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.

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