The highlight of my week was the opportunity to accompany OIMB instructor Nancy Treneman during her shipworm field research. Nancy has deployed wood panels in numerous waterways throughout the Coos Bay area and checks them periodically to see if they have been colonized by shipworms. Observing her experimental designs and methods for data collection have been enlightening. For me, this is the type of experience that has made the REU program so rich. Reading the “methods” section of a scientific paper conveys only a snippet of the amount of time, energy, and tenacity it takes to conduct research. There is no room for a story in the methods section. There we were, covered head to toe in mud, creating makeshift boardwalks to navigate the boot-sucking mud. We piqued the curiosity of many passersby, who did slow drive-by inspections and double-takes. It was an adventure. It was research.
My experiment hit a bump in the road this week. The discovery of excessive amounts of tannins leaching from my oak samples, which led to mass mortalities in the larvae exposed to that wood, forced me to select an alternate form of hard wood for testing.
Also, I committed an egregious error when preparing my wood samples. To prepare them for the larvae, I soak them in seawater for at least 24 hours which helps soften the wood and start the formation of biofilm. In my naiveté, I soaked all of the samples together, in one container. This exposed all 36 wood samples to the harmful oak tannins mentioned above, and contaminated everything I had prepared. Ahhhh, the joys of learning the hard way. Thus, most of this week was spent rebuilding and preparing another trial, which commenced on Thursday. So I finally have larvae in my treatments and now it’s all about watching and waiting for them to settle!
Our weekend activity will be a trip to the Oregon State University Hatfield Marine Labs in Newport, with a stop at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. I have been scouting OSU Hatfield as a location for my master’s program, as they conduct extensive oyster research that I would like to learn more about. We will be socializing with the REU students there and I plan to ask lots of questions and take full advantage of this opportunity.