Thursday, November 29, 2007

Robotic Nautilus People

I kept meaning to write down the dream I had last night, and only now have I had time. I dreamt of a race of robotic nautilus people (picture mechanical cogs and wheels in the shell and head and biological tentcles and some sort of human body extending from the shell) fighting against that of a robotic cuttefish nation and the human race helped to build the society of the nautilus people (because they lost the war). It was weird. I spend too much time with cephalopods--wait, that is not possible.
Most nights I dream of siphoning cuttlefish tanks. Sometimes there is some weird variation--one time there were miniature naked humans in the tanks that I had to try to siphon around without injuring or scaring them. Also, the other night I dreamt that a pale bluish whale with legs and tentacles came into Pie in the Sky to order some food. It took up most of the store.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Also

Most important thing! I started experiments today! I finished all the image analysis Roger wanted me to do while he was gone, so now I have to much free time and they are going to let me do experiments too. I'm very excited and I will most likely be spending all my free time in the lab doing experiments :)

Time-out

Ooooooh, applications. Poo. Anyway, this morning, I fed the sea stars, and they are really funny to feed. They are actually quite stiff animals, contrary to what you might think. So I would have to somewhat forcefully lift one arm up to try and stick a piece of squid to their little suckers on their undersides. Then, I would push the arm back down to ensure they didn't drop it. If it registered that there was food, there would be the slightest retraction of the tip of the arm. It seems an excruciatingly slow process as they guide the food down the arm towards the opening to the stomach at the center of the body. Sometimes it looked as if the sea star had folded in on itself in pain (but of course I am anthropomorphizing) and it pulled the food to a place where it would be able to regurgitate its stomach to begin digesting the food.
This afternoon when siphoning, a terrible thing happened. I went to siphon my favorite tanks first (I know it's terrible to pick favorites!) when they all began inking, without provocation! Inking, inking, inking, until the tank was black and it was all I could do to find their little plants to take out and clean them. I found out that they had actually been inking on and off all day, which is evidence of some dominance issues happening in the tanks--one cuttlefish is getting to big for his britches and trying to fight with the others, causing them to ink in retaliation. This meant that I would now have to separate them. This is actually quite a difficult process, especially in inky black water. I had to somehow add walls to the tanks to separate them, without injuring any of them, and ensuring there was only one cuttlefish per separation, all the while unable to see much of anything at all. Thankfully, I did manage to get it done (only one scare when the wall fell down on a cuttlefish temporarily--I saved him quickly) and now they all look pretty lonely. I'm sure if the cuttlefish could apologize, he would. Now they are all in a time-out.

Skates and Pomegranates

Yesterday, as I was siphoning the skate tanks, I saw that they had laid some eggs. If I hadn't known what they looked like, I may well have siphoned them up! They are really beautiful looking cases. Imagine a ladder with two rungs. In between those rungs, a thin membrane stretches across and over a persimmon colored ball (that is the embryo). The legs of the ladder are fragile, twisting, branches. That's what a skates egg case looks like. And I found five of them! We put a rubber band around them with the date, and then put them into a separate area where they can hatch some day :)
Also, yesterday ended a two day extravaganza of trying to eat the largest pomegranate I have ever seen or purchased. It was delicious, but I think it made me a little delirious. I call it a dream fruit, because Dali used to put them in his paintings. They have a mysterious quality to them. The succulent seeds pop with bloody juice and stain my fingers. It was delicious and I was very proud of myself for finishing it because it is quite a commitment. I feel like in the past, I usually give up about half way through (if not before). This time, I ate the entire fruit, and my mouth got quite the workout :)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Analysis

As I have been here almost a month, you may be asking yourself, where is the science? I am seemingly just doing animal husbandry. Wait, actually, I am only doing animal husbandry. Well, last week I was given a "choice" of what to do. I thought it had already been established that I was going to do experiments on uniform camouflage, but it seems that it would be more beneficial for me to do image analysis. The images are cool, very exciting photos taken from the field in exotic locals I am dreaming about, but it's hard to get excited about the fact that I have gone from one job staring at a computer screen to ultimately be doing the same thing here... However, I don't mean to sound ungrateful. I have been told that working on this image analysis will effectively guarantee me a publication, which is a chance I will not pass up. I could have argued for doing experimentation, but this will give me even more skills that will (hopefully) make me attractive to the potential employers and fellowship givers in the science world. Actually, I do see the necessity of this work, and I'm sure that I will grow to love it :) Someday, I hope I will be the one taking the pictures. In the meantime I will learn valuable methods for analyzing camouflage in the field.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Morning

This morning, I woke up at 4:30 so I could be at the bakery to work at 5:00am. I think I have always romanticized the time around four in the morning; thinking it was an beautiful, lonely time, where people are at peace in their beds. Instead, I found it quite eerie. There wasn't much wind, but what there was made the wind chimes sing weirdly. I felt like the only person alive for miles. Until I reached the water. Then I heard water lapping softly at the shore and looked up at the moon that was almost full, and I felt calm. I'm so happy to be close to the water. It makes me feel human.
I worked at the bakery until 1pm, and then had to siphon the cuttlefish tanks, which I have just finished. I am really starting to feel connected to them :) I think they know I am a sucker and they know how to beg me for some crabs as a treat.
Time to go write some essays, and then out for a drink with my friends :) (Not my cuttlefish friends...I do have some friends without tentacles).

