Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Ella - WEEK TWO - juvenile flatfish analysis

Data entry continues! This week, our database, Fisheries Oceanography Information System, or FOIS,  underwent some changes, meaning that we could not continue with the routine data entry. Instead, we were able to spend some time in the lab “working up”,  or measuring, fish collected from September beam trawls. The initial step in working up samples is to defrost a bag of frozen fish, separate them out from each other and then to identify the various species. The most numerous species we found were slender sole,  Lyopsetta exilis. 

Measuring a Lyopsetta exilis
Matt Yergey, our second mentor and Dr. Waldo’s associate, has been helping us identify species in the lab. Matt, Katlyn, and I spent a fair amount of time analyzing our first fish using a dichotomous key this week (although we suspect Matt could’ve identified it without our help in half the time). However, taking the extra time to learn how to use the key was all part of the learning experience. We identified the fish as a slim sculpin or Cottus tenuis. During the identification process, we have been learning the names for specific fish parts. My favorite name so far is the caudal peduncle, which is the narrow part of the body just before the tail. We measure the fish using S.L., or Standard Length, which is the length from the tip of the head to the end of the caudal peduncle. After identifying the fish, their lengths are measured in millimeters, dried to remove excess water, and then weighed using a digital gram scale. After the work up, the fish are put into a formalin solution and labeled with the species name, date, and station number. 

Waiting to be identified
At the end of the week, Dr. Waldo and Matt met with Katlyn and I on the progress of the data entry work. We all came up with specific things for the database developer to change or add to make data entry easier and to most accurately reflect the data for analyses later on. As Dr. Waldo phrased it, we are not only entering the data, but contributing to the development of the database as well.


  1. Ella,
    I haven't taught the bio majors how to use a dichotomous key in Zoology. Did you learn to use one at PCC? How useful is it to get exposed to a key before having to use one on the job?


    1. Hi Stacy,

      I think it would be very useful to get some experience using the keys in the 200 level bio classes. I used one in highschool, and then one in Micah's courses to identify potential pollinators of specific flowers.
      The biggest learning curve in using our key has been understanding the terminology specifically for fish anatomy. Once you get past that, the dichotomous part is pretty simple!