Education

Blog Post: Salty and Soggy: Understanding the role of crabs in California salt marshes

Blake searching through the salt marsh in Bodega Bay for the lined shore crab (Pachygrapsus crassipes). PC: Jan Walker
Blake searching through the salt marsh in Bodega Bay for the lined shore crab (Pachygrapsus crassipes). PC: Jan Walker

By Blake Nogleberg

My name is Blake Nogleberg and I am a fourth year SRJC student looking to pursue a career in the marine sciences. I worked alongside Graduate Student Jan Walker this summer.

As a kid I grew up only a short drive away from the Bodega Marine Lab (BML), and I was always intensely interested in what kind of work went on in this facility. So when the opportunity arose this summer to intern here, I did not hesitate to apply. My time at BML has been an amazing experience. I was able to work with and learn from some extremely talented scientists, help maintain field experiments in the salt marshes of Bolinas Lagoon, Tomales Bay, and Bodega Bay, as well as help conduct several laboratory experiments at BML. My mentor was Jan Walker, a PhD student from the Grosholz lab, and we examined the impact of the lined shore crab (Pachygrapsus crassipes) on the salt marsh plant community. Understanding the role of crabs in determining plant community composition is important when considering management strategies of foundational marsh species, such as cordgrass. Cordgrass has been targeted for management and restoration due to its amplitude of ecosystem services, such as sediment accretion, flood attenuation, and habitat for endangered species. We hypothesize that these crabs could impact the plant community by consuming dominant salt marsh plants (cordgrass and pickleweed), and by creating burrows in the marsh sediment, thereby changing sediment properties crucial for plant health (salinity, oxygen concentrations, etc.). Crabs may play a critical role in meditating stress for plants and, by understanding their role, we can better inform and bolster management and restoration in our northern California wetlands.

The field work portion was quite enjoyable. I spent most of the time chasing our crab friends and attempting to catch them without being pinched, their feisty attitude continually surprising me. There was a learning curve when it came to walking through the salt marsh, however I became proficient in navigating the spongy, quick sand-like landscape without swamping my boots or falling too many times. We woke up before the sun to catch the low tide, and we worked efficiently to collect data (and crabs) to make it back out of the marsh before high tide.

The lab work we did was interesting and engaging. I helped Jan setup two different feeding experiments to determine exactly what plants, and what part of the plant (roots or leaves), the crabs preferred. This portion of the internship allowed me to ask countless questions about our experiment, and the setup and execution of lab experiments in general. Additionally, I was able to get professional advice on how to navigate the unfamiliar territory of academia. It was infinitely valuable to be a part of Jan’s work, and the skills and knowledge I acquired over the summer have set me up to succeed in the next stages of academic life. I hope to use my experience here to further pursue a career in marine science.

 

Blake

 

Blake field site

 

Blake at BML

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Blog Post: Into the Velvet Jungle

Tyler and Suzanne
Tyler and Suzanne

By Tyler Schatto

Tyler Schatto is a student at Santa Rosa Junior College. He was mentored this summer by Luis Morales and Suzanne Olyarnik.

TylerIn 2019, Bodega Marine Reserve was my summer hangout spot. With my mentor, Luis A. Morales, Steward for BMR, I conducted field surveys, implemented and updated signage, and  utilized a selection of plant management techniques to reduce invasive species populations. Along the way, I learned several identification markers for coastal prairie plant and bird species, I learned how to work safely in rugged environments and now, I have a better understanding of land management techniques to restore native habitat and implement ecological enhancement projects.    

At BMR, conservation of native flora biodiversity is a primary focus. Velvet Grass (Holcus lanatus) is the greatest threat to native plant species here, wholly overtaking great swaths of native coastal prairie. Luis and the team at BMR are testing a method to reduce Velvet Grass populations by mowing two times per year instead of just once. The BMR team hypothesizes that the grass puts a large portion of its energy into growing its flowers, and that a second annual mow occuring after flowers have regrown and matured will lead to greater percentages of Velvet Grass dieoff. I was able to participate in the experiment by both mowing and observing test plots. Additionally hoeing and hand pulling in areas where the Velvet grass has the potential to spread quickly. 

thistle removalOther plant populations we managed included Bull Thistle (Cirsium vulgare) by the bluffs, Rabbits Foot (Lagurus ovatum) and Rattlesnake Grass (Briza Maxima) in the coastal prairie, and spurge (Euphorbia lathyris) in the dunes and marshes, which each require their own specialized approach and adaptive land management technique.

