Sunday, April 24, 2016

All About Algae!

Week 4 began, and so did the studying.  The marine fishes section was coming to an end on Tuesday, so Monday was full of studying and the last couple of lectures.  One of these lectures was an interesting guest lecture by Marisa Litz on salmon ecology. We learned about the complexity of salmon’s life cycle as they go from the river to the sea and back.  Tuesday came about, and so did the test, which passed by without any hiccups.  The marine algae section began Thursday morning with Annette Olson.   We jumped right into algae section with multiple lectures and lab demos, allowing us to try our hands at dichotomous keys.  The most fun part of the day was learning to press algae.  They turned out beautifully and show various parts of the morphology.  
Lucy's seaweed pressing

 Friday started nice and early at 6:15 am with a mini lecture before our first algae field trip to Seal Rock.  Unfortunately, the weather was not the best, but we still managed to enjoy ourselves.  Annette showed us many species and how their distribution varies among micro-habitats.  Some algae are able to grow in more exposed areas, while others need a more protected area to grow.  Seal Rock is a dynamic habitat with micro-topography everywhere from the sand swept rocks to the beach. This allows for the algae to fill very complex and unique niches. We came back to class and learned all about green, brown, and red algae.  To teach us about brown kelp, Annette showed us various dried and pressed specimens.

Class listening to Annette

Brittney and Annette collecting algae

Saturday, April 16, 2016

First set of students sorting their final catch on the boat.
The morning broke, and as the first brave set of greenhorns awoke and prepared for the next few hours ahead of them. As they looked outside to see what weather would await them, none were shocked to see the 15mph winds, short showers of rain and the mighty two foot swells of the bay. None the less all went bravely and upon the boat things did not go much better, unexpected items came up in the first trawl, and for the second things went a little smoother. After a much delayed return, they were greeted back to land with warm sun, blue sky’s and the faces of the next group of students. This next group crawled upon the 54ft aluminum boat and listed as the boats Captain, first mate and NOAA scientist told them about the safety rules of the boat and what they would be doing. The boat casted off the dock, the weather had cleared and everything seemed well for the time being. 
Stern of the boat, as it went from the first trawling site to
 the second for the last group of students.
As the students pulled up to their first trawling site, a CTD was released to record the salinity, temperature and depth of the water below. The trawling net went out after the return of the CTD and the weather took a turn for the worse, it started to poor rain and hail on the students awaiting the nets return and the wind started to blow. It didn’t let up as the net returned and as the students started to sort their catch and record the size of any English sole and Speckled sanddab they had caught. Soon after the catch was sorted the sun and blue sky reappeared, and two bald eagles flew overhead, the boat moved onward to their next trawling point and half way there they stopped to take another CTD sample. The boat turned sideways to the waves and as it rolled back and forth in the swells, the students held strong and once the data was retrieved they moved onward to their next trawl. The net lowered and raised in what seemed like seconds but was really six minutes and soon after sorting the students found a total of five different species. The boat docked soon after and the tired greenhorns left to rest but only after an hour all the students were back to lecture and lab. The end of the day came around 6, and sunny weather ended the day for the students. Light traps were set out that night by their teacher and TA and as the students lay in their beds, the ocean was cooking up a new set of mysteries for them to solve. 

Link to 2016 trawl video: 

             A New Day 
Monster WORM!!
8:30 the next morning three of the brave students went out with their teacher and TA to go collect their traps from the night before. The first two came up with no fish larvae but instead lots of Amphipods, crab megalopa, and decapods. The next two showed the real monsters of the deep, four 25cm or larger polychaete worms. These monsters both creeped out everyone and intrigued them at the same time. There were four different types of fish larvae in them and as the students brought the traps back to lab, they couldn’t help but think about the long day in front of them. To start off the day, students heard a lecture about how fishes feed and about the different types of sensory equipment they have. After a quick thirty-minute break, a guest lecture on marine plankton ecology which was given by Dr. Luo and another guest lecture on animal behavior by a NOAA scientist. A half hour lunch break was had and students returned for a lab on the days earlier catch and after 45 minutes of looking at the fascinating life we had caught in our own back yard, a lecture on writing scientific papers was given and the students all took a sigh of relief as their day was finally over. A late night finished the day for the students who didn’t go home and a weekend of homework and studying was what they had to look forward to.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Something Fishy Has Begun

The first day of marine fishes has begun in the BI 450 class, a new teacher and TA have arrived for the class. After a quick introduction from the teacher and TA, we got started with a quick fishes’ lecture and prepared for our first field trip in this section. Tokatee Klootchman State Park was where we were going, and why you may as? For the collection of tide pool fishes of course. Cloudy weather was the greeting card to the students as they pulled up and after an adventurous quest for these monsters a total of two different families were found. A quick group picture, and then we were off to the lab. Students then found out how we were caring for these animals as we studied them and got a crash course in how to use a dichotomous key.
Class awaiting the return of the seine.
The second day students went out, after a good mornings lecture on fish habitats, to see what the seine dragged in as they got more than their toes we in the brisk bay water of Yaquina Bay. This large net needed two students to get in and to drag it along the bottom of the muddy bay, one needed to live on the edge as he or she had to get in a lot deeper than the other. Few dared, or were wearing the proper gear, to go this deep and to face the sea monsters that lay below but all were ready to help count, sort and record all the different fishes that got caught in the net. The cloudy weather held until the students returned with their catch of ambassadors from the fishy kingdom, one of each species, and after a second lecture it poured as the students sat warmly in their lab looking at what they had brought in and once again the students had lucked out with fantastic Oregon coast weather. The rain didn’t stop as the students had their third lecture for the day and they all had to return back to their houses to prepare for the next day ahead of them.

Corin admiring the lingcod above him.
              A more exciting day came upon the students as they had their first guest lecture from Bob Cowen about kelp and reef habitats for fishes, then a quick doughnut break and back for one more lecture on fish growth. The sun started to shine as the BI 450 students emerged from their quick lunch break and went off onto their next field trip. The Oregon Coast Aquarium was their destination, and for some of the students this was their first time to experience the excitement of this unique location. Corin, an international student from the UK, had a particularly enjoyable time as he looked on at the fishes swimming around the tunnels in the aquarium. He greatly enjoyed the diversity of the aquarium even though their lack of his favorite animal, sponges, had him slightly disappointed. The students were all allowed to play and roam around the aquarium as they pleased as long as they all picked two species to draw. Free fudge was eaten, fishes were drawn and merry times were upon all in the class but a black cloud loomed ahead as their next trip may not be as care free. They all met up after the aquarium to discuss some paper they had to read but more importantly they had to prepare for the trawling trip the following day. Three hypothesis were formed and gear was prepared for the trip. Foul weather was ahead; bay conditions were not looking good as the students went home to enjoy a calm before the storm.  

Sunday, April 10, 2016

1 Down. 5 to Go.

Week Two flashed by almost as quickly as it arrived. Between finishing up lectures/field trips, and preparing for presentations and our final exams, we rarely had a free moment for anything other than invertebrates. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing ;).

Our week started out much as it had at the beginning of the section. Attending lectures and preparing for field trips! On Monday we learned all about Phylum Arthropoda. Then we talked about a cute relative of Phylum Arthropoda (and Dr. Hacker’s personal favorite): Phylum Tardigrada, or the “water bears”. After a short coffee break we came back to learn about the diverse Phylum Mollusca. We then spent a few hours in the lab working on our lab notebooks and teaching each other species names for our lab practicum that was coming up.

Later that afternoon, we had an interesting lecture on the invasive European green crab, Carcinus maenas, from guest lecturer Dr. Sylvia Yamada. We then went out into the field to collect traps that she had put out the night before so that we could record the number, size, and weight of the C. maenas that we caught.

A number of us down at the low tide zone near HMSC helping Dr. Yamada collect crab traps.

And now, time for a little bit of local natural history! Amongst our samples was a female C. maenas that was VERY pregnant. That large, orange growth in the picture is actually thousands of eggs. After being fertilized by a male crab, the female carries these eggs for months, before releasing them into the ocean. Once they hatch, they develop into adorable planktonic larvae, called the zoea stage. After over 2 years of drifting and growing, they settle to the ocean floor to become adult crabs. It was a great night and we learned a lot about these pesky crustaceans. Thanks Dr. Yamada!

Tuesday began with the lophophorates. This group covers 3 different phyla with similar characteristics. Then Dr. John Chapman gave us a short lecture on biological invasions on the Oregon coast. We learned a lot from him about debris from the devastating tsunami that hit Japan in 2011 (particularly the dock that floated ashore in April of 2012, pictured to the left). Dr. Chapman does a lot of work with the Japanese marine species that have hitched rides on this debris and the potential for them invading our waters. He also spent some time talking about the invasive parasite that is devastating Yaquina Bay’s population of mud shrimp.

After lectures we all piled into the vans for one last invertebrate collection trip at the Newport Bayfront docks. All of us were desperately searching for some elusive ctenophores, but our efforts went unrewarded. We did manage to collect a few more species for our studies! Then it was back to the lab to work on identifications and off to write papers/prepare presentations.
Collecting samples from the docks at the Newport Bayfront

When Wednesday came around, I think we were all starting to feel the pressure of preparing for our exams. We had papers to write, presentations to prepare for, and species/lectures to study. We awoke that morning to our last lectures on invertebrates and immediately dispersed with our respective groups to work on presentations. That night we held the 11th Annual Marine Invertebrate Presentation and Dessert Extravaganza. We all gave entertaining presentations about our favorite marine invertebrates and enjoyed way too many sweets (also not a bad thing). We started with a Family Feud-inspired game about Velella velella, followed by a cake-pops of Strongylocentrotus purpuratus, a love story about Pisaster ochraceus, do-it-yourself nudibranchs, a couple of balloon versions of anemones, and a nemertean version of Jeopardy. For the last presentation, we learned about the scheming cuttlefish overlords from Wayne, and even made our own tin foil hats to protect ourselves from their surveillance (see the first photo of the post). It was a wonderful evening with plenty of laughs from all, and a great break from our intense exam studying. After the extravaganza most of us went back to go to sleep, but a few people hit the library for some late night (read: 3 in the morning) paper writing.

On Thursday we just had to turn in our invertebrate papers and then study for the exams. We spent a lot of time in the lab with Vanessa going over the scientific names of our little critters. I think that we owe a big thanks to the time that Vanessa spent with us helping us learn all these species names. Most of the evening was spent on individual studying of the lecture material for the exam. I don’t think any of us had seen the apartments so quiet before.

Friday, Exam Day, started out pretty fantastic. Most of us rolled out of bed early, and Ginger and her housemates made pancakes for a group study session before the actual exams. It’s always a good time when we all get together for study and/or food sessions! After that we hit the library for some last minute cramming before the dreaded exam finally arrived that afternoon. And then, just like that, the lecture exam and lab practicum were finished, and we were done. The week ended with an audible sigh of relief after exams were out of the way (for now), and a few sad “until next times” with Dr. Hacker and Vanessa. Thanks for a great section!

Even after the section ended, the week wasn’t over for most of us. This past Saturday, April 9th, was Marine Science Day here at HMSC, and the few members of our group who didn’t leave town for the weekend helped out in our lab, showing off our work to the general public. It was really great being able to teach others, especially all the young children, about what we do and why it’s important. And, freaking them out with the annelids we had under the microscope wasn’t a bad time either.

All in all, we had a very fun week, and we’re all looking forward to what the next section will bring: Marine Fish.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Sally's Bend and Cascade Head 2016!

On Thursday, the class ventured to the mudflats at Sally’s Bend. Sunshine and eager spirits made for a very muddy excursion and the retrieval of an array of marine inverts. We found marine polychaete worms, bay ghost shrimp, and blue mud shrimp (accompanied by the parasitic isopod, Orthione griffins). Note: The photo above was taken AFTER most of us had rinsed off in a small stream!

On Friday, April 1, 2016, the students of Bi450 made their way up to Cascade Head. North of Lincoln City, Cascade Head Preserve is home to a diversity of flora and fauna including the rare Oregon silverspot butterfly and its host flower, the early blue violet.

What started with a light fog turned out to be a beautiful, sunny day making for an enjoyable hike. Along the way we spotted isopods, black millipedes with yellow spots, and many, many elk!

While the majority of our hike was through wooded forest, the trail’s peak opened up to exposed panoramic meadows and views of the Salmon River estuary, the Oregon coast, and vast expanses of deep blue ocean. Here, we enjoyed snacks and some lunch and were even able to observe an eagle soaring above and some sea lions in a cove below.

Above is a photo of this year’s class at the top!