Thursday, October 10, 2013

Crossover Field Missive OR You Two-Timing So-And-So!

Notwithstanding the last month's epic publishing rate, I have been mostly absent over the past 6 months. In part, I blame this on a dull field season - I was away from my desk a lot, but with nothing particularly interesting to report. But I have also been drafted to write for the grad student blog, BioDiverse Perspectives, which is stealing some of my blogging juices(1)

Well, the field season is almost done, and what have I to show for it? Not as much as I had hoped, which shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. But, here are a few notes to provide insight into what I did do:

Numero Uno:
Season opener: I topped 100,000 miles in my trusty field buggy, the RV Grason (Figure 1). It was poetic how I rolled from 99,999 to 100,000 just as I passed the sign entering Anacortes on one of my first days of field work.
Figure 1. RV Grason.  What a trooper! This is from an earlier excursion
where my car ferried 2 sea kayaks to Willapa Bay.

Section B:
This is a post I wrote for BioDiverse Perspectives, if you haven't already seen it, on my field work this year. It gives you a bit o' flave of what the ol' 9 - 5 is like. I'll be appearing there on an ongoing basis in a (only slightly) more serious role in the coming months (years?).

Item the Third:
I listened to a slew of audiobooks on my drive back and forth to the marine lab. Lets see: And the Mountains Echoed (Khalid Hosseini), Still Alice (Lisa Genova), Bossypants (Tina Fey), Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn), The Virgin Suicides, The Marriage Plot, & Middlesex (yeah, Jeffrey Eugenides kick)(2). I didn't get through as many as last year, when I listened to all 5 Song of Ice and Fire books, but I feel like I have made something of my life.

Part IV:
Ok I did do some actual work too. I ran a study in Willapa Bay where I tied snails to rebar with fishing line (Figure 2). Why? Because I am a scientist

Figure 2.  Everyone hanging in there? Ha! This is what it looks like when I do science,
it's a real mess. Here I am untangling 30 snails tied with fishing line and trying
to see if they are still alive and/or damaged. Thanks Ryan for the photo!

Ok, fine. I am trying to see whether there were any predators that eat these invasive snails (here: Batillaria attramentaria). So I tie them to rebar and set them out in the mud along an elevation gradient (shallow to deep). The intertidal dogma is that competitors or predators control how deep an organism can live(3). If the deeper rebar snails get eaten more than the shallow rebar snails, that is good evidence that this is indeed the case. I don't want to spoil what will undoubtedly be another thrilling piece of scientific literature, but indeed, in Willapa Bay, crabs eat snails in the deep. Just to be sure, we trapped some crabs (Figure 3).

Figure 3.  Woah! Thats a trapload of crabs!
Witness: Metacarcinus magister (Dungeness crab)

And now, for the exciting conclusion:
And all that driving was for some reason, right? I sure hope so, says the planet choking on my C02. Up at the marine lab, I was conducting mad-scientist research on snails. In my current experiment, and hopefully the last one for the season, I am looking at behavior of a native snail (whaaaaa?!) Littorina sitkana and exploring their reaction to predation cues, much in the line of previous work with invasive snails. So far, it is my scientific opinion that these snails is crazy (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Girls on film! No, not that. Snakes on a plane? Nope, not that either.
It's Littorines on Slides! I grew diatoms on glass microscope slides to see how much the
snails will eat when they smell scary crabs around. These snails had a hunger.

So, there you go, that's what I did on my summer snailcation. Can't wait until the next one! Actually, I can. I can totally wait until then, because, really, that's enough of snails for one year. Time to sit in front of my computer with a cup of coffee for 6 months...aaaah.

References and Miscellany:
(1) Nope, that's a lame excuse and not even true. If anything, it gets me writing more.
(2) Two points if you can tell which were for my book club. 
(3) No, really, it really is a dogma, wikipedia says so.

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