Friday, May 30, 2014

Week 9: Group Research Projects

This week we all were hard at work on our group research projects. Here is what each group is up to:

Counting Pisaster
Katie E. and Joyce are looking at the prevalence of sea star wasting disease in Ochre Sea Stars (Pisaster ochraceus). They were looking for a link between wasting sea stars and hermit crabs (Pagurus spp.). This idea came from an observation during our sea star wasting surveys in the community ecology section.

Kelsey and Zach are measuring decomposition rates of rack algae. They are looking at 3 different species and are measuring the dry weight after multiple days.

Kristina and Kristi are looking at bleaching in four algae functional groups. They conducted surveys to quantify the amount of bleaching that is happening to each group. In the lab, they are exposing algae samples to light and heat to see how they respond.

Beautiful early morning at Cape Blanco
Measuring cover of bleached Phyllospadix spp.

Larkin and Nickolai are looking at spawning location preferences of shrimp (Crangon spp.) in the Yaquina Bay area.

Rachel, Mackenzie and Jake are testing regeneration rates of aggregating anemones (Anthopleura elegantissima) at different temperatures.

Jake, Mackenzie and Rachel feeding their regrowing anemones
Courtney, Celeste and Ashtyn are looking at the differences in percent cover and biodiversity of a native seagrass (Zostera marina) and an invasive seagrass (Zostera japonica) at different sites in Yaquina Bay.

Katie C. and Mike are testing sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus) habitat preference to see if they prefer canopy algal cover or bare rock.

Left: Fake algae cover  Right: Real algae cover
Britnee and Raine are looking at the population numbers of mud shrimp and comparing them to past data. They are also measuring the shrimp's burrowing density as well as the infestation intensity of  parasitic isopods.

Eric and Adam are testing sediment grain size preference for English Sole (Parophrys vetulus). 

How many English Sole can you find? Look closely!
Jordan and Tyler are testing food preferences of the nudibranch Rostanga pulchra.

Nudibranchs and their spongy food
Weighing nudibranchs
Now it's time to analyze data. We look forward to hearing everyone present their findings next Friday!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Week 8: Finishing Community Ecology and the start of Research Projects

            Week 8 marks the end of Community Ecology and our transition into our final research projects.  This week, we finished processing all of last week’s data and began collating them into our final data reports and presentations.  Monday and Tuesday were spent analyzing the entered data and creating appropriate figures for our Wednesday presentations.  Tuesday’s lecture also marked the final lecture of the course, and Thursday’s final capped our last exam of BI 450.  After a short break Thursday evening, we returned to the classroom early Friday morning for a crash-course in experimental designs and the beginning of our independent research projects.

            Monday began with free time for groups to start analyzing their data with statistics.  Liz was incredibly helpful and answered question after question on statistical tests, figure preparation, formatting issues, and much more. 
            Later, Bruce gave a lecture on meta-ecosystem ecology and introduced us to the Intermediate Disturbance Hypothesis: an important model for assessing community recovery after a major disturbance event.  He talked about a study where species diversity was high in barnacle species and Mytilus trossulus after an initial disturbance (after the population had some time to recover) but declined as M. californianus outcompeted the other species for space.  This lead to understanding that intermittent disturbance events in an environment help keep species richness high by reducing competition for space. 
            After lecture, data analysis and presentation preparation continued.

Land snail living the slowlife. We saw lots them this week.

Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint are so very exciting
            Tuesday was very similar to Monday in structure:  data analysis/presentation preparation in the morning, followed by lecture and more data work in the afternoon.  That afternoon, Bruce’s final lecture on species diversity marked the last lecture of BI 450!  Mixed feelings were felt all around.  Urgency was palpable in the afternoon and evening as groups scrambled to finish their presentations.

            Waking up bright and early Wednesday morning (as usual in this course), everyone trudged into the Library Seminar Room for presentations.  As expected, all groups gave fantastic and intriguing presentations!  The early mornings and late nights of the previous week-and-a-half seem to have paid off. 
Presentation from the Pisaster Wasting Survey Group.
Everyone had lots of question after!

