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

Friday, January 22, 2016

First Ocean Acidification Experiment

I am excited to be running my very own ocean acidification experiment!

For the last two months I have been planning and executing an experiment testing the feeding behaviors and abilities of Nucella dogwhelk snails from different sites in different pH treatments. To my great satisfaction, everything has been working according to plan. As a result of this experiment, I will witness sunrise outside every day for at least 14 days straight! Hooray!

Thanks sooo much to the volunteers who have helped me every step of the way. You guys are super great!

Enjoy these pictures of the process!

Pre-experiment holding tank.

The experimental setup. Snails are in the baskets in
bins covered with acrylic sheets weighted with cinder blocks.

Experimental bin.
The marine lab when I get there in the morning.

Snail in a basket. It fell on its back and is trying to right itself.

Snails in baskets. The snail on the right is drilling that mussel!

A snail in a basket drilling a mussel.

Filling bottles with water samples to measure pH.

We even do it all in the rain!

Snail drilling a mussel.

Snails resting on the underside of the lid.

The little mussel was eaten by that snail!

This snail has its proboscis through the hole it drilled in the
right valve of this mussel. Since the mussel is open, you can see
the snail's proboscis on the inside!

Sunrise during sampling.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Field pictures

I was browsing through my photos and found some cool ones I took at Soberanes Point and Bodega Marine Reserve. Enjoy these close-up views of intertidal life!

A Nucella emarginata dogwhelk drilling a Mytilus californianus mussel (center). Around it are Tetraclita barnacles (pink and volcano-shaped) and Policipes barnacles (gooseneck barnacles; white with plates). Taken at Soberanes Point in July 2015.

The unsuspecting Nucella emarginata drilling Mytilus californianus right before I pulled it off to see what damage it had done! The mussel appears to be alive  still because it is closed. Once a mussel dies, it gapes open because it only has closing muscles.  Taken at Soberanes Point in July 2015.

Nucella emarginata dogwhelk (right) and the drill hole it was making in Mytilus californianus (center).  Taken at Soberanes Point in July 2015.

A dogwhelk foot! Also shown in this picture are Mytilus californianus adults and recruits (aka babies; lower left), Policipes recruits (with white spots and also in the lower left), and some mussel byssus (the thread-like things all around but most obviously at the top).  Taken at Soberanes Point in July 2015.

A tidepool at sunset at Bodega Marine Reserve. Photo taken 11 Nov 2015 by Cornelius R. Pickering.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Friday Harbor Labs Course in Ocean Acidification

This summer I took a wonderful 5-week course in ocean acidification (OA) at the Friday Harbor Labs. I learned an incredible amount about how OA works in the ocean, what our current state of knowledge is, how to set up robust experiments testing for OA, and how to measure OA! This course was essential to my major research question, "Are Nucella populations locally adapted to seawater pH?"

The ocean naturally absorbs gasses from the atmosphere. When this occurs, the dissolved gasses react with seawater and various compounds in it. Since the ocean is extremely huge, covering about three-quarters of the planet, gasses that dissolve in it from the air usually don't change the seawater in any big way. But since recently there is an extremely and ridiculously excessive level of carbon dioxide in the air, like billions of tons, well, actually, 236 petagrams, or 236 trillion kilograms, or 260,100,000,000 tons added since 1750, it turns out that carbon dioxide gas is changing seawater chemistry[1]. It decreases the pH and makes it more acidic. How will this affect marine life? It is difficult to say, but it is generally accepted right now that it will negatively affect calcifying plankton. This can mean big trouble for anything that relies on plankton for food (i.e., everything in the ocean).

I am now planning an OA experiment that will test if predatory snail populations are affected by seawater pH. Maybe their prey choice depends on seawater pH, which could mean they are differentially structuring prey populations throughout their range as a result of the changing climate. I also want to test if there are site-specific differences in their reactions that could be due to a genetic predisposition.

Here are some pictures from this summer's course! Most of the photos are by one of the students who took the course with me, Jack Koch, who now attends Oregon State University.

Learning to use pH equipment in the field.

Measuring the pH of tidepools at Deadman Cove.

A fishing boat off the west side of the island.

A sea plane, possibly with Mt. Baker in the background on the left.

Islands in the San Juan Archipelago.

On San Juan Island.

Most of my classmates on a short hike around the labs.

The following photos are by Alexandra Bausch (but not the anemone photo):
Kayak trip to see orcas.

Jack Koch, the great photographer who took many of the pictures above!

A ferry arriving at Friday Harbor.

My favorite instrument: the bull kelp horn!

There are no pictures of the experiment I did with anemones during the course, which is unfortunate but not surprising given that one usually only thinks to take pictures of play and not work. But here is an anemone we did not experiment on!

I just noticed there are a bunch of Nucella canaliculata cuddling up next to the anemone. Cuteness!

1. Howes, E. L., Joos, F., Eakin, M., & Gattuso, J.-P. (2015). The Oceans 2015 Initiative, Part 1, (March).

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Summer Research Interns

This summer I had the wonderful opportunity to mentor two high school students. For ten weeks, Nicole and Evan worked on a project to understand more about mussels and their dogwhelk predators from different sites in California and Oregon. They collected mussels with boreholes at intertidal sites, then cleaned and measured their size and thickness. They also measured the size of the boreholes to learn more about the dogwhelks that ate them. Dogwhelks eat mussels by drilling holes into their shells and slurping up the insides.

As my first high-school mentoring experience, I wasn't sure what to expect. But I was so impressed with these two! They were extremely hard-working and bright, and did an excellent job. I know they both will achieve great things post-high school.

Enjoy some photos of their project this summer!

Nucella egg capsules (the yellow things) at Soberanes Point in Big Sur, CA. We found these in one of our sampling plots.

This is where we raise the dogwhelks. Each cup contains dogwhelks from a particular plot at each site. The red cups contain egg capsules and baby dogwhelks born in the lab.

We set up a camera to look through a dissecting microscope to see the baby 
dogwhelks that had been born in the lab.

This is a baby dogwhelk, probably just a few days old. It is about 1 mm long. Babies metamorphose in the egg capsule, so when they hatch, they are look like mini adults. You can see the shell whorl and right through the shell to its eyespots! Ignore the random piece of blue fuzz near its head.

Another baby dogwhelk, about a few days old. The black dots are its eyes (or light-sensing organs, at least)!

Here we are doing the weekly check on the dogwhelk cups. This includes counting the adult dogwhelks, making sure they have enough food, and checking for new egg capsules. 

A bored mussel shell from Bodega to be measured. Can you find the borehole?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Friday, June 12, 2015

RC Lab Research Media Attention

Another Raimondi graduate student, Monica Moritsch, is doing really exciting research on the recent sea star epidemic. It attracted writers from the Canadian Hakai Magazine who wrote a piece on her work and made a short video. Check it out!

Caught in the Act

This week was very exciting because my first high school intern, Evan, came to help with and learn about my research! Once Nicole finishes finals and comes next week we will take a group photo for the blog.

Since Evan was able to help out this week, we cleaned and counted the snails I currently have in the seawater table. When he was cleaning one of the cups, he caught a whelk in the act of eating! It had its proboscis extended into the gape of a mussel and it looked pink at the end, as if it were sucking up pink mussel flesh. I was so excited to see this I took several pictures. It was not easy to get it in focus, but see below for the best photos I could get.

A Nucella sp. dogwhelk eating a large mussel by extending its proboscis into the mussel shell.