Friday, May 31, 2013

Day 27 - Our last full day at OIMB, and my last posting from OIMB for MBFE 2013

The day started fairly early.  Seven of the nine remaining members of the MBFE gathered after breakfast to go to the South Slough National Estuary Research Reserve (SSNERR).  We hopped into my van, I turned the key, the dashboard lights dimmed and I heard that sickening buzz that happens when the battery is dead. Sigh.  I sent them on in other vehicles to the SSNERR to go on an interpretive canoe outing while I stayed here and spent my morning with the good people at the local dealership.

In the meantime Elysa and Mackenzie (who didn't go to SSNERR this morning) rinsed out the MBFE buckets, wiped down the lab table tops, and generally tidied up around the lab.  Thanks!

The SSNERR group reported a fantastic experience upon their return to OIMB.  They said that they gained an increased appreciation for estuaries and wetlands and their ecological roles.  I will try to take advantage of that experience for future MBFE groups.

I was walking back toward my cottage after lunch and noticed hummingbirds zipping around a group of flowering bushes, so I grabbed by camera, wondering if I'd be able to catch any of them on "film"...yeah, I know we don't really use film any more, but you know what I mean.

Rufous Hummingbird (female)
OIMB Campus, Charleston, OR
(c) 2013 Alan Holyoak

This afternoon students worked on tidying things up, worked on manuscripts, and then around 4p a volleyball game broke out. It included BYU-Idaho and U Oregon students.

 L-R: Lindsey, Tony, Daniel, UO student, UO student, Bailey, Jessica, Kristin, Dallas

While the game was going on I slipped into the lab and packed up most of our gear.  It's a happy and sad thing to be saying goodbye to OIMB.

We had one last official class activity.  We attended the OIMB Public Seminar for their semester.  It was given by Dr. Richard Feely, Senior Research Scientist, NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration).  Dr. Feely is a chemical oceanographer who is recognized as a world authority on the topic of ocean acidification, and is a co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his work with the IPCC.  He gave a great talk.

Dr.Richard Feely before the OIMB Friday Public Seminar.

Now all there is to do is load up and head back home.

As I write this last posting from OIMB I want everyone out there to know that each member of the BYU-Idaho MBFE class pulled their weight, worked hard and well, and made this a pleasant experience for everyone in our group and at OIMB.  I talked with Dr. Craig Young, OIMB lab director, this evening and he told me that everybody at the lab from faculty to students and staff had nothing but good things to say about our group.

Tomorrow the rest of the group heads home, except for Lindsey who catches a flight on Sunday.

I want to thank everyone in this first MBFE for your dedication, hard work, willingness to get along and make things work, and for your patience at the somewhat loose schedule that a first offering of an experience like this unavoidably includes.  I look forward to receiving and reviewing each research manuscript, exam, and slide set, and to seeing what you end up doing in your professional lives.

Thanks again!  -- Dr. Holyoak

Day 26 - Time to go to sea...and report in...

The main even today was going out on the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology's research vessel, the R/V Pluteus.  FYI, a pluteus is a larval stage of sea urchins, sand dollars, and brittle stars.  Expectations and morale was high (OK, moral is always high) as we boarded.  The boat captain, Larry, was kind enough to take our class photo.  Click on the photo to see a larger image.

We didn't actually go to sea, though we did go on a "3-hour tour" in Coos Bay where we carried out bottom trawls and plankton tows.

Spring 2013 BYU-Idaho Marine Biology Field Experience Class Photo
R/V Pluteus of the OIMB
L-R: Dr. Holyoak (on dock), Tony, Daniel, Blake, Dallas, Kristin, Tyrel, Jessica, Bailey, Patrick, Elysa, Mackenzie, Lindsey
(c) 2013 Alan Holyoak

Before we left the dock Cap'n Larry gave us some important safety instructions.  Here are a few of his sage words of counsel and instruction.

First of all he reminded us that... must be at least this tall to ride this ride.

Next he informed us that on The R/V Pluteus we always...
 ..."Put your left foot in, and put your left foot out..."

