Saturday, May 18, 2019

MBFE - Thursday and Friday 5/16-17 - More classroom time, more research and a treat

Now that our scheduled field trips were over, we continued our new normal of 2-3 hours of lecture each day, and the rest of the time doing research.

Thursday we discussed life as a member of the nekton - large, powerful swimmers that can overcome waves and currents.  One of the things we did during our class meeting was consider factors that the nekton has to overcome in order to move as efficiently as possible through the water.  How?  Each student used plasticine clay to develop a form that would be most efficient for overcoming the following:

  1. Frictional resistance - a function of total surface area.  So, frictional resistance is minimized as surface area is minimized.
  2. Form resistance - this is a function of the cross-sectional area of a body.  So, form resistance as cross-sectional area is minimized.
  3. Induced drag - this is a function of the amount of turbulence produced as an object moves through the water.  So, a matter of streamlining.
With frictional resistance the ideal shape is a sphere.  The downside of a sphere is that there is still considerable form resistance and induced drag.

With form resistance the ideal shape is a thread, with minimal cross-sectional area.  The downside of this shape is that there is considerable frictional resistance as the form has maximum surface area.  But it's not bad when you consider induced drag.

With induced drag, the best shape is tapered front and back, especially the back of the object, so when water flows off of the back end, there is minimal turbulence.

There is no shape that is ideal for all three factors, but there is an optimal shape.  Consider this, you want to have the smallest surface area possible AND the smallest cross-sectional area possible AND you want a tapered body.  What's the ideal shape?  Something like an elongate teardrop.

And do we see this in nature among larger aquatic organisms?  We sure do!

Fishes (tuna, sharks), penguins, marine mammals (whales, seals, sea lions), etc.

Their body plans are examples of convergent evolution in which they have adapted their body form to move efficiently through the water.  Now that's cool!

Then on Friday evening our group attended a public presentation featuring Steve Palumbi, Director of the Hopkins Marine Biological Station of Stanford University.  He talked about extreme life in the sea.  This took place at Southwest Oregon Community College (SWOCC) in Coos Bay.  It was a real crowd pleaser.  

His talk was based on a book he wrote recently, The Extreme Life of the Sea.

I was frankly quite impressed by the number of people who came out on a Friday evening to listen to a science talk.  And it was informative and entertaining - the way good education should be.

And another week of the MBFE is in the books!

MBFE - Weds 5/15 - A three hour tour, and three hour tour...

We had a full day including an outing on the research boat in the morning and looking at plankton we collected on the boat in the lab in the afternoon.

The only class field trip we had had left to do was to go out on the U Oregon research vessel RV Pluteus and collect plankton samples and do some bottom trawls to see what we might get there.
Today was that day!

Here we are at 8am, geared up and ready to depart.

Here's the team (L-R): Dr. Holyoak (on dock), Sam, Eric, Victoria, Michelle, Cale, Collin, Matt, Liv, Chey, Jenn, Maddie, Hunter, Emma, Anne, Ben.

This is the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology's main research vessel, the RV Pluteus.  Pluteus, by the way, is a larval stage of a sea urchin.  

Before departing, Captain Knute welcomed the group and gave some safety instructions.  And we were off!  We passed some of Charleston, Oregon's fishing fleet as we left the harbor.  Charleston is a commercial fishing port, and a fish processing plant is actually right across the street from the OIMB.

It was a gray, overcast but calm morning as we headed out onto the bay.  The wheelhouse on the boat is fairly small, so most of the time most of the students were out on deck (me too).  We did not need to leave Coos Bay to do what we needed to.  That was nice.  We were on relatively calm water and didn't have much wind either.

Here are (L-R) Ben (turned away, Jenn, Eric (background), and other mystery students hooded up.

Meanwhile on the foredeck, Hunter, Caleb, Matt and Anne took in the sights as we headed out.

As did Chey, who was also up there.

Once underway, Capt Knute had time to chat with our group.  Here he is with Ben.

Our first task was to deploy the plankton net and collect plankton to take back to the lab.  A plankton net, at least the one we used, was perhaps a meter in diameter.  After pulling it behind the boat for a little while we needed to haul it in and put the sample in jars.  We did two plankton tows.  

Michelle is pulling in the plankton net as Victoria looks on.

Shortly after we left shore, it started to sprinkle and then to rain.  Up went the hoods and people started to shelter under the aft overhang of the wheelhouse, but spirits and morale remained high.  Here are (L-R) Collin, Chey, Maddie, Emma and Michelle.

And toward the stern were (L-R) Matt, Jenn (facing away), Eric and Sam.

In this photo should note that the wire cable coming off of the winch is taut. This means that we were in the middle of a bottom trawl using an otter-trawl net.  

And the rain kept on coming down...

When it was time to retrieve the net, someone has to guide the cable back onto the spool so it goes side to side and doesn't wrap up too much in one place.  Liv volunteered to do that job of a deckhand during one of the retrievals.

We attempted two bottom trawls, but, alas, the net was fouled and we didn't get any samples either time.  So, sadly the efforts to bottom trawl were a bust.  By this time many in the group were wet and chilled so we headed back in.  By the time we docked we'd been been out for three hours...just like the crew and passengers of the SS Minnow (Gilligan's Island), except we made it back to shore a-okay!

