By Brynn Hooton-Kaufman, Phycology Lab
I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few months diving, tidepooling, and digging through rotting wrack on the beach in search of seaweeds. Sometimes I get skunked, driven out by the swell, weather, and even tsunamis. Sometimes I spend hours searching around, just to find that the seaweed I want isn’t even in season, and is nowhere to be found.
But we all know it’s the victories that count. When I march back up to the car, spoils of battle in hand, laden with the seaweeds to be used in the following week’s class, I’m pretty pleased with myself. And unfailingly, I run into someone on the way. “What did you catch?” they usually ask.
“Seaweed!” I proudly announce, waiting for what will hopefully be an enthusiastic response. But usually, the responses fall a little flat. Often they come in a variety of “hmm, that’s interesting” or some sort of feigned interest. I can’t say I really blame them. Seaweed isn’t quite a trophy fish that you would pose with in a picture (although most phycologists have), and most people don’t have much experience with it.
I didn’t have much experience with seaweed either before I started graduate school at MLML. To be honest, I really didn’t know what phycology was at all, even though I was joining the Phycology Lab. Kelp forest ecology was my main interest, and more specifically I wanted to study how organisms use kelp as habitat. If that was going to make me a phycologist, that was fine by me. (more…)