Sunday, May 31, 2015

Becoming Educated in Marine Conservation and Policies

By: Chaleen Begin & Cat Lo
After having a relaxing three day weekend for Memorial Day, we launched right into learning about topics in marine conservation and policies on Tuesday, May 26th from our new instructor, Sarah Henkel. This week was all about getting exposed to current states of our marine ecosystems through a local, national, and global scale, and recognize potential solutions that have been established or may be in the works. Examples of policies, management plans, and other restoration goals such as the watershed and salmon restoration were explored in this week.

Because the weeks in this course were slightly modified to accommodate low tide for our research projects, we actually began the course on the previous Friday talking about the current state of the oceans and services that can be provided which include aquaculture and renewable energy sources.  We ended the day by getting into groups to choose conservation topics to we wanted to present. What a great way to start off the long weekend!

Our focus on Tuesday was to tackle important information about marine reserves and the ecological benefits and management concerns that result from them. Marine Reserves (MR) are designated areas that prohibit any commercial or recreational efforts to remove something in the area, also known as no-take. Marine Protected Areas (MPA) in general is a loose term that can consist of occasional no-take reserves, but essentially the main idea is to assist in the conservation for marine resources.
If you’re ever curious, MRs and MPAs in Oregon aim to succeed in three main goals: 1. Preserve cultural and or natural heritage, 2. protect habitats, and 3. create reference areas that will assist scientific research and monitoring for efficiency.

Later that evening we all gathered in the Guin Library for an informative discussion about our own ideas on the science, policy, and ethics scientists face with. We have some very engaging minds in the class and it’s safe to say it was a successful discussion!

Laura explaining the components of a crab pot. 
Look at how large they are! (May 27, 2015)

On Wednesday, we were lucky enough to meet with Laura Anderson, the owner of a popular restaurant just on the Bayfront called Local Oceans to learn about sustainability and the decisions for choosing certain seafoods to place on the market. Laura guided us through the docks to point out key features on the boats important for identifying what type of fish they catch.  

This circular net is being built for capturing pink bay shrimp

Here are some hoochies found on one of the boats. Don’t be confused by the name, these are perfect lures to capture Salmon. (Image right)

A key feature of this boat indicates that it uses trolling methods to send out multiple fishing lines with bait to catch fish such as Salmon and other pelagic fish (Image left).

19 eager students ready to eat some delicious food at Local Oceans!

After our highly informative dock walk, we went straight to Local Oceans for a delicious early lunch.  Thank you again Laura for providing such valuable information on fisheries!

We finished the day off by pushing through a couple hours of lectures. Methods to reduce bycatch and the effects of climate change on oceans were highlighted. Lastly, Sarah kindly showed us a brief introduction to seabirds and their intense connection they’ve created between the land and sea. 

Paul Engelmeyer (right) spent the
day with the class discussing his
conservation efforts and successes.
Here he is showing a map of the
 land use in the central Oregon coast
 at Cape Perpetua (May 28, 2015)
Thursday, we had the opportunity to meet with Paul Engelmeyer at Cape Perpetua as he told us about his work as a conservationist working in many different areas; from watershed council, forest management, MPA’s and MR’s, and much more. Paul taught us the importance of restoring forests, marine areas, and protection of species such as Salmon and the Marbled Murrelet. After walking through the scenic area we moved onto Tenmile Creek were we learned about an ODFW project that looks at the number of fish coming down the river by using a rotary screw trap. We heard about their project as well as the importance of drift wood in the river. The wood provides a habitat for the fish which helps protect fish from predators and gives them a chance to rest. 
ODFW Rotary Screw Trap at Tenmile Creek 

