Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Whales, Pinnipeds, and Sharks, Oh my!

January 28, 2013

On the weekend of the 26th and 27th of January 2013 WhaleFest was held at Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey. Organizations ranged from local non-profit marine research and public outreach organizations and program here in the Monterey county, as well as fun activities such as painting a squid!
aa whalefest-logo (5) color

Camp Sea Organization in WhaleFest

Camp Sea Lab in WhaleFest

Our own very Pacific Shark Research Center participated in this event to share their knowledge of sharks to the public. It was a very windy, cloudy, and cold on Saturday as we set up the station. The strong wind made it a challenge to keep fliers and posters on the table. Braving the weather, our efforts were recognized as visitors intrigued by the mako shark Isurus oxyrinchus head and of a shark fin we had on display, began to ask questions. We were able to teach visitors more about sharks and also talk about the research that’s going around in Moss Landing Marine Laboratories! Many of them are very interested in attending the Open House event that will be held at MLML April 20th and 21st.

Visitors intrigued by the shark head.

Visitors intrigued by the shark head.

 

There were many attempts to inflate a humpback whale in the Festival on Saturday, but because of the strong wind, the whale was never completed.

Inflating the humpback whale

Inflating the humpback whale

But luckily, the weather cleared up and the sun came out and made WhaleFest far more enjoyable!

Kristin interpreting for the visitors

Kristin interpreting for the visitors

 

Are you my clone?

October 18, 2012

One’s a lonely number
Photo courtesy of Catarina Pien

Ever wonder why you see some anemones in groups and some alone in tide pools? Sea anemones can reproduce in two different ways, asexually and sexually. Anemones are broadcast-spawners meaning that they release eggs and sperm into the water column for fertilization.  However if you’re an anemone that has settled onto a nice barren rock and don’t have time to reproduce, but you want to prevent other anemones  from taking over that rock  you claimed, what do you? You split yourself through…….. FISSION! This is asexual reproduction, where the anemone splits itself and creates another one of itself of the exact same genetic material.

Scenario of how anemones undergo fission from:
Sebens 1980 Biol Bull 158: 370; Sebens 1983 Pac Sci 37: 121; Ferrell 2005 Oecologia 142: 184

Depending on species this process may take days to weeks, but once there are more clones present, more can divide themselves through fission. Sooner or later you’ll see whole colonies of anemones on rocks!

Holy moly anemones! Each one of these are identical clones.
Photo courtesy of Catarina Pien

In the intertidal zone one of the limited resources is space for sessile organisms so anemones have adapted a way to populate an area quickly . But what if that pesky neighbor anemone is also asexually reproducing right next to your clones? What would you do? That’s when you take drastic measures, by fending them off with your acrorhagi, specialized stinging cells used to deter other anemones from taking over your area.

These battles are intense, both parties may suffer serious damage. As you can see in the video, the anemones when attacked retreat. This is because each one of those tentacles have stinging cells called nematocysts. Animals in the phylum Cnidaria (anemones, corals, jellyfish, and hydrae are part of this group) have these specialized cells.

Here’s a close of up what a nematocyst looks like magnified.

There is a mechanism that triggers the release of this harpoon-like contraption, when released the harpoon penetrates into the target organism and releases the toxin which is useful to immobilize prey such as fish. If you’ve ever been stung by a jellyfish that’s what exactly is happening; some species of jellyfish such as the box jelly and sea wasp have stings that cause excruciating pain, anemones also have these nematocysts too. However, because our skin is too thick for the nematocyst to penetrate into, you only feel a sticky sensation from touching anemones in the tide pools. The fact that we’re immune to most anemone stings in the tide pools doesn’t make it acceptable to touch them constantly though, the nematocysts do take quite a lot of energy for these anemones to regulate these mechanism. So the next time you’re visiting the tide pools do the anemones a favor and just observe and be amazed at their adaptations for surviving in the intertidal zone!

We maybe small, but please respect us!
Photo courtesy of Catarina Pien

Pinnacles National Monument

September 23, 2012

Who would have thought an extinct volcano can be so very multifaceted and interesting? Not me.

Our Geological Oceanography Class at MLML went to the Pinnacles National Monument the other day, driving up this windy road off of Soledad, California, we see this:

Our professor Ivano Aiello asks the question I very much dread, especially when I have absolutely NO CLUE what the answer could be:

” How do you think these peaks formed that you see in the distance?”

Well, let’s get a bit closer… shall we?

What you see here is actually part of the tube that used to lead into the Magma chamber. The volcano is extinct…no more Magma here, but how did it form?