Seriously, Cap/n Larry was very good.  He's retired Coast Guard, and he took good care of us.

As soon as we left the dock, out came the cameras. And why not?  How many times do many of the MBFE students have to do this?  Not many.

L-R: Daniel, Tony, Blake, Dallas, Kristin, Bailey, Patrick

Once we reached out destination in the bay it was time to get to work. 
Cap'n Larry instructs Patrick and Blake on how to deploy the trawl net

They listened well, and Patrick and Blake deploy the net.

At the same time Tyrel runs the winch that lowers the net.  Note Ty's serious expression of concentration.

And the net came up.
Daniel and Patrick and...crabs

Kristin made a new friend...that she then released.

L-R: Daniel, Tyrel, Lindsey, Patrick and Dallas check out the haul.

We did more than one haul, so students took turns running the winch, deploying the net...
Bailey lowers the trawl net.

Jessica retrieves it...

Tony takes a turn on the winch too.

Partway through our "Three-hour tour" we hit a small squall...

...but spirits remained high on the main deck.
L-R: Elysa, Mackenzie, ???, Lindsey, Kristin

...and on the bow some of the guys pose for the camera...OK, Blake did.
L-R: Blake, Dallas, Daniel, Tony

The weather turned nicer again as we headed back to the harbor, and Daniel and Dallas take this rare opportunity and captive crowd to show off their newly acquired OIMB Dining Hall physiques.

I'm happy to report that from all indications new and potentially life-long friendships were made during the MBFE.  Here, for example, is "Team Slug" (Elysa and Mackenzie), two of the students heavily involved in following and describing the embryonic development of a number of sea slugs.

So that was what happened this morning.

This afternoon each research team presented results of their research.  This was the last official class activity of the MBFE.  I'm happy to report that everyone worked exceedingly well, and did good jobs on their presentations, though I still have to crunch some numbers before I know their oral presentation scores.

And last, but surely not least...the first group of MBFE students left for home.  Seeing Blake, Tyrel, and Patrick drive off when the group presentations were done was almost like seeing kids leaving home - it was the beginning of the end of the BYU-Idaho 2013 MBFE.

Though today ended up another great day, it started out on a sad note.  Somehow the water was either turned off or never got turned on in Roxanne's tank when she was put back in last night, and she was dead when I checked the lab this morning.  In order to avoid this being a total loss I preserved her and will take her back to BYU-Idaho to be added to our teaching collection.  Sigh.  This is sad, very sad.  I would personally prefer to have seen her taken back to the tide pool where she was collected.

Anyway, as President Clark would say, it's another great day in the MBFE.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Day 25 - Our last lecture

It's now afternoon on Weds 5/29, and things are starting to wind down for the first ever BYU-Idaho Marine Biology Field Experience.  Oh, don't get me wrong, there is still a lot to do, but this morning we had our last lecture.  We spent about 2.5 hours discussing human impacts on the sea.  You know, fisheries, pollution, introduced species, climate change, etc.  It's too bad that the last lecture topic of the trip is so sad, but it's an important one to touch on.

On the happy side, in honor of our new class pet, I shared a children's book with the class before we started today's class meeting.  It's called "I Was All Thumbs" by Bernard Waber (also creator of "Lyle, Lyle the Crocodile").  It's about an octopus that lived with in a tank in a scientist's lab...anyway, the book is now out of print, but when my wife heard that we found an octopus she scanned our dog-eared copy and sent it to me via email.

It was well received.  Kudos to my wife!

And so we had our last class meeting, followed by lunch.  At lunch we were talking about how the class is winding down, and they were saying how hard it is to believe that we are almost done.  Elysa said "I could live like this forever."  They all agreed that it was work, but fun work.

I have to say that I have not heard a discouraging word this whole trip from anyone.  Not about the accommodations, the food, the field trips, classes, time requirements, the weather, or anything. What a great bunch!

We wrapped up the day with a class meeting at 7:15pm.  We met to go over timing for the outing on the research vessel tomorrow morning, and to give class members info and a chance to sign up and fill out waiver forms for the canoeing trip on Friday.

