Friday, May 30, 2014

Kent Island Day 5



It's been sunny the past couple days which has made everyone forget all about the fog and rain that had heralded our arrival on KI. Although it's still cold at night and almost impossible to leave one's sleeping bag for 6AM low tides, the days are warm and sunny except for a few foggy hours in the morning meaning lots of electricity and hot water.

 While everyone else has been busy working on their respective project, I find myself to be unfortunately without much work to do. As I said in my first post, I am waiting for my invasive Bryozoan to show up hopefully sometime soon, although I have no idea when - a Washington state lab lists settlement as occurring in June, while a paper from Newfoundland lists August. There is also the possibility that since KI lies near a convergence in ocean currents, with one arm heading north up the Bay of Fundy and the other half southwest along the Maine coast, there is no strong dispersal mechanism for the planktonic larvae (cyphonauts) of the Bryozoan. In other words, they won't reach KI and so I will never find them, even if I stay into August. Therefore, there is a lot of uneasy waiting currently. I am spotting kelp-filled pools all over the island, which tells me there is no shortage of substrate for the larvae to settle on. But so far, other than an exciting find of the native Bryozoan Electra pilosa on some Irish Moss, no bryozoan has shown up.

http://www.marinbi.com/bryozoa/membranipora_membranacea.jpg
The species in question: Membranipora membranacea. Each rectangle is a separate animal, altogether forming a single encrusting mat (colony) over kelp. Image courtesy marinbi.com


So I've been doing a lot of wandering aimlessly at the low tide line twice a day and a lot of chores at the other times. Today, I deployed a settlement plate as part of a PhD student from UConn's work. Essentially, I just suspend 8 ceramic plates in the water column from a floating buoy and every week take pictures of the organisms which have settled on the plates and started to grow from their planktonic juvenile forms. A lot of these organisms are invasive sea squirts (tunicates) as well as other invasive Bryozoans - I have hope that my Bryozoan will show up sometime soon on the plates, which will be a good indicator that they have settled elsewhere naturally on the island. So while this data is going to the project of someone else, I can also use the data as a back-up project. Such is the nature of science - things fall apart. One can never be certain of getting data even if you do everything right.

Onchidoris muricata which appeaers to be feeding on M. membranacea or Electra pilosa. Another organism I have yet to find on KI. Image courtesy of seaslugforum.net


Membranipora membranacea
Membranipora membranacea on kelp. Image courtesy vitalsignsme.com
 Pray for fog.

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