Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Algae in Art

Beautiful photographs of diatoms arranged under a microscope. More here.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

New Beginnings

It only seems fitting to follow up a post entitled "end of an era" with one about "new beginnings." As of yesterday, I have moved from the sunset to the sunrise (from the west to the east, if it was unclear). This morning, after my first night in my new place, I went on the "Pillbox" hike in Lanikai to watch the sunrise. The so-called pillboxes are bunkers left over from World War II, where soldiers would sit and watch the coastline.  What a fantastic view they had! I was slightly embarrassed that I have lived in Hawai'i for this long and haven't done this hike.  Now it is only three blocks from me, so I may try to do the sunrise hike a few times a week.  Hike might be a generous word, it's really more a spirited fifteen minute jaunt.

Below is one of the bunkers at the top of the ridge.  There were a few other people there to watch the sunrise as well.  It didn't feel crowded though. There was a very friendly vibe about the whole experience.

It was a lovely way to start the day. And then, when I got to Coconut, I was welcomed by a broad stingray coasting along the sand under the pier.  There are a lot of them in Kaneohe Bay since the area serves as a nursery for several elasmobranch species. They eat small crustaceans that they dig out from the sand.  I love the way they glide sleepily across the seafloor. Their fins undulating fluidly at their sides. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

End of an era

Today marks the official day that I no longer have an octopus tank on Coconut Island.  I've just cleaned it out and it will soon belong to someone new! I heard a rumor there will be fish in there, maybe even as soon as this afternoon.  Exciting new research is happening all the time.

Cleaning it out was not as trivial as I may have made it sound. Over the years, I have cleaned it periodically, but a substantial number of organisms made that tank their home.  There were sea cucumbers, tunicates (sea squirts), snails, worms, corraline algae, barnacles, and even clams! It took me several days to carefully pick through the detritus to make sure I had rescued all the live animals from the tank (or at least as many as was humanly possible).

This little resident of the tank is a juvenile warty sea cucumber. They are ADORABLE when they are juveniles, with their beautiful yellowy-green coloration dotted with small black papillae, but when they grow up--BAM, ugly brown warty blob!  Below you can see an adult (the picture was taken by a very talented fellow researcher from Coconut Island).  

Although, perhaps I am being too harsh. I'm sure it is very attractive to other warty sea cucumbers... As long as it doesn't spew out its sticky bluish-white cuvierian tubules.  Wow, I just read the wikipedia article on cuvierian tubules, check this out--"When stressed, the sea cucumber faces away from the attacker and contracts its body wall muscles sharply. This causes the wall of the cloaca to tear and the anus to gape and the free ends of some of the tubes to be ejected. Water from the respiratory tree is forced into these tubules causing a rapid expansion and they elongate by up to twenty times their original length. They have great tensile strength and become sticky when they encounter any object. "

The tearing cloaca and gaping anus certainly paints a picture...

Aaaaand, moving on to a more pleasant image-

This little guy is a flame file clam. They can "swim" around the tank by squirting water out of their siphon. But, in general, they like to make a little nest for themselves among algae and rocks where they can sit and filter feed away from predators.  All of those stringy orange things around the outside are special tentacles that help it feed, but they can also drop off when then are threatened. I tried not to disturb these guys too much when I transferred them to the ocean, but inevitably, I got a few tentacles on me. I tried to read about whether they can regenerate their tentacles, but wasn't able to find any literature on that. They all seemed to find a new little nook to scurry into pretty quickly though, so I think they will survive.

One of the things I had in my octopus tank forever was an oversized rubber ducky.  I had originally thought to throw it away, but one of the shark researchers quickly rescued it and put it in among the sharks. Here it is in it's new home. Yay shark-duck love! Oh, wait, that sounds wrong...  Well, shark-duck friendship anyway. 

And now, the tank is clean, free of critters and ready to be home to someone new. Certainly the end of an era for me. Four years of octopus wrangling coming to an end, but many more months of writing still await me... Off to work!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Letters from Heather

Whenever I go out of town, I try to make scientific artwork for my boyfriend while I am gone.   I put them in envelopes and he can open them each day like an extreme nerd version of an advents calendar.  The first time I just did some random invertebrates that I liked. The second time, I tried to get more creative and did parasite life cycles. This most recent time, I decided to do various penis morphologies.  My parents thought they looked like children's book illustrations, perhaps that is my next career move?

I thought I had posted the parasite life cycle drawings before, but couldn't find them, so I'll put those up too.

Very interesting article about physiological changes that happen universally in response to mood. These are just self reported feelings though, I'd be interested to see body scans as well to see if there were correlations.