Showing posts from July, 2017

Noticing beauty: part 3

Eel Pond sunset Eel Pond fouling fauna Seen in Falmouth Heights Sailboat on Vineyard Sound Beach rocks in Falmouth Heights Botryllus schlosseri overgrowing Botrylloides violaceus

Cathedral of the deep

"And it's peaceful in the deep Cathedral where you cannot breathe No need to pray, no need to speak Now I am under all... And the arms of the ocean are carrying me And all this devotion is rushing out of me And the crashes are heaven for a sinner like me But the arms of the ocean delivered me" - "Never let me go" by Florence and the Machine I love diving under the WHOI pier. It's where I've done most of my training dives, and it is heaven for a benthic ecologist. The pier is supported by a series of pilings, all of which are inhabited by invertebrates. Sponges and anemones and ascidians of all kinds. It's goregous. Benthic fauna on the side of the instrument well We always start dives from the instrument well. It's a rectangular opening in the pier, sheltered from waves and boat wake. We jump into the water from the side of the well and then grab hold of a descent line - just a vertically-hanging rope that leads to the bottom. The

Born in the dark

"I was born in the dark But it wasn't last night" - "Born in the dark" by Doug Stone "Oh, it's just her!" Nicole called in relief, opening the door wide for me. I stepped inside WHOI's Shore Lab to find the two interns hard at work. A cart filled with computer equipment and note sheets stood in the wide entrance hall. Thick cords ran from the cart through a low opening in the wall into the cold room. As I examined the scene, Meghan emerged from the cold room, wearing shorts over her leggings and a headlamp on her head. Dressed for battle, I guess. Meghan pipetting oyster larvae for a new replicate Meghan's research this summer is all about oyster larvae behavior. She's building on work that had been done last year and which I am in the process of analyzing . She's looking at swimming behavior of larvae exposed to a chemical settlement cue and also trying to discern the reasons why larvae swim in helices . It's very coo


It was a busy day at the pier. Both Atlantis and Neil Armstrong were in port; a plankton research group was testing out a new glider; a part of the dock was being rebuilt. Trucks and cranes and people moved about on the bustling pier. Beeping and honking and shouts and loud bangs were heard all around. Pier panorama. Neil Armstrong is to the left, Atlantis to the right. A ctenophore, photographed by Nicole Pittoors at the WHOI pier.  Even the ocean was busy. As my intern and I knelt on the floating platform, reattaching fouling panels to their PVC backing, we couldn't help but notice the activity in the water. Tiny specks littered the surface, presumably the larvae of a species that had recently spawned. A large school of green minnows rushed back and forth, picking off the larvae as they swam. Two large, pink-and-blue fish swam slowly beneath, gliding and glinting in the light. Strings of green eelgrass and brown puffy Sargassum floated on the sea surface, and th


Well, friends, it's been over a week since my last post, so I suppose I should catch you up on what's been happening in the lab. The fouling panels in Eel Pond are beginning to show very promising results. (Ok, let's be honest, they've been showing good results for a while.) There are now obvious, macroscopic differences between panels with different removal treatments, and I'm getting very excited about my data. ( I love when my fouling panels have significant differences! ) Check out the photo below. These are three fouling panels from three different treatments, deployed right next to each other in Eel Pond. You can see right away how different they are. The panel on the left is in the "remove nothing" treatment, and you can see that a large percentage of the panel is covered by Botryllus schlosseri -  that's a black ascidian that grows in sheets. However, there are also a number of yellow tree-like bryozoan colonies on the right side of the pan

Arts and crafts: part 2

(Former) fouling panel inhabitants "Ooh, it kind of looks like pasta salad! Maybe like a Mexican salad, you know, with black beans and yellow corn. It doesn't look appetizing though." My intern was standing over the lab bench, looking at a pile of ascidians and bryozoans I had just pulled off of a fouling panel. I gave her a sideways, confused look. Pasta salad, really? We had been working all day, pulling invertebrates off of fouling panels, leaving only strategically-chosen individuals behind. We were setting up an experiment in Eel Pond to parallel one we set up at the WHOI pier two weeks ago . For both experiments, we want to find out how the first species to settle on a fouling panel and dominate the community influences other species that might settle. I suspect that the first dominant species inhibits other organisms from recruiting to the panels, either by consuming their larvae, outcompeting them for food, altering the flow of water over the plate, o


"I am sorry for the trouble I suppose My blood runs red but my body feels so cold I guess I could swim for days in the salty sea But in the end the waves will discolor me" - "Organs" by Of Monsters and Men Friends, I haven't told you this yet, but in addition to my experiments, I'm learning how to SCUBA dive this summer. It's a skill that will be highly advantageous for my research. As a diver, I'll be able to reach a whole new set of habitats, filling in the gap between shallow docks and the deep sea. The training for scientific diving is much more intense than for recreational diving. I started by taking a course on diving physics, physiology, and basic skills. Classroom days alternated with practice in the pool, and after a month, I've finally moved up to open-water training. Last Friday, my dive buddy and I had a unique challenge. We had to disassemble and reassemble a flange underwater, to simulate a working scientific dive. The task

The day the hydroids died

"Bye, bye Miss American Pie Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry Them good ol' boys was drinking whiskey and rye Singing this'll be the day that I die This'll be the day that I die" - "American Pie" by Don McLean Friends, ecology is full of surprises. I never thought that hydroids would dominate the fouling community at one of my study sites. I never thought that my experiment would start to look like it was covered in shag carpet from the 60s. I never thought that hydroids would hold the #1 position for so long. And I certainly never expected them to die all at once. Dead, headless hydroids on a fouling panel being examined under the microscope. Check out the clump at left, then compare to live hydroids with pink heads . It's not because of something I did (trust me, that was my first panicked thought). Almost overnight, all the hydroids have disappeared from the WHOI pier. Not just from my experiment, but from the walls of

Chainsaw carving: part 3

Every data analysis has its ups and downs. My analysis of oyster larvae behavior has been mostly up recently. But after about 6 months of work, the analysis still isn't quite finished. In a meeting, one of my collaborators on the project pointed out some nonsensical numbers in the dataset. She asked me to take another look, and I discovered that my code was miscounting the number of larvae entering each experimental flask. You'd think that counting the larvae would be the simplest task, right? It's surprisingly difficult, because no single set of parameters applies to all experiments without error. There was no way to automatically count larvae. So I started over and did it manually. Friends, this is just how it goes. In fact, I don't think I can name a single scientific paper I've published for which I haven't had to start over at least once. Every analysis requires at least one trip back to Square One. The good news is that now the data look a lot cle