I knew things were winding down when I needed to send a sheet around to get everyone's departure dates and times.  But, like I mentioned before, we are not's what the rest of the trip looks like.

Thursday 5/30 - We are scheduled to go out on the lab's research vessel to do some bottom sampling and collect some plankton.  That afternoon each research team will also give a 10-15 min oral presentation of their work to the rest of the group, and they also submit their lab/research notebooks for final evaluation.

Friday 5/31 - We are scheduled to go to the South Slough National Estuary Research Reserve where an educational specialist there will lead our group on an interpretive canoe outing on the slough.  Then Friday night at 7pm, a co-recipient of the Nobel Prize for work on Climate Change will be at OIMB talking about ocean acidification.  That should be extremely interesting.

So, the rest of today is taken up by students working on their lab notebooks, doing statistics and putting final touches on their oral reports.  I can't wait to see what they discovered.

Day 24 - Sundays and "Not Sundays"

The days and weeks are zooming past, and I have to admit that it's extremely hard for me to remember exactly what day it is while we are here.  It finally dawned on me that because our days start early and go late, and we are busy all day long the days sort of stream together.  Plus, while we are busy every day, there is little that we do that is day specific, well, except for Sundays.

That's when it hit me.  During an experience like this there are only two days of the week: Sundays and "Not Sundays".  

On "Not Sundays" we hit breakfast around 7am, then prepare for the day, do some morning chores...writing, research, as needed, followed by a few hours of lecture at 9a or 10a.  About then the lunch bell rings and off we go.  When the tide is low we either go somewhere as a class or research teams head off to collect field data.  In the meantime other research teams collaborate on writing or visit the library to do background literature searches in the scientific literature.  This goes on until dinner time (5:30pm).  After dinner students return to writing, research, or the lab as needed.  In the meantime I prep and review course material for the next day.  I also chat with students about research, statistical questions, manuscript formatting, etc.

Today's lecture topic was Tropical Communities with an emphasis on coral reefs.

You may be happy to hear that yesterday in the mid-afternoon several of the crew decided that they needed an ice cream break, so off they went, walking down the road to "Davey Jones Locker", a small convenience store about a 5 min walk from OIMB to score some ice cream.

Just in case you are curious, "Roxanne" the octopus is doing well.  She's eaten some fish and getting along fine in her holding tank.  Here's a close-up photo of her for your viewing pleasure.

Tomorrow is the last class lecture.  Then Thursday we go out on the OIMB research vessel for the morning, and on Friday the class will do some canoeing on the South Slough Research Reserve.

So that's it for now.  It's time to take full advantage of another "Not Sunday".

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Day 23 - Rainy Days and Mondays...

...don't get us down when the tide is low - I mean, really low!  The low tide this morning was -2.2'.  Woot!  That's enough to make a marine biologist's heart sing.  We weren't about to waste it.

Elysa and Mackenzie left before breakfast to collect data for a project they've been wanting to get to.  They want to know about the genetic ratio of blue to brown shelled mussels at a site we visited earlier on the trip, and they finally found time to look into it.

Jessica and Bailey left right after breakfast to collect data for their plankton study.

Most of the rest of us headed off to Bastendorf Beach.  Before you start thinking we were going to have "a day at the beach" you should know that a front blew in over the weekend making this day gray, wet, and windy.  There were small; craft advisories out, and sustained winds of at least 35mph.  Still, the outing was a MAJOR success...just ask Dallas and Daniel.

 "A Day at the the Beach"
-2.2' low tide, Bastendorf Beach, Oregon

Dallas and Daniel, "The Octopus Hunters"

Dallas spotted another octopus in a tide pool, and they would not be denied.  They ended up removing the rocks (er...boulders) from a rock pool and then used a bucket to empty the pool so they could find the octopus.

It is now the class pet.  It has since been named "Roxanne"...don't ask me why, but I think both of those guys went to bed with grins still on their faces.

Dallas and "Roxanne"

The octopus is about 18" long, and is fun.  It will be taken back to its tide pool in a few days.

Blake and I, in the meantime, went down to South Cove to catch the low tide there.  We didn't find any octopus there, but even with the wind and rain it was a good outing.

