Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Ballast water and epifluorescence microscopy

January 13, 2014

by Liz Lam, Biological Oceanography Lab

The Golden Bear Facility, home to MLML's ballast treatment testing team

The Golden Bear Facility, home to MLML’s ballast treatment testing team

Ballast water treatment and testing is a big focus here in the Biological Oceanography lab, and this is no exception even when it comes to class projects.  Last semester, I started a project aiming to improve one of our counting techniques.  I’d previously written about IMO’s restriction to 10 organisms per 1,000 liters of discharged ballast water and counting zooplankton under a microscope in order to check for these results.  But when it comes to even smaller organisms, such as algae and other even tinier phytoplankton, different methods are called for.

We already have a pretty clever way of quantifying such microscopic organisms by using a few chemical and optical tricks.  The first key ingredient is fluorescein diacetate, or FDA.  One of the special features of this molecule is that it can only be cleaved by certain proteins in live cells.  Once FDA is split, what remains is fluorescein, a compound that glows bright green when excited under blue light. We can then use an epifluorescence microscope to both shine the right wavelength of light and magnify a sample in order to count any green organisms.  If it glows green, then it means it’s alive!  This allows us to quantify the number of live organisms that are extremely small and difficult to see.

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Fukushima – is the ocean safe?

January 10, 2014

Jackie Lindsey By Jackie Lindsey, Vertebrate Ecology Lab

If you are a marine scientist, you may have had the same experience that I did over the recent holiday break – all of my relatives want to know if I think our seafood is safe from Fukushima radiation.  If you aren’t a marine scientist, you and I may still have something in common – this topic is not my current focus of study and I will (probably) never be one of the “experts” on this matter.  However,  I have started to do some extra research.  I may not be an expert on food safety inspections or the dispersal of different types of radiation, but I do have some ideas about where to look when I don’t know all of the answers.  This is what I told my relatives:

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

(Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)

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“Tails” from The Field

August 7, 2013

Angieby Angela Szesciorka, Vertebrate Ecology Lab

Since May, the mammal lab has been as quiet as a post-apocalyptic library (yep, that quiet).

For the marine mammologist (and birder), summer time is all about fieldwork — followed by lots and lots of data crunching and thesis writing. So with fall drawing ever closer (noooooo!), I wanted to check in with my labmates to see what they have been up to.

Below is a quick summary from each of us. We’ll see you soon!

Ryan Carle: Ryan continued working on Año Nuevo Island, finishing data collection for his thesis on Rhinoceros Auklet diet and reproduction. He spends most of his waking hours on the Island identifying prey, restoring habitat, counting burrows, collecting boluses — you name it. When he’s not on Año, he’s trekking about California and making apple cider!

Casey Clark: Casey has been fervently writing up his thesis as he prepares to defend in the fall. Draft one? Check! Falling asleep on your keyboard? Check! He has also been helping out with seabird research in Astoria, Oregon. He did save time for fun too — camping, hiking, and kayaking. Jealous!

Marilyn Cruickshank: Marilyn spent the summer analyzing BeachCOMBERS data. She’s looking to see if the residence times of stranded birds on Monterey beaches can help with damage assessments and as a predictor of where most birds will wash ashore in future oil spills. Marilyn continued working for the stranding network and learned how to program in Matlab. She even found time to carve a new banjo. Nice wood-working skills, Marilyn!

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Summer in Moss Landing

July 5, 2013

HFBby Heather Fulton-Bennett, Phycology Lab

Q: What do grad students do during the summer?

A: Thesis! Work! Everything!

We are lucky enough to be at the center of the Monterey Bay, and summers are the perfect time to take advantage of the large marine research community in the area.

headingoutmoss

Heading out of Moss Landing early on an unusually sunny morning. Photo: Heather Fulton-Bennett/MBARI 2013

This summer I am working as an intern at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), just across the water from Moss Landing Marine Labs in Moss Landing. MBARI’s research focuses on the development and use of marine technology as well as the exploration and monitoring of the ocean. As an intern there, I am working with Drs. Jim Bellingham and Julio Harvey on correlating optical measurements of zooplankton with molecular methods in the laboratory. These measurements will allow us to have a better understanding of the data sent back from in situ instruments as well as giving a better idea of the effects of confounding factors in both the optical and molecular measurements.

In the few weeks I’ve been here, there have been a lot of familiar faces around MBARI. Several other MLML students are taking advantage of MBARI’s facilities to work on projects related to their these, including a couple of my fellow interns, Vignesh Soundararajan and Diane Wyse, who are working with Francisco Chavez and Jim Bellingham respectively.

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R/V Point Sur in Transit

May 1, 2013

The R/V Point Sur is heading home this week, and students have had the opportunity to help with various science operations and add some cruise time to their resumes by joining up for a leg or two of the trip.  Check out this post by Ashley Wheeler, a first year in the Geological Oceanography Lab at MLML, about her experiences aboard our beloved vessel.

Ashley-Wheeler_headshot

Ashley Wheeler – Photo by Tara Pastuszek

CTD-package-at-sunrise

Ready on deck, the CTD package is set to deploy at sunrise – Photo by Ashley Wheeler

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.

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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!

 


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