At this point we got the chance to see and touch a lamprey that had spent the last 8 months in the river fasting and reproducing. After looking at the fish from the trap, we moved upstream of Tenmile Creek where we got to explore the old growth forest and learn more about the Marbled Murrelet. Paul walked us through the old growth forest pointing out the Sitka Spruce, and the habitat used by the Murrelet. The Marbled Murrelet is an endangered marine bird that spends most of the time at sea, however once a year they come inland, up to about 50 miles, to nest. Each year they only lay one egg in the old growth forests in California, Oregon, and Washington. This is a unique bird and Paul has done amazing work to study and protect the Marbled Murrelet.
Cat (left), Landon (middle), and Rachel (Left) 
holding the Lamprey at Tenmile Creek 
Paul Engelmeyer talking about the 
old growth forest and the
 Sitka Spruce at Tenmile Creek 

Friday, May 29th, was our last day of Marine Conservation and Policy, and our last of class for the term. We spent then day presenting our conservation and policy projects to the class. Projects topics included: Hagfish fisheries, the Arctic Ocean, coral reefs, artificial reefs, phytoplankton blooms, ocean acidification, marine resources as medicine, and several more. Each presentation offered new information and new insight on conservation and policy in many different areas to the class. Overall we had a fantastic week, and we couldn’t have done it without the most enthusiastic Sarah Henkel and passionate Paul Engelmeyer.
Rachel presenting to the class about coral reef conservation. Nice job Rachel! (May 29, 2015)

Friday, May 22, 2015


This week has been all about PROJECTS! There are a total of 12 groups working on a variety of research topics. Some groups get to play in the field all day, while others are more studious in the lab. Group research topics have shown how diverse the 2015 class is when it comes to areas of interest. Some chose to work with algae, and others found their passion lying with invertebrates or fishes. Groups are even tackling the complexity of multiple species and how they interact with one another.

Natalie and Amanda playing in the mud!
Melanie, Amanda, and Natalie really committed to their project by getting down and dirty in the mud. Their week consisted of early mornings and lots of coffee in order to complete multiple beach seining collections. While out in the field, they collected data on salinity and biodiversity. Their focus is on determining the effects of salinity on biodiversity at several locations along the Oregon Coast. However, struggles have arisen and huge fluctuations in salinity have brought complications for the group. But with such dedication to their projects, they have been able to move forward and will be able to present to the public in just a few weeks.

First crab caught by Chaleen, Kylee, and Ashley,
while Chaleen is in the back looking for
the missing traps.
Speaking of projects not going as planning, one group really was off to a rough start at the beginning of the week. Chaleen, Kylee, and Ashley were looking at the abundance and size distribution of red rock crabs (Cancer productus) at popular crabbing locations compared to non-crabbing locations. However, the first few days proved to be discouraging because they had no luck catching any crabs and couldn’t  find some traps after putting them too far down the shoreline. Luck quickly turned around though after they switch the bait being used from cat food to chicken. So to all of you crabbers out there, take it form them and don’t use cat food! Finally they had caught a crab and were beyond stoked, even if it was just one! The week progressed and so did the amount of crabs they caught. Yay for more data!

Crabbing is a huge sport along the Oregon Coast that people partake in recreationally and commercially. It is so popular that regulations are set in place for determining what size, sex, and species of crab can be taken. However, this in not the case for red rock crabs because any sex or size can be taken. With such open availability to take these crabs, it is important to see if there is an effect on their size and abundance; especially right now in the spring when Dungeness crabs (Cancer magister) are less abundant. Red rock crabs may be significantly impacted if they are the ones being mostly caught at this time.

Cat and Kat working on their experiment on pipefish!
Cat (left) and Kat (right) worked on a lab experiment, in which they created an aquarium to test habitat preference of the estuarine pipefish, Syngnathous leptorhynchus. One side of the aquarium had eelgrass with one of two types of epiphytic algae, while the other side had eelgrass without epiphytes. They collected 42 pipefish while seining in Yaquina Bay to use in their experiment. It will be interesting to hear the results during week 10!

Levi being scientific and cutting open Pollicipes.

Levi is shown in the picture cutting open a Pollicipes polymerus to look for signs of reproduction. Levi and his group-mates, Max and Julia, also participated in cutting open these barnacles, as well as wrapping them in foil and sticking them in an oven to dry-mass them afterwards. Sounds brutal!

Landon's Release Chamber O' Fish!