Friday, November 23, 2007

Tonight I get to sleep with Rose

She's the chihuahua that sometimes spends time over here. Here's a picture. She's so cute!! It's nice to have a little warm body in my bed :)

And here's a silly picture of me sitting in the living room.

Videos!

These are some videos I took today after siphoning. They are pretty poor quality, but you can see the cuttlefish feeding.
video
video video

Cuttlefriends

So, those two cuttlefish did die. We euthanized them so that whatever they had which killed them couldn't contaminate the others. It was very sad. And I still feel somewhat responsible, even though I was told it wasn't my fault.
I think the cuttlefish and I are back on good terms though. Today I went in the do the siphoning and they were cooperating and not inking all over the place. I took some photos for you to see my cuttlefish friends!




These are all juveniles with different color pattens. They spread out and flatten themselves to seem bigger when they feel a bit threatened. The last one has two of its arms raised in response to the "seaweed" that is in front of it; it is trying to look like a plant. I think it is so awesome when they do that! (For some reason I can't rotate the image, sorry).

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I just died in you arms tonight

That's what the cuttlefish said...I think I may have killed it. Actually two of them....The ones that had the fungal infection. I was treating them like I was shown yesterday, and I put them back in their tanks, and they both started freaking out, and then...nothing. They curled up their arms underneath them and were still. If you poke them, the can be provoked into some last movements, but I think they are death throws. I feel so bad!!!! Ugh. And I think all the other cuttlefish know what happened because when I passed by, they are started inking at me. I don't know what happened!! I did everything like I was supposed to. The vet sid they may have been too sick already, and were going to die anyway. Also, they didn't eat this morning when I tried to feed them. But, probably I did something wrong--I feel like I must have. They were alive before I took them out of their tanks, and now they are dead. Poopy poop poop poo. So sad. I'm a killer now.
I hope don't get fired....

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Wellfleet

Today we went to collect oysters (yes, again) in Wellfleet. It was georgeous except for the cold and rainy thing...and the truck got stuck in the sand on the beach and we had to be pulled out. I wish I had brought my camera! Ugh... I need to strap it to my body. This morning, we started treating the two cuttlefish with the infection and they were not happy at all. They inked everywhere!! It even squirted out of the tank and got on my shirt and the walls. I have to do it to them for five days! I'm going to be the enemy for a while. But, on the upside, I did get to feel what it's like to have their tentacles sucking on my finger--it was awesome!!! Cuttlefish are so cool.
We got back early from Wellfleet and I could just go home because I have nothing to do but I am going to stay because my boss wants to meet with me at 5. I need to find a way to kill time...

Monday, November 19, 2007

Fungal Infection

Two of the cuttlefish have a fungal infection :( We are trying to decide what to do with them because they are basically useless for experiments now. Once they have scars, we can't use them for camouflage experiments. Also, the talapia died. And it probably wasn't because he was injured, he was actually looking really great on Friday. No one remembered to change his water, and now he is dead. Bad week to be an animal in Woods Hole.
Thursday is Thanksgiving (as I'm sure you know) and I'm trying to think of an appropriate celebration. Since I won't be with my family this year, I think I might mix it up a bit. One of my coworkers has invited me to her house for dinner, and I am looking forward to that, but I think I also want to ... Wait, I just got distracted and asked my fellow interns "why is there a crab carapace on the table?" Ah, life in a lab. Hmm...well, I will keep thinking about Thanksgiving.
Pie in the Sky makes pies for people on Thanksgiving and I think I might be in change of handing them out for a while on Wednesday afternoon. We have at least three hundred pies in the works, and I'm not looking forward to the chaos...But, at least I will be awake! I've been exhausted recently. Alright, back to work...pictures are on the way, I promise!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Pie

