Catalina Island, California
Genoa, Tristin and I awoke in the pre-dawn gloom early on Friday morning. After an incredibly long journey from the mainland to Wrigley Station, with just enough time to get an evening dive in on the night of 9th, we were ready to suit up and flush Genoa’s experimental chambers. We had the dive locker all to ourselves; it seems as though the forecasted weather kept most people off of “The Rock” for the weekend. But not us, we have diving to do and data to collect!
Much like the work the Edwards’ Lab has been doing in the Aleutians, Genoa is investigating the effects of an incredibly invasive alga, Sargassum on local patterns of Net Community Production. Since about 2012, Sargassum has rapidly spread along the coast of Southern California, replacing giant kelp as the dominant species on many temperate rocky reefs. Sargassum is an annual species; unlike giant kelp individuals which can live for multiple years, Sargassum dies back each summer. The implications of the loss of giant kelp and the rise of Sargassum on many rocky reef communities in Southern California has yet to be fully understood.
As we were conducting surveys and setting up chambers, we would occasionally have to kick up out of the "Devil Weed" just to make sure we didn’t get separated from on other, even if we were within touching distance. However, recent storms (including last year’s El Niño) have brought cold, nutrient rich waters to Southern California, and it seems as though giant kelp is making a comeback!
Be sure to check back in for the final installment of our Catalina Chronicles.
-Baron von Urchin
Pike Spector is currently a Research Operations Specialist with Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary