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.

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.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Day 3: Half Moon Bay

We are now at our new location in Half Moon Bay. It took most of the day to transport and setup the equipment. It was really interesting seeing how much gear is needed for the study and how intricate some of the setups for the equipment are. The imaging setup to get the incredibly white backgrounds seen in the photographs is pretty intense. Apparently, it was an innovative design by David.

After we had all of the main components setup, we went to work on painting and creating the cubes that are going to be used throughout the study. The cubes they are planning to distribute to the kids were pretty simple to build making them perfect for kids.

The last major project for the night was to go and scope out the site and look for prime locations to perform the study. This is the intertidal location. It was great smelling the salty air and the cool (for out here, warm for us Michiganders) ocean breeze. We arrived right after low tide and watched as the ocean rose and came in. The amount of life in these intertidal areas is just incredible. I got some great shots of a couple of anemones. Unfortunately, the overcast caused it to turn darker quicker and I wasn’t able to get more pictures. Tomorrow we will be taking an inordinate amount of photographs since we will be actually taking samples at that time.

Another day comes to a close, but an early morning beckons.

Our New Accommodations

The Kitchen at Our New Accommodations

David Painting the Kids' Cube Parts

Pillar Point Intertidal Zone

An Intertidal Pond

Border of Intertidal Zone

Waves Breaking Outside Intertidal Zone

Sea Anemone

Another Sea Anemone

View of the Bay at Twilight

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Day 2: Photos

The BioCube

European Starling

One of the Potential Sites

A New Fern

Another Potential Site

David Liitschwager

Blossoming Flower

Getting the Perfect Shot

Another  Beautiful Flower in the Area

My Favorite Flower Thus Far

Another Interesting Flower

The Golden Gate Bridge (Somehow a Little Lacking Compared to the Mighty Mac)

The View from My Room

Day 2: Site Selection

Breakfast has been said to be the most important meal of the day. Down the street from my accommodations there is an amazing bakery called La Boulange. So far, each morning I have been going there and buying an orange cinnamon roll. It is absolutely delicious. I am going to have to stock up when we leave for our other location tomorrow night.

We spent our time this morning working on preparing materials to perform our experiments during the rest of my time here. Our major concern comes with securing the cube along with our time lapse camera in the intertidal area. The wave action as the tide comes in has the potential of completely destroying our cube. Also, if our camera moves in the minutest of increments it will completely ruin our series of time lapse photos. The importance of anchoring our equipment is paramount and required quite a lot of thought process taking up the majority of the morning.

After lunch, we visited our second location and scouted suitable sites. We trekked down a few paths and found a handful of sites that meet the requirements for our survey. Tomorrow we will be looking at the intertidal location and doing the same. It has been extremely insightful understanding the intense process that goes into performing a study like this. These types of studies don't just materialize and it is not a process of "oh, I think I will go do this today." It takes some serious planning, research, and site visits. When I go to do my study this summer I will need to perform the same system of planning to choose location areas that will be suitable and representative of the surrounding ecosystems.

An incredible amount of knowledge gained today.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Day One: Logistics

Today we spent the morning going over logistics for the studies at both locations. Nothing real exciting as many of you know, but an important step in the process. I had the afternoon off to play tourist. The California Academy of Sciences is pretty amazing. I wish I could have spent more time there unfortunately I have discovered I hate parking here. I also found out that I definitely don't like driving here. Thankfully, I'm not here for tourism and my expedition will take me out of the city.

This is not to say that i don't like the city, because I do just not navigating it. I'm looking forward to tomorrow and getting out into the field and doing some work. Until then, I am going to dinner with my cousin and relax tonight before all the fun begins.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Under 48 Hours Out

Less than 48 hours remain before I depart for the expedition. I have a feeling my sleep schedule is going to be at a severe detriment during these last two nights. Especially, since early mornings beckon. This weekend has been a whirlwind of packing and cleaning. The house is the cleanest it has been all winter. I love coming home from a trip to a perfectly clean house. After a trip it always seems like you need another mini one to unwind and prepare for the return to daily life. I know after this trip especially (which I have a feeling will pass much too quickly) I will need that unwinding period.

Packing is also one of the hardest things for a trip. You always seem to over think what you really need and almost always forget something that you do. I have laid everything out and have nearly finished packing. I cannot finish until I complete my last day of coursework. The last of my necessities are laid out on the chair awaiting placement in my carry-on. My camera is cleaned and ready for action. It is going to need a vacation from the amount of photos I will be taking on this trip.

Now, I must attempt to rest for this last day of preparation until I leave. I hope I can actually get at least a little sleep and let this excitement take a break for a night.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

T-minus 6 days

As a student at Lake Superior State University in Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan we are required to perform a senior research project. I decided to emulate a project that was done by National Geographic photographer David Liittschwager using a 1 cubic foot cube to measure biodiversity over a period representative of 24 hours. About a month ago I contacted Mr. Liittschwager to receive more information on the methods he used in his project. When I contacted him, he informed and invited me on an expedition using those same methods for some firsthand experience using the methods. Of course I told him yes and now I leave in six days for San Francisco for a joint expedition with the Smithsonian Institute.

To say that I am excited is an unbelievable understatement and next to my wedding is the second greatest event in my life. I have always held a dream of working for both National Geographic and the Smithsonian Institute. My amazing university is not only allowing me to go, but also helping to fund the majority of my expenses and for that I am extremely grateful. At the moment, I am finishing preparations to embark next week. This weekend we will be packing for our trips (my wife is visiting relatives in Texas) and getting the house in order. I have a feeling I am going to end up over packing.

Check out Mr. Liittschwager's Nat Geo article.

T-Minus: Six Days