This week has felt unreal as everything is finishing up. I’ve been a little stressed finishing my poster (thank you Nicole for letting me re-print when the first thing I noticed about my beautiful printed poster was an error!) and I’ve also been so sad about leaving this wonderful place and these wonderful people. It hasn’t quite hit me yet that I have to leave, but I know the connections I made with the mentors, researchers, and especially the other interns and UO students will last beyond these 9 short weeks.
This week was the final week of intensive crab trapping for the long-term monitoring project, so I got to visit every site again and do one final round of green crab measurements. On tuesday we caught over 300 green crabs between two sites, so I recruited some help so I wouldn’t be stuck in the lab measuring forever! Because the other interns are pretty much done, it was fun to show them a little bit of what I’ve been up to. Thank you to Sofia, Megan, Matt, Adrian, and Phillip for helping me with various things this week!
I finally caught a predation event on camera! I have a time-lapse of pictures that show the full interactions. It was good to watch all the photos of various trials and confirm that the red rock was the predator, and the green crab would never also participate in predation. This helps to back up some assumptions that I was relying on, and strengthen my experiement.
On Friday we had our poster symposium, presenting all our hard work and research that we’ve done this summer. It felt good to show off our projects, and some amazing discoveries have been made this summer. I’m so impressed with the other interns projects as well, and I know we all wish we could stay and do what we love in this special community. Thank you to everyone who made this summer possible, I have been incredibly grateful for this opportunity, and already know that I have furthered my career in exciting ways! Here is my final poster with the experiment that I researched, designed, and carried out:
On Saturday, we got to present our research/organisms of interest to the public at the Charleston Marine Life Center. It was such a great experience! So many people were really interested in crabs, and I was amazed at how many people didn’t even know that there is an invasive crab species establishing itself in the estuary near where many of them live. I really like outreach, so I was glad to interact with people and had a fun time wrangling my crabs to show them the different species.
Last week I had difficulties getting all 3 species of crab in the right size and weight classes, which meant that I had quite a few red rocks that starved for 7 days. I made sure they were active and alert each day, but decided not to feed them and stick with my original procedure. It seemed to pay off as 6 of my trials that I started this week only took 1 day to culminate in a predation event! Over the course of the experiment I have learned that the red rock crabs need to be very hungry, and they need a small enough size class of prey to initiate predation. I have also become pretty good at predicting which crabs are ready to eat, and finally caught a predation on camera. Unfortunately the other cameras had battery problems or were not set correctly, so I still do not have as much visual observation as I would like.
This week has really been crunch week! For the culmination of our REU internship, we hold a poster symposium to present our research projects, which is next Friday. I always forget just how much time putting together a poster really takes, and this week has been no exception. While preparing the final poster product, I am still running my last predation trials, as well as starting to collect data that measures carapace hardness. I know we all wish we had more time, because a full research project in 9 weeks is no small feat, especially when the last part has to be data analyzation and presentation. On top of all this, I came down with a pretty bad cold, so all I want to do is sleep! I decided not to trap at all this week, because going out into the field would be too taxing. Hopefully I can get enough crabs next week that I will be able to analyze some last minute data to add to my poster.
I can’t believe it’s already August! I wish I had more time to do so much more with my research project. I started by running trials that standardized for prey carapace length, then conducted trials that matched prey weight, and have now started to trials to see just how much smaller the green crabs need to be compared to the Dungeness to present an easy meal by predation from the red rock. As I have gotten to know the system more fully, I see many ways that could expand and carry forward my research concept. Of course, it is difficult to get a lot done in 9 weeks, and I think I would always want to do more, no matter how much time I was given. One thing I started this week was using game cameras to catch a predation event on film. I mentioned last week that it could give good insight into the crab interactions, and it would be nice to have the evidence on camera. The cameras I am using are equipped with IR to film at night, as the crabs appear nocturnal and commit most predation events overnight. Unfortunately, the cameras do not appear to be sensitive enough to pick up on the crab movement under water. I am trying to troubleshoot this, so hopefully next week I will have a better report.
I have also come to realize the difficulties with working with live specimens. Most weeks I have had trouble catching enough of all three species. I usually have to trap at different sites to get abundant specimens in order to sift through and find enough male crabs with no missing limbs in the correct size. Early in the season I needed more red rock crabs, and have done extra trapping with crab rings off of docks to supplement. This week, I caught plenty of red rocks in the traps and crab rings, and have struggled to find Dungeness in the correct size class. Those that I bring back from the field have a slightly larger carapace width, missing limbs, or are not hard enough when I feel under their chelipeds, or claws, indicating that they may have recently molted. This means I am not able to run all 16 trials at the same time, leading to fewer results
On the subject of molting and carapace hardness, I have determined that a factor in the weight difference between green crab and Dungeness of the same carapace width could be the hardness or thickness of the shell. Green crabs appear to be much better defended with a thick outer carapace. I am hoping to develop a method to measure and quantify this difference, which would indicate another factor that favors green crab survival and dominance.
In other news, I got to go tide pooling on Friday! It was an early morning, but a beautiful low tide which allowed us to get out to Qochyax island, an island just off the coast near Sunset Bay. Because the tide was low enough, we crossed an exposed land bridge and explored the island. There was a tunnel through rock in the middle of the island, and many ridges and pools on the far side that were rich in invertebrates and algae. I was so happy I got to go and feel lucky to be in such an amazing place this summer. Being so busy with work, I sometimes forget the incredible sights that exist all around me, and wish I could take some time to just explore like this more often. Megan, Hannah, and I also participated in a women's surf clinic. What an awesome opportunity and we had the best time!!
Welcome back! It seems like each week is so long and full of things to do, but when I sit down to write my blog posts, time has just flown by. Last Saturday we got to visit the Hatfield Marine Science Center and the Newport aquarium. The aquarium was fantastic, and we saw octopus, seal, sea lion, and sea otter feedings. On Sunday a big group of interns and students spent a relaxing day in the dunes at Hall Lake.
Somehow it was already Monday once again, and time to go back to work. I visited a couple new sites to trap at, Kentuck Slough and Day Creek. When collection time came on Tuesday, I got to take a group of high school students in the South Slough camp with me. They were a big help counting crabs, and I hope they learned a little something too!
With new crabs, I continued to switch out trials for my personal research experiment, which means I have now been able to complete around 40 trials. I am still not quite satisfied, because a low percentage of trials end in a successful predation event. I am planning to try a new method when I switch out trials for next week to see if feeding the red rock crabs will actually promote predation. Currently I have been bringing them in and starving them before beginning a trial, under the presumption that the hungrier they are, the more likely to seek food. But I have observed that some crabs appear to be less aggressive, and therefore may be weak with hunger and unable to predate on the available prey in the containers. It is taking a little longer to collect all the data I need, but that's the usual way with research!
At the end of the week, Silvia Yamada came to visit OIMB. Yamada has documented the green crab invasion of Oregon and Washington and was one of the first to begin monitoring the populations, starting the same dataset in 1998 which I am contributing to with my collections this summer. Yamada has written or collaborated on most of the papers I have read about green crabs, and so it was a pretty cool experience to meet her and go in the field with her. She is starting a new experiment with lined shore crabs and snails, which I was able to help set up and will collect data from when Yamada leaves.
Although the picture below isn’t great quality, it’s great news for my experiment! In the center of the container are the remains of a Dungeness crab, killed and eaten by the red rock in the bottom of the picture. This represents a successful trial! This week I am hoping to set up a camera to catch the act of predation. Because in previous literature, experiments with crabs of the same size class have not yielded predation, I am currently using the assumption that the red rock is initiating and successfully carrying out the predation. From personal observation I think this is reasonable. I have watched the containers for a fair amount over the past two weeks and have only seen red rocks initiating fights with either the green crab or the Dungeness crab. I would like to get it on video though to confirm, and I am also curious if there is any possibility in the small crab that is not under attack joining the red rock in the battle or at least sharing in the food source. Most of the crab behavior appears to be nocturnal, as there is not much activity during the day, and I usually visit the containers in the morning and find evidence of predation.
As we finish up week 5 and are more than halfway through the program, I am starting to realize more and more that I don’t want this internship to come to an end. In terms of research experience, I have learned so much about field work and experimental design. But in terms of friendship, I have gained so much more than I ever thought. Evenings and weekends have been well spent with the other interns and UO students exploring around the charleston and Coos Bay area. Below are some pictures from various adventures!
This week I have continued working on my predation experiment. I have been trapping most days, and although I am getting high numbers of both Dungeness and green crabs (which is why I chose these sites in particular), it is difficult to find crabs that fit into my small size class. I will be trapping at a variety of sites next week, and am predicting that sites further up the estuary will have smaller crabs because these locations may provide more nursery grounds for small adult crabs. Most red rock crabs that I catch are in the appropriate large size class. I have also been able to catch more red rocks the same way most people fish recreationally: by throwing crab rings off of the dock! This targets red rock crabs, who tend to prefer sub-tidal areas, while the Dungeness and green crabs usually follow the tide in. The main reason I need smaller Dungeness and green crabs is because a lot of my trials have no outcome. Many of my trials have gone on for 7 days and no predation has occurred. Either the red rock is not hungry, or it may be reluctant to attack a crab that is smaller but still decent sized, especially in the presence of another crab that could also pose a threat during a predation attempt.
Green crabs can easily be identified by the 5 points along the top of their carapace on either side of their eyes. By looking at the distinct carapace, one can avoid confusion with color, because green crabs aren't always green! The crab below is also a green crab, although she appears to be more yellow/orange. The coloration could be a result of location and camouflage attempts, or more likely means that the crab is almost ready to molt as the shells often begins a light green and will then darken to yellow, orange, and then red. The crab on the left is a right-handed male, while the crab on the right is a female who is missing the first three chela or legs on her right side. I can tell the sex of each crab based on “apron” at the base of the abdomen. Males have a much narrower and pointed apron, while females have a wider, rounded apron.
My South Slough REU partner Sofia Suesue and I started off our week by participating in South Slough’s annual “Slough-a-thon.” Anyone affiliated with South Slough could participate in a bike/run/paddle event. Sofia and I did the running portion, and got to run a 5k through the beautiful trails of South Slough reserve!
Last week, I had a really fun time helping Sofia with her research project, which involves mapping an endangered plant species known as Chloropyron maritimus ssp. palustre, or Bird's Beak. This plant grows in salt marsh areas found on the banks of the estuary. We went to a site called Distant Water fleet on Friday, and were pleasantly surprised at how abundant the plant was at this location. Sofia is mapping areas of the plant and noting soil type, salinity, and other plants found with Bird's Beak, all factors that might dictate where the plant grows and how limited its distribution is.
But the most exciting part of my week has been making progress on my personal research project! I have decided to look at interspecies predation between the three common crab species found in South Slough. One of the main limiting factors of green crab distribution on the Oregon Coast is proposed to be competition and direct predation from the established native populations of crabs that tend to grow much bigger than Carcinus maenas. Right now, green crabs are mainly found in the middle and upper Coos Bay estuary. But the lower estuary is thought to be a more favorable habitat for crabs, due to higher salinity and lower water temperatures. The native red rock crab, Cancer productus, is only found in the lower estuary, as this species is less tolerant of physical factors than the green crab and thus requires the more favorable habitat. Right now, it appears that C. productus is able to dominate the lower estuary and limit green crab distribution, because the abundance of C. productus, is negatively correlated with abundance of C. maenas in the lower Coos Bay estuary (unpublished data). Basically, in the lower estuary where there are more red rock crabs, there are less green crabs. A study has found that C. productus is much more likely to conduct direct predation on small and medium sized green crabs than on small and medium sized crabs of their own species (Hunt & Yamada, 2002). This reinforces the fact that the inverse population distributions is caused by predation from C. productus on C. maenas in the lower estuary. After learning about this, I started to wonder if the green crab will ever be able to spread to the lower estuary.
I have decided to conduct a continuation of the previously mentioned study, to see if C. productus still prefers direct predation of small C. maenas when another native species, the Dungeness crab (Metacarcinus magister) is also present, or if the Dungeness provide equally favorable or more favorable prey. Depending on the preference of C. productus, this could allow a possible opportunity for the population of C. maenas to continue to increase and become established at sites where the three species overlap, if C. productus is more likely to predate on available M. magister instead of the green crab. I have been collecting crab species all week and have been able to set up my initial trials of the predation experiment.
As an intern with the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve (SSNER), I have a slightly different experience than many of my fellow interns working in OIMB labs. A lot of my time is spent working in the field (which I'm always excited about) and helping with various projects that inform researchers about changes in the reserve and possible management options. I have enjoyed learning about the different aspects involved in a research reserve, and the behind the scenes for planning, management, coordination, and outreach.
One of my favorite things is that South Slough has so many different projects focused on a wide variety of things that are important to the estuary. There are projects studying invasive species, like the green crab monitoring project that I will be contributing to, and there are other projects studying endangered species, species richness and abundance, monitoring various conditions in the estuary, and more. Many teams of researchers and interns go out each day. Last week I got to visit a site that is experimenting for effective restoration of the endangered species of Western Lily. This week, I assisted with a project filtering water to collect environmental DNA that can then be used to assess the species richness of fish found in the estuary.
It has been nice to be out on the water so much; the Slough and its surroundings are stunning. I also look forward to seeing the sand bar with sunbathing harbor seals!
Every project is also very relevant to the estuary and possibly even to other reserves around the country. I like knowing that the projects I'm helping with will discover new information that can have very real-impacts. As we were discussing in a professional development session this week, it is sometimes said that science answers questions, it doesn't solve problems. I think that the reserve does a great job of applying the science to do both.
In addition to gaining experience and being able to help with ongoing projects, I have also started developing my own research project. Although I like being out in the field, I thought it may be difficult to develop a controlled experiment that I could monitor closely in such a short amount of time. Instead, I have opted instead to conduct an experiment in the lab. I have been reading a lot of literature on green crabs and have started to formulate questions based on areas where recent experiments could be extended. Stay tuned for next week’s post when I will hopefully have the first trials up and running and will explain what I’m studying!
Hello, and thank you for visiting my blog! My name is Renee and I am a biology and dance double major entering my junior year at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA. While I go to school on the East Coast, I actually grew up in Washington State, in a small town called Walla Walla. Although about 5 hours from the ocean, I still remember visiting the Oregon Coast on family vacations when I was younger and I was definitely fascinated by tide pools and the intertidal in general. However, I never thought I would pursue this and go on to study marine biology, or even biology at all. But my intro bio course freshman year of college reminded me how much I enjoy studying the sciences, and I took a field marine biology course during the summer and fall of my sophomore year which involved intertidal field work in Maine. This was my first interaction with marine science, and I couldn’t get enough. I went on every single trip into the field because I couldn’t wait to learn and help with other research projects. After that I was hooked, and am thankful to get the opportunity to study and live like this for 9 weeks at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology!
Not only am I looking forward to gaining knowledge and experience in the field and lab, I am excited to be able to practice research and experimental design, under the guidance of Shon Schooler and the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve. I will be studying the invasive species of European Green Crab, Carcinus maenas. This crab was first found on the east coast in 1817, and only came to the west coast in the 1990’s. It is important to monitor this invader to be able to track how the presence and abundance is fluctuating and predict how the green crab will influence the ecosystem as it becomes established in the South Slough Estuary.
This week I have been continuing data collection for a project monitoring the population of green crabs that has been going on since 1998. I have been out in the field every morning crabbing! 6 Fukui traps with canisters of bait are staked at each site, then revisited the next morning to record what has been caught. Dungeness crabs (Metacarcinus magister), Shore crabs (Hemigrapsus oregonensis or H. nudis), and Red Rock crabs (Cancer productus) are counted and then returned to the wild. Green crabs on the other hand, are collected and taken back to the lab where we record certain measurement to look at sex, size, weight, and color. It has been fantastic to get out in the field so quickly and jump into a project that has such application. It has also helped me as I start to consider my own ideas for possible research pathways and try to come up with a question that I can research in the short time I am here, but also allows me to generate relevant data that can aid in the knowledge and management of green crabs. I can’t believe how much I have learned in just a few days and have thoroughly enjoyed every moment of this experience!
A bucket full of green crabs! This photo also features crab traps on the left, and a box of equipment on the right to measure physical features of each site, such as salinity and water temperature. And of course, my muddy boots! Navigating the mud never seems to get much easier and have been thankful for the chest-high waders if I am stuck or off-balance :)
Hi! My name is Renee and I am a rising junior at Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania. I am a double major, studying Biology and Dance. I am so excited to be a part of the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology’s summer REU program and to work with Shon Schooler and the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve.