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Archive for Patrick Cousineau

Posted by: | August 14, 2013 | No Comment |

Hello again everyone. This past week consisted of more hook and line surveys. We were fishing out at Depoe Bay in the Cascade Head Marine Reserve. This time the volunteer anglers were Hatfield interns, some of whom experienced their first time ever fishing! It was awesome witnessing someone catch their first fish, and I know from my own personal experience that it’s a feeling that one never forgets. Fishing on that particular day was a bit slow, but we still managed to catch over 50 fish. Aside from this past week’s hook and line survey, I have not done too much else in the way of field work. My field work activities are slowly dwindling as my summer internship sadly approaches its end and I begin prepping data and content for the upcoming presentation. What isn’t fading, however, are my weekend adventures, with this weekend in particular standing out amongst the rest.

Around 16 of us Hatfield interns road tripped down south to California’s Jedediah State Park, situated in the midst of the giant redwoods. We spent the weekend hiking, surfing, laughing, and sharing stories. We attempted to bushwhack our way through the forest in search of a hidden grove of redwoods, alleged to be the single tallest grove in the world with trees standing over 320 feet tall. To put that into perspective, that’s approximately 9 school buses stacked vertically on top of one another! Unfortunately our search came up empty handed, as we found ourselves walking in circles and confused about where to walk. The location of this grove, known as the grove of titans, is unbeknownst to the public and is known only by a handful of biologist who keep its location undisclosed. One particular biologist wrote a book about his discovery of this mystic grove and referred to some geographical clues to give the adventurous sole some hope of finding it. We attempted to follow these clues, but our search still ended unsuccessfully. Nevertheless, we all enjoyed the challenge and the opportunity to unlock a long kept secret.

under: Patrick Cousineau

Posted by: | August 7, 2013 | 1 Comment |

Hello everyone! There was a question on my last post about how habitat type is discerned and incorporated into our hook and line sampling design. Habitat type is discerned using various underwater camera systems such as sleds, ROVs, and landers. The data received from these deployments are then used to generate habitat type which can subsequently be incorporated into an ArcGIS program. There are also other methods of distinguishing habitat type such as SONAR, LIDAR, and satellite imagery, but I do not know the extent to which these are used for our habitat maps.

Anyway, this past week I again found myself out at sea helping with the hook and line fishing surveys in the Cascade Head Marine Reserve, which is about an hour trip by boat from Depoe Bay. We fished for two consecutive days and caught a wide variety of rock fish and round fish species including: kelp greenling, black rockfish, blue rockfish, lingcod, yellow eye, yellowtail, canary, china, and quillback. The black rockfish and kelp greenling are euthanized and kept for age dating purposes, while the others are quickly released after capture. Fish that suffer from barotrauma are hooked to a descender device and are released at the depth at which they were caught so that their swim bladder can recompress. Some rock fish species are more susceptible to barotrauma than others; blue rock fish are notoriously prone, while others such as kelp greenling and lingcod do not require any assistant at descending to depth.  Although assisting in these hook and line surveys take up the majority of the week, I did find time to assist in another project: benthic extraction.

Benthic extraction is a study of the benthic invertebrate community. It is one way in which marine biodiversity is assessed and quantified. It involves SCUBA divers scraping invertebrates off quarter meter square rock structure and bagging the samples into mesh bags. The samples are then brought to a lab where they are sorted according to phyla and put into sample jars. The samples are then preserved with formalin and sent to an eco-analyst where they are then sorted into lower taxonomical ranks. Species diversity, abundance, and biomass are quantified which will serve as indicators of biodiversity. The goal of benthic extraction is to compare biodiversity between marine reserves and their associated comparison areas to observe how biodiversity and benthic community structure may change over time. This, along with hook and line surveys, are a couple ways to evaluate the effectiveness of Oregon Marine Reserves as a management tool.

