Saturday, April 21, 2018

A week of algae

Monday we started off the week with a new instructor, Sarah Henkel, and a new topic; algae! This is Sarah’s first year teaching the algae section, and we are all having a great time. There was a lot of material to cover in the first day so we hit the books with plenty of interesting lectures, learning about the morphology, diversity, evolution, and ecology. We also spent time in the lab getting to know the different algae specimens provided by Sarah and our TA, Miram.

Tuesday was our first day in the field looking at live specimens! We went back to Boiler Bay and both Miram and Sarah walked us through the different tidal zones pointing out and providing us with tips and tricks for identifying different types of algae. We then collected our own specimens for our projects! But this was a little different than when we went out and collected invertebrates. We went around in a group identifying species and talking about different wave exposures in the area.

The class climbing down the steep entrance to Boiler bay
Once we got back to the lab we learned how to properly deherbivorize our collected specimens by removing amphipods, isopods, worms and various snails. We also got instruction and practice using dichotomous keys in order to identify different algae species. We started our species key assignment by keying out Acrosiphonia coalita '18 and Ulva blade '18.In lecture learned about green algae, Chlorophyta, and brown algae, Phaeophyta.

Wednesday was spent learning all about the red algae on the Pacific Northwest coast and keying more specimens for our lab identification assignment. This helped us learn general information about every group of algae and really get comfortable with keying everything out. As a lecture break we went to our second doughnut break with the staff of Hatfield Marine Science center and interacted with them learning about ongoing research and other cool things that are going on at Hatfield. Then it was back to the lab to finish keying out our 10 species that took a lot of work, but was good for understanding small differences within different taxa.
Acrosiphonia coalita '18 under the compound microscope.
We did not get to go out and exploring but by the end of the day our minds were full with loads of information by the end of the day.

Thursday we went back out into the field, to a Seal Rock State Park that we had not visited yet. We spent the morning there with Annet, who was the previous instructor for this section. A former BI 450 student who is currently working at the marine studies initiative joined us for this trip as well. We were able to find many types of algae not found at Boiler bay on Tuesday including; Codium setchelli '18, Constantinea simplex '18, and Callithamnion pikeanum '18.
BI 450 student at sealrock with Egregia menziesii 2018
After spending time identifying our collected species, instead of having a lecture on the ability of sea grasses to handle stress we went to a seminar given by Jim Kaldy, a researcher with the EPA who is studying how dissolved nitrogen levels and warmer waters affect on the eelgrass Zostera marina. There was even coffee and cookies! To finish off the day we learned how to make pressings of algae, which we will be displaying for the presentations we give next Monday.
The highlight of the day was that the squid eggs we have been keeping for the past week and a half started hatching. The first squid hatched at 1:32pm, it had lots of spots and was too small to weigh. By the end of the day 2 squids had hatched.
Baby squid, about 10 minutes old
Friday morning started with going out into the field to conduct our research projects. Data collection seemed to predominantly consist of using quadrats for most groups.
BI 450 students collecting data along a transect using a quadrant
After spending a few hours collecting data it was back to the lab to perform cross sections and prep specimens! At this point we were pretty much done with lectures. Instead we were given time to work on our presentations and research projects. Our last lecture of the algae section was on invasive species, which, even though they are the second largest threat to biodiversity across the globe, there is not much research focusing on how invasive species are impacting the ecosystems they invade. Our lecture included discussing Zostera japonica, which is an invasive seagrass in our area. There have been strong actions taken in California aimed at eradicating it, as it is listed as both a noxious weed and an invasive species in California. In addition Washington has also indicated steps toward removal, as this grass is listed as a noxious weed in state waters, however, in Oregon there has not been much action taken toward removal because it does not seem to be a local problem. One of the reasons that Zostera japonica has not been a problem along the Oregon coast is that our native sea grass, Zostera marina occupies a different part of the inter tidal than Z. japonica.  Z. japonica lives in the higher inter tidal while Z. marina lives in the lower inter tidal, which has allowed for minimal competition between the two species. Now as we head off into the weekend we are all studying hard preparing our presentations for the beginning of next week, and the wrap up of our algae section.  

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