Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Zac - Wilderness Opportunities Around OIMB

In addition to the phenomenal research opportunities that we have been given the opportunity to experience here at OIMB, we have also been fortunate enough to have been placed in one of the most spectacular habitats on the west coast for anybody with even a vague interest in the outdoors.  As I mentioned in a previous blog post, we were able to tag along with the marine ecology class to the Lighthouse tidepools; below is a photograph demonstrating the incredible density of marine invertebrates seen in this habitat.

Hardly an inch of space is wasted in this competitive environment
Some of the most notable organisms seen on this trip included a remarkably outgoing octopus, a plethora of nudibranchs, and of course the legendary gumboot chiton (Cryptochiton stelleri). Below left is a medium-sized sunflower star lurking beneath a submerged rock; this is a remarkably fast predator (for a sea star at least) that feeds on bivalves, gastropods, and variety of other intertidal invertebrates. Below right is a frosted nudibranch.  Another exciting specimen (for me at least) was a flowering surf grass (Phyllospadix sp.).  

Frosted Nudibranch (Dirona albolineata)
Sunflower Star (Pycnopodia helianthoides)

Over the weekend we were able to experience a variety of terrestrial flora and fauna during an extensive day-hike up to a fantastic waterfall about an hour and a half from the OIMB. Below left is a Pacific sideband, one of the most robust looking land snails that I have ever seen. Below right is a thick-headed fly captured mid-flight with a good deal of patience and a stroke of luck.  This insect may superficially resemble a wasp, but in fact it is a wasp parasite.  

Pacific Sideband (Monadenia fidelis)
Thick-Headed Fly (Family Conopidae)
Thick-headed flies will intercept a wasp or bee mid-flight and aggressively insert an egg into the abdomen of the unwilling host.   Once the larva hatches it will feed on the host and eventually kill it... which actually makes this insect a parasitoid -  a parasite that feeds off of its host until the host either dies or is sterilized.  This is actually very common among insects.

Oregon is well known for its excess amount of rain (at least by the standards of those of us from southern California) and consequently has a fantastic array of mushrooms.  To the left, OIMB resident mycology enthusiast Will Pischell simultaneously identifies a mushroom and snags a mosquito out of mid-air.  The three mushrooms on the left of the tree are Ganoderma organensis while the single mushroom flush with Will's hat is a Fomitopsis pinacola. Will has been a fantastic resource for identifying strange and mysterious mushrooms (of which there are many in Oregon) and is constantly coming up with new ways to play with these fascinating organisms.  The latest project has involved spore printing, which I have been helping him take DIC images of.  Below is a 2000X oil immersion image of an Amanita sp. spore print.

Spore print of an unidentified Amanita mushroom 

These spore prints are often collected in the field, the image to the left shows the (attempted) process of collecting spores from a slime mold: a piece of bark propped up with a stick and supporting a microscope slide. Unfortunately this sketchy apparatus did not last long enough to collect any spores.  The image below is a Hydnellum tentatively identified as Hydnellum auratile.  This particular species secretes a brilliant amber colored liquid that is difficult to see in the photograph but VERY cool to see in person. 

Hydnellum aurantile

More nature pictures to come soon!


  1. Go Zac Go! Your research efforts sound fascinating, and you do a great job of explaining them. Do you guys extrude your own microinjection pipettes in the lab? If so, what percentage of the time do you get a usable pipette?!!

    I am excited that to hear that you are picking your head up from the microscope now and then and getting out into your surroundings. OIMB lies at the intersection of a number of high richness habitats - estuarine, coniferous rainforest, and marine upwelling zone (including, as you mention, amazing intertidal areas) - it really is a wonderful place for a naturalist. Enjoy!

    Matt K

    1. We do make our own microinjection pipettes! This certainly could be done but hand but fortunately we have a high-tech pipette pulling machine that does all of the tricky work for us. Not only do we get a perfectly usable pipette 100% of the time, but we can modify the heat and timing to obtain a number of different pipette types. Technology sure is amazing!

  2. Zac,
    A lovely description of the natural habitats in the Charleston area. I am glad you are expanding your biological knowledge of both your research lab focus and the surrounding area.

  3. Hope you are getting to toss your skim board into the tidal waters as well. Nice write up!!

  4. Hi Zac. Thanks for taking us out of the lab and into the local tidepools and forests. Great photos. I will be down there in a couple of weeks and can't wait to explore the surroundings and meet you and the other PRIME interns.