under: Patrick Cousineau

I have fallen a bit behind on this week’s blog post, due mainly because of my involvement in intensive field work projects. Although field work is what everyone is dreaming of when they are stuck in the office managing data, it does eventually wear you down physically and mentally. The first half of the week I embarked on the Ann Marie, a local fishing charter vessel, to conduct our first round of hook and line sampling in the Cape Perpetua area. The second half of the week I was down south along Port Orford where I was again performing hook and line surveys out of Red Fish Rocks Marine Reserve. I would wake up at a painful 4 am in order to get down to the docks on time and help load up the boat. Due to heavy winds that generally pick up in the afternoon, we aim for an early start in order to bypass the foul weather. Hook and line surveys are done according to a strict protocol that dictates the exact latitude and longitude, the duration, and the type of terminal gear rigged on each and every fishing rod.  This protocol is also used for hook and line sampling in both California and in Washington State, and with Oregon now on board, the methodology is now standardized across the entire west coast.

This protocol consists of delineating 500m2 cells within each marine reserve and comparison areas using ARC GIS. Local knowledge from fishermen is then incorporated into the GIS map, which highlight the best fishing reefs in each area. The areas are then stratified by depth and habitat type and all cells that are deeper than 24 fathoms or exhibit non rocky substrate are excluded from the GIS map. The 24 fathom mark was chosen in order to reduce fish mortality after release; rock fish mortality is compounded by the depth at which they are caught and brought to the surface. Non rocky habitat was excluded because as the name suggests, rock fish are generally only found in rocky habitat, so it is not worth the effort to fish in sandy bottom. Five cells are then randomly selected using a random number generator and each cell is fished for a total time of 45 minutes.

Now that you have an idea about the methodology, it may become apparent that this method is not one that is aimed at catching the most fish in the least amount of time.  The goal is to take a replicable and consistent approach that minimizes possible covariates, which can become a rather nuisance during analysis or create biases in the data. For example, if the duration of fishing in each cell (45 minutes) was not accounted for then our results would be skewed because, theoretically, more fish are caught the longer one is fishing for. However, like many ecological study designs, there are certain variables that can’t be controlled for.

Total catch in each cell varied widely, with some cells pulling in over 50 fish, while others had none. Differences in catch can be explained by a myriad of factors, most notably temperature, habitat, depth, and light. The ocean may exhibit slightly different conditions during any given day which cannot be easily controlled for. Light and temperatures sensors, however, are deployed at each cell which we can correlate during the analysis.

Most of my remaining time here will be spent helping in the hook and line surveys. These surveys will continue for another 2 months after my internship has ended, so unfortunately I won’t be involved in any of the analysis. These surveys are expected to continue every summer for the next 10 years.

 

 

 

 

under: Patrick Cousineau

Posted by: | July 24, 2013 | 1 Comment |

These past couple weeks have been incredibly busy.  The week leading up to Da Vinci Days, Corvallis’s art and science festival, was spent preparing a poster for display at the Sea Grant booth and organizing and prepping equipment for this week’s intensive field work events.

Working the Sea Grant booth at Da Vinci Days was an insightful experience. I helped to inform the general public about the economic and environmental impacts of some of North America’s most pervasive invasive species. I also answered and explained any inquiries people had about my poster regarding my work with ODFW. The most meaningful experience, however, were the many children who marveled at the invasive animal displays and whom also expressed eager interest in my interpretations of those displays. I could sense their strong interest in science and their unyielding desire to learn. These passionate displays of curiosity capture the very essence of science; it is not enough to solely study science, but rather inspire future generations of scientists through education and outreach.  A simple scientific display is often times enough to capture a child’s interest and to inspire a world of endless learning opportunity. This opportunity is what I hoped instill in the many children who visited the Sea Grant booth.

Aside from Da Vinci Days, I prepped gear for the upcoming hook and line surveys. These surveys involve contracting charters with local fishermen to catch a wide variety of rockfish species. The rationale behind these surveys was explained in more detail on my previous blog post. We will fish for roughly 8 hours in a Marine Reserve and 8 hours, the following day, in its associated comparison area. The first trip will be out of Newport to Cape Perpetua Marine Reserve and its comparison area referred to as the Postage Stamp. Later in the week, we will be traveling to Red Fish Rock Marine Reserve which is near Brookings, Oregon. I am preparing for an exhausting, but exciting eek out at sea!

under: Patrick Cousineau

week 3!

