Archive for the ‘Surviving Grad School’ Category

Life’s a Beach

July 25, 2012
Blogger volunteer with young women in science

MLML bloggers Michelle, Diane, and Catherine volunteer with Young Women In Science

By Catherine Drake and Michelle Marraffini, Invertebrate Zoology and Molecular Ecology Lab

Photos by: Diane Wyse, Physical Oceanography Lab

Summer is here on the Central Coast and MLML students as well as a few MBARI interns took some time off to play hooky for a cause.    We volunteered with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Young Women in Science (YWS) program to help middle school girls in this summer camp monitor the beach for sand crabs and learn how to boogie board.    The camp’s aim is help empower young girls interested in science to be guardians of the ocean.   Many of these girls have never been swimming in the ocean before and fellow bloggers Diane, Catherine, and myself showed the girls the joys of splashing in the surf.

Lifeguards explaining some water safety ideas before we head into the water

Lifeguards explaining some water safety ideas before we head into the water

YWS Catherine

Catherine catching a wave with the girls of YWS

We spent half of the day using the scientific method and sampling along a transect to look for sand crabs.  The campers were encouraged to form hypotheses about where the crabs were living and use results to think about larger food webs and ecosystem processes.   After lunch and a safety lesson on currents and waves from the lifeguards, girls rushed towards the ocean with boogie boards in tow ready to conquer this new frontier.  We ran in after them and helped them learn to catch a wave and dive under ones that were too big.   This was the first time being in the ocean for many of these young ladies, and they were so brave as they dominated the large waves.  When it was time to go, many of the girls had enjoyed their time in the water so much that they insisted on catching one final wave.  It was inspirational to see the girls having so much fun making observations about sand crabs and trying to catch every wave they could.  We had a great time volunteering for this essential program, and can’t wait to help out again!

YWS Michelle

Michelle riding a wave and showing the girls of YWS how much fun boogie boarding is

YWS catherine kelp

Never a dull day for a Marine Biologist in Monterey Bay, Catherine models some giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera, while boogie boarding


Happy Fourth of July From Moss Landing Marine Labs!

July 4, 2012

by Angela Szesciorka, Vertebrate Ecology Lab

Moss Landing Marine Laboratories wishes you a happy Fourth of July! We hope you have a fun-filed day of (over)eating, celebrating, and spending time with friends and family. While you are enjoying your day of fun, check out some of nature’s most patriotic sea creatures below!


Affectionately known as red bull, this 14-limbed amphipod crustacean (Acanthonotozoma inflatum) is found mostly in the Atlantic Ocean feeding on Bryozoa, a phylum of aquatic colonial invertebrate animals. Photo by Alexander Semenov.


Students and Faculty Compete for Glory in Inaugural MLML 3K

June 20, 2012

by Diane Wyse, Physical Oceanography Lab

In the spirit of community building and maintaining positive energy during finals in May, MLML Student Body hosted the first official Moss Landing Marine Labs 3K race.  The course covered what most students, staff, and faculty know as “the loop,” with the race starting and ending at the entrance to the labs.  Students challenged the faculty to a friendly cross-country style competition.  While the faculty team gave the students a run for their money, the students’ overwhelming turnout dominated the competition. Approximately two dozen participants and supporters came out for the inaugural race and post-race BBQ.  Stay tuned for the next running of this fun and sporting community event!

Participants prepare to go the distance
(Photo: A. Woods)

Investigating the Intertidal

November 10, 2011

by Diane Wyse, Physical Oceanography Lab

Students carefully investigate a tidepool at Asilomar State Beach.

In October, two fellow Moss Landing students and I sprang into action to lead fourth graders on a tidepooling field trip to Asilomar State Beach.  Students and chaperones from Ms. Alicia Doolittle’s fourth grade class at Bay View Academy in Monterey enthusiastically participated in the food web interactions lesson and activities prepared and taught by Sara Hutto, Nicole Bobco, and myself.

MLML graduate students (L to R) Nicole Bobco, Biological Oceanography Lab, Sara Hutto, Phycology Lab, and Diane Wyse, Physical Oceanography Lab

Though we each represent different labs at MLML, we all had a blast instructing and helping students identify organisms and their interactions in the intertidal environment.  We were impressed by the students’ knowledge of food webs, and even regaled with a song!  The field trip was also a treat for me, as I have not been tidepooling in California in many years, since visiting with family when I was about their age.  At the end of the day, it seemed everyone had a great time learning about and exploring the beautiful coastal ecosystems of the Pacific Ocean.

Sara teaching a student about intertidal food web interactions.

Eyes on the Pies

May 20, 2011

No mess, no glory! (photo: E. Loury)

As the school year winds to a close, Moss Landing students get ready to unleash their post-finals jubilation on the time-honored Lab Olympics.  These contestants from last year have survived a pie-eating contest, one of may challenges facing the would-be Lab Olympic champion.  This year’s event is approaching next week – what daring feats of skill will come to pass?  Stay tuned to find out!

