On Saturday we went on the R/V Pluteus. I was looking forward to it all week, and the weather didn't disappoint. While on the vessel, we saw numerous jellyfish, seals, and even a sea lion. It was really cool to be able to point out the differences between seals and sea lions with the other interns and discuss it. We were lucky enough to dredge 3 times while in the Pacific before heading back, the first two times we didn't catch much. The third time, we achieved a trove of sea cucumbers, small crabs, rocks, sand shrimp, and razor clams. The wind took a turn for the worse, and the boat was rocking side-to-side a lot, so we headed back to shore. I was one of the few who ended up getting seasick, but I still enjoyed the short voyage because it was a beautiful day. Sunday was an unofficial personal day. I spent the first part of my day in my room cleaning and tidying. Later, we all walked to Bastendorf Beach, like we did last Sunday. Sadly, there were fewer dogs this trip, but we had 3 UO students join us, and got to know them. Towards the end of the day, I went to the private beach and poked around at more small crabs. Going at low tide was great because there was so much life happening in the pools on the beach.
At 8:30, Chris and I went along with my mentor and other South Slough members to count Western Bog Lilies (Lilium occidentale). The flowers were one of the most intricate and amazing things I've ever seen. It's really sad how endangered they are, but steps have been taken to help them flourish. Some of the trees had been felled to allow for more light to reach the forest floor, and more were marked with red X's. The field work was really helpful because I got to learn how to use the handheld devices, TRIMBLE, that are tracked by satellite. We used them to mark where the lilies were being found. Surprisingly enough, when we visited the control area where no work has been done to sustain the lilies, we found no lilies. Spending time in the forest helped me recharge my internal batteries, even with the damp weather conditions.
Tuesday was a great day because I got to have another try at lab work. Adam and I went to pick up a water collecting device called an ISCO. Inside, the bottles of water are labeled one through 11. With these water samples, I got to run inorganic nutrient samples and chlorophyll tests. The samples get sent to a different lab to have nitrogen and phosphorus testing. To do the inorganic nutrient sampling, I pull water from the bottle into a syringe. Next, I attach a filter to the end of the syringe and push the water through the filter into a small bottle. Any sediment or solids gets left on the filter paper, and the water goes into the freezer. The bottle gets shipped off to a different lab for testing. I have to be careful during chlorophyll test because the chloroplasts will break down when surrounded by light. This means I had to turn off some of the lab lights and keep the water samples either in the cooler or covered by a cup. I got to do total suspended solids (TSS) and bacteria with Ali. The TSS had significantly bigger filter paper for it.
Wednesday had a late start to it because Ali's meeting was canceled. I spent the day continuing chlorophyll testing and getting ready for Thursday's journey. The most exciting part for me was finishing my master excel sheet with some of the data for my project. My Excel sheet has all the water temperatures and dates the temperatures were taken at for sites A and C. Along with other data, I will be answering questions like "How does South Slough's estuary compare to Coo Bay's?" and "What are some likely factors that play into the decline of eelgrass beds at South Slough?", which is what my project is based around. I am using 2016 data in my Excel file but will look at other years as well. Ali sent an email to an OSU student for her estuary data, so I can incorporate it into my project as well. After work, I got to listen to Dr. Deborah Bird from UCLA speak about how skull morphology affects olfactory reception. Your olfaction reception is what gives you your sense of smell. Dr. Bird looked at numerous mammals and has done scans on numerous skulls to observe their cribriform plate, which is a perforated bone (a bone with lots of little holes in it) in the nose of many mammals. I learned the most amazing thing, dolphins have lost all but 12 olfactory receptor genes, and have lost their sense of smell.
Thursday had an early start to it because Ali, Amanda, and I took a boat to the Collver eelgrass sampling site. After looking at the old photos of how eelgrass used to flourish, and seeing what they look like now, felt a little like whiplash. Even though there are some dense patches of eelgrass at Collver, the scene is nowhere near as green or dense. Ali taught me how to distinguish flowering eelgrass from the rest of the eelgrass, and also how to calculate percent coverage and density of eelgrass. If you noticed my picture behind my name, the middle blade of grass is eelgrass with seeds. We were surrounded by different varieties of crabs, but the hundreds of tiny Dungeness Crabs were my favorite. I had never seen so many crabs in one place before. A couple tried to attack our measuring tape with their tiny claws, which was pretty cute to watch. Getting back into the boat after the sampling was the hard part. I felt like a seal trying to get on a beach, flopping around awkwardly before getting a firm seat. When we returned to OIMB, we washed our boots, waders, and the boat. Then Ali and I uploaded the pictures and data. Even though we were all tired, it was an amazing day, and so beautiful. I wouldn't trade these experiences for anything.
I got the day off on Friday, so I decided to help Chris with his Green Crab trapping. European Green Crabs are an invasive species here in Oregon, and Chris is doing his summer experiment over them. I pulled my waders back out from yesterday and headed out with him and his mentor, Bree. If you've ever seen "Neverending Story", picture the scene where Atreyu gets stuck in the Swamp of Sadness. That's pretty much what I looked like when we hit the mud in the estuary. Chris and Bree were really great though and helped me get free, no Luck Dragon needed. The weather cooperated nicely, we got sunlight and a nice breeze while we carried the trapping equipment to different sites. I learned how to establish Green Crabs from other crabs by the 5 teeth on their carapace that starts at their eye. Despite their name, not all European Green Crabs are green, their color ranges from red to yellow to green, depending on how recently the crab has molted. Even with my constant mud-sinking, I enjoyed myself immensely, and highly recommend helping stop European Green Crab's invasion into Oregon.
Movie night is tonight, and we're going to watch Princess Mononoke. This weekend we get to go camping and tidepooling, and I can barely contain my excitement. I feel closer to my fellow interns, and I can't wait to see where next week's adventures take us.