The deadline for posters on Friday really had people buckling down to get all their data collected and analyzed. On Monday I uploaded GPS points from the Winchester arm boat trip on Friday and started making graphs to compare soil composition and salinity. Later on that day, my lab partner and I got to go on a hike to one of South Slough’s weathering monitoring stations. We learned that the station collects data on rainfall, wind speed/direction, sunlight, and much more. We helped upload all the data collected in the past month onto a computer and checked if everything in the station was still intact.
Renee checking one of the panels of the weathering monitoring station.
This week’s professional development was just us presenting our poster drafts to the group and receiving comments. Seeing how everyone else presented their data was nice since it not only made me understand their projects more but it also gave me ideas on how to edit my own poster. The main comment I got on mine was to make the distribution map bigger, and the only way to do that is to make space by shortening my sentences which is only getting tougher.
On Wednesday I headed out to the marshland directly behind Metcalf Islands to collect the last soil samples needed for my project. This place is known as Metcalf Sentinel and will be known as one of the absent birds beak sites. I took samples near the transects set up in the lower marsh area, a place birds beak would most likely be if it grew there. After they were brought back, sieved, dried, and weighed I was able to complete my graphs for soil salinity and grain size. I still have to edit for my graph on associated species and will do that over the weekend.
Metcalf Sentinel, one of the sites where birds beak is absent.
A jellyfish washed up in one of Metcalf Sentinel's channels.
In non-research related news the OIMB Invertebrate ball was on Thursday. I dressed as my favorite nudibranch, Plakobranchus ocellatus, it was interesting to see what people used to make their costumes and cupcakes were beautiful and delicious!
Next week my mentor and I will mainly be working on analyzing what factors are affecting the distribution of birds beak the most. I’ll definitely post about it in next week’s blog, my last one!
Invertebrate Ball Cupcakes!
This week I finally got all of the soil samples I have taken from each site through grain-size analysis. There are still more sites to collect soil samples from but getting caught up gave me a slight feeling of relief. Mainly because now I’ve started to organize the soil composition and soil salinity data to create bar graphs for my poster draft. The deadline for poster drafts is coming up next Tuesday and I have been making progress though I am still working on how to present the data on percent plant cover in areas with and without birds beak. I am also working on shortening the methods section of the poster without taking out important pieces of information, which has been a bit of a challenge. As for field work my mentor and I finished surveying Winchester creek and collected soil samples from Danger Creek, one of the absent birds beak sites.
Installing new sondes to take water samples every fifteen minutes as a part of South Slough's biomonitoring mission.
Besides project work, I have been able to get out more in the slough this week by helping with other South Slough jobs. On Tuesday and Thursday we went out on the boat to take out sondes from monitoring stations throughout the slough. These sondes take samples of the estuary water every fifteen minutes and record characteristics such as temperature, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, and more. Some of these sonde stations were connected to equipment that allowed the data collected to be sent via satellite to the National Estuarine Research Reserve System website.
My partner Renee collecting crab traps as a part of her project.
I also went out in the mornings to help my lab partner put out crab traps for her experiments on predation. I got to learn some key differences between crab species and after we were done we stopped at Distant Water Fleet, one of the birds beak sites I had already mapped, to collect plant samples for my CMLC presentation. I decided to take samples of indicator species for birds beak, such as sea lavender and sea plantain, along with common lowland marsh plants like pickleweed. I plan on showing these species at the showcase while explaining the environment they grow in. While I can’t bring in samples of birds beak due to it’s endangered status I took some nice close ups to show when I talk about it and it’s role as a hemiparasite. I’ll write about how both the CMLC and poster draft presentation turn out in next week's entry!
My new favorite close up of birds beak, one of the pictures I'll be using for my CMLC display.
