Week three was the start of a new topic section for the Marine Biology 450 class - it's fish week! We were all very excited to learn about Oregon coastal fishes with our instructor, Scott Heppell. Our adventures with marine fishes started with seine net collections in Yaquina Bay. Using the seine nets, we were able to catch over 2,000 fish, including chum salmon and whitebait smelt in one sample! The fish were counted and released, with unique individuals kept to be put back in our lab tanks.
Back in the lab, our class was challenged to dissect a black rockfish and sever the head to find otoliths, or bones within the skull used for balance and sensory activities. By looking at the protein and mineral deposition layers on the otolith, scientists can tell how old the individual is. These layers form distinct rings, much like the rings on a tree - by counting them, one can determine the number of years the fish has been living and can see fast and slow growth periods.
Our lectures this week have included a wide variety of general fish biology topics, from habitat and fisheries management to reproduction and growth. In the coming lectures, we will discuss fisheries management and Marine Protected Area development which are extremely important and relevant topics in our coastal communities.
We returned to the field at Boiler Bay to conduct our second sampling of tidepool fishes. Dr. Heppell made the collection a little more interesting by offering prizes to the pair that caught the most number of fish and the most interesting species. For the most part, teams returned with buckets full of sculpin, with a few clingfish and gunnels. The winning pair returned with 64 sculpins!
The next day, we repeating the collection competition at Strawberry Hill and found similar species with some new snailfish making an appearance. The winning team caught over 100 fish and several interesting species of sculpin, gunnels, and snailfish were found.
Our favorite was the Marbeled Snailfish!
To finish off the week, we spent an afternoon exploring the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Our assignment was to find a "mystery fish" in the exhibits and examine its habitat and behavior. We were all quite excited to visit the aquarium, to say the least!
We are all eager to continue learning about coastal fish and prepare for our exam this coming week!