Aaron Nelson~ Greetings from Friday Harbor Laboratories!
It’s been a week and half on San Juan Island for me and everything is going great so far (I had an earlier start date than the rest the group). I traveled up here at the end of finals week at Lane Community College in Eugene, OR. Soon I’ll be transferring to the University of Oregon to get a bachelors degree in environmental science.
This is my first experience with formal research and it has been exciting to see how much creativity and problem solving is involved. It definitely works the brain a little differently than the memorization and concept building that we’re all used to in classes. I decided to pursue a COSEE internship in order to get general biology research experience. In fact, the marine biology aspect didn't play too much into the decision. That said, I’m certainly a leisure admirer of the sea and I’m glad to be so close to it for the summer. Maybe I’ll be converted from my forest-centered focus of the past....
I’m working with Dr. Kelly Sutherland (from Univ. of Oregon) on determining the effects of small-scale turbulence on the movement and predation of jellyfish (hydromedusae in particular). Sutherland and others have performed previous research focused on jellyfish movement and its function in feeding, escaping predators, etc. However, this is the first study to be done that observes jellyfish in turbulent conditions; all the rest took place in still water tanks. It feels good to be doing research on a totally new aspect of things... nobody can tell us we’re wrong!
My lab partner, Clare, and I are just starting to get into the routine of conducting the tank experiments. Dr. Sutherland has allotted us the task of conducting a series of experiments in one of the 10-gallon turbulence tanks. Most of our time is spent looking at drops of water through microscopes and harvesting food for the jellies (various copepods and Artemia salina [also known as “sea monkeys”]). This is surprisingly fun! Since these tiny prey are still alive in the Petri dishes, they are moving targets, and it’s a bit like a game of “Asteroids” to chase them and draw them up into our tiny pipettes. We count up exactly 100 of each and then toss them in the tank to spend two hours of turbulence (or stillness for control data) and then see how many remain afterwards. I’m afraid that if I say much more there won’t be anything to reveal next week!