This blog will be following my San Francisco Expedition with National Geographic and the Smithsonian
Institute. It will also follow my own work on my senior research project for LSSU.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Almost time for fieldwork

The summer has nearly come to an end and it has taken quite a while to get everything squared away to begin do my research in the Duck Lake Fire Zone. One of my major obstacles was trying to get all of the materials to build my cubes. I have just finished welding the cubes and I am now in the process of painting them. The second major obstacle was that I wasn't sure if I needed a permit for my research or not. I contacted the DNR office and it was lucky that I did since I do need a permit. However, the process was pretty simple and I was able to get all of my paperwork together and will be receiving my permit next week. Now, I just need to go over all of my gear and make sure that I have everything that I need. I still need a couple of supplies. I am hoping that I will begin the research next week as long as everything goes according to plan. Fingers crossed I guess.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Day 7: Photographs

David talking to the first group of students

Assembling the cubes

The search for invertebrates

A damselfly larva

An Isopod

This was actually a polychaete worm. It is difficult to see the leg like appendages

Dr. Meyer helping students learn techniques

A freshwater mussel. You can see the foot (white part) sticking out.

Collecting specimens

This one is a dragonfly larva

A nematode, a gilled snail, and an isopod

Another gilled snail

It is difficult to make out, but this was a midge larva

An adult beetle

A potential site for the cube

Sifting through a sample on the banks of the pond

I believe this is Burmansia vulcanicola a species of angel trumpet

Zak sneaking a bite to eat in between groups

Caddisfly larvae

One of my favorite pictures

The students' cube placement

Monday, April 8, 2013

Day 7: Marin Headlands and Nature Bridge

Last night was fairly leisurely compared to the last few nights. It was nice being able to have a night to myself again. Again, it was a nice morning. I was able to wake up at my own pace and wasn't feeling rushed at all. Had to pack up for the last time which was a little sad. But, the breakfast at La Boulange (five pounds gained thanks to that stupid bakery). Come to find out the bakery was bought by Starbucks not too long ago. Honestly, not too surprised by that.

After another breakfast of an orange cinnamon morning bun, we loaded up the vehicles and drove out to the Marin Headlands which is located on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge. Still laugh at all the hype about it. Doesn't even compare to the Mighty Mac. Even though our next site wasn't too far over the bridge, it still took almost 20 minutes to go five miles thanks to construction and a five minute wait for a one lane tunnel into the National Park.

We were met at the site by Ann of NatureBridge who informed us as to the itinerary for the day. We would be visited by groups of about 16 Fifth Graders every hour for about half the day. All that really needs to be said about that is it was intense. The kids were great though. They were very eager to learn and get their hands dirty. I couldn't believe how knowledgeable some of these kids were!

We had the kids find sites that they thought had the most biodiversity. They chose some excellent sites and their rationale was spot on. We all had a great laugh at some of the antics of a few of the kids. It was a great experience for me and the kids. I really want to start a program like theirs here in Michigan.

After our last group of children we were taken on a small tour of the NatureBridge campus. The campus was created from the remnants of an old Army base in that location. We then set up our equipment in the student laboratory space. That was the final part of my role in the expedition, which was difficult since I was finally in my element and the rest of the team were looking to me for identifications, ideas, and information. We said some simple goodbyes and that was it.

Since I had a few hours before I needed to catch my flight, I decided to stop and grab a bite to eat. I headed toward the airport, but I made a pit stop in Japan Town. I really wanted some good Japanese cuisine before returning home. I was gone for about half an hour and when I returned to my vehicle I found that someone had broken into it and stolen my backpack and camera bag. I immediately called the SFPD and reported the theft. It was a disheartening end to the otherwise fantastic expedition. That was the reason behind the delays in posting. I will be posting some pictures of my last day (thankfully, I uploaded them on to David's computer before leaving) as soon as I receive them.

Day 6: Transition

We were lucky this morning and had a reprieve from the 5am wake-ups we've had all week. It was nice to be able to get a little sleep and then be able to enjoy a nice breakfast. The weather was giving us a nice send off from Pillar Point today. The last day for me on the reef was invigorating. The wind was kicking up some great waves (too bad I didn't have time for some surfing). Sunshine through the light cloud cover created an amazing ambiance to our search for the final location for the cube.

The main goal for today was to actually determine the final placement for the cube. The problem we seemed to running into was the vast abundance of great locations. Some of the locations that could potentially be the best placement were inaccessible. Others were too open to the destructive forces of the waves (although, oddly enough, had some of the best diversity). But, the place that was chosen was a ledge that I had pointed out.

The ledge was located in a narrow crevasse that opened to the ocean and would intermittently fill and drain as the waves came in. The water would gently fill the crevasse and it seemed to allow for a great diversity in the organisms that called it home. We played around with placement for quite awhile to find the best spot for highest diversity. A lot of photographs were taken with David placing the cube. Unfortunately, I will have to return home before the actual placement is made. But, tonight we will be moving to the next site in the Marin Headlands. Should be fun!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Day 5: Sample Collection and Processing

First of all, I need to apologize for being a day behind on my posts. We have had really late nights and very early mornings that have caught up to us. Our second day out on the reef was extremely successful. We were able to collect over 30 specimens. It was a great day. The sun was out and the temperature was perfect. We really could not have asked for a better day for collection.

It was another early morning. We had to rise before the sun came up in order to be in position for low tide. Yesterday, my pants (even rolled up above my knees) were soaked, so I decided to where my swim trunks. It turned out to be a smart move on my part. We needed to collect all of the specimens that were in the vicinity of the cube, since they are found in the same habitat and could reasonably be considered to have passed through the cube.

I caught two crabs and a Sunflower Starfish. One of the crabs was pretty cool. It had barnacles half encircling its carapace making it seem like it had a crown (see picture). The Sunflower Star was really slimy, but it was really soft as well. Some of the other Stars were hard and rigid. I had to go in up to my chest to get the big crab and the Sunflower Star. The water was super cold. Oddly enough my legs felt fine in the water. It was my chest and stomach that were cold.

We went back to the house to process the sample soon after we collected our samples. The photographs that we were taking needed live specimens and therefore required us to quickly process them (identify, photograph, then take DNA samples). After the photographing I assisted Dr. Christopher Meyer in taking DNA samples for the BioCode project. The BioCode project is attempting to bar code (genetically) all of the organisms on the Earth. It is a bold attempt, but from my point of view it is a good endeavor.

All in all we sampled 31 specimens: Flabellina trilineata, Rostanga pulchra, Cadlina modesta, Geitodoris heathi, Doris montereyensis, Limaeia cockerelli, Diaulula sandiegensis, Doriopsilla albopunctata, Phidrana hiltoni, Triopha catalinae, Peltodoris nobilis, Patiria miniata, Strongylocentrotus purpuratus, Henricia pumila, Tonicella lineata, Nereis vexillosa, Fissurelli bimaculatus, Epiactis prolisera or Aulactinia incubans, Heptacarpus sitchensis, Pagurugranosi manus, Tonicella lineata, Anthopleura elegantissimal, Pagurus samuelis, Celliostoma ligatum, Paguristes bakeri, Pagurus hirsutiusculus, Pachygrapses eressipes, Cancer entennerius, Aglaophenia sp., and Aglaophenia sp.


Sampling and choosing a spot to place the cube

A potential placement site for the cube

The Sunflower Star that I caught

The waves breaking on the rocks became the soundtrack to the expedition

A polychaete worm (one of my favorites)

After we caught this Starfish it released its babies. They look like the noodles in Chicken and Stars soup.

A couple of anemones

This shrimp was pretty cool. Its entire body was green tinted, but completely see through.

Our specimens

This tiny crab was about the size of the nail of your pinkie finger.

This was an awesome Nudibranch

A Chiton

This was the Nudibranch I photographed the other day

Another Starfish

The shell of this snail was really cool. It was striped all along it in a spiral pattern.

More of our specimens

A Purple Sea Urchin and some snails

This bucket was mostly filled with different species of snails

This was the crab I caught at the same time as the Sunflower Star.
The photography rig that David uses to take the amazing white background images

This starfish was really cool

One of my favorite crabs.

The underside of one of our starfish specimens

The shape of this crab was unique in that it was triangular

This was an awesome Nudibranch.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Day 4: Pillar Point

It is amazing how abundant the life is in the reef. The amount of diversity is just staggering. Take a few steps away from a spot and the entire habitat changes. The creatures we were seeing were just amazing. Nudibranchs, Cnidaria, Mollusca, Crustaceans, and a multitude of plant life were everywhere. The whole area was teeming with life. We couldn't take a step in any direction without potentially stepping on some creature. The mollusks were kind of funny. When you touched them they would spit at you just like a water gun.

Today was more of a cursory examination to discover good habitat sites for the cube. For the purposes of the study we want locations that have life that is representative of type of habitat present. Certain organisms will live near each other, but don't interact much with each other. In some places you can see a nearly straight line of habitat division. The anemones, however, seemed to be pretty abundant no matter the location (except for the sea grass fields).

The sea urchins, which we found further out on the point, had burrowed into the rock and created their own safe haven sunken into the rock face. There were a few organisms that as we went further out became more abundant. I saw at least half a dozen different species of starfish a football field away from the shoreline. Tomorrow, we will be doing a much more thorough inspection of the area for organisms. I am really excited to see what organisms we find.

Here is some more photos from today:

This Giant Green Anemone was just above the low tide level. We found a lot more that had closed as a protection mechanism from predators.

I found this tiny pond with a few different species of anemones.

A nice Ochre Sea Star

Some more Ocrhe Sea Stars

The team out scouring the reef for organisms

Anemone channel

Some anemones and sea urchins

An Ochre Sea Star and some anemones under the water

Sunflower Sea Star

Sea Urchins

One of the best sites of the day. There was so much diversity in this single pool.

A Leather Star

Another type of starfish

Gooseneck Barnacles

A rock crab

This may be a new Nudibranch discovered in the area

Pink Barnacle

Tide coming into a cove out in the reef

A Sea Urchin forest

A clump of sea palms

A Panorama of the group out looking for organisms
The view from the back of the house. A perfect day.