Here were a couple of nice finds.  This first one is something that I'd know about for a long, long time, but I'd never seen a live one.  This is a planula larva of a cnidarian, possibly a sea anemone.  If successful, it will settle down someplace and metamorphose into a juvenile anemone or some other kind of cnidarian.

If you look carefully in the center of this photograph you'll see something that looks like it has clusters of needles sticking out of it.  It is a larval annelid worm of some kind.  It will eventually elongate and start adding segments.  It will then settle out of the water and become a juvenile worm.  Very cool stuff, right?

By the end of the afternoon we were all pretty well bushed, and ready to rest up for the next day.

This outing was the last of our scheduled marine biology class field experiences.  From now on we will still have daily lectures and the rest of each day will be devoted to student research.

MBFE - Monday and Tuesday 5/13-14 - Lecture and research

Sorry this posting is not particularly action packed, but some days are like that.  But wait until the next posting...

Yep, we have reached that stage of the MBFE where our days are now taken up by one lecture each day and the rest of that day is devoted to research.  So, there's not a lot to tell about Monday 5/13, except that we spent about 2.5 hours in the morning learning about the plankton community.  On Tuesday our topic was shallow water benthic communities, like soft-sediment habitats, kelp forests and seagrass beds.

We did this in preparation for our final class outing - a trip on the University of Oregon's research vessel, the RV Pluteus, but that's a tale for the next posting.

The research teams are getting underway nicely.  More on that another time.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 16, 2019

MBFE - Saturday and Sunday 5/11-12 - WHALES!

The main event that happened this weekend was when some of the MBFE students discovered a gray whale had swum into the mouth of Coos Bay, just across from the OIMB campus.  That whale spent several hours circling in the bay before it found its way out.

Here's a picture showing a gray whale blowing, and just how close to shore this whale was.  That is the Charleston Harbor Breakwater Beach in the background.  The photograph was taken from the OIMB Boathouse pier.

This photograph shows the back of a gray whale as it's going under.

Whales were also spotted the next day farther out, toward the mouth of the bay.  Here is a pic showing a couple of whales up at the same time.

It's always a joy to see whales.  There were another 3-5 out there at the same time, but too far out to see much more than the mist from their blows.

In the meantime, students visited research sites, collected specimens for studies they plan to carry out, and gathered equipment and gear they would need for their research.

On Sunday, we attended the North Bend Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  That evening we invited a couple of members of that ward to participate in our weekly Sunday evening group "home evening" gathering.  The couple that joined us were the local congregation's advisors to their young single adult group.  We had a good meeting and a great discussion, about mothers and other women who have had a significant impact on our lives.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

MBFE - Friday 5/10 - Docks, piers and pilings, a trip to the SSNERR, and the OIMB Friday afternoon seminar

We hit the ground running Friday morning.  We started with a lecture/discussion on the pier, dock, and piling communities.  This an extremely interesting community because floating docks often have a mixture of intertidal and subtidal species attached to them.

Following lecture, we had enough time before lunch to go down to the docks and take a look at life there.

So, how does one study a floating dock community, without getting soaked?  Like this...

Let Anne demonstrate.

And here are (L-R) Matt, Eric and Collin taking a close look.

Caleb and Sam won't be outdone.

...nor Caleb!

Here are Emma and Victoria taking a good, long look...

...and Ben too!

Here are are (L-R) Michelle, Jenn, Maddy and Liv hard at work.

And here are just a few examples of what they could see...giant subtidal barnacles...

...sea anemones...

...sponges, mussels other sessile organisms...

...a chiton, mussel, barnacle, and more... tube worms and more anemones.

Not to worry, our work day wasn't done before lunch.  After lunch we all headed to SSNERR - South Slough National Estuary Research Reserve.  This is one of only five such wetland and estuary research reserves on the west coast of the United States.  So it's awesome that we have such easy access to it!

Here's the crew walking through the lush Oregon coastal forest - it feels downright primeval, like you'd expect to see dinosaurs crashing through the underbrush at any time.

And here's part of the crew looking out over the South Slough mud flat and tidal marsh.  

Here's the crew posing up on a bridge over one of the tidal creek channels. (L-R) Kathrine (Holyoak). Hunter, Sam, Eric, Ben, Anne, Liv, Chey, Collin, Matt, Caleb, Victoria, Maddy, Emma, Jenn and Michelle (top, back).

Somewhere along the way someone picked up a small garter snake, and it took a liking to Caleb, wrapping itself tightly around his thumb.

Here's another shot of the crew making their way along a path at the reserve.  What a beautiful place!

We wrapped up the week by attending the OIMB Friday seminar.  This week the presenter was Heidi Fuchs, Rutgers University, whose talk was titled "Waves and turbulence as navigational signals for dispersing larvae.”  It was an interesting talk about two closely related species of larval snails, one that lived inshore and one that lives offshore, and the different ways they respond to waves and turbulence.

MBFE - Thursday 5/9 - MUD! And research proposals.