            After presentations, we had a quick break before meeting back in the classroom for our final exam review.  Many of us were nervous for the big exam, but Bruce kept the mood both light-hearted and educational.  As he put it: “I’m not scared for the exam.”  Engaging questions were asked, and we all walked away with a better understanding of what material we would be tested on.
Bruce and Liz, asking the important questions


That afternoon was filled with the furious tapping of fingers on keyboards as everyone rushed to finish their data reports.  Splitting time between writing a scientific report and studying for an exam was a little stressful, but we all came out the other side breathing.


Thursday we had our final test of the term in Marine Community Ecology with Bruce Menge. Overall I feel like I learned a lot from this class and having someone as experienced as Bruce as a teacher really is a gift. While there was a lot of material that we covered the final exam was open note, which was nice. I think that’s nice as it means we can focus more on understanding the concepts rather than just memorizing terms and scientific studies.

Skeleton shrimp, Caprella sp. top of the picture in the middle. Living on a hydroid.


Reuben went over how to properly design a scientific experiment and the statistics involved with analyzing the results. Afterwards each group met with Sally, Sarah, Su, Liz, and Reuben to pitch their project idea. Our project (Rachel, Kenzie, and Jake) is studying the effects of temperature and feeding on the regeneration and survival of Anthopleura elegantissima. They liked our ideas but some of the logistics had to be changed. This is an important aspect of learning about the scientific process. It often takes lots of thinking and rethinking about the project design to come to a final workable design. There’s always a trade-off between the best design and what’s actually feasible with the resources and time available. Friday evening was also the due date for our project proposals, which included an introduction on the topic, materials and methods, expected results and significance.  Proposals are an important part of the process of conducting a scientific experience. If you need funding you need a good proposal.

Foggy Friday morning. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Week 7: Community Ecology (week 1)

This week was our first week of Community Ecology, taught by a new professor, Dr. Bruce Menge! Community Ecology is (nearly) a 2-week class. The first week involved 4 field trips, about 5 lectures, and 4 guest lectures from graduate students in Bruce's lab. These four field trips made this week a very tiring week; we had to wake up before 6 am every day to catch the early low tide! We traveled to various sites along the coast spanning from Fogarty creek (in the north) to Tokatee Kloochman (in the south). Even though we were extremely tired by the end of the week, we still had a lot of fun learning about community ecology and collecting valuable data. We had to struggle though early mornings, but the week was still not overwhelming because we had plenty of free time to enjoy the beautiful warm weather in Newport (reaching record highs in temperature and being sunny ALL week!!).

Recreational kite flying with Octie the 
Octopus at Nye Beach

Monday was our one day this week without a field trip. We had lectures covering the topic of Structure and Biodiversity of Marine Community and a guest lecture from our very own TA Elizabeth Cerny-Chipman, on Environmental stress and the foraging ecology of whelks.

Tuesday was our first field trip! The entire class went to Boiler Bay, a favorite site of BI 450, to collect data on percent cover of algae and invertebrates, tide pool height, whelk diet, tide pool diversity, and more! For half the class this day was spent quantifying the percentages of plants and animals living in the rock shores (using quadrats), while the other half of the class was split into pairs to measure the other variables. Though the weather at Boiler  Bay was sunny and warm, we could not collect data from the wave-exposed high intertidal due to the tides, so we had to complete the quadrat data for this site on Thursday.

     A quadrat at Boiler Bay, used to measure 
    the percent cover of invertebrates and algae

This day we visited Strawberry Hill, another favorite site of the BI 450 class, to collect data from the same categories as Boiler Bay. Compared to Boiler Bay, we saw a lot more Pisaster ochraceus, the common sea star. We even saw one sea star that had two arms missing. Bruce thought the cause might have been predation.
Pisaster ochraceus with two missing arms found
at Strawberry Hill in the low, exposed zone

Some of our students had the pleasure of discovering a new animal that they had not encountered before. Though they originally thought that this specimen might be an alga, they learned that it was actually a hydroid, of the genus Aglaophenia. This genus of hydroid is often found associated with small, jumping amphipods.