I have begun my thirteen hour work days, and so far it is going well. I'm tired and increasingly dependent on caffeine, but surprisingly awake.  I like working at Pie in the Sky, lots of delicious goodies and usually nice people (except when there are mean customers...but I just try to kill them with kindness.) There seems to be this attitude that if you work in food service it means you aren't smart and you need to be talked down to, but I'd say most of the people who work there have at least college degrees, if not a masters.  
Today some people who fund us came in to the lab to see our progress on research with camouflage.   Everyone was a little on edge, but the cuttlefish performed brilliantly and we had champagne to celebrate. 
Yesterday there was a talapia disaster and we ended up having to save a poor fish from a filter tube. He didn't want to budge, so we had to siphon him up, and by the time we got to him he looked like he had some pretty bad hemorrhaging. He's being treated by the vet, and we hope he'll live...but maybe it's a case of survival of the fittest. He was the one who went in the tube in the first place. 
Well, have to clean the cuttlefish. I was planning on sleeping tonight, but it looks like I might have to go to a party instead...
Also, I discovered the most ridiculous accessory in Woods Hole is the umbrella--too much wind and I know everyone who saw me struggling with it knows I am clearly not a local.
Yay! Care package!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Rhode Island Red

Yesterday I went to Rhode Island to collect oysters and it was gorgeous. I've never there before, and now that's a state I can cross off my list. There's more I want to say about it, but I need to sleep. I have a long day tomorrow and a cuttlefish jumped out of the tank and spat at me today (he's ok though).
I'm going to start posting pictures soon, I promise.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Al-PACA!!

Last night I went to my first party on the Cape--in Falmouth. My fellow intern friends were throwing it, and I think it was a success (especially because I won at Beirut twice). Even though I was a bit stuffy, I had a good time and woke up feeling much better today.
This morning we went to the farm of a woman we work with. She has a sort of petting zoo area set up and a small restaurant and artisanal gift shop. Since we know her, we got to go in the enclosed area with the alpacas which were so beautiful and soft. Also, we saw some donkeys whom we went to pet and I was really surprised that their fur was similar to the alpacas. We saw some shetland sheep (which when I saw, I thought of mom), rabbits and goats. Hmm, ok, I guess I have now just named a lot of farm animals and I sound like I went on a field trip with my elemetary school or something. But it was fun.
Afterwards, I went to get my first big purchase of groceries at SHAW, the Falmouth grocery store where they play creepy Christmas music and everyone likes to put their cart in the middle of the aisle so you can't get past them without politely asking them if they can move and they respond with a dirty look... But, I succeeded in getting my $85 worth of groceries and barely made it to the bus back to Woods Hole (5 miles away from Falmouth). Meanwhile, I had seven bags with cans, pickles, milk, and other heavy products and about a mile walk after the bus stop. Needless to say, I was nervous for the walk back. I got off the bus and immediately had a casualty--my bag with tomato soup and corn and kidney beans and tomatoes broke. And I still had to walk a mile! I trudged up the hill, stopping for many breaks, and hoping some kind stranger would take pity on me (they never did). I finally made it home and put away groceries--but it doesn't look like I bought anything! And I had no roommate witnesses to see that I had contributed to the refrigerator... Oh, well, I'm back and there is milk for tea, and tea for the mornings, and makings of chili for dinner, so I'm happy.
Time for a shower and some cheese.

Friday, November 9, 2007

sick

poop-i'm sick. i even talked to my mom last night and she said "don't get sick," and now i wake up the next day full of snot in my brain. ugh. poo.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Oysters!

Is it already Thursday? Apparently it is... Anyway, today I went to Martha's Vineyard to collect oysters for a grant project that the vet at the MBL is doing. We took the ferry over to the island and then got into the back of a truck to drive to the site. Don't think that that was easy--it was freeeeeeezing! I was bundled up in my hat, gloves, and winter coat pulled over my head. The only part of me that was exposed to the elements was my cheeks which are now thoroughly wind burnt and pink. When we got to the site (which was beautiful) we went out on the boat to collect the oyster baskets (I'm not sure the actual terminology).
There were three lines with fifteen baskets each which we had to sort (dead and alive) and count. While it may seem like this wouldn't take too long, it took about seven hours to finish--but it wasn't without its perks. It sounds tedious, but I really enjoyed being out in the field, collecting data, seeing new organisms. We saw some green amphipods that looked like the small runt cousins of stomatopods with strange boxing glove appendages it used to try and right itself. I learned about a parasitic worm that is infecting the oysters causing the fishermen much frustration, and I'm sure economic woes. What this grant is trying to do is to find some oysters that are resistant to this particular parasite and once identified, they will seed the next crop.
I met a fisherman who gave me some pears that he had collected which were sweet and delicious. People are so friendly and so eager to make you feel welcome here.
When I came home, I had the place to myself and cleaned up the kitchen (as a payment for all the free food and beer I have been given!) and now I am going to try and get a full nights sleep before a long day tomorrow, followed by my first party in the Hole.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

