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

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.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015


My shirt came in and it looks great! Since people were interested in buying one of their own, I created a site where you can order one. Feel free to change the colors and style.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Field photos

What is it like when I do collections in the intertidal? Here are some photos from my last trip to the intertidal rocks by Hopkins Marine Station on May 11.

This is what we look like looking for snails!

I found a snail!

I found a nudibranch with cool spots; the ringed dorid, 
Diaulula sandiegensis!

Yay for field helpers!

The biggest purple encrusting sponge I'd ever seen!

Weird worms in the mussel bed! Maybe they are
peanut worms, but I really have no idea.

This is what we look like collecting mussels!

Is that whelk eating that chiton?!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

New Field and Lab Work

It's been too long since I've posted any updates! But this is for a good reason: I've been busy doing my research!

Since my Oregon Site Scouting entry, I've done a lot. Below I attempted to summarize the most important events, but the list kept growing, so it is more of a bulleted story.
  • Finalized my collecting methods
  • Set up the seawater table to organize and contain my live snails
  • Collected at Soberanes Point and Hopkins Marine Station
  • Put my live animals in the seawater table
  • Started training undergraduate interns to help me
  • Had my mom and her friend over for Easter weekend
  • Changed and improved the way my animals are kept in the seawater table
  • Collected more mussels to feed the live snails
  • Attended a fisheries conference
    • Presented a poster
    • Got a flat tire
    • Was called up to receive a poster award while I was outside fixing my flat tire
  • Met with my advisor and reevaluated and redefined my collecting methods
  • Cracked my windshield loading a longboard into my car
  • Sampled my Lompoc Landing site located within Vandenberg Air Force Base
  • Used my poster prize money to buy a new windshield
  • Started a side project for one of my interns
  • Collected at Bodega Marine Reserve with an intern
  • Talked to a professor at Bodega Marine Reserve who is asking very similar questions in almost the same system as me
    • Feared getting scooped again
    • Talked to my advisor, who said it will be fine and I should continue my current plan
    • Regained confidence and continued my current plan
  • Drove on Highway 1 north of SF and learned how extremely windy and slow it is and never to do it again
  • Cleaned and froze mussels
  • Froze and cleaned mussels
  • Ran in the Big Sur Marathon with an old college roommate
  • Revived my old laptop and designated it the lab computer
  • Wrote and adapted protocols to clean, dry, weigh, and measure mussels
  • Cleaned, dried, weighed and measured mussels
  • Reorganized the live snails in the seawater table
  • Ordered my first specialized, expensive tool—a point micrometer—to measure mussel shell thickness
  • Used an electric drill for the first time to build part of a new water delivery system for the snails in the seawater table
  • Tried to make up a protocol to collect data for my intern, but got mixed up and confused
  • Had extra volunteers help me out and realized too late I didn't explain my procedures well enough
  • Went to a mentoring workshop so I can be a better mentor (that was today)
As you can see, there have been ups and downs. This is natural. I fully expect that I will have to go back to all these sites and really do it right. I think that the data I collect now from my collections will be more like pilot data that I use to see if I should go back and collect again with fewer to no mistakes. I realize, however, that mistakes always happen, so I should expect the worst even if I hope for the best.

Here are photos of the above events, roughly in chronological order. Enjoy!

Collecting at Soberanes Point in Big Sur, CA.

When my mom visited, we found a great Brazilian restaurant and went to the 

On the left is the surfboard that caused
the crack! Boooo 10 ft fiberglass boards!

A view of Lompoc Landing through my cracked windshield.

Sampling at Lompoc Landing in Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The finish line at the Big Sur Marathon.

A mussel to be measured.

Wet lab set up. There are whelks 
and mussels in those cups.

Yellow whelk eggs produced in the lab. Those are actually 
egg capsules. The eggs are much smaller and inside.

A dancing whelk. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Oregon Site Scouting

Last weekend I went to the Oregon coast to look at the sites I want to sample. Primarily, though, I was in Portland for my old college roommate's wedding; congratulations, Rachel and Max!

Purely by curious observation, I learned a lot about intertidal life in Oregon and how it's different than in California. This seemed backwards to me because I grew up in Oregon and was first inspired to study intertidal ecology because of Oregon tidepools. Fifteen years later, I finally feel like I understand something about them... but only in California. I won't give up on you, Oregon! I'm still charmed by your windy coasts and incredibly productive intertidal communities, and I have many years left to learn about them.

To spare your eyes a block of text, and since I took many photos, here's a picture montage of where I went and what I learned. All of these are original photos with no digital editing.

The bridge in Newport, OR over Yaquina Bay.
Near OSU's Hatfield Marine Science Center.

The bridge in Newport, OR over Yaquina Bay.
Near OSU's Hatfield Marine Science Center.

Rouge Brewing's world headquarters. 
Near OSU's Hatfield Marine Science Center.
Yaquina Bay Bridge in the background.

Yaquina South Jetty. I looked for mussels here,
but found none.

A research vessel entering Yaquina Bay.

Oregon coast beach. I never suspected my first thought would
be: I'd surf that. Santa Cruz is getting to me.

Looking for more places off Hwy 101 to collect just mussels. 

Another field site: Strawberry Hill (STR). I'm not sure yet how it
was named. I didn't see strawberries, but they might come out in 
the summer. This was actually the wrong spot...

...this is the spot at STR where I am going to sample. This is
where there is (I think) some long-term diversity data. The
following photos are all from STR.

Nucella whelk on a mussel at STR. It's probably not 
eating the mussel because apparently the whelks in 
Oregon rarely eat mussels, and when they do, they 
eat a different species than the one shown here.

View of the land from the intertidal at STR.


Some super cute green anemones showing off their bright green 
photosynthetic symbionts in the full Oregon sun. 

Was something boring into this whelk? Can you feel the irony?

That's a huge mussel! It was the size of my hand! I've never
seen them that big in California.

Ha, I caught you! Those two whelks were totally eating mussels. 
Maybe they gave up on barnacles because they just kept settling
on the whelk's shell, mocking it.

S/he was determined not to let go. I left her/him attached
so s/he could finish eating when the tide came up.

There were so many whelks here, I had a really hard time not 
stepping on them. 

View of the ocean from the STR intertidal site.

Evidence of whelk predation? Maybe, but there's
no way to know which species made that hole...
unless there is, but no one has studied that yet. 
Thesis chapter?

A cheery tidepool. 

A whelk doing its whelky thing.

Is this what the world looks like from a whelk's point of view?

Albino mussel? Why is it orangey-tan? There were about 1 in
1000 of this color.

Whelks will be whelks.

I spy a bright orange Nucella

 I saw several healthy sea stars—at least a dozen—and no diseased
stars. Yay! This one is having a meal. 

See how beautiful this site is? Don't you want to help me collect field data?