Sweet Success: Thesis Defense on Striped Bass Takes the Cake

May 8, 2011

Jon and his thesis subject! (photo: D. Haas)

Congratulations to Ichthyology student Jon Walsh, who recently defended his thesis: “Habitat Use of Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis), estimated from otolith microchemistry, in the San Francisco Estuary, and its effect on total mercury and heavy metal body burden upon capture.”

Jon used the chemical composition of otoliths, or fish ear bones, to track where a fish had traveled throughout its lifetime in San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.  He also looked at heavy metal contamination in the fish fillets and found high levels of mercury had accumulated in the fish.  Luckily, this striped bass cake creation by Diane Haas is mercury free!

What a catch! (photo: D. Haas)

Another Thesis Defense, Another Skate Cake

May 5, 2011

Megan with the cake version of her Master's thesis subject (photo: E. Loury)

Congratulations to Megan Witnon, the latest Ichthyology Lab graduate from MLML!  Megan defended her thesis this week titled “Age, growth, and demography of the roughtail skate, Bathyraja  trachura, from the eastern Bering Sea.”  And her defense wasn’t complete without another amazing cake creation from MLML food art extraordinaire Diane Haas.

Though Diane has dabbled in dessert skates before, this one really takes the cake!  The butterfly shapes represent the vertebrae sections that researchers like Megan and Diane use to tell the age of  skate.  The purple vertebra represents the end product of a chemical process called histology that Megan used to better see the age bands in the vertebrae.   Now that’s a doubly sweet success!

The Roughtail Skate as interpreted by Diane Haas (photo: E. Loury)

Drop-In to MLML Open House: The Art of Science… Or Is It the Science of Art?

April 16, 2011

MLML students play paint-by-number

Sometimes we all need a break from the daily grind.  What’s a good way to take a breather?  How about taking some time for arts and crafts!

These MLML students are taking some time after-hours to paint the aquarium scene for the 2009 puppet show.  MLML alumna Heather Hawk lent her expertise and drew the fantastic backdrop, then directed her peers to fill the corals in with the proper colors.

If you’d like to see the 2009 Open House puppet show featuring Harry Spotter, take a look here!

Aquarium scene backdrop

MLML Open House is Saturday, April 30 & Sunday, May 1

Tsunami Status at Moss Landing Marine Labs

March 11, 2011

Brynn Hooton-Kaufman

By Brynn Hooton-Kaufman, Phycology Lab

I went to bed last night with plans to wake up and go snorkeling in Stillwater Cove at 8 am this morning.  You might say those plans changed a bit when I got a phone call from my brother at 1:45 am.  Well, actually it was five phone calls, because it took me that long to shake off the cobwebs of sleep and realize he wasn’t pocket dialing me.  My thoughtful brother was up watching television, and had been alerted by the news to the disaster that had taken place in Japan.  He called to let me know that a tsunami was headed toward the west coast with an arrival time of approximately 7:30 am, and he was concerned since we are residents of Monterey.  Thankfully, we live high on one of the marine terraces in New Monterey, and I assured him that we would be safe from any floodwaters, and headed back to bed.

I immediately flipped on the television when I woke up this morning at 6, and started catching up on the news.  The dramatic videos from Japan were chilling, and showed the ocean washing over agricultural land, pouring through city streets, and creating whirlpools that entrapped boats.  The effects of the tsunami on Hawaii thankfully looked much milder, and the news didn’t report major damage from the flooding they experienced.  As for our tsunami forecast, the news crews were predicting waves of a few feet high to hit around 7:45.  I called my snorkeling buddy, updated her on the current events since she hadn’t seen the news, and we both decided that calling off the trip to Stillwater was a good idea.

I continued to watch the news, and when 7:45 rolled around, I was a little surprised not to see any changes on the beaches in the live-feed video.  I even started to wonder if canceling the trip to collect seaweeds had been a mistake.  But then I reminded myself, better safe than sorry.  I don’t want to be the student with poor judgement who thought it was more important to collect materials for an exam than to heed tsunami warnings, and get swept out to sea.  Besides, I reminded myself, tsunamis aren’t over in a blink of an eye; they can continue to have an impact for hours.

And it turns out that’s exactly what happened.  Pretty soon on the news, boats and docks were getting ripped from their moorings in Santa Cruz harbor, and were barreling into anything in their way.  MLML grad student Sara Hutto was high and dry, far from the dangers of the surge, but managed to catch these great photos:

Debris getting swept out of Santa Cruz Harbor (photo: S. Hutto)

As you can see, the current is moving quickly, and taking pieces of the harbor with it.  The tsunami was really interesting to watch.  It didn’t just move in once as a big surge, then drain back out, but instead it did this multiple times.  It was kind of like watching a dramatic tide cycle, all happening in twenty minutes or so, and then starting all over again.   (more…)

Feast Your Eyes on This

February 20, 2011

photo: E. Loury

While marine researchers, especially graduate students, are used to living on a budget, who says they can’t eat well in the field?  Students from a Chemical Oceanography class are treated to a feast aboard the R/V Point Sur during a research cruise.  It’s remarkable what grad students will do for the promise of food.


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