Sunday, April 8, 2018

Week 1: A Wet and Muddy Welcoming

Monday, April 2, marked our first day towards becoming professional marine biologists. After meeting, our class was toured around the campus, and shown all of the little details that make the Hatfield Marine Science Center so awesome. Rooms filled with fishtanks, presereved animals, and dried algae were not a rare sight as we went through the campus. After a little break, our professor, Dr. Sally Hacker, explained to us why marine biology is important not only to the scientific world, but to the general population as well. Likewise we also learned about some of the important physical processes that make the Oregon Coast so special. For example, did you know that the Oregon coast has some of the largest sand dune flats in North America? Finally, after a walk up to safe haven hill where we would go in the case of a tsunami, we all met up for some pie and ice cream on campus to get to know each other a little more, and talk about what we would be looking forward to in the weeks ahead as well as our dream jobs, which ranged from scientists, to comic book editors, to even professional ice cream tastors with golden spoons. It was a great way to get to know each other a little more, and it's obvious just by the first day that this term is going to be awesome.

Tuesday was our first packed day. We met up at 7:30 in the morning and headed for our first field day at a site called Boiler Bay, locate just north of Depoe Bay, Oregon. This field site is unique because it sits as a bench stretched far out into the surf allowing unique organisms to settle that we wouldnt see in a more protected area. We spent around two hours here collecting a wide range on invertebrates from crabs to chitons to seastars, all to bring back and study in the lab. We had fantastic weather and truly could not have had more fun outside. Once we were back we took a lunch break, and met back up to cover more about what exactly it means to be an invertebrate. On the same note we continued lecture talking about sponges which are in the taxonomic phylum porifera and has some of the oldest invertebrates on the planet. Then we took a quick break and spent the next three hours in lab talking about, and identifying the animals that we had collected during the field trip. By the end of the day, everyone was completely exhausted but excited for what was yet to come.
An image of a giant boiler which was part of the ship that wrecked here in the 20th century

Wednesday began with another great field trip to a site named Tokatee Klootchman recreation area. While the forecast looked spotty, the weather held and we were able to run around the intertidal without getting too wet. We saw many different animals from those at Boiler Bay, including a Grey Whale that a few of us saw just shy of 100 yards into the surf! Once we arrived back at Hatfield and put our new critters into tanks, we learned all about cnidarians and ctenophores, which are basically jelly fish and anemones. Both of these groups of animals make up quite a bit of the marine wildlife one might see on the Oregon Coast, and it was exciting learning about these animals that grow right in our backyard. After lecture we once again had a three hour lab, followed by the beginning of some studying, hiking, fishing for clams and mussels, and getting used to living here.

Thursday stood out from the rest in that we had our first day digging mud pies for a grade in our college careers. We spent our morning searching for worms and burrowing shrimp on a coastal estuary called Sally’s Bend. The mud was incredibly hard to walk through, due to the work of some incredicly busy shrimp digging holes beneth our feet, and in the end some boots had to be sacrificed to the field site, but we still had a great time. We found a ton of brand new organisms, that somehow looked nothing like the animals we've seen so far, but are still living within a mile of one another. The change in the atmosphere was not only a blast but a super interesting experience. While the rest of the day was routine, trudging through the mud was one of the most fun I have ever had in a class.

Friday began as a rather gloomy day weatherwise. We loaded up in the vans, and while we were excited, we were all disappointed to realize that our hike to a beautiful viewing point on Cascade Head would most likely only give us a nice view of the rain clouds. Once we arrived at our hike just passed Lincoln City, we all became mystified by the forest around us where we saw salmonberry flowers blooming, and heard threshes and hummingbirds zip by. When everyone reached the top, we had completely forgotten to care that there should be any view, and had lunch in the clouds all hanging out with one another, just listening to the crashing waves of the Pacific coming from the mist. After lunch, we took a class picture, and as we began to wander around Cascade Head the sun started to appear and the clouds began to part to reveal a magnificent view of the coast. The hike was a fantastic way to end the week, and we are off to a strong start for the beginning of what will be a fun, but study filled weekend.

The view from Cascade Head.

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