Monday, May 13, 2019

Week 6: Quadrats, SPITFIRE, and Turfies Oh My

Monday: We all headed out to our backyard, Yaquina Bay to learn how to properly use quadrats for the sake of science. With the field work prep out of the way we headed inside to learn about the state of sea star wasting disease (SSWD). We talked about how the sea stars themselves have been affected and how that has impacted their ecological communities. After that it was time for lab, where we learned more about the tasks we would be performing in the field. Including how to set up turfies, sample sea star gonads, and survey mobile predators amongst other things. With that said and done, we all strapped in to learn more about Oregon’s rocky intertidal communities and their structures. Then this great day was wrapped up by an extremely informative lecture by Silke Bachhuber, about her work and the SPITFIRE experiment which was about learning how small predators impact their communities.

Tuesday: We woke up to a wonderful weather and are first chance to put to use our new quadratting skills. The students split up into a handful of groups and headed to a multitude of gorgeous locales. Yachats Beach, Strawberry Hill, and Tokatee Klootchman were the sites we would be working at.  Work on the SPITFIRE project for Silke Bachhuber began, and multiple types of transect line surveys needed to be thoroughly examined with the use of our newly acquired quadrat prowess. Once our mission was complete we headed back to the classroom to learn about the intricacies of non-trophic interactions, and community structure. After that we took a short break to head to the lab where we would begin the experimental process. Some of the students brought back sea stars, mussels, and whelks. These proverbial “lab rats” would be monitored so we could better understand the predation rate of Mytilus by these other species. By feeding them a known amount each day and recording how much they ate we are able to infer there average consumption rate in the wild. After that it was right back to lecture with and exhilarating talk on how environmental stress impacts species interactions. Then to top the day off Barbara Spiecker gave us an incredible presentation on how algae are effect by el nino and how the past can be used to predict and prepare for the future. Suggesting that that the effects of global warming may mimic those of el nino years, and really show how global warming will impact our algal communities in the Pacific Northwest.

Fieldwork at Yachats Beach, with Elise demonstrating proper quadrat use 
Wednesday: Another day and another opportunity to develop our field work skills. Once again, the class split up into three groups and each group went to a different location then last time. At Strawberry Hill it was all about seastar collection, SPITFIRE, turfies, and belt transects. We worked with Silke Bachhuber along with a handful of the other lab technicians and all went smoothly. Upon our return it was lecture time. The students at Tokatee Klootchman were also able to collect a handful of Red rock crabs, which were then added to the assortment of other creatures including in the labs predation rate experiment. We learned about ocean acidification, hypoxia, and from there we learned about bottom up drivers of community structure. After our big lecture session we monitored our predation rate experiment in the lab then we had a short discussion on how to write a data report. Unfortunately, the guest lecture for the evening about coralline algae and how it is impacted by ocean acidification was cancelled.

Strawberry hill team overlooking the beach before hiking down to the worksite
Thursday: We split the class into two large teams today. One group went to Fogarty creek, and the other went to Boiler Bay. At Fogarty Creek with the wonderful guidance of Bruce Menge, we learned how to properly attach “turfies” to the rocks and further develop our observational skills by surveying transect lines with the use of quadrats. Continuing collect data on percent ground cover for the various sessile species present at both beaches, and counting the number of each species of mobile predator present. Once we returned from our outing we sat in for a lecture on complex interactions and community structure. From there the next step was to check in on our predation rate experiments, and our newly gathered crabs. Zech taught us a little more about data entry and gave us rules to follow as we would have to enter all of the data we had collected over the past week into a spreadsheet.. We then finished out the evening with a talk by our TA Zech about his thesis research on rocky intertidal species ability to recover from severe devastation. Zech explained that his experiment was trying to understand the rate at which species will return to a location from which they have been completely removed, like in the event of a large storm or tsunami.

Renee and Kieryian working on horizontal transects at Fogarty Creek

Friday: Blessed with another near windless and beautiful day on the coast, we broke into two teams and headed out to our respective field sites. Horizontal transects were in store, and by this point our estimation and quadrat expertise had hit an all time high. From limpets to mussels no rock was unaccounted for within our given quadrats. As the energy levels began to sink, two beautiful bald eagles soared overhead letting out some mighty calls to make their presence known and we paused to gawk in awe at their brilliance. With the last transects recorded it was time to return to reality, and travel back to the classroom. We learned about larval transport and how recruitment affects populations and their communities. With that out of the way we moved on to recording once again for our predation rate experiments, and finally rapped up the day with a lecture by Zech about statistics, when to use what graphs, and what they tell you.

"Majestic" eagles soaring over Boiler Bay 

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