Saturday, April 18, 2015

One Fish, Two Fish, Flatfish, Rockfish

Week 3
by Isaac Shepard and Levi Vasquez

After a brief introduction to our new (to us) professor Dr. Su Sponagule and TA Miram Gleiber we wasted no time diving into our hectic schedule for the week, full of field excursions, lab activities and lecutres...

Yaquina Bay Beach Seine
Using a large seine net we collected several species of estuary fishes from Yaquina Bay right in front of Hatfield on Monday afternoon.  Two people would carry the large net out into the water until they were nearly chest deep before spreading it out between them and dragging it back ashore, trapping fishes in the process.  Through the torrential downpour we got our first look at the organisms we would be up against for the rest of the week including several species of Cottids (sculpins), a Bay Pipefish (Syngnathus leptorhynchus) and even a juvenile salmon (Family Salmonidae).

                                                                  Beach Seining in Yaquina Bay

Boiler Bay Tidepool Collections
Our second field trip with Dr. Sponaugle consisted of collecting tidepool fishes with hand nets at Boiler Bay. We experienced some difficulties collecting the fishes due to their unwillingness to cooperate. There wasn't much fish diversity in the areas that we collected, so in the end we headed back with buckets full of sculpin.
Issie walks between tide pools at Boiler Bay in search of Sculpins

                                                                                       Bottom Trawling Aboard the R/V Elakha
Landon, Heidi, Ashley, Rachel, Cat and Melanie aboard
the R/V Elakha
Wednesday we were given an opportunity to conduct a boat based survey from the R/V Elakha, one of OSU's small research vessels based at Hatfield.  With the assistance of Dr. Lorenzo Ciannelli we collected data on the distributions of the flatfish species Parophrys vetulus (English Sole) and Citharichthys stigmaeus (Speckled Sand Dab) within Yaquina Bay.  We were looking to see how size of the fish and density of fishes varied in relation to distance from the mouth of the bay.  This data became the basis for our report for the week.  We were unable to show if densities varied between near mouth and upstream sites due to small sample size.  However, we did detect a significant difference in size structure of English Sole flatfish between upstream and mouth sites in the estuary.  Larger fish were found further upstream while smaller ones were found more towards the mouth.  This excursion was probably one of the highlights of our time here at Hatfield so far.  The weather was beautiful and we all had an excellent time.

Field Trip to the Oregon Coast Aquarium
On Thursday we had a chance to visit the Oregon Coast Aquarium to gather information for our subtidal fish species report. For this report, we each chose a fish species and gathered information such as behavior, habitat, and anatomy, from observation at the aquarium.

A Rockfish (Sebastes caurinus) at the Oregon Coast Aquarium

David and Kat pulling up one of our light traps
Light and Minnow Traps
On Thursday night we deployed light and minnow traps from the dock below the pump house at Hatfield. The light traps were made to capture larval and juvenile fish, and are an original design by Dr. Sponaugle. We retrieved the traps bright and early Friday morning and found that we had captured a few juvenile salmon, sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus), plankton, and an abundance of shrimp.

Throughout the week we spent many hours learning about the anatomy, ecology, habitat, and life histories of many fish that are found in the Pacific Northwest. When not in lecture or the field we were spending time in the lab learning how to identify different fish species, examining plankton, or cataloging some of the different species we had collected from the field.  

During the week we also had three guest lecturers give talks.  On Wednesday Dr. Robert Cowen (the director of Hatfield) gave us a lecture on rocky reefs and kelp forest.  We learned how the fishes in these environments will inhabit different parts of the reef/kelp forest or feed at different times of day so as to avoid competition with each other.

Thursday, Dr. Laurie Weitkamp gave us a lecture on Lampreys.  These parasitic fish are very important to Northwest Native American Culture and are currently threatened with extinction.  We learned that very little is known about the life history and ecology of these fishes but that more research is currently underway to figure out how to save this important organism.

Our last guest lecturer was Dr. Kelly Robinson who taught us about plankton on Friday.  We learned all about how currents, depth, light and nutrient levels can alter plankton distributions.  The amount of biodiversity to be found in plankton is astounding and something that people don't often realize.  From fish larvae, to diatoms, to copepods, to jelly fish, plankton is quite incredible.

Lastly, we got to take a tour of the R/V Oceanus, OSU's large research vessel, on Friday.  We were able to see the main deck, the wheel house, and the big laboratory aboard the vessel.  The Oceanus will be leaving early next week for a four month research cruise down off the shore of California so it was lucky that we were able to squeeze in a tour before it leaves.

The R/V Oceanus heading out to sea a few weeks ago
for a short cruise 

This weekend is being spent catching up on sleep, exploring the coast, and studying for our upcoming exam next Tuesday.  The weather is beautiful here this weekend and we are greatly enjoying a change in pace from our jam-packed week.

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