Week 7 was a week of reaching out and doing new and exciting things. It began with fish seining in the South Slough. In brief, fish seining involves taking a giant net and pulling it into shore to see what fish are present at a given site. The reason for the trip was to help with an ongoing project on environmental DNA, or eDNA (not that one ever needs a reason to go fish seining - it’s a ton of fun!) Organisms leave behind small amounts of DNA in their environment. The goal of the eDNA project is to be able to identify what species are present at a given site by using these trace amounts of eDNA collected from water and soil. We went fish seining because we want to make sure that eDNA sampling doesn’t miss any species that could be picked up in this old fashioned way and to determine if the eDNA method picks up any species that we aren’t catching in our seine net.
I also journeyed this week out to Newport OR to work with green crab guru Sylvia Yamada. Sylvia is working to test how green crabs respond to synthetic food cues and pheromones. When I heard that she was having pheromones shipped she let me know and I drove up to Newport to give her a hand.
Sylvia and I were testing how green crabs responded to a cocktail of chemicals that crabs are supposed to sense as food. Our findings seem to indicate that during a given 24 hour sampling period the crabs couldn’t sense the chemicals because of the acidity of the water. This is because several of the compounds that make up the cue were broken up by the low pH of the surrounding seawater and the crabs couldn’t sense them.
Top Left - a trap loaded with a synthetic food cue
Top Right - a trap with old fashioned tuna
Bottom Left - A day’s worth of trapping - the old fashioned tuna was a clear winner
Bottom Right - Sylvia’s green crab traps out in a row
This week I didn’t just reach out to other researchers, I reached out as well to other members of the public. During my trapping in the South Slough I was accompanied by several high school students from the South Slough Reserve’s summer camp. These rambunctious volunteers assisted not only with my trapping, but helped me hone my communication skills. Hanging with these high schoolers forced me to clarify my language surrounding my project, and to not use the jargon and technical diction that makes understanding science needlessly difficult. I especially enjoyed teaching them the necessary tasks and then turning them loose. I had moments while measuring crabs in the lab when I had nothing to do because the kids took the initiative. I have some great photos from this session and all the credit goes to my fellow intern Makinna, I’ve attached a gallery below and links to some videos for viewing pleasure.
Finally outreach for the week concluded later at the Charleston Marine Life Center, where I got the chance to talk to folks both young and old about the European green crab. I went over how to identify it, why it isn’t always green, and where I’ve found it in the Coos Bay estuary. It was another great opportunity to practice communicating complex ideas clearly, and I hope that the viewers got as much out of the event as I did.
I’m a rising junior at the University of Pennsylvania studying ecology and evolutionary biology. When I’m not doing science I love doing pretty much anything outdoors. I’m an avid backpacker, runner, paddler and rockclimber. Finally I love to read fiction in pretty much any form.