Tide Bites: A Unique Challenge: Marine Subtidal Ecology at UW Friday Harbor Labs

“Tide Bites” is the monthly newsletter of UW Friday Harbor Laboratories. This month, two of the instructors of the Marine Subtidal Ecology course Dive Officer Pema Kitaeff and Dr. Alex Lowe write about what it takes to be a scientific diver at the University of Washington. This course is currently scheduled to be offered in the summer of even years (the next offering will be summer 2020) at Friday Harbor Labs, and interested students are encouraged to contact the Marine Biology Adviser for more information.

“This set up quite a challenge: train 12 students to accurately count and identify dozens of algae, invertebrate, and fish species in two weeks while simultaneously training in dive rescue techniques and scientific subtidal survey methods, developing an independent research project and figuring out how to write legibly on datasheets underwater while wearing ¼”-thick gloves.”

Despite windy weather and choppy water just the day before, the morning of Friday June 22nd 2018 dawned gloriously sunny and calm: a gift of optimal conditions bestowed on the patient planners of field work. Few have been as deserving of such a gift as the 12 students in the Marine Subtidal Ecology (MSE) course offered during Session A this past summer FHL. June 22nd was only their 13th day in the San Juan Islands but it marked the culmination of the Kelp Ecosystem Ecology Network (KEEN) data collection, for which they had been preparing before they even arrived.

This year’s MSE was the first time a scientific diving course was administered to a full roster of students within an academic course at FHL. Led by Dr. Aaron Galloway (U. of Oregon), soon-to-be-Dr. Alex Lowe (UW), and Dive Officer Pema Kitaeff (FHL), the course is built around the American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS) standards and ultimately qualifies students as full scientific divers. Since 2010, scientific diver training has been offered at FHL as a non-credit workshop. Our goal for MSE was to train students in scientific diving methods and provide real research experiences in the Salish Sea for academic credit – a change we hoped would broaden access to scientific diving and underwater science. Divers prep on a boatPrevious iterations of this concept had incorporated scientific diving into the 2009 Marine Biology Quarter, and Ecology Between and Below Pacific Tides course in 2015. This year we invited students for a 5-week intensive scientific diving and marine ecology course. Like all FHL summer courses, the application process was competitive and the cohort of 12 MSE students all shared a strong desire and determination to become scientific divers. Their backgrounds and experience were diverse: a few already had logbooks confirming over a hundred dives, while others had worked hard to log the minimum 20 dives required at the start of the class. A few had been to FHL before and had experience recognizing local marine flora and fauna, but many had no prior familiarity with Salish Sea organisms. This set up quite a challenge: train 12 students to accurately count and identify dozens of algae, invertebrate, and fish species in two weeks while simultaneously training in dive rescue techniques and scientific subtidal survey methods, developing an independent research project and figuring out how to write legibly on datasheets underwater while wearing ¼”-thick gloves.

The Kelp Ecosystem Ecology Network uses a standardized method to compare studies of kelp ecosystems around the world. Kelp forests cover 25% of the world’s coastline, dominating many nearshore habitats in temperate climates. They are important sources of food and structure that support valuable nearshore ecosystems. We built the course around the KEEN protocol because it implements commonly used survey techniques, connects to international collaborators, and requires expert knowledge of local flora and fauna. In other words, it could be an ideal teaching tool. Incorporating this work into a summer course contributes to a better understanding of how the habitat around FHL fits into the global context of kelp forests, but also serves as a roadmap for other field stations hoping to incorporate networked research into scientific diving classes. We were able to build on research conducted by Dr. Katie Dobkowski and others who have studied kelp in the San Juan Islands. For the purposes of MSE 2018, we established our KEEN site at a Nereocystis (bull kelp) bed known to FHL researchers just off the Southwest tip of Shaw Island.

The students dove right into their training, taking advantage of the diversity of habitats accessible from the FHL dock. Challenge accepted! We walked through survey methods on the lawn in front of the dining hall, and practiced counting and identifying local organisms at low tide below the yoga platform between labs 5 and 11. Then, by the end of the first week the divers-in-training were ready to get underwater with slates, quadrats, and transect tapes to further develop research skills in the eelgrass and clump-weight reef habitats under and around the docks. We used the species-rich rocky reefs in the FHL preserve to teach organism identification and life history. Finally, we took these skills to the kelp bed at the South Shaw Island KEEN site for two practice dives before the big day when the students conducted the final survey to characterize the biological community before we removed the kelp from the experimental treatment plots. Mission accomplished: what seemed impossible had become reality.

read the full article

[Tide Bites]: A Summer Class Success Story

“Tide Bites” is the monthly newsletter of UW Friday Harbor Laboratories. This month, Professor Adam Summers reflects on the 25 year legacy of the ‘Fish Biomechanics’ summer course. Read a short exerpt below, or read the full story at: https://fhl.uw.edu/about/news-and-events/newsletters/. Graduate students and senior level undergrads are encouraged to apply now for summer courses at FHL.

“One class, five weeks, seven publications: that’s a Friday Harbor summer. The class did not just offer a one-time opportunity, it tied a group of young scientists together.”

– Professor Adam Summers, Friday Harbor Labs

As we take a break from FHL teaching for the winter quarter and retreat to warm labs full of good questions and better critters, it is a nice time to reflect on the impact of our educational mission.  This “Bite” is about a particular summer course but it could easily be about other courses from summer, fall, or spring.  In 1993 I came to Friday Harbor Labs to take the Fish Biomechanics course from Karel Liem and Bruce Miller.  Like many before and after me, the experience changed my life.  Karel, the Henry Bryant Bigelow Professor of Ichthyology, was my earliest and clearest example of the sheer fun to be had in the world of biology.  As Bruce identified fishes on the gravel of Jackson Beach, Karel walked around the group pointing out unusual morphology, strange behaviors, and interesting associations.  His wide grin and easy laugh made the waterside quizzes shine as opportunities to reveal preparation or show a currently-empty head ready to be filled.  Karel asked questions he did not know the answer to, some he should have (like the identity of tidepool sculpin number 3042) and many for which no one had an answer.  It was illuminating to see someone take joy in not knowing things; he viewed not knowing as an opportunity to learn.  I have never shaken that course.  I was the teaching assistant and eventually the instructor, and have continued teaching it with a distinguished cast of co-instructors.  In that time I have met so many wonderful students through teaching the Fish Biomechanics course. Some have in turn sent their own students who are now moving onward and interviewing for jobs.

[read the full article]

[Tide Bites]: Edward Sylvester Morse, 1838-1925 Part of his Legacy: a Shared Japan/U.S. Scholar Exchange Program at FHL

This article comes from “Tide Bites”, the monthly newsletter of UW Friday Harbor Laboratories. Morse, M. Patricia (2017, November). Edward Sylvester Morse, 1838-1925
Part of his Legacy: a Shared Japan/U.S. Scholar Exchange Program at FHL. Retrieved from http://depts.washington.edu/fhl/tidebites/Vol51/index.html. [link to original article]. Start planning now to attend spring quarter at Friday Harbor Labs by contacting the Marine Biology Adviser.

Edward Sylvester Morse, 1838-1925
Part of his Legacy: a Shared Japan/U.S. Scholar Exchange Program at FHL

by M. Patricia Morse, Ph.D.
UW Professor of Biology (retired), Friday Harbor Laboratories

Edward Sylvester Morse (1838-1925) was a greatly admired scientist and educator both in the United States and Japan. In the limited time he spent in Japan (1877-1883), one of the most important things E.S. Morse did was establish the first marine laboratory in the Pacific at Enoshima in 1877. Morse engaged in active research on Brachiopods, and his correspondence with Charles Darwin (seen at the University of Tokyo’s Archeology Museum) indicated the mutual respect they had for each other. In the U.S., Harvard University welcomed Professor Louis Agassiz from Switzerland, who Morse was invited to work with and was involved in the establishment of the Museum of Comparative Zoology. In addition, Morse participated with Agassiz in teaching about – and exposing high school teachers to – natural history at the Penikese Islands off Cape Cod, which was the forerunner to the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory.

An amazing writer and illustrator, Morse left a legacy of experience by writing textbooks on zoology, making observations on a “day by day” basis in Japan, and discovering, dating and cataloging Japanese pottery. The history of Edward Sylvester Morse and his activities in Japan have received continuous loyal support: there is a Morse Society in Enoshima, and a conservationist group has preserved the site in Omori where Morse found the historic kitchen midden, as well as encouraging educational activities in the schools.

ES Morse Placard
Edward Sylvester Morse plaque in Enoshima, with added words by Trish Morse which were dedicated in 2016 while she and Billie Swalla visited the site.

The development of a new Natural History discipline in Japan and the U.S. in the late 19th century saw Morse’s new marine lab at Enoshima followed by establishment of the Misaki Marine Biological Station (MMBS) in Japan (1886), the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, MA (1888), and the Puget Sound Marine Station (now UW Friday Harbor Labs) in Washington (1904). The first Director of the MBL in Woods Hole was Charles O. Whitman, who E.S. Morse had named to replace himself as Professor of Zoology at Imperial University from 1880-81. Morse and Whitman had many Japanese students that they sent to various universities in the U.S. and other countries, while Japanese marine scientists were welcoming researchers from other countries to study natural history in their rich waters. A similar exchange hub developed at FHL, with a focus on marine zoology. Exchange visits among senior scientists – for example, Professors Arthur and Helen Whiteley to the laboratory of Professor Motonori Hoshi – were the beginning of an ever-widening exchange with post-doctoral students and others continuing to pursue marine studies in molecular aspects of development, particularly genomic studies.

[read the full article here]

[Tide Bites] Understanding the Effects of Ocean Acidification on Predator-Prey Interactions

This article comes from “Tide Bites”, the monthly newsletter of UW Friday Harbor Laboratories. Seroy, S. (2017, July). Understanding the Effects of Ocean Acidification on Predator-Prey Interactions. Retrieved from https://fhl.uw.edu/about/news-and-events/newsletters/. [link to original article]. Applications for undergrads wishing to study and research at Friday Harbor Labs this autumn are still being accepted.

Understanding the Effects of Ocean Acidification on Predator-Prey Interactions

by Sasha Seroy

Sasha Seroy is a graduate student in the Oceanography Department at the University of Washington, advised by Dr. Daniel Grünbaum.

Marine organisms are experiencing dramatic environmental changes due to global climate change. As atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations rise, the oceans absorb increasing amounts of carbon dioxide, which results in acidification. While ocean acidification affects several different types of organisms, calcifiers — those that make their shells or skeletons from calcium carbonate like shellfish or corals — have been identified as particularly vulnerable. Acidification not only increases the likelihood of shell or skeleton dissolution, it can also make it more difficult for organisms to create calcium carbonate in the first place. Several studies have investigated the effects of ocean acidification on calcifiers in isolation; however, in nature, organisms interact with a wide variety of other organisms, from predators to prey to competitors. These interactions have the potential to amplify or reduce the effects of acidification with consequences that could propagate up to population and community levels. I am particularly interested in how interactions between predators and prey are influenced by changing ocean chemistry.

bryozoan colonies
Fig. 1: Individual feeding zooids within a bryozoan colony (left), an entire single bryozoan colony (center), and multiple bryozoan colonies growing on kelp (right).

The encrusting bryozoan Membranipora membranacea is commonly found in the waters around San Juan Island and presents a good model system to investigate the effects of acidification on predator-prey interactions. Membranipora forms large circular colonies composed of zooids — the individual units within a colony (Figure 1) — on kelp blades. As they grow, colonies add subsequent rings of zooids to their outer edge. This structure makes it simple to divide colonies like cutting a pizza, and then expose genetically identical slices of the same colony to different environmental conditions via laboratory manipulations. Membranipora exhibits an inducible defense — a defense that is only formed in the presence of predators — which helps protect them from being eaten. Upon receiving chemical cues that the predatory sea slug Corambe steinbergae is close by, Membranipora produces spines on skeletons of newly-formed zooids along the outer growing edge of the colony (Figure 2). While these inducible spines are beneficial, they present a trade-off because they require energy to make, and leave less energy to put toward colony growth. Therefore, the cost associated with increased protection is a reduction in overall colony growth. Thus, similar to tree rings, we can see which rings of zooids were formed at a time of high predation by looking for defensive spines. Since these interactions are easy to quantify and Membranipora forms its skeleton from calcium carbonate, this system is a good model to understand how ocean acidification might affect predator-prey dynamics.