The usual suspects – a fault line, some major earthquake action, you know the Spiel, Bam volcano. Now, the amazing part is that half of the volcano is actually in Southern California as part of the Neenach Volcanics complex, the other up here in Central California. Due to the position of Pinnacles on a fault line it has been transported all the way up north over the period of 30 million years.

Pinnacles features great hiking opportunities, and if you bring a Geologist friend, an amazingly educational hike at that.

Here you see the original side of the volcano. Smoother than the first formations I showed you:

Here’s Ivano explaining one rock formation type at Pinnacles: The Volcanic Breccia, composed of lava flow cementing multiple types of intrusive rocks that originated from the volcano when it was still active.

Make sure to bring plenty of water on your hike. The heat can be quite overwhelming. We found huge relief from the heat in caves that were definitely not caves as you may have experienced before. These caves were formed by piled-up boulders that went through some major events from earthquakes to subsequent lava flowing over them, cooling, and some more earthquakes, and an occasional landslide as well, oh sure, floods, too.

Bring your flashlight!

This was a treat!

Adventures in Madagascar or On The Importance of Doing a Pilot Study!

September 4, 2012

by Angela Szesciorka, Vertebrate Ecology Lab

This summer I hopped on a plane, flying 29 hours one way (via Paris — ooh la la) over a period of three days to spend nearly a month on the island of Madagascar working on my pilot study.

Madagascar, a former French colony until 1960, is the fourth largest island in the world. Don’t let it fool you. It looks so tiny next to Africa, but it has 44 percent more area than California, and boasts more than 4,800 km of coastline.

Rocky coastline in Madagascar. Photo by Angela Szesciorka.

Most of the country’s export revenue comes from textiles, fish/shellfish, vanilla, and cloves. Newer sources of income include tourism, agriculture, and extracted materials (titanium ore, chromite, coal, iron, cobalt, copper and nickel). Madagascar provides half of the world’s supply of sapphires! But with a GDP of around $20 billion, The Economist rated Madagascar as the worst economy in 2011. Most of Madagascar’s inhabitants are subsistence livers, meaning they live off of what they can grow or catch.

Local fisherman spear hunting for crabs. Photo by Angela Szesciorka.

(more…)

Acidification and Summer Vacation

June 18, 2012

CSUMB/UROC student, Alex Neu, takes a pH reading

By Alex Neu, CSUMB/UROC research assistant

Not too many undergrads can say they have been fortunate enough to do research. Even fewer can say they’ve been a part of research going into their junior year. And just about one can say he’s been able to be a part of a collaborative research project between Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML) and Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO). My name’s Alex Neu and I’m that undergrad. I’m heading into my junior year this fall at California State University – Monterey Bay (CSUMB) and have just started a position as a student researcher with CSUMB’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Center (UROC). This summer MLML graduate student Emily Donham and I are spending our summer researching the effects of climate change on temperate rocky reef communities here in La Jolla as part of a CA Seagrant project funded to co-PI’s Dr. Scott Hamilton (MLML) and Dr. Jennifer Smith (SIO).

Our project includes studying the differential effects of increased CO2 on calcifying and fleshy algal species. Increased dissolved CO2 leads to a decreased pH and is commonly referred to as ocean acidification. Currently we are working with 2 fleshy species that are found here locally. One species is native to southern California and the other is invasive, or has been introduced and is adversely impacting its new habitat. This week marks the half way point in our first round of experimentation and we are all excited to see what kind of results we’ll find at the end of the month. Will one species fair better than the other? What sort of implications could this have for an invasive species’ ability to outcompete a native in a changing ocean environment?

Individual algal specimens being treated in the wetlab of Dr. Jennifer Smith at SIO.

Our day-to-day activities here include monitoring pH levels in each of our samples, taking water samples from randomly chosen jars to monitor carbonate chemistry, and general upkeep of the wetlab and our electronic data recording systems. We have also done some collecting of crustose coralline algae (CCA) for identification and potential use in future experiments. I have even learned how to do herbarium presses, which are a way of preserving algal specimens by flattening and drying them (apparently Plocamium cartilagineum is everyone’s favorite algae to press).

Thanks to UROC, SIO, and MLML for making this research opportunity possible!

