How strange to call this planet 'Earth' when quite clearly it is ocean. Arthur C. Clarke

Monday, November 20, 2017

WSN conference poster

Last weekend I attended the Western Society of Naturalists annual meeting in Pasadena, California. I presented a poster about my ocean acidification study that tested the feeding behavior of drilling dogwhelks. It was a really fun weekend!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Octopus on mussel bed

We found this little dude crawling around the mussels beds last week.

Check out this article on their cool eyes!:

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Fun finds in the field

Today when we were checking the cages and counting the species in them, we saw some exciting intertidal things!

First, we found very obvious evidence that my predatory dogwhelks are indeed predators: there were many clear boreholes in mussels right next to them!

Here you can see a clean hole right through that mussel and my labeled dogwhelks—wearing pink and sparkly purple nail polish and circular orange number tags—in the background.

We also found an unexpected vertebrate in one of the cages!

Finally, a very active red octopus was crawling right next to us! I filmed it sliding by the cages and trying to hide under a flap.

It seems every time I go out I find something else I've never seen before, so check back soon for more updates!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Quality-checking DNA Sequences

I have updates on my genetics work! I have tried amplifying all my snail tissue samples now (and in many cases, I've tried multiple times), and the ones that amplified I've sent off to be sequenced. I finally got the sequences back and now it's time to check them for quality! I had always wondered what files with DNA sequences looked like: perhaps a text file with As, Cs, Ts, and Gs? Perhaps visualized in some cool color scheme in a program I don't have?

It turns out the latter was closer to the truth—at least with the program I am using. In 4Peaks, you view the sequences as colored peaks, called a chromatogram, where each color is a different nitrogenous base. Yesterday I learned how to distinguish between a clearly defined sequence read and a messy read that can't be used in analyses because we won't be able to tell the bases apart. Here's what that looks like!

This is a very clear read and will be used to help me identify the snail species!

This is a poor read. You can see that in many cases, multiple colors are peaking. That means we don't know what base is at that site.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Dogwhelks outplanted

The predator dogwhelks have been outplanted! Let the experiment begin!

Me weaving the lids on the cages with cable ties.

Some lidded cages and a no-cage control quadrat.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Cliff sign

Since my research site is so visible, I made a sign for people to check out when they see me working. So far, I've seen people reading it every day I've been out this week!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Baseline communities and predators ready

I am finally, finally, finally ready to record the official baseline communities in each plot and add the predatory snail treatments!

I thought I was ready to do this two weeks ago, but I didn't have a protocol for community assessment then, and by the time I developed it, the tides were not low enough so I had to wait two weeks. At least the low tides are in the daytime now!

I decided on a community sampling scheme that includes recording all the species of barnacles and algae in each cage, plus the total number of anemones and dead mussels, including those with boreholes. I'm also tracking the abundance of littorines (Littorina spp.), limpets (Lottia spp.), and turban snails (Tegula spp.). Right now those cover the vast majority of what I see in the plots; hopefully, that will change as the experiment proceeds, because it may mean my treatments are having an effect!

An open cage with a quadrat over it while we count 
the community of organisms living inside.

All the snails are labeled and colored according to what cage they will go in. All the cages have the same mean snail size so I don't confound predator treatment with size. In every cage, there will be five snails, and each is painted a different color so it will be easy to find all five each time I go out to check on them.

Two-thirds of the list of snail ID, color, and cage 
that tells me where each of the 120 snails goes.

I'll be out there every low this week, so if you see bright yellow construction vests down the cliff, you know what we're up to!