First Fatality

I'm sure I won't continue writing everyday, but at the moment, everything is still new and exciting. Sadly however, today as I was feeding the cuttlefish, one of them did not try to eat its juicy piece of fish...and it turned out it had died over night. I thought something was wrong when its tentacles were pulled back in rigor mortis showing a face analagous to a death grin. Apparently this happens quite frequently as cuttlefish are very fickle animals and any small change in the environment wreaks havoc on the animals. They've recently changed the water temp and we are crossing our fingers that no more animals will die.
I got to play around a little with the experimental set up and see how the cuttlefish reacted to different substrates. I'm eager to get started on my experiments!
Tomorrow I am going to "The Vineyard" (Martha's Vineyard) to collect oysters. I am clearly a neophyte because when I was told we were going the "The Vineyard" I thought we were going on a wine tasting field trip--thankfully I did not say this out loud.
My roomies caught some clams today and are now making dinner. It smells delicious! I've been invited to join them, and I will not turn them down. Then after dinner, I've been invited to go out to a local bar :). People are so welcoming here!
I'm exhausted but having fun--and I haven't even started working at Pie in the Sky yet. I think I will be making something like 7 dollars an hour (oh yeah!), but at least it is better than what I am making now....

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A friend of mine sent me this link. This is the guy who I work with!

Cuttle Me

Today I went in to work at 7:30 and learned the ropes in the animal care center; cleaning sea star tanks, talapia, sea urchins, horse shoe crabs. And I also met a lot of new interesting people doing research on things other than cephalopods (although how cool could their research really be? :) ). Then, after feeding the cuttlefish (we fed them squid today which I find somewhat unethical...but they actually didn't seem to like them very much--it's like they know) I found out what my project is going to be and I am really psyched.
The basis of much of Roger Hanlon's research is that cuttlefish camouflage (all camouflage for that matter) falls into three categories: uniform, mottled, and disruptive. Much of the research on disruptive camouflage has already been done, and I will be working on the neglected (but equally as fascinating) subject of uniformity. Using different substrates I will try to evoke a response of uniform camouflage pattern, which on the surface seems pretty easy, but it has been seen to be quite varied. So, I am in for a long and exciting research process.
I also found out today that I will soon be starting work at the Pie in the Sky (a well known food service establishment here in Woods Hole), so I will finally be starting to make some money (whoohoo!).

My hands still smell like squid from cutting them up this morning...I have washing my hands so many times. I think I will likely smell like fish everyday until the end of this internship...

Monday, November 5, 2007

First day fighting cuttlefish

Ok, so not really fighting, but some of these guys are really aggravating when they don't do what you want! But first things first. I arrived Saturday to Woods Hole during a wicked storm what I believed akin to a hurricane, but the locals reassured me it was no where near as bad as a real hurricane. The house was without electricity and I was unable to plug in my precious computer to keep connected with the world until today.
Today was my first day at work, and after the obligatory orientation, I started my first task: feed the cuttlefish. The small ones get amphipods (imagine jumping potato bugs mixed with shrimp that like to get into your hair and on your face) and then are fed some small grass shrimp too. The big ones get big pieces of fish cut up and put on a sick to lure the cuttlefish near.
After feeding , we went outside to replenish the grass shrimp stock by scraping a net under the dock at eel pond to see whether they might jump inside of their own accord. Rather stupidly, they did, and we caught about a hundred very easily--more food for the cuttlefish! Also, there were amazing barnacles and tunicates and ctenophores aplenty!! I was so excited to see my marine invertebrate friends in the water so close to where I work.
I've also volunteered to come in early, at 7:30, to help with other animal husbandry, so I will be very busy and very cold by the end of the day (my socks were soaked through), but tomorrow I will bring more suitable shoes.
I'm still unsure as to what my specific experiment will be, and I was informed that there would be a meeting to figure it out. But watching other experiments, I became very excited, and I hope I will still be excited after I begin mine! The cuttlefish as test subjects seem very temperamental and a lot of time is spent waiting for them to calm down, but they are so cute that I forgive them.
At the end of the day, I had to siphon out the tanks of the cuttlefish to make sure they stay clean and hygienic. Of course, I had forgotten how to use a siphon correctly, and had to fill it up with water about five times throughout the cleaning. I'm sure I will soon get he hang of it though.
I bought myself a celebratory bottle of wine and came home to electricity (hot shower!). After recently discovering some friends of mine live here in the "Hole" as the locals call it, I tried to contact them, but they seem to be out in the field doing research. But my new accommodating roommates took me to a stir fry dinner and bred pudding get together.
So I am making friends, and taking in the beautiful scenery. Walking home today in the dark with the stars to lead my way (and the occasional, useless, dim lamp to guide me) I saw the boats docked in Eel Pond with the lights of the MBL behind them.
I'm exhausted but happy at the end of my day :)

Also, my new shampoo smells like an armpit.
People say there are lots of coyotes here (although I have yet to see one and I think they are pulling my leg).
People are really friendly here and I am still trying to get used to it. They say hello and I answer too loudly and more as an afterthought "HI!" so that I think I will soon be known as the village idiot...