On November 10th, several of our cohort members went on a field trip to the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology (OIMB) with Dr. Carol Ferguson’s Invertebrate Zoology class. The purpose of the field trip was to meet with biologists working on marine invertebrate research, observe marine invertebrates in their natural habitats, and have a fun experience in an exciting location.
OIMB is located on the Oregon Coast, in Charleston, OR, and acts as the marine station for the University of Oregon. Upon arrival, the visiting students from Cohort 9, along with several other SOU students, quickly made themselves at home in the dorms and, then, went out for a night exploration of the Charleston Boat Docks. Using flashlights and headlamps, students explored the nearby marina for anemones, sea stars, crabs and more, all of which utilize the docks for habitat. The highlight of the evening was the discovery and observation of a marine polychaete swimming near the docks and responding to our flashlights.
The following morning, the visiting students were welcomed for a complete tour of the facility and were able to talk with several of the students that are currently studying at OIMB. The institute houses undergraduate, graduate, and doctorate students as they take courses and pursue research projects in the field of marine biology. The research happens on site in various labs with multiple saltwater tanks, scanning electron microscopes, a confocal microscope, and DNA analysis machines that utilize PCR to amplify DNA sequences. Current research projects include how caffeine induces tetraploidy in certain inverts, how certain fatty acids are transferred through trophic levels and how parasites affect that transfer, and the reproductive cycle of cold-seep mussels in deep ocean ecosystems. These are all very special opportunities for students, who get to explore topics, design their own projects, and carry them out. This sometimes includes the use of research vessels, including manned and unmanned submersibles.
Aside from touring OIMB, SOU students were also allowed to visit the Charleston Marine Life Center. Here, they were able to touch and observe several unique species of marine invertebrates in touch tanks and aquariums. Some of the more interesting ones included nudibranchs, armored sea slugs, and an octopus. They were also able to converse with some experts in marine biology and explore amazing exhibits about the local marine ecosystem.
After lunch, the class went tide-pooling at Cape Arago. Armed with rain jackets, rubber boots, and laminated field guides, the students struck out searching for tidal invertebrates. Thirty-four different marine species were found including gumboot chiton, sea anemones, and multiple species of sea stars. However, the most exciting might have been the clown nudibranch that was found by Melissa Donner and Morgyn Ellis.
On the final morning at OIMB, the visiting students packed up, ate breakfast, and headed out to visit the Interpretive Center at the State of Oregon South Slough Estuarine Reserve, which was the first national marine reserve in the United States. Here, students explored several exhibits about the importance of the South Slough Reserve and were able to buy some fun momentos at the gift shop. They then returned to OIMB for a presentation from Scott Groth, the Pink Shrimp and South Coast Shellfish Project leader with the Oregon Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. Scott shared his expertise with the invertebrate zoology class, discussing the multiple invertebrate fisheries in Oregon and how they are managed.
This all created a wonderful experience for everyone that was involved. Hearing about ongoing research projects and getting to see and touch wild invertebrates sparked interest and fostered creativity in nearly every student on the trip, all of which was enhanced by the passion for the subject and expertise of Dr. Carol Ferguson. And now for the question that we are all surely wondering… When can we go back?
Written By: John Ward
Photos By: Dr. Carol Ferguson, John Ward, Alessandro Broido, and Malia Sutphin