returned to HMSC tired, sore, and ready for the weekend. Cheers to a great first week!