Here is a picture of the lab experiment that I (Landon) did this week. In this aquarium, one side consists of only bare rocks, whereas the other side consists of various types of algae. I (Landon) collected fishes of various colors from the field and placed them one at a time in a fancy release chamber, which I (Landon) invented. The fish could swim out of the Release Chamber O’ Fish (patent pending) and decide which habitat to choose. This experiment was done to determine if there is a difference in habitat preference among fishes of different colors. In regards to the natural history aspect of this particular project, tidepool fishes have been shown to prefer tidepools with certain sets characteristics. Rugosity, depth, size, intertidal height, and algal composition of a tidepool are some of the characteristics that may influence the distribution of tidepool fishes. This experiment along with a field study will hopefully provide insight into differences of habitat preference among fishes of different colors.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

From one Project to the next!

The start of a new and exciting chapter for the Bio 450 class

We started off the week with our second to last lecture in community ecology, and then spent the reminder of the day planning our group projects and analyzing data; as was the theme for the next two days as well. After we were done doing data analysis, it was time to create graphs and begin thinking about our presentations on Wednesday. PowerPoints were made and speeches were planned out and split up among team members. The library became many groups’ new home for the following few evenings. Before we knew it, the day of presentations had arrived! With coffee and donuts awaiting us, we filed into the presentation room in the library. 
Issie pointing out parts of the PowerPoint 

Each group had taken a portion of the data we had collected in the field the previous week and presented their findings to the rest of the class. David, Ari, Levi, Max, and Cat looked at the difference in species diversity between exposed and protected areas of the low intertidal zone. Melanie, Heidi, Natalie, and Amanda explored whelk diet patterns. Rachel, Isaac, Kaitlin, Issie, and Chaleen looked at the differences in species diversity in the mid and high intertidal zones. Lastly, Kat, Julia, Kylee, Landon, and Ashley looked at Sea Star Wasting Disease and density data from last year and saw how it compared to this year’s data. Some groups found trends in their data while others found various degrees of insignificance. Halfway through, we were forced to switch rooms due to an unforeseen conflict, but everything went smoothly otherwise.

Rachel presenting the conclusion for her group
Finishing the project report with a view of lovely rainy skies

Once presentations were given, it was time to study (and work on those last minute details for our essays). A foreboding sense of the upcoming exam and report, both of which were happening on Thursday, set most students’ sense of panic into overdrive. Many trips were made to the back of the library to have Alissa edit our reports. After reports were finished, studying for the open-note exam the next morning would hold all of our attention for the next several hours. 

Holing up in library rooms, using screen projections, and verbally talking each other through the various theories and models really helped us to nail down those tricky graphs!

Thursday was the big exam day! We were greeted by various kinds of tootsie candies on our desk, and most students enjoyed the treat to get a little sugar flowing through their veins. After the exam was over, we were free for the evening! Some of us worked on preparing for our research project meetings on Friday, while others chose other ways to enjoy their afternoon off. Going out to dinner or spending an afternoon on the beach were some common choices.

Project experiments already being set up in the lab 
Finally! We started our term research projects, something that has been foreboding and yet exciting all at the same time. With information in hand, we prepared ourselves to discuss our big research projects. We met in the morning to go over the schedule for the day. Groups and individuals met with the “board” (instructors and TA’s from previous and future sections) at their assigned time to give their research project proposal, or pitch as we called it. The proposal consisted of our research projects purpose, methods, and significance. Afterwards the board discussed any issues they saw with our ideas and then sent us on our merry way to frantically try and finish the written portion of the proposal before the 5 o’clock deadline. When finished, a sense of relief washed over the BI 450 class at Hatfield as they pressed that “send” button in their email pop-up box.

There are so many cool ideas and projects the class has come up with. Anything from algae to sea stars to scraping gooseneck barnacles off rocks. We aren’t sure how they will all turn out, but we’re all excited to finally be getting started!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Algae, Mussels, and Barnacles.. OH MY!

