Sunday, May 20, 2018

Week 7 - Community Ecology

Monday, May 14th
We learned how to perform quadrat-transect transect surveys. We walked out to the small beach in front of Hatfield's Visitor Center to practice. We learned how to survey different algae and invertebrates within the quadrats.

After practice, we received a special lecture from our guest, Sarah Gravem. She presented on testing how communities can either be resistant or resilient after losing a major predator. Sarah gave very insightful information, and in fact, we would eventually end up working with her and her team later on in the week!

We then prepared for the rest of the week with some logistical things and lectures. We received another lecture from Silke Bachhuber about the concept and methods of her SPITFIRE experiment.

We had an evening lecture about seastar wasting disease and its impacts on the seastar Pisaster ochraceus.

Tuesday, May 15th
Early morning start! We hit the road at 5:30 am to get out on the rocky intertidal during low tide. The class was split into two groups, one went to Fogerty Creek and the other to Boiler Bay. We performed quadrat-transect surveys to gauge community ecology. We counted mussels, barnacles, limpets, snails, algae, and any other organisms that were within the quadrat. We also help install experiment materials. We drilled into the rock and screwed in cages, fences, and cleared marked plots. It was a lot of scraping of mussels, algae, and other invertebrates like anemones. A lot of mussel guts were acquired on our clothes (stinky!!). It was tough work, but definitely interesting experiencing an official research project first-hand.

50cm x 50 cm quadrat containing different mussel and barnacle species

Wednesday, May 16th
Another early morning at 5:30am. The groups traded locations from yesterday to finish any work incompleted from the previous group. We performed more transects (I'll tell you, counting limpets and small littorine snails is tedious and not the most fun thing to do sometimes, but it is amazing just how many live in the mussel bed in such a small area). Our TA, Barbara Spiecker, collected animals for our in-lab experiments. After the fieldwork was complete (or cut off by the rising tide), we headed back to campus and had a few more lectures. We finished the day with setting up our experiments in the lab.
Data sheet for community ecology

Thursday, May 17th
Once again, another day starting at dawn. This day, we traveled to new locations. One group went to Yachats Bay while the other went to Strawberry Hill. Just like the other days, we installed the experiment on the rocks. We performed more community ecology quadrat-transect surveys just like we did the other days. As you might be able to tell, this week was a lot of repetitive activities, but for good reason! Hands-on fieldwork and research is fun! We finished the day with more lectures and working on our lab projects, including data entry.

Installing a cage on the rock
Overview of a worksite of installing a cage

Friday, May 17th
We were blessed with waking up a half hour later today! Just like the other days, groups flip-flopped locations. More quadrat-transect surveys. After our work was finished, we were able to go out and tide pool for a few minutes, that was a nice break to relax and look at cool animals and organisms! We continued the data with more lectures, worked on our lab projects, and ended early (woo!).

Sarah Gravem, Erica, and Alex working
on scraping rock and installing cages and
marked plots
Beth working on installing a cage
Tidepool with A. xanthogrammic and
P. ochraceus
Close up of P. ochraceus

Even-closer close-up of P. ochraceus

This week was definitely trying and tiring, but nonetheless beneficial and enjoyable! As a class and as individuals, we got to experience first-hand what its like to work on a larger-scale research project and physically put the mechanisms in place to collect the data. We're looking forward to what next week has in store for us!

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