Above: Aglaophenia sp.

On Thursday, our class split up into two groups (for the first time!), half going to Boiler Bay and the other to Strawberry Hill to collect data on biodiversity of algae and invertebrates. Some students were responsible for collecting information on biodiversity of algae and others of invertebrates. The students spent 20 minutes at each zone (low, middle, high) in the protected and exposed areas of each site. After the field trip, we reconvened for a lecture on Modification of Biotic Effects on Community Structure. In the evening, we listened to another guest lecture from a returning graduate student, Allie Barner, about her research on canopy and understory algae in the rocky intertidal.

Friday we all broke up into pairs. In pairs, we were divided into various sites along the coast, from Fogarty Creek to Yaquina Head to Tokatee Kloochman, to sample hundreds of Pisaster orchaceus for the upcoming wasting disease. As some of our students broke into pairs, they had to endure treacherous conditions, some even climbing cliffs that were not accessible to the general public. 

Two students, Rachel Palmer and Ashtyn Isaak, about to scale cliffs in the search for scientific data. Who says that scientists can't be rebels?

This wasting disease is often seen as lesions on the body, missing arms complete with lesions, twisting, and body deflation. 
 Two Pisaster orchaceus observed with various stages of wasting disease. On the left, the sea star is heavily deflated, and on the right, the sea star has a white lesion and a missing arm.

Previous data collections by our professor, Dr. Bruce Menge, and his lab determined that the wasting disease was present on the Oregon coast at a prevalence of about 1%. Our class data has not yet been finalized and/or analyzed, but at this point we have determined that the prevalence of the disease is significantly higher than what the Menge lab had originally observed. Even though Friday's field trips revealed some alarming and dismal information, the class got to have a lot of fun surveying new sites without direct supervision. Some of the class even got to visit the site of Fogarty Creek, where we observed multiple seals, some of which were dead on the rocks.

   Above: Dead seals observed at Fogarty Creek

Overall this week was very enlightening to us on how species interact on a community level. This was easily seen as we analyzed the data from this week. The lectures presented by Dr. Menge have enhanced the knowledge we collected in the field and explained phenomena that we have observed as well as provided us with examples that we could not observe in the field. We all look forward to the second week of Community Ecology with Dr. Bruce Menge and Elizabeth Cerny-Chipman, to learn more in-depth about Community Ecology as we create figures from the data we collected. Many students who do not already have an idea of what they might do for their formal research projects (in the last two weeks of the course) have been brainstorming with the help of this section, and are likely to form a mature research project idea in the next week! We look forward to the intellectual journey ahead of us.

Blog this week by: Celeste Moen (left) and Mackenzie Mason (right)
                               sealifies taken Friday at Fogarty creek

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Week 6: Conservation

Monday, May 5th:

This week was all about Marine Conservation and Policy! We met our instructor Sarah Henkel at 9:00am. This first day we learned about the oceans, climate change, oceanic resources such as tidal and wave energy, and aquaculture. The day consisted of lectures and deciding upon our conservation/policy research topics. 

Tuesday, May 6th:

In lecture, we learned about marine reserves and their ecological importance, and the struggles of regulation within marine reserves. 

Marine Reserves (MR), essentially are preservation lands prohibiting all commercial and recreational uses as well as oceanic development where as Marine Protected Areas (MPA) are regulated commercial and recreational areas but also prohibit oceanic development. 
MRs and MPAs are most commonly adjacent to one another; Cape Perpetua is a fine example. 

A stunning photo of Cape Perpetua's Marine Reserve during some strong winds (from Thursday's field trip).

When the sun began to set, in a large room in the Guin Library, a group of 22 students and their instructor, loudly speculated their ideas of science, policy, and ethics and their connectivity within the life of a scientist. What an eye-opening discussion it was!

