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!

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