[read the full post at FHL Tide Bites]

[Tide Bites] NOAA Tide and Weather at FHL

This article comes from “Tide Bites”, the monthly newsletter of UW Friday Harbor Laboratories. “NOAA Tide and Weather at FHL” by Erin Dodge: read the full article on the FHL website.

The NOAA meteorological station near FHL’s pumphouse.

I work for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Ocean Service (NOS) as a Physical Scientist for the Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS). We are part of the Pacific Operations Branch team based in Seattle, WA. We collect data from as far north as the Arctic Ocean, as far west as Guam and as far south as American Samoa, including coastal Alaska, the U.S. West Coast, Hawaii, and the Pacific Trust Territories. Products and services derived from CO-OPS data are used to: produce tide and current predictions and forecasts, support nautical charting and shoreline mapping, improve GPS accuracy, support coastal and emergency managers with storm surge warnings in hurricane and storm-prone coastal areas, support tsunami warnings, help scientists, coastal managers, and engineers understand sea level trends, forecast harmful algal blooms, provide critical decision making information to commercial shipping ports and pilots, provide useful information to coastal recreation users, and many other uses. Our Seattle team focuses on installing, maintaining, and repairing our oceanographic and meteorological observing systems within these areas. I am personally in charge of monitoring and maintaining the Washington and Oregon observing systems and stations.

The UW Friday Harbor Labs hosts a National Water Level Observation Network (NWLON) Station as well as a remote, stand-alone meteorological station. Established in 1932, this station continues to operate as part of a nationwide network of 210 long-term, continuously-operating water level stations throughout the U.S. and its territories that provide crucial data for government and commercial sector navigation, recreation, and coastal ecosystem management. The station has existed in its current location since 1989, on the pier at the FHL. The remote meteorological station was added on nearby Cantilever Point in 2008.

[read the full article]

[Tide Bites] Red rock crabs: the Dungeness’ grouchy cousins

This article comes from “Tide Bites”, the monthly newsletter of UW Friday Harbor Laboratories. “Red rock crabs: the Dungeness’ grouchy cousins” by Sylvia Yamada and Scott Groth: read the full article at the FHL website.

Adult crabs that were trapped under the FHL docks for the mark-recapture study.

Native red rock crabs (Cancer productus) are important predators on protected rocky nearshore communities from Alaska to Baja California. While they are harvested recreationally, they have not been as well studied as their commercially-valuable cousin, the Dungeness crab. Red rock crabs are abundant on semi-protected rock and boulder beaches where the substrate is composed of sand and shell gravel and where the salinity remains high. They have voracious appetites, feeding on a wide variety of species including barnacles, mussels, clams, oysters, snails, worms and sea cucumbers. Adults are highly mobile and are known to move into the high intertidal during flood tides to forage. We decided to piece together the life cycle of the red rock crab by compiling what was learned through various studies carried out on different life stages at Friday Harbor Laboratories.

[read the full article]

[Tide Bites] Scanning All Fish!

This article comes from “Tide Bites”, the monthly newsletter of UW Friday Harbor Laboratories. “Scanning All Fish!”, by Adam Summers, with Kory Evans-Jackson and Malorie Hayes: read the full article at the FHL website.

Friday Harbor Labs
CT scan of an African Jae barb.

Recently, FHL became home to the Karel F. Liem Bio-Imaging Center. The centerpiece of the shared research facility is a very capable micro-source CT scanner from Bruker, a model 1173. The scanner can image radio-dense tissue at resolution as fine as 5 microns, and because of variable magnification geometry it can also image specimens about the size of two grapefruits. Having the machine right down the hall from my office led to experimentation with high-speed workflow. And that led to a project called #scanAllFish. Born from a series of tweets from @fishguy_FHL, the idea is to CT-scan every species of fish and put all the data up on the web for everyone to access free of charge. We aim to democratize CT data and ensure that in this corner of vertebrate comparative morphology, access to a scanner is not a competitive advantage. The Foundations who donated the bulk of the money to buy the machine asked that it be available to anyone who is visiting FHL, free of charge. This generosity enables the #scanAllFish project. Our strategy is to offer scan time to scientists who have a large diversity of species they want scanned. They bring lots of specimens and a small team to the Labs and spend an intensive few days or weeks scanning everything they are interested in. People have come from around the country to take advantage of the offer, and in the process we have scanned over 1,200 species of fishes. You can read more about the project by searching the web for #scanAllFish — it has made a small media splash. If you’d like to help support Adam’s goal of scanning all fish, you can donate to the Karel F Liem Fish Biology Endowment which supports the Karel F. Liem Bio-Imaging Facility at FHL.