Wednesday, May 7th:
This was one of the most exciting days of the week! We had a dock walk with Laura Anderson, owner of Local Ocean Seafoods in business for over a decade now, where she talked to us about fishing and where her fish and crustaceans came from. 

One of the boats she buys fish from, uses glazing as a means of keeping fish "fresh." Glazing flash freezes caught fish, leaving them in the same conditions they were in when first caught for longer preservation time.

Check out this neat tuna fishing boat! Laura pointed out to us certain key features that can help distinguish what type of catch this boat fishes. 

Having a cover for the tuna is essential in reducing diseases by decreasing the beat of the sun, avoiding the rise in temperature of their bodies.

These wooden doors are features found on a pink shrimp boat.
The doors have good buoyancy and help the net to stay open. 

After our lovely dock walk with Laura, we had lunch at Local Ocean Seafoods. Food choices ranged from fish wraps and salmon salads, to crab cakes and Albacore tuna kabobs. 

 Fish and crabs were displayed upon entrance in a case full of ice with the name of the boat from which they were caught. Thumbs up for them!

A plate of fish tacos marinated in a chili-garlic sauce. YUM!

Thursday, May 8th:

We had another exciting field trip to Cape Perpetua and Ten-Mile Creek. 

Paul Engelmeyer, a conservation advocate, discussed his work in MRs and MPAs and his 1000 acre land protection project. He also talked about the watershed councils all around Oregon and the health of the water. Looking at one of his maps, our water systems aren't doing so well.

We then piled back into the warmth of the dry vans and headed to Ten-Mile Creek to meet Chris Lorion, Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, and Jack Sleeper, fish biologist. 

Chris Lorion showed us the neat fish collecting trap that allows him to record data on the fish abundance and diversity in the river. 

This is the fish trap used by ODFW. Fish are directed into the trap and taken out for recording fish dynamics every day.

One of the fish caught on this day was the Pacific lamprey, Entosphenus tridentatus. These adult female lamprey recently laid their eggs. 

We had the opportunity of holding them. Look at that smiling face!

In the open forest, Jack Sleeper talked to us about the importance of fallen trees in the river to steady water flow and for creating a complex habitat for fish. He also noted the seriousness of not having roads impede accessible waterways for fish, such as culverts do. 

This fallen tree is vital for juvenile salmon populations as a means of protection from predators and fast flowing waters. 

Friday, May 9th:
Presentations! One right after the other. Eleven presentations, all concerning different topics about the oceans. Our topics included ocean acidification, arctic ice caps melting, hypoxia, marine mammal containment, coral reefs, artificial reefs, seafood labelling, invasive species, Bluefin tuna migration, and fish hatcheries. Each group had a specific target audience, varying from the general public to policy-makers. Every topic had something interesting to say, capturing our attention. Needless to say, we all learned something new from each issue.

Two students presenting their research on marine mammal containment as if their audience were the general public. Great job ladies!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Week 5: ALGAE!

Monday April 28th
Due to extenuating circumstances, our schedule became a bit on the unpredictable side. However, thanks to our natural sense of adaptability (and a motherly amount of snacks provided by the teacher,) we were able to make the most of things and come away with a newfound respect for the little non-plants of the sea.
The week started off with an early morning (5:30-8:30am) field trip to Boiler Bay to survey the area for our respective treasure species of algae. 

(Needless to say, we are all still asleep in this picture!)

(At least it was a beautiful day for early morning algae hunting!)

After returning from the trip (and taking a well-deserved nap) the class returned to the lab to examine and identify our quarry. What we found in the end was that essentially all algae are unique, wonderful examples of evolution that somehow all just turn out looking brown at the end of the day. To showcase this fact, I wrote a poem which we all signed and presented to Annette.

“The Brown Algae Blues” – Tyler Ligon
When surveying alga
One often feels down
No matter the phyla
They all just look brown.

Rhodophyta are red
The color of fire
That’s what the book says
Wait, it’s tan, that liar!