This week started with the monthly water quality samplings the South Slough facilitates as part of it’s estuary biomonitoring mission. This was the second sampling I helped with and I felt like I remembered most of the procedures from last time. We collected three replicates from four sites along the slough and brought them back to the lab for coliform bacteria counts and chlorophyll filtering. The next day I finished up the samples by filtering them for inorganic nutrients, the procedure calls for filtering 400 mL but some samples had so much sediment in them I could only get through 200 mL before it got stuck. This happened more often with the low tide samples than the ones from high tide and it was noticeable just by looking at the color of the filters.
IDEXX tray with water sample. The yellow cells mean that it is positive for total coliforms, while the fluorescent cells mean that it is positive for e. coli.
On Tuesday I also attended the professional development session where we went over how to organize our posters. This past week I have been writing out the text for my poster and it has been a little trickier than writing my proposal mainly due to the limited space. Finding the most important points to highlight and make it clear for people to understand is another challenge. Along with posters we also went over the public presentations we would be giving on August 3rd from 11-2 pm at the Charleston Marine Life Center. It isn’t really a formal presentation, we are just setting up booths in the marine center that have educational and interactive activities about our research. I had an idea of bringing certain samples of lowland and highland marsh plants and showing people how to identify them. I would then have them match the sample to the correct one in a memory-like game. It isn’t entirely clear but I am looking forward to this sort of practice presentation.
Collecting soil samples at Hidden Creek Marsh.
Wednesday was a full day out in the slough, we went kayaking to map areas surrounding Daycreek Marsh and other areas further south. In Daycreek Marsh we found some individuals and large patches growing along the edge path. Some of these large patches had tons of sea lavender growing along with the birds beak. I’ve noticed more of the sea lavender have been blooming lately and was able to get some pictures of their flowers. There are still a couple of sites we need to search for birds beak in and I am starting to get soil samples from areas where birds beak is not present. I hope to analyze all of the samples I have so far and map more areas within the next week.
Sea Lavender, Limonium californicum, seems to be blooming about now.
Starting on Tuesday we entered a new site called Valino Island Island. It was just a small patch of land about 20-30 feet away from the main Valino Island. Some large patches of bird’s beak were found here. They were more apparent on the side closest to the main island. This made me think that they most likely spread from the large areas we had seen before on Valino Island. After we returned I prepared myself for presenting my proposal to my mentors at the week’s professional development session. The night before I had just read this paper on how hemiparasites like bird’s beak within salt marshes reduce competitive dominant plants which help promote plant species diversity so I made sure to include that in my paper and presentation. Overall I presented my goals for the project well, I explained how the project set out to find the distribution and habitat characteristics of bird’s beak within the South Slough estuary. I then listed what factors would be observed which include: elevation, soil type, soil salinity, the top three plant species growing with dense patches of bird’s beak, and the top three plant species growing in areas without bird’s beak. There were questions on if I would try to transplant a small sample of bird’s beaks into an area where it had not been seen to grow to see if it was just it’s distribution keeping it from there. This was a good suggestion, but since the plant is listed as endangered uprooting them is not really permitted. I also received helpful comments from mentors on how to analyze data, this is definitely a part of research that I am nervous about doing but I am ready to learn.
Valino Island Island: small, full of mosquitoes, and a home for bird's beak!
We found a whole skeleton of a pretty large animal on Valino Island Island.
I’ve been able to focus more time on my soil samples this week as well. I have finished sieving and drying three more sites this week. By next week I may be almost complete with all the sites that have bird’s beak present and start to compare with sites that do not have the plant.
Dried soil samples (left) and samples about to be sieved (right) .
Throughout the week I have also been able to help with other projects at South Slough, like retrieving pH and CO2 sensors from the estuary and trapping crabs for Renee’s (my lab partner) predation experiment. On Friday, Renee helped me out with mapping at this site called Barview. I feel as I start to get more data I need to start getting more familiar with programs that can analyze what I have. That will be one of my main goals for next week, I’ll let you know how far I get with it next time.
My lab partner, Renee, with her lab set up.
