Saturday, June 10, 2017

Week 10: Presentations and Goodbyes

For the last two weeks, we have been conducting personal research projects - investigating our own research questions and testing our own hypotheses. This week, most students were focused on finishing their research papers and preparing for the public presentations on Friday. Above the frantic keyboard tapping and heads-banging against desks, the air hangs heavy with a mixture of emotions. Summer is just around the corner and with that comes all the joys of sunshine and summer vacation. But our course is also coming to an end and our days at the Hatfield Marine Science Center are limited. This is was truly a unique and invaluable experience for all of us.

Looking back, we learned lots of thing throughout this course. Not only the marine biology stuffs but …….
We agreed that First, crafty people belong in this field!
When you try to deal with feeding or larvae there's always mini inventions that can save you from expensive equipment.

Second: Intertidal walking is a thing for marine biologist. You’ll be amazed how Bruce Menge can out walk you on the intertidals. Oh, and not to mention how hard it is to walk on mud. Mudflat walking

Third, sleep deprivation will make a robots out of you. Robots that particularly good at calculating percent covers. And by that point our brains have “Eat. Sleep. Tidepool. Repeat” on repeat. Except for Wednesdays, we add donuts after tidepools.

Fourth, tidepool organisms isn’t the most cooperative animals you use in an experiment. Some would rather starve to death than move, some were just born escape artists.

Fifth: Spending everyday, stuck in Newport Hatfield Marine Science Center, and being in classes with the same people for the whole term, creates an inseparable bond between people. We arrived as strangers and acquaintances, we are leaving as friends.

Presentations were a huge success. Topics ranged from the feeding behaviors of crab,urchins, limpets, and sea stars to the effectiveness of zinc in crab pots.
 Sean goes over the results of his experiment comparing feeding efficiency between green crab, red rock crab, and dungeness crab.
Melissa explaining the difference between specialist and generalist predator
For many of us, our experiments did not go as planned. We were constantly dealing with design problems and our test subjects never doing what they were supposed to. But as Sarah noted in her remarks, this is a part of real science. It’s not all about discovery and generating statistically significant results. Science is complex and sometimes messy. It doesn’t always behave in the way you want it to. But we as scientists learn to deal with these problems and move forward despite the obstacles. Every bit of knowledge, even the 1000 ways how not to do something, contributes to our overall understanding of the world we live in. And this is the gift that the Bi 450 program gives us. Because this is not a lesson we could ever learn in a classroom.

Many of us will be graduating in the next year or so and with that comes the promise of the “real world”. Also a lot of uncertainty. This class taught us not only skills, but it gave us just a tiny taste of that “real world”. It’s hard to say what the future holds - some of us may leave the scientific field and pursue other dreams - but I think our individual futures became just little bit clearer after this class. We may not know where we are going, but we can take our steps with confidence and we can take them together.

Thank you, everyone, for the best term and lifelong memories.

Special thanks to our absolutely amazing instructors and TA's for this course: Sally Hacker, Allison Barner, Sarah Henkel, Bruce, Menge, Su Sponaugle, Miram Gleiber, Caitlin Magel, and Jenna Sullivan 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Week 9: Individual Research

Week 9 marked the beginning of our individual research projects. The long weekend served us well as optimal low tides allowed for ample time of marine sampling in the intertidal. With lectures and exams finished, individuals and groups visited Boiler Bay, Tokatee Klootchman, Yachats Beach, and many other coastal sites to begin answering their research questions. Some projects include topics like gastropod abundance on varying algal species, factors influencing crab claw strength, density of Katharina around Saccharina beds, and the effect of parasitism on Upogebia pugettensis; a type of mud shrimp. The two week effort is to be concluded by the construction of a research paper and presentation open to the public. Symposiums will be held June 9th at the Hatfield Visitor Center.

Alanna and Sonora spend their morning moving 90 lb crab pots for their experiment at Tokatee Klootchman. All smiles :)

Haley and Tyler's urchin feeding experiment involving inclusion and exclusion of Pisaster.
The quick segue into the middle of the week dampened the responsibilities of field work and demanded attentive lab time. As if overnight, the lab was transformed from its dull, empty state to a factory of engineered curiosity. Previously bare bins now held an abundance of creatures of the intertidal, from sculpins to sea stars. Many of us carefully ran through trials of experimentation and intrigue. With minimal casualties, experiments started to fall into place.

Kate and David patiently observe feeding preferences of Pisaster in their handcrafted Y-maze. Troublesome sea stars were aptly nicknamed "Steve".
Sierra looks into shelter material preferences of tidepool sculpins.
In an interesting turn of events, the first octopus of the course was found! It is hypothesized that this is a young Enteroctopus dofleini. Sonora and Alanna found the little guy in a tide pool at Manipulation Bay.

A momentary greeting occurs.
Octopus are very smart and strong creatures. They can fit through almost any crevasse large enough for their beak. Interestingly, the arms of the octopus contain two thirds of their neurons. This makes the arms somewhat autonomous - they literally have a mind of their own! Disc-like suckers lining the arms can taste and smell anything they touch, allowing them octopus to sense nearby prey. When this juvenile octopus grows up, it can have up to 280 suckers per arm. That's like having 2240 mouth-noses. Best of luck to you, small friend!

A baby seal hangs out in the high zone of Fogarty Creek.

By the time Thursday had arrived, most groups were finishing their data collection. With the help and guidance of some awesome TAs, students began running (and troubleshooting) statistical analyses on software programs such as RStudio and Microsoft Excel. For some of the students, this was their first time working with statistical softwares such as R, but individuals quickly became accustomed. Many cups of coffee and tea were consumed in this phase of the research.

Chris outwits RStudio to form an ANOVA table.

A feast of freshly caught crab to end the week! 
In attempt to unwind after many hours spent on research, we closed out the week by spending an afternoon cooking crab! Students who spent the better part of the week catching crab wrangled their test subjects into pots and even grabbed enough crab for the whole class to enjoy. Specimens that weren't consumed were safely returned to the intertidal. Who knew science could be so delicious!

Friday also brought a bout of sunshine, which had many students basking in the sun all afternoon. It was truly a wonderful way to ring in the weekend.