Showing posts from May, 2017

On the rocks

It started a few weeks ago. I was sitting around my kitchen table with friends, sipping wine and chatting after dinner. Wood Neck Beach "Hey Kirstin," my friend and fellow postdoc, Cassidy, called from across the table, "Can you recommend a good field guide for the New England intertidal? I need to get familiar with the local organisms this summer." To my left, my boyfriend almost snorted. "Cassidy," he informed her, "Kirstin is a field guide to the intertidal. Just take her with you!" So she did. Yesterday after work, Cassidy and I headed out to Wood Neck Beach, just north of Woods Hole. Unlike most beaches on the Cape, Wood Neck is covered in rocks of all sizes - gravel, cobbles, boulders. We went at low tide so we could see the organisms when they were exposed. Semibalanus and Littorina on a rock on Wood Neck Beach   The main organism we saw was the northern rock barnacle, Semibalanus balanoides . Barnacles are especially

Mystery blob

A Mystery Blob, photographed at 50x magnification. I checked my dock study in Eel Pond yesterday, right on schedule. When I put the first fouling panel under the microscope, I was happy to see many of the same organisms I have come to recognize: spirorbids , hydroids , and a barnacle or two. I was chugging along, counting organisms, until something orange caught my eye. It looked like it was encased in a ball of mucus, so it might have been nothing. I increased the magnification on the microscope just to make sure. What I saw was definitely not nothing, though what it is, I cannot say for sure. I'm calling it the Mystery Blob. Once I saw the first Blob, a strange thing happened. I used the microscope to zoom back out, decreasing the magnification so I could see more of my panel, and when I did, my eyes started seeing Mystery Blobs everywhere! Once I had a search image for them, my brain was able to detect other Blobs on the fouling panels. They were actually pretty abundan

Chainsaw carving: part 2

Crassostrea virginica larvae, photographed using a dissecting microscope at 10x magnification. Photo by Erin Houlihan. There's something very satisfying about finishing a manuscript. As you know, I've been analyzing data on oyster larvae behavior, whittling the results down to reveal a meaningful story . As of today, I am finally finished! I drafted two complete manuscripts, both about settlement behavior of the eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica . One focuses on larval behavior at different ages, while the other is about how oysters settle in low pH conditions brought about by ocean acidification. With the first complete draft of the manuscripts finished, it's my co-authors' turn to sculpt. Four other people are involved in the oyster studies - scientists who designed the studies, ran the experiments, and collected the data. The project has really been a team effort - I was just the one designated to write up all of the results. It's been fun, though. I&

Hydroid explosion!

A large colony of Obelia geniculata on one of my fouling panels in the lab "I might only have one match But I can make an explosion" - "Fight song" by Rachel Platten Kneeling on the dock, I undid one rope, then another. I pulled up on the white thread, grabbed the edge of the PVC, and flipped my experiment up onto the dock. And gasped in awe. My panels were covered in hyrdoids. Big, stringy, wet colonies of Obelia . Pink buds of Tubularia all over my plates. It was a hydroid explosion! I should have known it was coming. I mean, the hydroid colonies on my monitoring plates exploded after a few weeks. Just a few individuals can grow into a massive colony. I had thought it was already too late in the spring for hydroids to dominate the community. Guess not. Discovering the hydroids on my experiment yesterday is an example of one of my favorite parts of ecology: the element of surprise. When I first formulated the hypotheses for my succession study, I

Noticing beauty: part 2

Woods Hole, MA Falmouth, MA Sunset from the WHOI pier Moon over Falmouth Heights Swan in Vineyard Sound Vineyard Sound color palette

More interesting: part 2

"There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing." - German proverb I was covered head-to-toe in waterproof fabrics. I wore my rain jacket, rain pants, and even my thick, hard-core field boots. Wheeling my formidable fat-tire bike out the door of the research building, I greeted the rain. It was now or never - if I wanted to go home, that is. It's supposed to rain 2 inches (5 cm) all over Cape Cod tonight. Strong winds, coastal flooding - we're getting hammered. On my bike ride home, I had to cinch my hood around my face to reduce drag and lean my bike into the cross-shore wind to keep from tipping over. The waves on Trunk River Beach were the highest I've ever seen. My waterproof clothing shield was quickly covered in puddle splashes and salt spray, but I pressed on. Biking level: Expert. (For the record, the levels are Novice, Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, Expert, Legendary, and Dutch.) A spirorbid polychaete (tube worm) on my fouling panels.

At the library

It was dark on Water Street as I stepped out of the library. I waved goodbye to J and headed down the sidewalk. Across the street, small white lights glowed around the sign for Pie in the Sky, our local bakery. "Kirstin!" I heard someone call to my right. My friend, Kristina, stepped towards me, hands in her red jacket pockets. I thought she had already gone home but was glad to see she was still there. "Do you want to go for a tea?" she asked, nodding toward Pie in the Sky. Of course I did! - - - - - - - - - - - - - Sitting in a folding chair, I leaned over to arrange a few items in my backpack. The lower floor of the library was probably as full as it had ever been, with seminar attendees milling about and chatting. I was proud of the job I had done. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see someone in a flannel shirt and jeans approaching me. I looked up. "I have a question, if you don't mind," he began. "Can you define 'benthic