Chlorophyta are green
Now this should be easy
But wait that one’s beige
And now I feel queasy.

Ochrophyta are brown,
Now this should be obvious
Til in fresh water drowned
It’s green! How obnoxious.

With all of the phyla,
So different and same
How can we know?
Genetics? How lame.

(See the red leafy algae between the sea grass and other red algae? Yeah that’s actually a brown algae: Phaeostrophion irregulare.)
Following a break for supper, we were visited by OSU grad student Allie Barner, who presented a talk about the effects of self-fertilization on a variety of sea palm kelp (perhaps inbreeding isn’t as bad as social stigma would have us believe? At least in algae). The talk provided not only a great opportunity to hear about real research being undertaken, but also an avenue to answer our questions about the process of creating a project ourselves.   

Tuesday April 29th             
A slightly later morning (6am!) saw our return to Boiler Bay to catch a better tide and observe the locations of our treasure taxon. With the lower tidal level, we were able to move into a more exposed area of the boiler and see the effects of harsher amounts of exposure on algae. What we found was that many of the spe

cies had adapted to wave action by either being lower in profile (such as Mazzaella parksii) or by simply toughing it out with stronger holdfasts (such as Egregia menziesii).

(Algae as far as the eye can see at Boiler Bay.)

(Students trying to climb up onto the exposed bench)

Some interesting zonation patterns were observed, in particular among Cladophora columbiana, a thick mossy alga - but the nature of these patterns was unknown to both our teacher and TA.  Why does this unassuming green alga insist on growing on the edges but never on the floor of tidepools of the protected bench?  We may never know for sure.  Ah, sweet mystery of life!
(Some groups got very territorial about their tidepools!)

Lab work today included identifying several species of red algae (which, of course, were primarily brown in color,) and beginning to set up our team algae presentations. 
Seeing as it was one of the hottest and sunniest days in recent memory, reaching a high of 75 degrees (F), we were obligated to spend as much time as possible in the sun today. Between several hours of volleyball with the local pros (Itchung Cheung, here’s looking at you!), walking along the beach, and generally laying out on whatever we could find to avoid those demonic spike seeds laying in wait in the grass around the apartments, we took complete advantage of this little patch of amazing weather.
(Here’s a nice stock image of some guy playing beach volleyball.) 

(PS: We don’t know what kind of beach volleyball he’s playing because flying karate kicks are definitely not allowed.)

Wednesday April 30th
Another day of amazing weather, coupled with free-time in which to finalize our algae presentations meant even more sun exposure (when not diligently working on perfecting our intimate knowledge of our treasure taxa, of course.) At 7:00pm we all met up in the wet lab for a miniature poster symposium of sorts, accompanied as usual by a ridiculous amount of algae-based snacks. 
Each team consisted of 2-3 researchers for a total of 9 teams, all divided up around the basic structural classifications of algae group, such as Thick, Simple Red Blades, Corallines, Browns, and so forth. The team was expected to gain a specialized knowledge of their particular group in addition to the normal amount required of all taxon, so that in future field work they can act as consultants on that group when questions arise. 

(Treasure species of the group "Thick Simple Red Blades")

Presentations varied from classic posters, to guessing games, to sniff tests (fine branched reds, no one will forget your unique pungency any time soon…) all with the purpose of sharing the information that each group had gained towards helping others identify the key characteristics of their algae. 

Thursday May 1st 
Clean up day! Everyone pitched in to make sure that the wet lab was ready for whatever adventures await us next, removing our algae species with great care so that they could be safely relocated to the garbage can, and scrubbing the specimen tubs with a dedication not seen since Orphan Annie. 
It’s an algae life, for us!
It’s an algae life, for us!
‘Steada green ones,
We find reds!
‘Steada red ones,
We find greens!
It’s an algae life,
Hardest ever seen!
But in reality, it went by quite fast with the whole class to lend a hand, and the tables were soon wiped down, microscopes put carefully back in their cupboards, and the lab was ready for the next round of specimens.