Many thanks to Faye Creedon of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for submitting this report on the latest Marine Life Inventory:
Our latest Marine Life Inventory (MLI) was held on February 1, 2014. We had a great group of students from Riverside Community College who got to experience a variety of hands on sampling methods. After a very informative introduction led by Dave Meyer, the large group of students was split in to three smaller groups, each group rotated through different stations.
One station is the bottom trawl where students climb aboard the skiff and head out on the water. A plankton tow and bottom trawl net are deployed and dragged for 5 minutes, during this time they learn about the importance of phytoplankton as well as the dynamics of the food web. Once the skiff returns to the dock the students get to examine what they’ve caught in the bottom trawl. They measure, count and release every animal that is caught. For the month of February we did not see as many bass as we do during the spring and summer months. We did however collect two round sting rays, three dorid nudibranchs and three navanax nudibranchs.
The second station is the touch tank and trail walk. Students get to touch a variety of invertebrates and even sharks! They learned about the different types of animals that are found in tide pools and their amazing adaptations in dealing with desiccation, solar radiation, wave action and predation. During the trail walk they learn about native plants, they learn about special relationships plants can have with insects and how during the dry season they are deciduous. They also learn about the salt marsh plants and their ability to live in brackish waters. Our trail leads right to the osprey nest which gives students an opportunity to learn about birds of prey while observing one up close.
The third station is the mud grab station. Students each get the opportunity to use a mud grabbing tool to extract samples from underneath our dock. Once they have completed their collection they use their hands to sort through the mud collecting as many small invertebrates as they can. After cleaning their mud samples the students observe their collection through a microscope projector. They examine each organism that was found and learn an array of interesting facts about the mud and the animals that live within it. For example, several brittle stars were caught in the mud grab. Brittle stars are very delicate echinoderms, being extremely sensitive to pollution and poor water quality. When a brittle star is found (as it was in the mud adjacent to the dock at the Back Bay Science Center), it means that the habitat it was in is healthy.
Although the tide was not favorable for our final station, the beach seine, all in all it was a successful MLI and we are excited to see how the collection data changes in the coming months!