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!

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