The Unseen Elkhorn Slough

May 15, 2012

By Gabriela Navas, Invertebrate Zoology Lab

Every time you find yourself walking along the beautiful Elkhorn Slough, do you admire all you see? I guess we would have a conversation about the birds, crabs, even the occasional fish you may have seen. What about the snails? Oh yes, what about them? They are actually intermediate hosts to unseen residents of the slough, the trematode Cercaria batillariae. Trematodes are also known as flukes, and even though they may have a bad rap in some circles, they merit respect. Their life cycles involve sometimes one or more hosts, specialized to supplying different needs of the trematode. Some trematodes are even known to take over a snail body and mind modifying its behavior in order to get to its next host! Check this out this video on the trematode species Leucochloridium making “SNAIL ZOMBIES”:

Snail Zombies? You may think primitive, but in fact trematodes have recently been shown to show the ability to form caste systems just like your everyday ant or bee. According to Hechinger et al this is the first time this has been shown in flatworms. Check this out:

http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/early/2010/09/16/rspb.2010.1753.full

So, next time we take a stroll around the slough – let’s chat about the unseen, shall we?

Diving into the Deep

May 12, 2012

By Catherine Drake, Invertebrate Zoology Lab

My family and I have been going to the beach since before I could even walk. I’ve been snorkeling, boogie boarding, and building sandcastles for most of my life. But there is one method of enjoying the ocean that, until a couple of weeks ago, I had not yet tried: scuba diving. When I moved up to the central coast to attend MLML almost nine months ago, I knew that I wanted to get my open water diving certification. That way, eventually I could take the research diving course taught by Dr. Diana Steller. Also, I would ideally like to incorporate diving into my thesis, so I wanted to ensure that I could feel comfortable in such a novel environment.

To get your open water certification through PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors), you need to go on four dives. So, on Saturday April 14th, we set out for Stillwater Cove in Pebble Beach with all our dive gear and kayaks. I filled up my kayak with my tank, BC, weight belt, and snorkeling gear, clipped it all in and set off into the cove. On Sunday, we got on a boat in Monterey Harbor and set out into the bay. Our first site was at Red House, with a couple curious otters watching us as we jumped off the boat into the water. Then we moved over to Octopus Reef, for our final dive of the certification process.

My kayak getting filled with all of my dive gear to go diving in Stillwater Cove.

During our dives, I saw multiple species of sea stars, including a Pycnopodia helianthoides that was almost a meter wide. In addition, I found some nudibranchs, a giant decorator crab, and a gumboot chiton. I didn’t see any fish until halfway through my last dive; I was practicing a compass heading and happened to look up, only to find I was in the middle of a school of fish. I just hung out there and watched them as they watched me.

Getting our kayaks ready for launching into Stillwater Cove.

My dive buddies, instructors, and I on the boat just before our final two dives.

Before my diving experiences, I was nervous that I would become too afraid to be able to dive. Surprisingly, the only time I was scared during the whole weekend was when I first slid off my kayak into the water before beginning my first dive. I had not yet put on my BC, so I was just floating in my seven mm wetsuit; I slid down my mask and looked into the water. All I could see were my flippers, and below that was a green abyss. My first thought was, “what if there is a shark below me?” and I became anxious. But then I took a deep breath to calm down, put on my BC, and dove into the depths below into this new, unfamiliar and amazing world. It was an amazing experience, and I can’t wait to go diving again now that I’m certified!

 

Under Pressure

April 17, 2012

CTD aboard the Pt. Sur, Moss Landing

The CTD is a much used tool in the world of oceanography. We send it up and down the ocean, from surface to bottom, gathering data and water samples. As depth increases, so does the pressure. And a fun way to demonstrate the crushing pressure of a 1000 meters of water, is to literally crush things! Sending some decorated Polystyrene coffee cups along for a ride is a bit of a tradition on oceanographic cruises.  The result? Some very tiny coffee cups to place upon your desk and remind you of your adventures at sea.

Physical Oceanography Student Diane Wyse, proudly displays student art.

Phycology student, Sarah Jeffries demonstrates one way to reduce caffeine consumption.

After the hydrostatic pressure squeeze.

Haiku of the Week: Invasives

April 9, 2012

By Michelle Marraffini

Invasive species

Marinas can be their home
Natives hold the key

Follow me to Open House

March 3, 2012

By Michelle Marraffini

Invertebrate Zoology Lab

chile Open House shirt

Follow me to Open House! Students on a field trip in Chile sporting their Moss Landing gear.

The labs are a buzz gearing up for this year’s Open House festivities.  If you haven’t heard, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories host an annual Open House during our spring semester.  This large public outreach event allows our neighbors, local school children, parents, and hopefully incoming graduate students to interact with current students, faculty, and staff in a fun, exciting way.   This event will include a scavenger hunt, seminar talks, dune walks, a marine themed puppet show, and so much more.   Don’t miss out on this amazing opportunity to take a behind the scenes look at our lab and the research we are doing.

See you there April 21st and 22nd!!!

For more details visit our website at openhouse.mlml.calstate.edu


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