If this is Thursday, then it must be time to go play in the mud!

And that's just what we did.  Shortly after breakfast we booted up and strolled down the street, across the road and down onto the Charleston Harbor mudflat.  Luckily we had a warm, sunny day, though somehow it feels more appropriate to do this fieldwork when it rains. :-)

Here are is the group, divided into three field teams just getting started.  Their task for the day was to collect the data they needed to generate a vertical profile from the water's edge all the way to the high tide line, perhaps 200 meters away.  

To do this, they used the same equipment they used to generate the vertical profile along a rock shore, except that when they did that they collected data ever meter along the transect line.  But, here they collected data every 10 meters.

Walk, measure, dig, identify, move on...

Here are Victoria and Caleb on the poles, Anne taking notes and  Live and Jenn getting ready to play (er collect data) in the mud.

The next team had Sam and Eric on the poles, with Michelle, Ben and Matt getting ready to collect data.

And the last group had Emma and Maddy on the poles, and Hunter, Chey and Collin collecting data.

The students were surprised to find as many cool things as they did living in the mud, including worms, clams and mud shrimp.  Plus, at the water's edge there were many juvenile Dungeness crabs and some small flatfish as well.  Neat!

It took nearly three hours, but, THEY DID IT!  It really was a great day, and an experience the students will not soon forget.

Then, in the afternoon we spent another hour and a half discussing a case study of restoration ecology in the nearby South Slough National Estuary Research Reserve in preparation for our planned visit there the next day.

Thursday evening I met with each research team and we discussed the the feasibility of their plans.  Here's what they came up with:

Team 1: Jenn and Hunter - They propose to study the adhesive strength of high intertidal limpets on rocky shores as a strategy for avoiding being swept away by heavy wave action.

Team 2: Liv, Sam and Victoria - they originally planned to do a project involving the top predator sea star Pisaster, but since those sea stars are still recovering from the recent sea star wasting disease epidemic that hit the entire west coast a few years ago, they switched to doing a research project using juvenile Dungeness crabs to test their substrate preferences.

Team 3: Emma and Maddy - These two are going to do a population demographics study on the black turban snail, Tegula funebralis. They plan to collect data on their size and age between different locations.

Team 4: Michelle and Caleb - This team originally wanted to test adhesive power of the chiton Mopalis muscosa, but since switched to a population demographics study examining individual size by location.

Team 5: Collin and Chey - This team plans to do a variant on a study done in Great Britain testing the effects of a chemical on the feeding response time of the sea anemone Anthopleura elegentassima.  They are still working out the details, but they are leaning toward looking at the effects of sunscreen on these animals.

Team 6: Eric and Matt - This team is going to look at the inter-clonal fighting responses of the sea anemone Anthopleura elegantissima.  Sort of a gladiator wars study.

Team 7: Anne and Ben - This team proposed to do a descriptive developmental biology study examining the timing of development of embryos of the high intertidal limpet Lottia digitalis.  That is, if they can get them to spawn.  We all have our fingers crossed. 

Sunday, May 12, 2019

MBFE Weds 5/8/2019 - Back to South Cove, Cape Arago State Park

Tuesday afternoon we spent a couple of hours discussion strategies intertidal marine organisms have for dealing with water flow forces, as well as desiccation stresses, etc.  And today we had the best low tide so far (-1.0' MLLW) and fantastic weather so we headed to South Cove, Cape Arago State Park, where I cut the group loose to look for examples of the strategies we discussed the previous day. 

It was still cloudy when we arrived around 8am, but within an hour the fog and clouds burned off and we had an absolutely lovely, sunny, warm and calm day.  Students were not assigned to research teams, but they are always expected to use the buddy system while at the shore - just for safety.

Here Hunter, Collin, Chey and Liv head out toward the rocky shore.

It didn't take long for Victoria to make a lucky find, though the crab got her back with a nasty pinch to the thumb.  Victoria handled it with grace and a smile.  And, of course, other class members wanted to meet this crab as well...





It's always fun to me to watch the MBFE students develop friendships and meld into a working team during the field experience.  Some friendships that start here can last a lifetime.

Here are Hunter, Michelle, Maddy and Jen clowning around with a bull kelp.

Anne, Caleb and Sam explore the lower intertidal zone.

And here Collin, Jen, Victoria, Maddy and Emma share a discovery.

After spending a couple of productive hours at South Cove, we decide to strike out on an adventure and work our way around the point between South Cove and Middle Cove.  

This requires not a small amount of scrambling over rocks and pools.  It was fun though.

We made it to Middle Cove.  Interestingly, South Cove is a protected rocky shore, while Middle Cove is an exposed rocky shore, and so has different things to offer.

These are the kinds of experiences that the MBFE students remember for the rest of their lives.

Normally, we have lecture in the afternoon after a morning like this, but the weather was simply fantastic, so I released the students to enjoy the sunny, warm weather on the Oregon coast (a relatively rare thing).  I later learned I would have had to cancel class anyway because there was a scheduled power outage at the lab that I knew nothing about.  Serendipity!

Not to worry, I have a full day planned for tomorrow.