Ashley and Julia collecting transect data
On Thursday, With more manageable wave heights, and a more exposed low zone, we left for Boiler Bay. The team started the morning collecting community data through the use of transect-quadrats, in the low exposed zone of a shelf previously too dangerous to sample.

Once the quadrat sampling was complete, we shifted our focus studying sea star recruit populations through belt transects. Huddled close to the ground, and being beaten by waves, we counted Pisaster and Leptasterias recruits to gain knowledge on the changing population structure as a result of sea star wasting disease.
Heidi and Rachael collecting transect data

In the evening, our dynamite TA organized a "trivia night". Armed with faded knowledge and dessert bowls, we where presented with too few blueberries, and  obscure trivia questions. After a surprise visit from Dr. Olson, armed with a few tubs of ice cream she carried with her, trivia was underway! Each team competed with true veracity.  Two teams rose above the pack with answer after answer. Toward the end it seemed like team Gryffindor would obtain the Golden snitch.  To our surprise, team Celery came from behind in the bonus round and were be deemed victorious.  They were rewarded with squishy animal key chains. Congrats team Celery.

"Trivia night" hosted by our dynamite TA
The week concluded with teams splitting between Yachats beach and Tokatee Klootchman.  Both groups would be completing our survey of the effects of sea star wasting disease on populations of Pisaster and Leptasterias.  This was the first time we have visited Yachats and we were able to enjoy the great diversity it offered.

Large Semibalanus cariosus found at Yachats Beach 
Peltodoris nobilis feeding on Halichondria panicea

Our survey group took a moment to admire a large Semibalanus cariosus and several Peltodoris nobilis feeding on a Halichondria panicea.

Yachats beach had a much larger population of Pisaster than Boiler Bay.  The condition of these sea stars varied but we were pleased to see many recruits and uninfected juveniles.  The day concluded by cleaning data sheets that had been collected throughout the week.  We all looked forward to a great weekend of rest and relaxation!

Pisaster with a missing limb

Goodbye algae and Hello Community Ecology!

Left: Dr. Bruce Menge.  Right: Alissa Rickborn
This week was all about exercising our course knowledge and applying it to our exploration of marine community ecology.  This section of the course has been advertised as a introduction to the communities found at the rocky intertidal and how zonation is different between two sites here on the Oregon Coast.  We will be taking an in-depth look at Strawberry Hill and Boiler Bay.

Monday's class began with the introduction of our instructor, Dr. Bruce Menge, and his teaching assistant, Alissa Rickborn.  After some logistics and introductions, Bruce lead the team onto the mud flats where we practice some field surveying techniques. The evening concluded with a guest lecture from Jenna Sullivan on the history, progression and current studies on sea star wasting here on the Oregon coast.  This was a helpful introduction to the sea star wasting surveys we would be conducting later in the week.

Bruce giving helpful hints about field techniques
 Tuesday began with a 5:30 am field trip to our favorite site, Boiler Bay.  Groups were separated, with half looking at the feeding of predatory whelks while others used their newly acquired field techniques to survey the mid zone.  Although the day started early, the groups were excited to exercise their species identification knowledge.  Some of us were surprised to learn that our adorable friends, the whelks, were indeed carnivorous predators! AH!  These mollusks use an acidic secretion to bore into their Mytilus spp. prey.  Some of us were able to witness the whelks feeding using their elongated proboscis to dig deep into the mussel flesh.
Top: Mel and Landon taking community surveys of the Mid intertidal.  Bottom: Cat taking a break from whelk diet surveys to share a smile!
The evening concluded with guest lecture from Elizabeth Cherny-Chipman on the interesting interactions of predatory whelks and their effects on mussel populations.  

Wednesday began with a little extra sleep, and a modest field trip time of 6:30am. This field trip took us to Strawberry Hill, where we further expanded on our community survey studies via transect-quadrats, along with belt transects. After too much sun, tedious organismal counts, and adorable sea star recruits, we ended the field trip with a stop at the Green Salmon, a delightful coffee and pastry shop. After decadent flaky deserts and rich coffee, the students' mood perked up, as we prepared for our afternoon lecture.

