It is hard to believe this is only the second day of exploring the Oregon coast! Each day is a ride of adrenaline as we traverse across the previously forbidden ocean floor. To visit when the ocean is fully retreated, an alarm is set to sound at 5:00 A.M. Although the sun still sleeps at this time, we move out with accordance to the ocean’s schedule – eating PB&H (peanut butter and honey), coffee, and snacks on the go. Visiting Lighthouse Island required us to trek through a thicket of terrestrial forest before we could reach the ocean floor. Once reached, we spread out quickly looking for alien-like creatures to learn about their habitat range, diet, predators, ecosystem, and other notable characteristics. Identification requires us to interrogate our field guides to reveal what organism(s) we are looking at. While this can be difficult, eventual ID unlocks a world of information that can be further expanded upon at the local library.
Now that we are becoming practiced in marine ecology, we are testing the waters (pun intended) by doing original research. My project will be investigating Cystoseira spp. epibionts, which are organisms that grow on plants. For this we will be spending a lot of our time looking beneath cold and murky waters to bring up creatures of the deep that often go unnoticed by most people. After hours of hiking through slippery algae covered rocks, it was decided we should head back to the research station because the tides were reclaiming much of the shore. While I had spent a lot of time searching for what I felt most comfortable in – kelp and algae – others were combing through creatures I had neglected to notice. One classmate took an interest in mollusks and arthropods, and because of this she was able to notice an octopus hiding in a small cave. The creature was isolated and might not have been able to survive, so we rescued it. Our only charge was to take lots of pictures before we relocated it to a tide pool where – in a little while – it could rejoin the rest of the ocean.