“We speak for the rhodoliths”. But first we need to learn their language. Of the 10 scientists on this expedition, only three of us (project PIs Dr.’s Matthew Edwards and Diana Steller, and PhD candidate Scott Gabara) have worked in rhodolith beds before. That means that the rest of us have a lot of learning to do. And quickly! After a few “shake-out” days, we finally have our sampling protocol dialed in: subtidal surveys, collapsible benthic incubation tents (CBITs), and lab based incubations. Dr. Steller is leading the survey dives, while Dr. Edwards and the Edwards Lab is in charge of the CBITs. We’re incredibly fortunate to have Dr. Ju-Hyoung (who joined us in the Aleutians) working tirelessly in the lab running seemingly endless incubations.
Most of the divers rotate through the survey dives; it takes six or so divers at least three dives to effectively survey a rhodolith bed. Each dive team, consisting of at least two divers, is responsible for a piece of the survey puzzle. For example, a dive team might be running fish transects, which consist of four surveys for fish inside and outside of the rhodolith bed (i.e. over an adjacent sandy bottom). During this time, another team is conducting four transects for invertebrate cover, uniform point contacts (UPC), and quadrats for percent cover. We also take eight cores inside the rhodolith bed. These cores help us understand the size frequency distribution of individual rhodoliths, and what the sandy bottom looks like under the rhodoliths. That’s a lot of work just to understand who is in and around a rhodolith bed!
We’re coupling these surveys with our CBIT incubations. Just the like larger “chambers” we used in the Aleutians, these “chamberitos” allow us to estimate in situ productivity and respiration. That is, what exactly goes on in a community dictated by these coralline algae. The rhodoliths themselves make up the community we’re studying, but the individuals produce and consume oxygen just like any other photosynthetic being. We want to know what net productivity (photosynthesis minus respiration) looks during over a daily cycle. Our CBITs are secured to the benthos via heavy chain and contain a fixed volume of sea water. Inside this CBIT the community goes on producing and consuming oxygen without being disturbed by the experiment. The flexible design allows for the transfer of water motion, and the polycarbonate panels allow undistorted sunlight in without trapping it like a green house. We leave an oxygen and temperature sensor along with a sunlight sensor inside the CBIT to record daily changes.
It’s all well and good to study the components of the community, but our metrics of community composition and Net Community Productivity (NCP) aren’t complete without a detailed understanding of individual contributions to NCP. Enter our productivity expert, Ju-Hyoung. He flew all the way from South Korea to help us understand what individual organisms, including rhodoliths, are capable of from a physiological perspective. All day long Ju-Hyoung is measuring how much oxygen heterotrophs (organisms that only consume oxygen, like humans) consume, and how much oxygen autotrophs (organisms like plants) produce and consume in a rhodolith bed.
Our days are long. But the water is warm, the visibility is great and everyone is excited to continue exploring!
Getting ready for field work is no easy feat, especially when you kick of a 10-day expedition at 4 o’clock in the morning. But that’s just what the Edwards Lab, accompanied by Dr. Ju-Hyoung Kim from Korea, did in the pre-dawn humidity on July 10th. After doing our final checks to make sure all of our equipment was properly stowed, we piled into the lab’s suburban, 21ft dive boat in tow, and headed from San Diego to San Pedro. At around 6:30am we met up with Dr. Diana Steller and another graduate student from Moss Landing Marine Labs (MLML) at the Southern California Marine Institute. There we loaded our gear onto USC’s Miss Christy, the small mainland-Catalina ferry, and prepared to cross the water to Catalina Island.
During the summers of 2016 and 2017 the Edwards Lab, along with the Konar Lab from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, studied productivity in kelp forests along the Aleutian Archipelago. This time we’re doing a similar study in another kind of algal-dominated community: rhodolith beds. Rhodoliths (rhodo meaning “rose”, but in this case “red algae” and lith meaning “rock”) are rock-like “balls” of coralline red algae that can form massive beds on soft sediments in clear water. These little “tumble weeds of the sea”, as PhD candidate Scott Gabara calls them, can support a rich diversity of marine organisms in nearshore environments (Gabara 2018).
While kelp forests dominate temperate waters on rocky reefs, rhodolith beds thrive in sandy habitats, especially in protected sandy coves. Which, as it turns out, is an excellent place to establish a mooring field for boats. These moorings, where boats tie up overnight, are anchored to the ocean floor (known as the benthos) by heavy chains and massive concrete blocks. Scientists have known for a long time that these mooring chains can crush rhodoliths, turning the once vibrant beds into coralline rubble patches. Scott, who did his Masters on rhodolith beds with Dr. Steller, aka Di, at MLML, showed that benthic diversity is significantly greater inside the beds than outside.
Which brings us to the purpose of this first of four expeditions to Catalina Island. In conjunction with Dr. Steller and several graduate students from MLML, the Edwards Lab plans on repeating our Collapsible Benthic Incubation Tent (CBIT) experiments inside and outside of rhodolith beds so we can finally understand just how productive these rolling red communities are. Di will be leading SCUBA surveys for diversity, and overall rhodolith community structure, while Ju-Hyoung will be conducting incubation experiments in the lab on individual rhodoliths, and the marine organisms that make their home among the algae.
Our base of operations is USC’s Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies, located adjacent to Two Harbors on the west end of Catalina. We’ve got two boats, the 21ft Stillwater Cove, and the 12ft inflatable Kenner (last seen in the Aleutians), 10 scientists and 10 days to learn as much as we can about rhodolith beds, the communities they support, and the consequences of their loss. Be sure to follow along for more rhodolith-related action!
Cage it, count it, cut it. This is the mantra of many ecologists; these tried and true field methods have helped shape our understanding of the natural world. But it’s the 21st century, what if we could do better? What if we could develop tools to help us learn more, to see farther and deeper. Easier said than done; but, the art of asking questions, and seeking their answers, is rooted in innovation.
As I continue to work on my thesis I am constantly learning the joys of working in geographically separated field locations. The nuances of working locally in San Diego are amplified away from the Coastal and Marine Institute community. Fortunately, I have been able to collaborate with MexCal in Baja California, which has made working south of the border an excellent partnership. When the weather aligns, so too do opportunities for collaborations.
After back-to-back sampling trips in San Diego and Baja, it was time to venture back to my old stomping grounds in the Monterey Bay. With calm seas, light winds and fair weather to greet us early in the morning on June 6th, my lab mate Billie and I joined a trio of graduate students from the Moss Landing Marine Labs to conduct dive-operations in Stillwater Cove (SWC). Sheltered from the north by the Carmel Headland and Point Pinos, SWC sits within the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and is one of the oldest and most well-studied marine environments in California. Though not quite Aleutians-cold, the brisk 48º water found its way into every corner of our wetsuits. This cold water, indicative of upwelling, helps make the kelp forests in SWC truly prolific. However, this productivity hasn’t gone unnoticed; adjacent to the vibrant kelp forests are urchin barrens extending far out across the reef. Not only is SWC a beautiful place to dive, it is also an excellent place to conduct field work for my thesis.
I would wager to bet that may of my colleagues are inspired to explore the marine environment based on their experiences on SCUBA. I know I’m not excluded from this group. SCUBA diving is an excellent tool for immersing one’s self in aquatic environments, but sometimes it’s not always possible, practical, or even safe. But when the conditions align, when that one dead-calm, clear day underwater makes up for all of the surgey, silty, downright crumby days, you wish you could share what you see with the rest of the world.
Enter OpenROV, a startup from Berkeley, California. Last year, Project Pegasus built a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) kit from OpenROV. Project Pegasus was a labor of love that challenged this marine ecologist in unimaginable ways. While OpenROV is still producing their DIY kits, they’ve released a new tool for exploring the underwater world. The Trident allows us to put eyes underwater, while our bodies stay dry. Not only does this allow us marine ecologists to explore without having to worry about accumulating “bottom time”, it puts the exploration of the underwater world in the hands of literally anyone.
I was honored to be invited to the OpenROV facility in Berkeley between dive days in Monterey. We’ve been jumping at the chance to test out one of these new “underwater drones” since they first rolled off the production line, and I’ve got to say, piloting a Trident is like driving a sports car in comparison with the workhorse minivan that is Pegasus. To make things more exciting, we were able to partner with OpenROV for a series of Trident test flights in Stillwater Cove.
Dr. Matthew Edwards is no stranger to long and arduous sampling trips. In order to facilitate our dive day with OpenROV, Dr. Edwards trailered his boat all the way from San Diego to Monterey. Calm seas, light winds, and uncharacteristic sunshine welcomed us around Point Pinos as we headed into Stillwater Cove. Billie and I had an excellent morning of research diving while Zack, Mike, and Nicole from OpenROV and Dr. Edwards took turns “flying” a Trident around us.
At the end of our sampling day Zack from OpenROV bestowed upon the Edwards Lab a very special gift; a Trident of our very own. We’re incredibly excited to use ARREE (Applied Rocky Reef Ecosystem Exploration) to explore, document, and share subtidal research around the world.
Special thanks to Zack, Mike, and Nicole from OpenROV, Dr. Matthew Edwards for making the journey to and from San Diego, and Patrick Webster for hosting Billie and me for a week of diving.
Watch out for upcoming dive days in San Diego and Catalina Island later this summer when we put ARREE in the hands of researchers and school groups alike!
-Baron von Urchin
May 31st 2018
The west coast’s pervasive “May Grey” doesn’t stop at the US-Mexico border, and neither do the kelp forests that are the object of many marine biologists’’ research interests. Ecosystems care not for national boundaries, instead they follow patterns of biogeography; in other words, boundaries marked by changes in the physical environment such as elevation, temperature, latitude, isolation etc. This is why, for my own thesis, I have been working at a field site on the south side of Punta Banda in Ensenada, Baja California. This prolific point of rocky coastline marks the southern end of the “Southern California Bight”, which extends up to Point Conception, just north of Santa Barbara. Sea surface temperatures tend to be warmer, wave action tends to be less severe, and we get a host of unique organisms, such as the garibaldi, California’s state marine fish, outside of the Bight. The one thing that remains consistent is the ecosystem engineer itself: the giant kelp.
While there has been some interest in partnering across the US-Mexico border, a new initiative started by new faculty at the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California (UABC) seeks to affirm solid collaborations between researchers north and south of the border. MexCal, “Monitoring Ecosystems Across the Californias” is an ambitious project to say the least, but in the last six years they have already made a name for themselves. In partnership with researchers from Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station, UC Santa Cruz, San Diego State University, Reef Check and Comunidad y Biodiversidad (COBI), they have conducted thousands of dives across nearly 20 sites across the Californias (yes, Baja California, Baja California Sur and California, USA).
MexCal has been instrumental in helping me dive in Ensenada, and in return I am always more than happy to help out with their sampling effort. On this last trip to Ensenada, San Diego State University master’s student, Patrick Saldaña, and I accompanied Dr. Rodrigo Beas from UABC, along with researchers from COBI to Isla Todos Santos, off the coast of Ensenada. Dr. Beas and has partnered with COBI to train sea urchin divers to conduct SCUBA surveys to help with the collection of scientific data. Todos Santos is the perfect place to conduct these training dives; the island is home to two very nasty invasive marine algae (Undaria pinnatifida (aka wakame) and Sargassum honeri (aka devil weed)) as well as sporting one of the densest kelp forests I’ve ever seen. While the folks from COBI were training the buzos (divers), Patick, Rodrigo and I conducted transects in Todos Santos’s kelp forest.
It was a real treat getting to spend time working and diving with the urchin divers as well as exploring Todos Santos’s bizarre yet beautiful invasive algal beds adjacent to the native giant kelp forests.
