Thursday, January 24, 2013

Life Under Scope

Today was the second Tuesday and the first day getting to work with Sheryl's research project. To start the day off, we were to go over the glorious food-web of various organisms. After discussions and group understanding of what a food-web encompasses, we, as a group, made a food-web of the species found within the fish pond, from primary producers to quaternary consumers. And thus the Paepae He'ei food-web was created!!!

Where is the keystone species in this diagram? This was one of the questions which is needed to understand the importance of a food-web in any system. The importance lies within the fact that a keystone species is one which has a profound effect on its ecosystem relative to its own abundance. At first it was thought that Chlorophyta or zooplankton because without them, all the species feeding thereafter (secondary consumers, tertiary consumers, etc.) would be troubled because the preceding trophic level wasn't in any abundance. But were we wrong! In fact, a keystone species would be more like the tilapia because without it the other species would grow to an overabundance and outcompete the system. We actually used a maritime human food-web for this and used the whale as an example because without the whales everything else would grow to an extreme abundance and eat everything else.
Upon completion of this exercise and explanations about other key concepts about Sheryl's research project, we were introduced to the micro-sized organism catcher, which I call the "Plankton Catcher". After learning the purpose of this net and the various eye sizes of the different nets (the different sizes would vary to allow different sized organisms pass through the eye size or to be caught within the reservoir at the bottom), in groups we had to do some McGyver weights so that the nets would have a slightly negative buoyancy when drifting through the water.

And then the fun part came... The rigs were completed and now needed to be tested in the wonderfully cold and muddy water. When we were informed that we were all going to be getting wet today I wouldn't have made the decision I shall soon tell you about. Everyone was to split into groups of two, with a total of four groups. Two groups would be going on the surfboards in the middle of the pond collecting, one group would go on the boat with Sheryl to collect nearer to the dock, and one group would collect at the makaha. Because I thought we were all going to get wet, I decided to get the most grueling one out of the way from the get-go, so I decided to go in the pond on the surfboards... Little did I know because of time constraints we weren't going to switch! The tide was negative, the water extra muddy, and the wind fairly blowing, but despite this it had its moments. The beautiful Ko'olaus and the nice paddle workout I got while getting my net to collect some fine larval samples was priceless.
The fun part was finally here. After cleaning the nets to get any remaining organisms and sediment into the reservoir at the bottom we were finally able to look at some amazing microscope images at some of the samples we collected from the pond. In just 1 mL worth sample in a petrie dish we found so many different larval and other microorganism samples.

 Life under the scope was interesting, for just a small section of data collection, so many different things were present. In my samples, we found more than 15 amphipods (top right), several copepods( one on left), and even small diatoms that looked like little hollow cylinders. In one of the groups they found a larval shrimp and crab (bottom right). This group even found something that even the higher-ups didn't even know was. I think it was the first ever leach found in Hawaii, which is great for all of us having to swim in the pond with the bloodsuckers. But for everyone's sake let's just say it was a larval platyhelminthes. The day concluded with this. It was probably the highlight of the first two weeks for me. Everything we learned and took part in was very fun but to see this whole different world under the scope was spectacular. It was like seeing something out of "Independence Day" with Will Smith, alien babies everywhere. It was an interesting second Tuesday, and made me excited for the rest of the days to come.
- Christian Dye

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

New Season, New Projects, New Faces

Our first week together included introductions, and a Saturday research day at Heʻeia Fishpond. 
Becoming acquainted with Heʻeia Fishpond, and the fickle weather
From left to right: Kinaʻu, Christian, Jacob, Jordan, Sherine, Danielle, Pua, Tiffany, Sherril.  Pua and Sherril are difficult to see.  Not pictured: Michelle.

Faces! From left to right: Laura, Michelle, Kinaʻu, Christian, Jacob, Jordan, Tiffany. Missing Pua and Sherine.

This season we will be working with Danielle and Sherril on their respective projects.

Danielle explains set-up and recording with the YSI
Danielle introduced us to the YSI, a very expensive device (parts of which can be submerged underwater, and parts that must never get wet) that typically has several probes designed to measure dissolved oxygen, pH, conductivity, and pressure. 

We all give a go at handling the YSI.  We practice taking surface and deep data.

Tiffany, show 'em how it's done
Surface data requires dipping roughly 1/3 of the sonde into water, and recording for 3 minutes. In the same spot we then take the deep data which requires lowering the sonde, slowly so as not to stir the sediment, until the sonde reaches the bottom, recording for 1.5 minutes.  We record the start times for each.

Some of Danielle's background questions include: 
  • What's in the water?  
  • How'd it get there?
  • How does it affect water quality?
Specifically, Danielle is interested in the chemical exchange that is influenced by storm events.  

We start our Saturday research day by collecting water samples.

A symphony of "bloop-bloop-bloop-bloop...bloop" as the interns practice filling their bottles to the utmost.

From left to right: Jacob, Pua, Sherine. Collecting ocean side samples.
 We split into 3 groups, one to collect water samples along the ocean side of the pond wall, one to collect water samples within the pond, and one to start filtering samples.
Collecting water samples and YSI data

 Water samples are taken at the surface or bottom of a water column, or both, depending on the site.  Bottles must be rinsed out at each site prior to collection.

We reconvene and filter our samples ferociously. We learn that each drop of water sample is crucial, as we are using each set of water sample to run 4 filtration tasks.

We are introduced to our filtration rigs.

Christian, Michelle, and Kinaʻu explain the steps to filtering.
We filter for Total Suspended Solids, SEDEX and Nutrients, Alkaline Phosphates Activity, and Dissolved Organic Carbon on  filtration rigs that are hooked up to vacuum pumps.  Each type of filtration requires a specific filter.

Christian filters  Chlorophyll a on a separate filtration rig.

Danielle recaps the day, and hints at whatʻs to come in the future.

End to a highly productive day/week.  Go team! :)