Sunday, May 10, 2015

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.

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