[read the full story at FHL Tide Bites #42]

[Tide Bites] Sketching Science in the San Juans

This article comes from “Tide Bites”, the monthly newsletter of UW Friday Harbor Laboratories. “Sketching Science in the San Juans”, by Andrea Dingeldein: Read the full article at the FHL website.

A collection of interpretive panel illustrations for the Fernald Lab tank, Friday Harbor Laboratories. Created using a combination of watercolor, gouache, and digital media.

…You may be wondering how someone like me finds herself in the position to pursue a career in science illustration. I can tell you there is no one clear-cut path. All science illustrators have their own unique stories of how they arrived at this dual-disciplined field, but we also have one thing in common. We all share a love and appreciation for nature and a passion for capturing and sharing that with other people. I always found myself torn between art and science: I double-majored in studio art and marine biology at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington for my undergraduate degree, and then went on to obtain my M.S. in marine biology. During my master’s, I discovered that I was more skilled at creating illustrations to communicate my research than I was at carrying out data collection and interpretation. Therefore, following my master’s, I found my way into the Science Illustration Graduate Certificate Program at California State University, Monterey Bay. The program’s curriculum places emphasis on creating illustrations that are scientifically accurate and also organized in a way that makes the information contained within them highly accessible to the public. After completing nine months of coursework, students are required to pursue a ten-week internship in the field of science illustration. Having previously attended classes at Friday Harbor Laboratories as an undergraduate, I was aware of FHL’s tradition of using of art in the classroom as a tool to teach science (a method that has unfortunately been forgotten at many scientific research institutions). Because of this strong connection between art and science at the Labs, I was convinced that FHL would be the perfect host institution for a science illustration internship.

[Read the full story at FHL Tide Bites #41]

[FHL Tide Bites] An Intertidal Compass!

from “Tide Bites“, the monthly newsletter from Friday Harbor Labs

An Intertidal Compass!

by Julia Sigwart

Dr. Julia Sigwart is an Associate Professor and the Associate Director of the Queen’s University Marine Laboratory in Northern Ireland. She is currently back home on the west coast on an extended research sabbatical at University of California, Berkeley, funded by the European Commission. Her research on the evolution of chitons and other marine creatures covers many different aspects, from fossils to neurobiology, which provides a good reason to do all sorts of fun experiments all over the world.

The black Katy chiton Hatharina tunicata (iron teeth not shown).
The black Katy chiton Katharina tunicata (iron teeth not shown).

When you are trying to find your way home from a new place, you probably reach for your phone or GPS to ask for directions. Other animals don’t have the option of technology, but they do manage some extraordinary navigation. Birds, sea turtles, termites, and many other animals have a magnetic “sixth sense” that allows them to detect the Earth’s magnetic field, and align their direction on a migration path. This ability to sense magnetic fields, or having an “internal compass,” is termed magnetoreception.

Pioneering work on animal magnetoreception was done at Friday Harbor Labs starting in the 1980s using the seaslug Tochuina tetraquetra (formerly called Tritonia diomedea). Special equipment at FHL called a Merritt coil can manipulate electric currents to determine the force and direction of the magnetic field inside a cube that measures 6 ft on each side. This way, we can change which direction is “north” inside the experimental cube. Two members of our team, Drs Shaun Cain and Jim Murray, use this equipment for their research and for teaching a summer Neuroethology course (which will be offered again in summer 2017). In these experiments, we aimed to test for a magnetic sense in other, more primitive molluscs.

[Read the full article at FHL Tide Bites]