Wednesday evening, we had yet another guest lecture. Allie Barner, who spoke to us during the algae section, came back and presented one of her thesis chapters on interactions between algal turf, and its canopy.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Exciting World of Marine Macroalgae!

The Exciting World of Marine Macroalgae by Melanie Plunk and Amanda Brown

Dr. Annette Olson
     Who would've thought that learning about algae could be so much fun? Thanks to our amazing instructor Dr. Annette Olson, this week was extremely interesting and exciting. We began Monday with a field trip to beautiful Boiler Bay where Annette lead our group through the location and enthusiastically taught us about the different species of algae that we found and the different types of habitats that they prefer.
 Egregia menziesii '15, Ulva taeniata '15, Polysiphonia spp. '1, with some red algae also.

On Tuesday we ventured back to Boiler Bay to conduct individual team studies on a specific species of algae, our assigned "Treasure Taxa". We collected different types of data based on the study that we were performing like algae abundance, size, or preferred habitat.  For example, my team (Melanie and Landon) conducted a study to find out which habitat type Farlowia mollis '15 preferred to inhabit. We collected data on the abundance of our species in a variety of different habitats then analyzed the data and made the conclusion that Farlowia mollis prefer to inhabit rocky, concave, seep areas at the base of mussel beds. 
Isaac, Kaitlin, and Issie collecting data on
Cladophora columbiana.
Natalie and Amanda collecting data on Polysiphonia hendryi.

Levi and Max braving the waves to collect data on Mazzaella spp.
Example of a specimen identification sheet.
  Throughout the week we learned and practiced using the dichotomous key along with compound microscopes and dissecting microscopes to identify algae to its Genus and species. We learned to make cross sections to identify microscopic features to aid in the identification process, some of us were naturals while others had to practice, practice, practice!
  We attended lectures that focused on the phyla Chlorophyta (green algae), Ochrophyta (brown algae), and Rhotophyta (red algae), learning about their diversity, morphology, anatomy, and life cycles.

On Wednesday, we were given the morning to finish up our Specimen ID sheets and begin setting up for our team projects, which we presented in the evening.  Each team set up their displays at their stations around the lab, incorporating their own creativity into informational displays.

Captain Annette's orders!
Teams split in half, with one student manning their presentation and the other circulating the lab.  We spent a few minutes at each team’s station learning about not only each team’s Treasure Taxa but also their other assigned species.  Lots of different methods of presentation were incorporated: dissecting and compound scopes allowed an up-close view at specific aspects of algae, pressings showed the variety in structural patterns throughout taxa, and touch tanks enabled students to feel differences in elasticity, sliminess, and texture – especially helpful in distinguishing algae with blade-like thallus forms!

The thin red blades group used pressings and live specimens
to present the diversity of their taxa, showcasing
Farlowia mollis '15 as their Treasure Taxa.

The red filamentous algae's setup, complete
with dissecting scopes and a teddy bear to
juxtapose Callithamnion pikeanum '15,
the teddy bear algae.
One group made a comical mixup between
epiphytic (growing on other algae) and epileptic
Plocamium pacificum '15, which was
quickly corrected!

We spent Thursday studying for our lecture final and lab practicum, with a final lecture on ecology and Annette’s master’s work starting off the morning.  Miram submitted a manuscript for her research on zooplankton to the Journal of Plankton Research online and allowed us to watch, so as to acquaint us with the process for when the time comes for us to do the same!  This was followed by a student-led lab review and a lecture review by Annette.  The rest of the day was left open for studying, and students most of a sunny day staring wishfully out of library and lab windows. 

Friday morning brought first a lecture final and then a lab practicum.  Miram surprised the class with pre-final cinnamon rolls for an extra brain boost, and the morning flew by in a flurry of questions and identifications.  Soon it was time to clean up the lab (who knew one class could have used so many Tupperware?) and say goodbye to Annette and Miram, thanking them for a wonderfull class.  After a much-needed weekend, we return to HMSC to begin Community Ecology on Monday.

Miram and her delicious cinnamon rolls!