From a wider perspective, my time was focused on learning many of the themes and overarching approaches used in natural land management. BMR uses adaptive management, a concept focused on the reactive reworking and adjusting of land management plans to cater to changes in the local environment.     

As such, the BMR Team and I met frequently, evaluating the state of the reserve and adjusting priorities. For example, after one land survey, we found a choke point where Velvet Grass was likely to spread rapidly into an area of pristine native coastal prairie. We were able to adapt our plans to focus on that area, hand pulling several of the most dangerous plants and spreading mulch to create a barrier beyond which the Velvet Grass will not spread.

Tyler and snakeAnother amazing opportunity I experienced was a nature hike through the saltwater marsh, led by former BMR director Peter. He showed a group of us almost every single plant, native or otherwise, that lives in the saltwater marsh along Bodega Bay. He has been leading these nature hikes for several years, and he and the BMR crew are able to talk about fluctuations in plant populations. There were several native plant populations that have rebounded surprisingly well - in one case, a plant population had increased from less than 10 individuals the previous year to well over 100 individuals at the time of our hike. Peter was able to show me the anatomical markers botanists utilize most often to identify and distinguish different plant species, which I was able to use directly in the field during surveys. My observations in the saltwater marsh helped me to think about the reserve as several smaller ecosystems, interconnected with complex relationships.

The SRJC-BML mentorship/internship program is valuable to anyone who is interested in life sciences, land management, or the sciences in general. It provides networking opportunities, career path guidance, and a very valuable perspective into the professional and academic sciences that is hard to acquire in a classroom, especially at a non-research-based community college. The people I met were unique and amazing individuals who showed a real interest in me, and the experiences I had, I will cherish forever. Few people are privileged with an opportunity to immerse themselves in a career before starting it, and this internship provided that for me.

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Blog Post: Chemistry in a Marine World

PC: Gabriel Ng
PC: Gabriel Ng

By Daphne Bradley

Daphne Bradley is a second year at the Santa Rosa Junior College and is pursuing a degree in chemistry. This summer she worked with Sarah Merolla, the lab technician for the Bodega Ocean Acidification Research group. During her time at BML she collaborated on several projects related with seagrasses, mussels, and oysters.

I first began my journey at the UC-Davis Bodega Marine Lab through a class assignment at the SRJC. I contacted Kitty Brown, the Lab Manager of the Bodega Marine Lab, to setup a day for me to shadow someone using chemistry for real world applications. I was then placed in contact with Sarah Merolla, the lab manager and researcher for the Bodega Ocean Acidification Research (BOAR) program. On my shadow day, Sarah showed me multiple research projects that were all unique, inspiring, and innovative. There was so much to learn and write about that I was inspired to come back and learn more through the SRJC-BML internship program.

This summer at the UC-Davis Bodega Marine Lab, I had the opportunity to work with many passionate people and great thinkers, while gaining a lot of experience along the way. I wanted to gain hands-on experience of applying chemistry to projects and research outside of the classroom. My mentor, Sarah, introduced me to many people and projects that focused on advancing the scientific community with an extremely positive outlook. 

By helping with many research projects that take place at the lab, I learned to utilize equipment including a spectrophotometer and robotic titrator to study ocean acidification, and gained experience with common lab methods and practices. Additionally, I had the opportunity to work with Sarah on her research project that investigates whether seagrass can enhance oyster calcification by modifying the chemistry of seawater. The methods that are used to undergo such research are more intensive than I had expected from reading research projects in school. From planning the oysters’ diets to ensuring they all experience similar conditions during the experiment incubations, it was all detail-oriented and thought out. Through my time at the BML I have gained a lot of experience working in a lab, which I believe will help me in the future. 

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Daphne helping Sarah with her research project that uses chamber incubations and changes in total alkalinity to study the relationship between oysters and seagrass. PC: Sarah Merolla
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PC: Sarah Merolla
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Daphne using the spectrophotometer to analyze water samples taken at Bodega Bay, Tomales Bay, and the Hog Island Oyster Company. PC: Sarah Merolla
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Daphne collecting water samples to be later analyzed for pH and alkalinity, which will be part of a decade-long dataset examining changes in coastal seawater conditions over time. PC: Sarah Merolla

 

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Blog Post: SRJC-BML Internship Program 2019

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Summer 2019 SRJC-BML Interns and Mentors. Photo credit Gabriel Ng

By Hannah Palmer and Katie Dubois. Hannah and Katie are PhD Candidates at UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory and are the co-directors of the SRJC-BML Internship Program for 2019.

Congratulations to all interns and mentors of the 2019 SRJC-BML Internship Program! Our summer was full of field work, lab studies, professional development, mentorship, and science! This was the fourth year of the SRJC-BML Internship Program and the first year that we were able to award stipends to some of our interns. This year, we hosted 15 interns in the program ranging in levels of participation from one day-per week to full time. Interns and mentors worked on a range of projects including: chemical linkage between plankton and deep-sea corals, defense mechanisms of marine invertebrates under predation, ocean engineering of underwater moorings, quantifying ecological interactions in seagrass and salt marsh habitats, impacts of copper toxicity on marine organisms, invasive species ecology in Tomales Bay,  and understanding the links between plankton and physical oceanography. We brought together the entire group for a Professional Development Workshop during which interns learned how to leverage this internship opportunity to pursue their individual career goals. We finished the summer with a banquet for all students and mentors at which each intern and mentor shared something about their summer experience. We are grateful to all of the support we received this year and we are so proud of all of the interns and mentors for a great summer of marine science! We are already looking forward to the SRJC-BML Internship Program in 2020! Check back soon for blog posts by each intern to hear about their unique summer internship experiences!

PC: Ashley Smart
PC: Ashley Smart
PC: Gabriel Ng
PC: Gabriel Ng
PC: Carina Fish
PC: Carina Fish
C: Gabriel Ng
PC: Gabriel Ng
PC: Jan Walker
PC: Jan Walker
PC: Gabriel Ng
PC: Gabriel Ng
PC: Alisha Saley
PC: Alisha Saley
PC: Katie Dubois
PC: Katie Dubois
PC: Gabriel Ng
PC: Gabriel Ng

 

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Blog Post: Making Waves

You had me at "hello": Marlynn Rollins (right) introduced HBCU peers to a bat star during a 2018 visit. Marlynn (Howard University, Class of 2019) will join UC Davis' Graduate Group in Ecology, the Gaylord lab, and Sustainable Oceans NRT in Fall 2019.
You had me at "hello": Marlynn Rollins (right) introduced HBCU peers to a bat star during a 2018 visit. Marlynn (Howard University, Class of 2019) will join UC Davis' Graduate Group in Ecology, the Gaylord lab, and Sustainable Oceans NRT in Fall 2019.

Every summer since 2012, students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have conducted research at UC Davis as part of the UC-HBCU Initiative. And every summer, Rick Grosberg, Professor and Director of the Coastal and Marine Science Institute, and I have taken a group of these and other summer research students to the Bodega Marine Laboratory. Rick and I both got bitten by the research bug at marine labs and relish sharing something of that experience with our students. And we get to enjoy a day on the coast out of the summer heat. 

For many students, this trip provides their first encounter with living intertidal organisms, marine systems, and the Pacific Ocean.

After a walk along the bluffs -- punctuated by many photo ops -- led by Reserve Director Suzanne Olyarnik, Speakman Smith (Howard University) commented, "I felt as if I was on the edge of the world." 

The rocky intertidal at Bodega Marine Lab. Photo credit: Jaylen Parks/Tuskegee University.
The rocky intertidal at Bodega Marine Lab. Photo credit: Jaylen Parks/Tuskegee University. 

 

During the visit, students learned about marine and coastal ecosystems, upwelling, potential climate change effects, and ongoing research at BML. Plant ecologist Arquel Miller (Howard University) remarked, "I never knew about the existence of white abalone, let alone their endangered status. I found it fascinating to learn of the human impacts on this species and what Kristin and her team are doing..."

white abalone
BML researcher Kristin Aquilino introduced HBCU and CSU Northridge students to the white abalone restoration program.
The recent mussel die-off provided Rick with a teaching moment.
The recent mussel die-off provided Rick with a teaching moment.

Did a day at BML convince the plant scientistschemists, and molecular biologists on this year's field trip to jump to marine science? Probably not. But because of their experience with this very special place, they'll be better informed citizens and potential supporters of coastal and marine systems.

This year's group, from Howard University, Xavier University of Louisiana, Tuskegee University, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Fort Valley State University, Florida A&M University, and CSU Northridge, with me, Rick, and current GGE grad student Fred Nelson (Howard University, Class of 2017)
This year's group, from Howard University, Xavier University of Louisiana, Tuskegee University, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Fort Valley State University, Florida A&M University, and CSU Northridge, with me, Rick, and current GGE grad student Fred Nelson (Howard University, Class of 2017)

 

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