To continue where I left off last week, camping at Cape Argo had so many fun moments that it was hard to decide which ones to write about. First of all, we camped somewhat near this island of sea lions so at night, when everyone was quiet, you could hear their faint barks. Saturday and Sunday morning we went out to explore two tide pool sites. Each had dozens of species to marvel at and learn about. There were plenty of nudibranchs, starfish, and even a Great Pacific octopus hiding beneath this giant rock. It was a great weekend, and when we got back almost everyone immediately went back to editing their proposal as the presentation deadline was quickly approaching.
Our Saturday tide pooling site near Cape Argo included plenty of algae and sea creatures.
Monday I saw a new site at Metcalf Islands, we first mapped along the trail leading to marsh and either side there were several dense patches. This site probably had the largest patches out of all the sites I have seen so far. It also seemed to have the most patches of sea lavender, Limonium californicum an indicator of bird’s beak, growing within the bird’s beak patches. This showed in the percent cover quadrats I recorded on the trail. I’m curious to see how the species that show up in areas with bird’s beak compared to those without especially in Metcalf Marsh. I took soil samples from both the trail and the small islands, it was difficult to get soil salinity since it looked as if it was composed of mainly sand!
One of the quadrats from Indian Point, this plot has both color variants of bird's beak.
Finishing up the mapping at Distant Water Fleet.
The next day we mapped along Indian Point. There were much smaller patches here compared to Metcalf but in some of them we saw what looked like both color variants of the species, green and purple. The soil samples here looked similar to what I collected at Metcalf but the percent cover quadrats included no sea lavender. After coming back from the field my mentor went over my proposal, which included going over the main tasks that I will be completing over the next five weeks. Once that was sorted I turned it in and headed over to this week's professional development session. Half of the REU students gave a ten minute presentation on what there project involves and what they expect to get from it.
On Friday I gave a tour of the lab to interns coming from Hatfield. I explained what my project was and what I do in order to get data. I was nervous but I knew that it would be a good practice for the presentation I would have to give to my mentors next week. I’ll definitely write how that turns out in the next entry.
This week I finally got through analyzing most of the soil samples I have been collecting for the past two weeks. I am not only looking for soil salinity but also performing a grain-size analysis on each sample. This just means I’m looking for what percentage of the soil is composed of gravel, sand, silt, and clay. In order to do this I use four sieves stacked on top of one another, going from largest mesh size on top to smallest. I then run the sample through and collect what remains in each sieve, making sure to categorize based on sieve size. Once I complete this with all of my samples and do the necessary calculations I can start comparing the soil types of each site. I am interested in comparing soil types of the sites with huge patches of bird’s beaks to those that only had a few individuals. I have also been compiling all of the GPS data of bird’s beaks sites onto one map. When I’m not working on those parts of my project I’m most likely editing my proposal, the deadline of July 9th is now less than a week away.
My first batch of soil samples, dried and ready to be weighed.
This painting of bird’s beak was just hung up in the office this week!
As for non-project related activities, on Wednesday my mentor and I went out during low tide to do transects on eelgrass. Populations of native species of eelgrass have been declining throughout the past years and monitoring sites where they are present can help find out what factors are causing this. I also learned how to tell the difference between native and invasive species of seagrass. It was amazing to see what the estuary looked like with almost all of the water receded and to be able to walk across areas I had gone through on a kayak earlier.
The low tide made the estuary look almost empty.
A 50 meter transect set up for eelgrass monitoring.
This week even included seeing more of the coasts beautiful hiking trails. One of the trails I went on with the other REU students led to this secluded bay near Sunset Beach. We had to climb down this old rope but the view alone made it all worthwhile. Tonight we are all heading out to camp at Cape Argo for the weekend, I’ll write about what happens along with more project updates in next weeks blog.
The hike was a bit challenging but seeing the bay was worth it,
That’s me sitting on some moon looking rocks.
Monday started off with heading out to Valino Island, an island located within the reserve, to assist with biomonitoring. My mentor taught me some of the shortened scientific names they use to record plant species. For example the plant commonly known as pickleweed, whose scientific name is Sarcocornia perennis, is recorded with the name SAR PER and the other plants are recorded using this method. By learning this I was able to help with identifying species in quadrat areas along with documenting how prevalent they were. While we were there, we began to flag areas and points where bird’s beak was located. It was exciting to find large patches of the plant growing along the more sandy side of the island and a little nerve wracking when trying to not step on them. The next day we came back to the island with GPS units ready to start mapping the species. This was my first day mapping bird’s beak and it felt sort of like the official start of my project. Beginnings usually make me enthusiastic and anxious at the same time and that day wasn’t an exception. I had gotten a bit more used to working with the GPS, but I needed some help from my mentor when identifying species growing near dense bird’s beak patches and collecting soil samples. By the end of my first mapping day though I felt more confident in those skills.
Wednesday seemed to go by even faster, I helped collect water samples and YSI data from sites within the estuary. We went out for both low and high tides, then returned to the lab to use the samples for fecal coliform bacteria counts, inorganic nutrients,and chlorophyll filtering. The lab here has so much cool equipment, I stared at their filtration set up which can do six samples at once! Back at the lab at home I could only do one at a time. I feel like that day I got more familiar with where things are in the lab.
One of the things I looked forward to all week though was mapping theDistant Water Fleet site. I was lucky enough to have some other students come out with me to help and it was only a short walk from OIMB. We went through flagging, mapping, and sample collecting. We talk about our projects a lot, but actually being able to show what I do was pretty fun. I’m looking forward to mapping and collecting even more next week.
Using pink flags on Valino Island to locate bird’s beak for mapping.
Bird’ beak growing with california sea lavender, Limonium californicum, the one with orange and green leaves. California sea lavender is used as an indicator that bird’s beak is near.
A meter squared quadrat was used to identify species growing around bird’s beak.
YSI data being recorded from sampling site.
Hello my name is Sofia Suesue and I am an intern here at OIMB for the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve (SSNERR). I was born and raised in Hawaii and fascinated by the ocean and it’s creatures my whole life which eventually led me to study oceanography. I love going free diving, hiking, and pretty much anything that lets me go outside. Before starting this internship I recently graduated from Windward Community College with an associate's degree in Natural Sciences. During my time at Windward I was able to conduct research on coral bleaching, photosynthetic sea slugs, and estuary water quality after extensive mangrove removal. One of the reasons I want to study at OIMB is to experience a marine environment that is much different than anything I have seen before. Another reason was to be apart of South Slough’s extensive monitoring of the nearby estuary, which includes research on climate change and the habitats of various species within.
This summer I will be mapping the endangered salt marsh plant bird’s beak (Chloropyron maritimus ssp. palustre) throughout the South Slough estuary. It is listed as endangered by the State of Oregon. To get started, my first day I went to the Distant Water Fleet site and learned how to identify bird’s beak along with several low-land marsh plants, which grow near bird’s beak. An interesting thing to see was that there was a species of pickleweed here too and it is also edible! I was also introduced to the GPS I will be using to map bird’s beak, the device and program to create maps seem pretty advanced but I am excited to learn more about them. Throughout the rest of the week I got to help out with other research projects taking place at SSNERR. These included collecting data from sensors set at several creeks that recorded the hydrology of the area and taking samples of eelgrass along with the sediment surrounding it. I even got to start collecting data for my project! My mentor, Ali Helms, and I kayaked to Ferie Ranch marsh, a location that was reported to have bird’s beak years ago from the SSNERR Site Profile (2006). Although we did not find the plant there we took soil samples, measured soil salinity, and recorded the sample sites with the GPS. This data will be used to compare Ferrie Ranch marsh to sites that do have Bird’s Beak in order to better understand the salinity and soil preferences of bird’s beak from different locations. It has been a bit difficult to keep track of all that has happened in the past week since so much has passed, but I already can’t wait for next week, stay tuned!