Saturday, March 22, 2014

Escape From the Cold: Spring Break on the West Coast!

While many people were emptying their wallets to go to the tropics and escape the harsh winter in Ohio, I went to Oregon to join Cassie after her grad school interview and to visit my uncle. While I was there, I decided to start collecting organisms for my BIO 215 project. The first stop was to Newport, Oregon. Being the wet season (rainy with high 40's and 50's) not very many people were there except the locals and fishermen. Newport is especially known for its history in fishing and their (to die for) seafood.

The touristy part of Newport is around the Yaquina Bay Bridge. This is one of the most iconic bridges in Oregon. The photo above is a better shot of the bridge in the later part of the morning. It usually is foggy or hazy around this time of year due to the heavy rain. Yaquina Bay is also were I started my collection for BIO 215.

I actually first started my collection when I saw these fishing "pots" or traps. I do not know exactly what you call them but I found quite a lot of on them. Don't worry, I did not steel any of the catch, just the by-products.

Here we have some acorn barnacles. I am certain these are Balanus amphitrite. I do not know much about them yet as I am still looking into it. I do know that these are a great nuisance to fishermen just like white-tailed deer are to us. Balanus amphitrite can damage pots, weigh them down, and actually cause them to float away in rare cases. Still though, how often do you see barnacles fresh out of the Pacific?

Recognize what's above? Blue mussels right? Rest assured they are but they are a little deceiving at first because they partly lack the blue shell we have seen in lab. Here is a better photo of what I found. When I started to go through what I collected back in Kettering, I was stumped as to what kind of mussels I had collected. There is a phenomenon called the Mytilus edulis complex. I learned of this trying to ID parts of my collection. It is basically were all the Mytilus species are interbreeding. However, after comparing freshly caught mussels with some sources, I confirmed they were in fact Mytilus edulis. Weather Johnson and Geller used PCR to ID their mussels to get around the Mytilus complex is unclear, but I can see why PCR is readily used in identifying mussels.

You know at Sea-World or the zoo you can only get so close to the animals? Well check this out!

"Be sure to get my good side."

I am not sure what the sea-lion is doing in the bottom photo, but it is kind of funny.

I have never been this close to sea-lions (Zalophus californianus). I have never seen them in the wild either. They look cute when they are pups, but not so cute grown old, huh? I hear in the news often that Zalophus californianus can be a nuisance animal. They can pile on private water craft, crowd docks, and do some damage to beaches. I am not sure what the reason is behind these floating docks. It could be management, or maybe tourism, but it was still great to see these guys up close. I believe Cassie and I were about 20 or so feet from them. Cassie also noticed a familiar organism under one of the docks. Think you know what it is?

If you guessed Robert Paine's keystone species Pisaster you are right! I almost missed this guy under the dock. My lens make his actual size a little distorted. It almost looks like his left arm is bigger than the rest of him. Thinking about it now, maybe there were some mussels under the dock and it was having is afternoon meal. Either way, got to see Pisaster!

I have to put this in here because I do not see this at all in Ohio as far as I know. Oregon State University (OSU) has their very own research vessel! OSU specializes in marine science, veterinary, pharmacy and toxicology.

Lets move onto my favorite thing about Newport. Think you know what it is by this photo?

If you can make out the symbol on the side of the right ship, it is docked at the brand new (2011) NOAA station in Newport, OR. This is a spin off from their Seattle station. I encourage you to check out those links. Not only are interesting and fun to read, they give a little deeper picture of what NOAA does. Here is the entry sign to their newest facility on the other side of the bridge. We could not go in because of 9/11 security. The fact that we got this close though was still awesome!

Below is a photo of the other ships. The NOAA sign above is about 15 feet to my left. Can you find the McArthur II?

There was a small sandy beach within walking distance from the NOAA entrance. I was able to collect some specimens there too. We found shells similar to a surf-clam but much smaller. It turned out to be a fine-lined lucine or Paravalucina tenuiscupta. You may be able to see a photo of it at the end of this post. It is small but it is there. The most amazing shell I found was a Batillaria cumingi shell. It had the iconic moon snail drill hole in it too! To think I almost missed this one because it was partly covered with sand! I took this photo when I was sorting everything.

Our last stop in Newport was a man made rocky shore. For being man-made, it was still cool to see. Cassie and I had lots of fun climbing on the rocks while we looked for more stuff to collect. Sadly, we found mostly shell fragments that don't make things easy to ID. Cassie did find one creepy looking sea-plant though.

Here are some more pics of the man-made rocky coast.

I am not sure what was on these rocks. The bottom one looks like a mix of algae and the other almost looks like a fossil.

Next stop was Lincoln City, Oregon. Almost all of Oregon's beaches are open to the public. If private beach owners open their beach to the public, the state will reduce their property taxes a good deal. Sometime private beach owners will only pay taxes on the house and not the beach itself! There was no indication this was a private beach. But check out what I first noticed (other than the lovely views).

Kind of makes you think right? What are your thoughts? It seems forever ago this happened and we are still dealing with it.
Lets just get back to the scenery shall we? Check out this coastal community. I also found lots of shells here. Big ones too. I hope this video works right. It does not look as good when I post it to the blog format. 

I am not sure what that flowing river/pond like opening is on the beach. We think it is more of a tide pool and it is is receding back into the ocean. The western gulls (Larus occidentals) were spending the most time around it. If the video does not work well, here are some photos of the flowing river/pond.

What I thought were blue mussels again actually turned out to be the even bigger California mussels (Mytilus californianus). Some of the shells I collected were over four inches long. My largest shell I collected was almost eight inches. You will see at the end of this post my overall collection. The last photo from our coast trip shows how rocky the Lincoln City Beach is.

Below you will find some pictures of sea-grasses we collected on the Lincoln City Beach. We briefly touched on sea-grasses recently in lecture. The first two are Zostera, or the "blade-like" grass. The next one is the "whip-like" grass Phyllospadix, or surf grass.

So to end this post, here is my overall collection from my week in Oregon (and some panoramic views).

The top photo is what I collected in Newport and the bottom is what I collected in Lincoln City. See what I mean when I said the California mussel was really big?

Top: Lincoln City Coast
Bottom: Silver Falls



  1. In the pots, there were parts of fish and there was even an octopus looking creature. I told Chris to take that back but he said no :P

  2. Fantastic post. Thanks for sharing your photos, videos and specimens, and for your ID work. Well done.

  3. Wow it looks like you and Cassie had an awesome time! It's so cool you were able to see and identify so many species we've talked about in class. I'm also super jealous you got to sea those sea lions in such close contact! Thanks for sharing.