Showing posts from June, 2017

Arts and crafts

"I craft a lot, ok?!" Nicole exclaimed. Nicole and Meghan, two summer interns at WHOI, helping me make hydroid mimics. Meghan and I burst into laughter. The three of us were crammed into my office, surrounded by plastic mesh and elastic cord. Nicole was threading the cord through the mesh in immaculate patterns - not a stray strand anywhere - almost like cross-stitch. It was impressive. The task required a lot of dexterity, and our afternoon ended up feeling like an arts and crafts class. The three of us spent hours carefully threading stretchy strings through tiny holes, making what looked like tufts of synthetic hair. Trust me, friends, it was for science. You see, one of my sites for the succession study is dominated by hydroids . They showed up in droves and have grown to cover almost all of the available space. One of my questions for the succession study is how the first species to settle and dominate a substratum influences the development of the community, and


Friends, I hope one thing you can learn from this blog is how many diverse and fascinating creatures there are in the ocean. Even a habitat as ubiquitous and mundane as a floating dock can be covered by all sorts of captivating fauna. I have told you about the ciliates ; I have impressed on you the importance of hydroids . I have shown you barnacles and spirorbids and bryozoans . I have drawn your attention to the ascidians . But there is one organism I have not yet shown you - sponges. Halichondria panicea on one of my fouling panels, surrounded by two spirorbids and a bryozoan. Photographed at 50x magnification. No, not the kind you use in your bathtub, although bath sponges were harvested from the ocean in centuries past. Marine sponges are sessile animals that filter the water for food.  If you've been reading this blog for a while or clicked on any of the links above, you'll notice that this is lifestyle is a common theme - fouling communities are by definition ma

The elephant

"You can eat an elephant in small bites." - Ed O'Brien This week was an elephant. A big, heavy, brute of a week, full of data collection and field work and counting and counting and counting. Two species of ascidians on my fouling panels: Botryllus schlosseri (black and yellow), and Botrylloides violaceus (red). Photographed with a dissecting microscope at 6.5x magnification. To put it succinctly, my fouling panels in Eel Pond have been taken over by ascidians. Also known as sea squirts, they're squishy, gel-like, blob-shaped animals, and they have absolutely covered my fouling panels in Eel Pond! Some of you might remember the "mystery blobs" I started finding about a month ago. At the time, I was pretty sure the blobs were ascidians, but I couldn't identify them to species. Well, now I can confidently tell you that the blobs are ascidians, but they are not one species. There are four. Four species of ascidians. All. Over. My. Panels. As

Shag carpet

My monitoring plates on the WHOI pier. You can't even see the plates! Friends, I am running out of ways to describe the dense, heavy hydroids that have colonized my fouling panels at the WHOI pier. Every time I think I've reached the maximum hydroid biomass that my panels can hold, the hydroids kick it up a notch. Compare the picture at right  to what I termed "hydroid city" just a few weeks ago. The pictures show the same apparatus, only this week, you can't even see the plexiglass monitoring plates underneath. I've told you before that my dock study concerns succession in fouling communities. Since starting the study, I've actually gotten a few questions from both scientists and the general public about why subtidal hard-bottom communities on docks are termed "fouling." I think my experience with the hydroids at the WHOI pier should give you some idea. Fouling fauna make things foul. They're heavy, they're wet, they cover everyth


When I was doing my Arctic recruitment study in Svalbard in 2015, I leaned heavily on my collaborator, P. He's a bryozoan expert, and since many of the animals on my settlement plates were bryozoans, I was constantly asking him to look over my shoulder and help me identify the organisms I was seeing. P has a unique accent, a slightly nasal voice, and a generally relaxed demeanor. He liked to draw out the "O" sound on the second syllable of "bryozoans" so it sounded more like a surfer dude speaking. Nowadays, if I ever say or think the word "bryozoans," my brain hears it in P's voice: "bryo-zooons." I'm currently studying dock fouling communities around Woods Hole, as many of you know. I've told you about the ciliates that inhabit my fouling panels; I've told you about the barnacles . I've shown you the hydroids , the worms , and the sea squirts . Today, I'd like to focus on the bryozoans (bryo-zooons). Like most t

The Svalbard recruitment paper

If you've been reading this blog or a while, you'll remember I lived in Norway in 2014-2015 . In fact, my move abroad was the motivation to begin sharing my experiences online. I got a research grant to study recruitment of hard-bottom benthic invertebrates in the Arctic. Using Stavanger as my home base, I went up to Svalbard  to deploy and recover fouling panels in Arctic fjords. Altogether, I made three trips to Svalbard in 2014 and 2015 . I bring up my time in Norway now because the research study I did there has finally been published. The results from my fouling panel experiment appeared this week in the journal Limnology and Oceanography . Several co-authors are listed alongside me on the paper, because I received a lot of assistance with my study - my co-authors contributed their resources, ship time, taxonomic skills, and oceanographic data. I am grateful I had the chance to work with such helpful and knowledgeable scientists. I hope you enjoy reading my paper! Yo