This is what our day looked like.  Even so, when the tide is low, you go.  Blake told me that this is work, but that it's really fun so it's not like work at all.  

We spent a couple of hours after lunch in a lecture about polar marine systems, mainly Antarctica, and we wrapped up the class day with a 7pm class meeting where students shared some of the reading they've been doing for their projects - this is for their Readings in Biology credit.

And that's a wrap!  

Stay tuned for more adventures of the BYU-Idaho Marine Biology Field Experience.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Day 22 - Sunday 5/26 - creating a counter-culture splash in the dining hall

Here we are, our fourth Sunday in Oregon.  We figured out after the first week that we would have enough time to attend the full 3-hour block of Church (9-noon) and still get back in time for lunch if we left the chapel as soon as Church is over.

Lunch is served in the Dining Hall for only 30 mins, so we pull into the lab, park, and go straight to lunch.  The counter-culture effect is that the Dining Hall is not a place where you normally see formal dining.  In fact, most of the time we see people wearing t-shirts, jeans, knee-high rubber boots, etc.  So seeing a group of a dozen students wheel in there wearing dresses, shirts, ties, etc., well, it raises a few eyebrows.  It's fun actually.

Last week some of the OU students even started asking questions.

And so today is a lot more calm than yesterday - it would have to be.

There are a few students who have to collect time sensitive data in the lab or field this afternoon, but aside from that, everyone is taking it easy.

There will be another game of "Settlers of Catan" around 3p, then FHE after dinner.  The planned FHE movie is "Finding Nemo,"  That's appropriate for our last Sunday.

That's the scoop for Day 22.  Stay tuned for updates on our last week of MBFE at OIMB.

Day 21 Part III - What BYU-Idaho Marine Biology Field Experience students do on their day off - Part III

About now you may be wondering if the fun and science ever stops...well, doesn't.

Remember the octopus that Dallas found in Posting #1 for today?  It expired shortly before dinner, so after dinner he dissected it with the rest of the crew looking on (and with some coaching...heh heh).

Dallas was in marine biologist heaven.

A few snips of the scissors later and he exposed the organs housed in the mantle...Elysa and Mackenzie look on.

The yellow structures are the gills...

Here's the buccal bulb, the structure that houses the beak and the radula.  That's the esophagus coming out the bottom of it.

Toward the end we released the contents of the ink sac into the dissection pan...viola - ink!

Here are MBFE class members enjoying one of the rites of passage into marine biology - writing with octopus or squid ink.

Patrick writes the same way he lives his BOLD font!

And Bailey labeled hers...just in case you're not sure what it is.

And last but not least, Dallas does his best imitation of "Davy Jones" from "Pirates of the Caribbean".

And that's a wrap for Day 21's postings.  Three weeks down, one to go.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Day 21 Part II - What BYU-Idaho Marine Biology Field Experience Students do on a Saturday AFTER lunch

We made it back from South Cove in time to stow our gear, rinse our boots, and head to the Dining Hall for lunch.

After lunch a group of intrepid sand castle-builders headed off to Bastendorf Beach.  It was sunny, and windy and not what I'd call warm, but off they went.  About an hour later I went by to see what they were up to, and here's what I found...

According to Patrick, they were building a "man-castle" not a sand castle.  I have to agree that it was big.

 (L-R) Lindsey, Ty, Blake, Tony, Kristin, Patrick

And then...
The sea attacked.  Luckily the tide was going out so this didn't happen too often.  I did hear later that after some other members of the group showed up that it shifted from being a castle to a pyramid plus a couple of Sphinxes.  

I have to give it to Lindsey and Kristin for giving skim boarding a try.  Here's Lindsey...
Caught it...

Lost it...

And she's OK

Now Kristin's turn...

Started out all right...


She came up smiling!

Now Tony's turn...
Nice release

Blake's yelling, no, feet front and back, not side-by-side :-)

The board stops, and he's least he's still mostly dry.

Ty's up...
The mount...

The glide...

And a classy dismount.

And,now,  Blake, the master...

 Looking good...