Stay tuned for more updates. The field season is in full swing. Dive dive dive!
-Baron von Urchin
May 7th, 2018 San Diego, CA
From its inception, Project Pegasus has been ambitious, to say the least. However, I’m always exceedingly impressed by the commitment and dedication displayed by Project Pegasus team members. Last month we rewired Pegasus, but still couldn’t figure out why our little ROV wouldn’t power on. After a lengthy back and forth, the good folks at OpenROV® offered to take a look at Pegasus to see if they could figure out a solution. The plot thickened once Pegasus made it to OpenROV®’s headquarters. Here’s what Jordan had to say once we got Pegasus back:
“It was great to see Pegasus all wired up and put together today. OpenROV® couldn’t figure out what was wrong with our ROV when we sent it in. They said that all of our soldered joints looked good (which is nice to hear from experts) but they ended up having to rewire it themselves. I am still glad however that we put in the time and rewired it ourselves because that was the best part of building Pegasus!
Today (4/30) we attached the IMU sensor which gives us information about the orientation of the ROV as well as the depth. We didn’t have much extra wire to work with after we got Pegasus back from OpenROV®, so we had to “measure twice and cut once” when it came to re-soldering these joints. We also had the extra challenge of reattached the external light cubes. Once we finished this we turned on the ROV and it beeped its victorious sound of functionality! It was a gratifying sight to see it actually work after all of our hard work; the process of trying to fix our problems is a big part of this project. Our mistakes are where we learn the most. Nevertheless, the day was a success.”
Well, once Pegasus was put back together, there was only one thing left to do; put our ROV back in the water! The team and I met at the Coastal and Marine Institute Laboratory on a bright Sunday morning, performed a quick water test using a freshwater bucket, and then headed over to Mission Bay for a more immersive experience. We decided to test Pegasus in the shallow, confined waters of Mission Bay just to make sure things went swimmingly.
With bated breath, we deployed Pegasus off the side of one of CMIL’s boats. For the next 20 minutes team members took turns “flying” Pegasus around in the murky waters; taking it from the surface, down to the seagrass, and back up again. To everyone’s delight all systems were a go. That is, until we noticed a little bit of water in the electronics tube. We immediately cut power and brought Pegasus back to the surface. Thankfully there wasn’t much damaged to the electronics. But now we’ve got to figure out where that water came in from!
Project Pegasus has had its fair share of excitement, but as Jordan said, “we learn the most from our mistakes”. And I couldn’t agree more.
I’d like to give a big shoutout to Zack Johnson from OpenROV® for taking a lot of time to help us with Pegasus over these last couple of months.
Stay tuned, we’ll have Pegasus back in action in no time!
-Baron von Urchin
April 1st, 2018
Los Angeles, CA
Battered by wind and waves, San Nicolas Island knows the full force of the ocean’s fury. The most remote of the Channel Islands, San Nicolas sits approximately 100km off the coast of Southern California, and more then 50km to its closet neighbor, Santa Barbara Island. San Nicolas Island (SNI) is currently controlled by the US Navy, and while the island is technically uninhabited, there are about 200 military and civilian personnel on island.
So, what does a remote military island have to do with kelp forest ecology? I’m glad you asked.
Due to the relative remoteness of the Channel Islands, the island chain is home to some of the most pristine and prolific kelp forests in North America. Five of the eight islands are under the National Park Services’ protection, and the kelp forests have been studied every summer since 1982 . In fact, the data collected from the Kelp Forest Monitoring Program has been used in many major scientific publications. And while SNI might boast some of the most pristine kelp forests in Southern California, the Navy restricts access to SNI; the island is all but inaccessible to your average recreational divers.
Enter the US Fish and Wildlife (USFWS) Service and the US Geological Survey (USGS).
In 2014 the USGS established a kelp forest monitoring program for the US Navy, “building on sites established by the USFWS in 1980” (Kenner 2018). For the last three years, the USGS has been sampling four sites biannually, collecting information on the organisms that live there, the physical marine environment, and the underwater community as a whole. The long-term monitoring sites established at SNI help scientists understand what a kelp forest (that is largely unperturbed by humans) can look like, at least in southern California. While scientists have been studying kelp forests for at least a century (or more!), we don’t really have access to places that humans haven’t had a heavy hand in, especially in southern California where coastal development is just one of many anthropogenic (human-derived) disturbances affecting the nearshore environment.
So, not only does SNI afford us a glimpse into what kelp forests in California could look like, there’s something even more unique about SNI.
Between 1987 and 1990, 140 sea otters (Enydra lutris neries) were introduced to SNI (Hadfield 2005). Historically, sea otters were found from Kamchatka (Eastern Russia) all the way to Baja California’s southern kelp forests. We know that, at least in Alaska, otters play a major role in regulating kelp forest communities. However, the Russian fur trade pushed them to the brink of extinction by the middle of the 19th century. Since their listing as an endangered species in 1971, the California population of sea otters found near Point Sur in 1915 has spread north to Santa Cruz and south to Point Conception. While the state of kelp forests in Southern California is in flux, we understand that the century-long absence of sea otters has likely impacted the nearshore environment. The point here is that our understanding of kelp forests, as wide as it might be, is incomplete.
We need healthy and vibrant kelp forests to protect our coastlines from storms, draw down atmospheric carbon dioxide, and provide habitat for commercially desirable species. So, how are otters assisting in balancing kelp forest ecosystems?
The presence of sea otters at SNI has shown us what a healthy kelp forest can look like. Sites that were previously urchin-dominated (much like the urchin barrens in the Aleutian Archipelago) have returned to their gloriously kelp-dominated state as the otter population continues to grow. While there are pristine kelp forests left in this world, they are largely inaccessible, which is partly what makes surveying SNI so exciting.
But the novelty of the SNI kelp forest monitoring doesn’t stop at the surface. This ambitious protocol facilitates collaboration between scientists with the USGS, the US Navy, researchers at UC Santa Cruz and even faculty at Oregon State University. We may never know what a truly “wild” kelp forest looks like, but long-term studies like this help fill in gaps in our knowledge regarding these vital ecosystems. As the world continues to change, studies like this will inform adaptive management, and may help lay the foundation for mitigating some of the impacts humans have imposed.
I have been lucky enough to be offered a volunteer spot on this April’s sampling trip with the USGS, so stay tuned for updates from the most remote Channel Island!
-Baron von Urchin
P.S. For those of you who read, "Island of the Blue Dolphins", it's based on the incredible true story of Juana Maria, the last Nicoleño of San Nicolas Island!
March 11th 2018
San Diego, CA
In following up with our last post, the team and I had our work cut out for us. After giving the epoxy plenty of time to dry, we met on Sunday with the arduous task of rewiring… all of Pegasus. As we explained last time, the DB25 is the vital connection point for the ROV; any and all signals between the ROV and us on the surface go through here. We had our work cut out for us: as the name implies, we had to solder 25 different joints. But that’s only the half of it; we also had to deal with joining old joints, and managing the seemingly endless rainbow array of wires. Here’s what Maddy has to say about our Sunday challenge:
“While Sundays are generally considered lazy days, this past Sunday our team was fired up to rewire Pegasus and watch our ROV come to life again. As Jordan mentioned in the last post, we had to call it quits on our last meeting to allow the epoxy to dry, but this meeting we spent hours soldering and rebuilding connections between the DB25 and all of Pegasus’ components. With the goal of getting Pegasus back in the water, we stayed persistent on the tedious task of soldering, which requires much more time and decision making than you would expect. We had to carefully decide where to cut the existing wires in order to make new connections. There’s a few ongoing lessons here: measure twice and cut once, work smarter and not harder, and take the time needed to finish a job correctly. We stayed true to these important lessons as we meticulously rebuilt the connections for the port, starboard, and vertical motors, port and starboard battery tubes, IMU sensors, light cubes, and tether. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a heat gun to secure the heat shrink over the soldering sites, so we weren’t able to power Pegasus up. It was still a very productive day, however, and hopefully these newly rewired connections to the DB25 will solve the issue the ROV has been having!”
From left to right: Lorenzo, Jordan, and Maddy all take turns soldering new connections
As it turns out, failure is the best teacher. As of right now, after all of our hard work, Pegasus is still not operational. We’re confident that we followed the directions, and worked to the best of abilities. However, some issues are unforeseeable. We’re still troubleshooting, and thanks to the engineers at OpenROV I’m confident that we’ll have Pegasus up and running in no time! Special thanks to Zack and Lorah for taking time to help me troubleshoot over the phone.
Don’t forget to check out Marine Science Day on Sunday March 18th at the Coastal and Marine Institute! Project Pegasus will be there alongside the Edwards Lab and the rest of the labs at CMIL to showcase our awesome projects!
That’s all for now, stay tuned for more.
-Baron von Urchin
San Diego, CA
Project Pegasus has been a roller coaster of a ride since its inception last Spring (2017). After a long hiatus, we’re finally able to make the necessary repairs to get Pegasus back in the water. After a lot of head scratching and troubleshooting, we finally realized that the DB25 connector was fried. There about 25 different wires that provide power and information to Pegasus; think of the DB25 as the place where your skull meets your spine. One end of the DB25 is fixed in an “endcap” which seals off the e-chassis from the outside environment. The wires pass through the endcap and are dispersed across the body of Pegasus. The other end of the DB25 connector is mounted to the e-chassis, which is essentially Pegasus’s brain. All systems looked good after we rebuilt the starboard battery tube and controller board, but still Pegasus wasn’t turning on. Power simply wasn’t getting from the battery tubes to the e-chassis. It’s going to take us a little while to rewire Pegasus, which is easier said than done. Here’s Jordan had to say about our pre-rewiring prep:
“The ROV and our team have been through a lot over the past year or so. It was sad to see that our DB25 pin, which controls where all the power from the batteries go, was fried. This means that we will need to essentially rewire the majority of the ROV. It is OK though because soldering is one of the most interesting parts of the build! Wire management is also a big concern for our team. We debated over the best places to cut the wires in order to ensure the best wire management as well as least amount of soldered connections.
Today we had to look up some old instructions and rebuild the end cap with a new DB25 connector that we got from OpenROV®. We had to revert back to solvent welding with the dropper that is slightly to wide to allow the liquid to drip slowly. We were able to solvent weld the pieces of plastic together and epoxy the DB25 connector in the end cap, in order to waterproof this portion.
After about 2 1/2 hours of work we realized that we had to wait at least another hour for the epoxy to dry before we could even start soldering the new joints, so we decided to save that for another day. We did, however, solder little pieces of solder onto the ends of the batteries so that they would stay in contact with each other in the battery tubes.”
Stay tuned! The team and I are meeting next week to rewire Pegasus and get it ready for its public debut at CMIL’s Marine Science Day!
-Baron von Urchin
San Diego, CA
We know it’s been awhile, but as promised, here is our long overdue Project Pegasus update:
The end of our construction phase was a little bit more hectic than anticipated. While Pegasus performed swimmingly in its first saltwater test in Mission Bay, we were dealing with a phantom issue just three weeks before the Edwards Lab was due to depart for the Aleutian Archipelago. After much back and forth we ended up sending our little robot to the good folks at OpenROV, who immediately identified the issue; a faulty controller board in the e-chassis. With hours to spare they shipped Pegasus back me to just a day before I jumped on a plane for Alaska.
But, the trouble didn’t stop there. Tragically, water found its way into the e-chassis on Pegasus’s first dive on Amchitka Island. After all of our hard work, I was pretty devastated. But hey, that’s the price you pay for bringing experimental equipment into the field. And I’m still incredibly proud of the teamwork and dedication displayed by Project Pegasus team members. But, don’t think for a second that we didn’t try our best to troubleshoot in the field. I owe a big thanks to MarTech Croy for taking time out of his busy schedule to help me identify the actual issue with Pegasus while aboard the Oceanus.
However, we had our hands full in Alaska; unfortunately, little Pegasus had to sit tight until we got back. Things really ramped up this semester; the team and I weren’t able to meet until December to try and get Pegasus back online. After several months, I was incredibly impressed at how easily the team picked up the slack. We had a big job ahead of us: rebuild the controller board. Plus, we had to rebuild and reattach the starboard battery tube; the limited connective wires meant we were working in a tight space. In no time the team was soldering and solvent welding as if it was second nature. What I had originally anticipated to be a six-hour repair ended up taking just over two hours!
So, that’s it for now. Pegasus is rebuilt, and patiently awaiting our return from the winter holidays to get it back online. I have no doubt that we’ll be flying Pegasus once again in no time!
San Diego, CA
It’s been awhile since my last wrap-up post about up our second and final year in the Aleutians (for this project at least!). Without time to spare the Fall 2017 semester started up and it’s been pedal to the metal every since. While the summer may be long gone, we’re still in the thick of the field season. Most of our updates come from specific projects or adventures; with hardly a down-day since August, I’ve let this blog slide.
Because, the thing is, we early career scientists are always on the move. Between teaching, sampling, analyzing our data, and writing we’ve got almost no time for our personal lives. We’ve all made sacrifices, in some form or another. Late nights with too much coffee, canceling plans with friends, putting off side projects, our personal lives sometimes take a toll. And yet sometimes our professional lives need to be put on pause to take care of family emergencies as well. I’m guilty of feverishly checking the weather and emails when I know something big is on the horizon. I’m doubly guilty of staring off into space, mid-conversation, when a sudden thought about one of the million projects I’m working on pops into my head.
People sometimes forget that we’re both students and scholars. We take classes, but also teach; we’re constantly learning and sharing what we’ve learned. We’re expected to be up to date on current research, analytic techniques and a plethora of other tools and skills. At the end of the day, we’re “truth-seekers”; believe me, it takes a lot of time to seek the truth. Once you find it, you’re probably left wondering if you’ve asked the right question to begin with. And so it beings all over again.
But, we’re rarely alone in our pursuits. It’s the people, as much as the process, that make these projects worthwhile. So, to make things better, here’s a quick behind-the-scenes update:
After a couple of weeks of R&R (sort of) in Alaska, I rendezvoused in California with Tristin. With my finger now healed, I was ready to jump in the water again, and just in time! At the end of August, Tristin and I sampled Stillwater Cove for our respective projects; this would be Tristin’s last time in SWC for her thesis! We got her final sampling trip done, and I got a very successful deployment for my thesis as well.
In the days following the Aleutians cruise, Master Genoa Sullaway successfully defended her thesis! While we’re sad to see her leave the lab, I know she’ll continue to kick butt above and below the surface. Although we’ve lost our MEBSA co-chair, we’ve still managed to keep the MEBSA ship afloat.
On October 16th we hosted Dr. Rodrigo Beas from the Universidad Autoñoma de Baja California for a seminar at SDSU. Not only is Rodrigo an up-and-coming advisor and principle investigator at UABC, he is also my host when I’m working in Baja. Speaking of Baja, I’ve just come back from yet another deployment down there!
I can’t thank my lab mates and field assistants enough. Between frantically submitting grants, feverishly checking the weather, running experiments, writing and grading assignments, and running outreach projects sometimes we lose the kelp forest through the stipes. But, in the end, I wouldn’t trade this for anything! Now I’m sitting pretty for Fall field work, I sampled Point Loma and Baja both before and after working in the Aleutians. Next week I’ll head back to Carmel Bay for one last deployment for 2017 (weather depending of course)!
Stay tuned, while the field season might be winding down, we’re far from hunkering down for the winter.
Baron von Urchin
Pike Spector is currently a Research Operations Specialist with Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary