Monday, July 1, 2013

Cris Rangel - Week 1 in the Emlet Lab at OIMB

Hello, my name is Cris Rangel and I go to school at Santa Barbara City College in California. I will transfer to UCSB in the Fall of 2014 and major in biochemistry. I have lived by the coast my entire life and have always been fascinated by sea life. I decided to apply to the PRIME internship program so that I could have a chance to do some field work and research to decide if that was the path I wanted to take. My interest in marine biology began when I was still in elementary school and did my very first tide pooling. I was in awe at all the life I saw and was able to interact with and my interest only grew when I moved to Hawaii in 2005, which was when I discovered that I would major in biology.

Didemnum vexillum
My internship is sponsored by the Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence Pacific Partnerships (COSEE - PP) through Promoting Research Investigations in the Marine Environment (PRIME). This summer I will work with Dr. Richard Emlet on determining the settlement patterns and rates of various fouling species - organisms that attach themselves to a hard substrate underwater - in the inner and outer boat basins in Charleston, OR. While working in the Emlet Lab at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology (OIMB) I will focus specifically on the invasive colonial tunicate Didemnum vexillum (D. vexillum). One of its common names is marine vomit, and as illustrated by its appearance it is easy to see why.

It is currently only found in two locations in Oregon, here in Charleston and at the mouth of the Umpqua river in an area known as The Triangle. It is important to study D. vexillum because it outcompetes other organisms in aquaculture farms and is rapid to spread in already settled locations. It is also a threat to native species where it settles and can smother other organisms in competition for suitable substrate. One proposition made by a group of scientists was to simply scrape the tunicate off of its substrate to remove it, but D. vexillum has the ability to resettle after fragmentation and scraping it would simply help to increase its spread. 

I have had a lot of time to work in the machine shop and create my own settlement plate frames, made from PVC, and have already been very involved with this project. To the right are the settlement plate frames complete with the plates themselves, which have been placed on the docks of the inner and outer basin 1m below the surface of the water. I have really enjoyed my time in the lab, shop, and being able to construct the very apparatuses that I will be working with for the next 7 weeks.

Anthopleura elegantissima
Sunset Bay State Park
Apart from my work as an intern, I have also had time to explore and see some beaches. The photo to the right was taken at Sunset Bay State Park, and the colonial   anemone to the left (found at Lighthouse beach) is the most abundant species found on the Pacific coast of America. I was able to see the fog rolling in as well as some really good tide pooling. My stay so far has been great and I cannot wait to see what the rest of my time here has to reveal and to read about the progress of all of the interns. Until next week, cheers!


  1. when you get in some good photos of the fouling organisms on your plates please send me one of them and we will write a little about your project on the OIMB Facebook page.

    1. Will do! Should have some good ones this week when I inspect the plates that have been out for four weeks now.

  2. Hi Cris,

    Congratulation on becoming a 'vomitologist'! That has to be one of our more inspired tunicate common names. Your project sounds like great fun. I am glad to hear that Richard has you in the shop constructing your research from the ground level.

    Have fun exploring the habitats around OIMB - it is a wonderful area for the cavorting naturalist.

    1. Thanks Matt! OIMB is great and I can see why you loved it so much, the surrounding landscape is beautiful. I haven't seen any vomit on my plates yet, but there is plenty around the docks.