Monday, May 30, 2016

Corin and Ginger in the office.
It’s projects week – everyone has been working tirelessly in the lab, field and library to slowly expand our collective understanding of nature. We have all been focused on our final projects and we have no scheduled class to distract us. On our own or in small groups we are working on varied projects that include sea urchin and gastropod feeding experiments, trapping European green crab and investigating shell preference in hermit crabs.
Mussel beds at Yachats Beach, one of our study sites. Cormorants and
 other seabirds are visible further back.
"Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science."
-Edwin Powell Hubble

My group have spent many hours in the field this week to survey the invertebrate communities in tide pools. We want to know if mobility is an important factor in allowing species to live in the high intertidal zone where they will be subject to warmer water, lower dissolved oxygen concentrations, and reduced access to open water for releasing their sperm and eggs. We reasoned that mobile species might be able to jump ship and change tide pool if their home gets too warm or begins to dry out. Sessile organisms that are fixed to the rock do not have that luxury and so we expect to see fewer mussels, anemones and barnacles in tide pools in the high intertidal compared to lower tide pools that are submerged for longer each tide. Larger tide pools are presumably less stressful and so we think we will find that sessile organisms are more common in the larger tide pools that we surveyed. A few more hours of data preparation and analysis and we will know if our suspicions were correct. We are eager to see the results of our analysis and find out if our data do show the trends that we expect to find.

Grant and co. employing the transect-quadrat method
that we learnt from Prof Menge in the ecology section.

Grant's group noticed a pattern in the distribution of algae in the high intertidal - Pelvetiopsis and Fucus both inhabit the high intertidal, but Pelvetiopsis is consistently found higher up and their distributions don't appear to overlap. They went to Boiler Bay, Strawberry Hill, Seal Rock and Tokatee Klootchman to do community surveys and they ran small experiments in the lab to measure how gastropod feeding rates and water retention differ between the two species. It looks like Pelvetiopsis is more vulnerable to drying out than Fucus so their must be other factors that maintain their current distribution.

Gastropod feeding experiments with limpets and snails.
Students in our class have seen whales, brown pelicans, harbour seals, sea lions and a pod of orcas in the field this week. Thankfully the weather has been excellent and so while everyone has been working hard this week has still been rather idyllic. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Marine Conservation and Policy

Docks in Yaqunia Bay
The week began with a lecture from Sarah Henkel on the current state of fisheries, from there we packed in the vans and headed to the Bayfront. We met up with Laura Anderson, the owner of Local Ocean Seafoods, who took our class on a dock walk with one of her new servers. She explained how the restaurant selects sustainable seafood as well as talking to some l
ocal fisherman about the methods they utilize to catch crab, salmon, and shrimp. Afterwards we enjoyed our classmates company and a delicious lunch at Local Ocean. We returned to the classroom later that afternoon for two more lectures on new technology in fisheries and a brief overview of seabirds.

Sarah Henkel and Paul Engelmeyer at Cape Perpetua sharing
information with the class.
On Tuesday we went to the beautiful Cape Perpetua state park and met with Paul Engelmeyer, the Ten Mile Creek Sanctuary manager. He talked to us about the processes involved in Conservation policy from his vast experience working for the Audobon society. We talked a lot abut the connection between the land and sea and how conservation of the coastal lands can greatly benefit the ocean and the organisms in it. It was very interesting to see monitoring work carried out by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife on Salmon in the rivers. They are carrying out research on the salmon that are heading towards the ocean to check on how healthy their populations are, this salmon research plays an important role in fisheries management and this species are also important for the ecosystem. As well as talking and learning about practical conservation issues we also went for a lovely walk in the forest, through the old growth and had a picnic lunch by the creek in the sun.

Small fish caught in the fish trap in the stream
On Wednesday we had a day full of lecture, two of which were related how we can utilize the ocean, such as offshore aquaculture and renewable energy. We had a class discussion about science, policy and ethics, there were a wide variety of topics covered. This was an interesting discussion since many opinions were brought to the table for instance how scientists can communicate research to the public. The rest of the day was dedicated to work time on our group project on conservation and management.

Thursday consisted of presenting the conservation and management projects. Each group discussed the background and possible solutions for their topic for instance the Arctic Ocean, invasive species, and whaling.

Friday we met with Sarah Henkel, Sue Sponaugle, Sally Hacker, Vanessa Constant, and Chenchen Shen in order to discuss our final research projects and from this discussion we created our proposals.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

We started Monday with the fiery glow of data tabulations and analyses in our eyes. After the fire burnt out we enjoyed a special guest lecture by Sarah Gravem, Bruce's semi-new but super awesome post-doc. Her lecture detailed the interactions between two predatory sea stars, Leptasterias hexactis and Pisaster ochraceus, interacting with Tegula funebralis (black turban snail).

Following Sarah's presentation Bruce gave an insightful lecture on diversity and stability in marine communities. During which, we learned about Bruce's "buns model," a combination of two intermediate hypothesis, disturbance and predation. This model shows the general trend that when disturbance is low predation is important in determining community structure. When disturbance is high it determines the structure. After this final community ecology lecture we rekindled the flames of data analysis till the nudibranchs came home.

On Tuesday, energy was at an all time low, every group was working diligently on their presentations and data reports for the entire day. Exciting!

Wednesday began with putting the finishing touches on our presentations. The first group, mid-high community structure examined upwelling along the coast combined with bathymetry may have led to bottom-up controls effecting the primary cover of sessile organisms at Strawberry Hill and Boiler Bay. The second group, low zone community structure looked at the richness and distribution between exposed and protected areas of the two sites. The next group focused on sea star wasting disease (SSWD). They concentrated on symptoms of SSWD and how SSWD has affected this years cohort, including the abundant recruits. Last but not least, group four fixated on the size of feeding whelks and compared the proportion of whelks feeding between zones (low, mid, high). 

After a refreshing two hours of sleep we were ready to continue our cramming sessions for our 2pm exam. Did we emerge victorious? I'll let you decide from this picture.

Our TA Chenchen Shen and the "infamous" Bruce Menge.
Following our relaxing 12 hour break between Community Ecology and the beginning of Marine Conservation and Policies on Friday, we enjoyed delving into Sarah Henkel's world. At first, Sarah's world seemed like a place where the oceans will never recover and hell has frozen over. We learned progress has been made towards protecting the oceans that provide so many ecosystem services to humanity. There's even been some really cool work done in Oregon to protect a 0.5 km squared speck of ocean near Otter Rock. At the end of lecture we paired up and took on conservation topics we were interested in.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Let the fun commence: Community Ecology

Monday morning was a late start, as we all enjoyed a beautiful day off.

Learning how to do the transect
quadrat method at Yaquina Bay.
Tuesday was the first day of the community ecology section, with the infamous Dr. Bruce Menge. We were introdu
ced to the section and had our first lecture on community structure and dynamics. We also had our first fieldtrip to Yaquina Bay where we learned how to do the transect quadrat method. The evening concluded with a special guest lecture from Elizabeth Cerny-Chipman talking about keystone predator loss.

Wednesday started out with another lovely lecture discussing biotic interactions and community structure. We partook in the weekly adventure to donuts down the hall as a quick study break, then resumed with the learning of biotic modification in communities. This transitioned to a special lecture highlighting the symptoms and ecology of sea star wasting disease (SSWD) in the Pacific Northwest. The exact cause is still unknown, however we learned the possible causes of SSWD could be due to warming ocean temperatures, ocean acidification, hypoxia, and the densovirus. In t
his presentation we also learned of the six symptoms a sea star can experience if suffering from the wasting disease, as well as its severe impact on the sea star population within the last three years.

A juvenile Leptasterias found at Yachats Beach.
Happy Cinco de Mayo! Thursday was a beautiful and dark morning, as it was the first of three mornings to begin at 5 a.m.! We split up into two groups, and set off into the foggy and dark intertidal. At Tokatee Klootchman and Yachats Beach, groups of two went around and put our skills to the test as we identified and measured species of sea stars using transect tape and quadrats. Two people at each site went around and surveyed as much of the intertidal as possible looking for signs and symptoms of SSWD. After three hours in the field those who were with Chenchen at Yachats Beach went to the Green Salmon for some delicious well deserved coffee and breakfast! Once back at Hatfield we had a leisurely long break with some data entry before returning to lecture to learn about complex community interactions. Later that day we had guest lecture from Alissa Rickborn who educated us about sponges and ocean acidification, which was pretty neat. We ended the night with some delicious Mexican food that was made with love by Ginger and Riley!
Early morning at Boiler Bay
doing the transect quadrat method.

Friday was another grueling and early start, but we still arrived and did it for science! This day we were at Boiler Bay and conducted quadrat transect data collection. We ventured out to the furthest exposed bench and worked quickly to beat the incoming tide. While we were working some pretty cute s
eals kept us company. We worked diligently for four hours and we saw a whale off in the distance, so our progress was slowed slightly in awe. Once we returned to Hatfield we had another stimulating lecture on recruitment patterns. We continued to work on data entry in preparation for the group projects. We ended the evening with Barbara Spiecker’s presentation on coral reef meta-ecosystems that was thoroughly enjoyed by the entire class.
Beautiful views over Boiler Bay on Thursday brightened
the students' spirits.

You would think that Saturday was a day to sleep in and wake up refreshed. But no! This was the final day of departure at 5 a.m. We explored Strawberry Hill and continued transect quadrat experiments. After three hours in the field we returned to enjoy a quick break before we had another lecture on variation in marine communities. The day continued with more entering and cleaning of data. As the long week came to end, all the students groaned as we realized there was only one day left to enjoy the weekend before Monday morning came around.
Foggy morning at Strawberry Hill with beautiful views again.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Monday morning’s 6:00am wake up call came early as we ventured to Boiler Bay to explore more marine algae, observe wave exposure and elevation gradients in the intertidal, and collect specimens for our group projects. Most of the field trip was spent walking around with Annette who pointed out common taxa of algae and patterns to take note of.
Back at Hatfield we had a couple lectures on brown and red algae and continued our species IDs with dichotomous keys in the lab. In the evening after lab, student groups met with Annette to discuss group field studies to be conducted the next day. We were asked to design an observational study on one of the assigned phyla/groups of algae: green algae, brown algae (not including kelps), coarsely branched reds, branched red blades, non-branched red blades, and filamentous/finely branched reds.
After group ‘tank talks’, we had a lovely guest speaker, Allie Barner, inform us more about the life history and reproduction of sea palm kelp.
Tuesday morning we put our plans into action at Boiler Bay working in independent groups studying algae species such as Cladophora columbiana for the green group and Phaeostrophion irregulare for the browns. Some groups set up transects, worked with quadrats, and some studied tide pools. A lecture on Rhodophyta and species IDs in the lab followed our field trip on Tuesday. We ended the day with an excellent guest lecture from Chris Langdon who let us taste dulse!
Wednesday was dedicated finishing the ten species ID sheets and preparation for our team presentations in the lab Wednesday evening. The presentations included results from the field studies, specimens of 5 common species of each team’s phyla/group of algaes, pressed specimens, and species cards for that were intended to teach other students ways to identify the species based on characteristics visible in the field and/or in the lab. One person from each group remained at their team station while other group members, Annette and Miram cycled around the lab appreciating the demos.

            After the long night in the lab during group presentations, the students returned in the morning to the classroom for one final lecture on the ecological importance of marine algae. After the lecture, they went back to the lab to set up the stations again for another review session. They walked around from group to group asking additional questions and jotting down information they felt would be important for the upcoming exam. The students spent most of the morning on their own, reviewing lecture material and studying the algae species in the lab. The afternoon consisted of a group review session and then the rest of the day was independent study time. Little sleep was had that night as the students stayed up trying to memorize the names of all the important algae species and the other important information such as ecology and life history. Friday began with high stress levels and low energy. The students took their lecture exam in the morning, had a lunch break to cram final bits of information into their brains and then completed a lab practicum in the afternoon. The air was filled with relief as the students finished the algae section and welcomed a long 3-day weekend! Thanks to Annette and Miram for teaching us about the wonderfully diverse marine algae on the North Pacific coast!