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

Friday, February 16, 2018

My first time recording drilling?

In my continued effort to record dogwhelk rasping, I think I finally got a dogwhelk to drill a mussel glued to my hydrophone! Previously, the dogwhelks drilled all the other mussels in the tank, but not the only mussel that we wanted them to drill.

We've captured this process using time-lapse photography, and here are a couple pictures: one with the lights on during the daytime and one with them off and a red light on at night.

Here's what you're seeing: The cord is connected to the hydrophone, which is a black puck-like object. The hydrophone is on top of a black mussel, and the dogwhelk is the grey-white thing on the mussel. This is easier to see in the not-red photo. There is also a smaller mussel just to the right of the larger mussel with the dogwhelk on it. The smaller mussel is only there because it was attached to the large one and I didn't want to disturb it by pulling it apart.  Finally, there is a thermometer in there with them, and the tank itself is in a cooler.

We have yet to go through the audio files to see what we can hear, but at least this time we know the snail was drilling in a quiet room, so the odds are in our favor to hear some rasps!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Dogwhelk rasping

My colleague Cory has been helping me try to record the rasping sounds of dogwhelks in the lab so we can tell when they are feeding and when they are just sitting still on a mussel. He's been working on figuring out all the hard- and software so far, and we are getting close! It turns out a small group of researchers at Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA is also developing a way to do this! And they shared one of their recordings online!

Ever wondered what dogwhelk drilling sounds like? Wonder no more.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

More November cage sampling

Here are more photos of my field work last week.

We have to take all the lids off every time we go out. 

On clear days we get a visit from these shorebirds! They blend in very well; how many can you see? 

Here is another borehole. 

Four painted snails in one shot! The orange one might be eating that large mussel.
These dogwhelks are from Lompoc, a site near Point Conception.

What is this arthropod-like creature squirming in the mussel matrix?

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.