Posted by: | July 10, 2013 | 1 Comment |

This past week was a shortened work week due to the Fourth of July holiday. The shortened work week, however, meant that I had even less time to practice my newly acquired and refined analytical skills. I dove into theoretical papers about proper BACI designs (Before-After- Control- Impact) and discussed its application to the goals and objectives of the Oregon Marine Reserves. I also learned how to perform a power analysis, which essentially is a prospective method for determining an appropriate sample size required to detect a significant result within a given degree of confidence. This power analysis is a critical component of any experimental design, especially those that require the lethal extraction of animals.

One of the fundamental questions surrounding Marine Reserves is determining whether or not fish species tend to be older inside reserves than outside. To answer this question, some fish need to be lethally removed for otolith extractions, which can give a relatively accurate estimation of age and sexul maturity. But how many fish need to be lethally removed? If too little are removed then it may be an insufficient sample size to render a significant result. However, if too many are removed then more fish were euthanized than necessary, the idea being to minimize fish mortality. Thus, power analysis proves critical in this way by indicating the smallest sample size needed to detect a significant change in size.

On last week’s post I discussed my experience with the PIT tagging project. There was a question regarding the relevance of PIT tagging to my work here at HMSC. Although PIT tagging was an enjoyable learning experience, it did not relate directly to my work.  I mainly took the opportunity to practice proper fish handing, weighing, and measuring techniques, which I will be performing a lot of in the next upcoming weeks. ODFW will be chartering out fishing boats where volunteer anglers will attempt to catch a wide variety of rockfish species. When a fish is caught, it will be brought on deck to be quickly identified, measured, and weighed. Most will then be released, but a small percentage will be kept for otolith extraction. Fishing will take place in marine reserves and their respective comparison areas to gather baseline data on species composition and their associated physical attributes. This baseline data is critical for proper BACI designs and will be an important component for future analysis. Next week’s blog I will discuss some preliminary results of a few analyses that I have helped in. But until then, science awaits!

under: Patrick Cousineau

week two at HMSC

Posted by: | July 2, 2013 | 2 Comments |

Week two at HMSC in Newport has been yet another adventure. The weather and wind came together perfectly in the latter half of the week, grooming the ocean into surf perfection. The minute I was finished with my work commitments I spent the rest of my evenings exploring the coast and looking for waves to surf. I scrambled over rocky outcroppings, shuffled through blackberry bushes, and forded the many creek outlets, all to satisfy my obsession for the chance at catching that perfect wave. I have spent more time and energy searching for waves than I have actually spent in the water surfing, but the exploration is what makes riding a wave that much more enjoyable. What most people fail to realize is that riding waves are only a meager component of surfing.

The majority of time is comprised of anxiously waiting around for inclement weather to clear, networking with the local surfing community, studying and observing the natural coastal wildlife and geological features, and understanding the local bathymetry that creates ideal waves. Newport and its surrounding coastline can be a surfers dream if one seeks solitude and empty, un-crowded waves. It just takes a bit of adventure and a little luck to find that perfect wave.

Aside from my adventures, I’m still here primarily to work. Of course that is only if you consider fishing as work. This past Friday I went along with an ODFW employee to help with a PIT tagging project. Passive Integrated Transponders, or PIT tags, are about 2 mm in length and provide a unique identification code when inserted into an animal. This allows researchers to gather information about migratory patterns and other behavior. The PIT tagging project entailed catching black rockfish by method of hook and line, quickly inserting the PIT tag, and then releasing it back into the ocean. My role was primarily to practice handling, weighing, and measuring fork length of all non black rockfish species. I also participated in the actual fishing, where I caught and reeled in a total of 7 fish, including a 40 inch lingcod! Not a bad day considering this was technically for work. Who knew work could ever be so fun!

Between balancing work obligations and surfing, I still managed to squeeze in social time with the other interns. On Thursday, we all met with some of the graduate students who are conducting research here at HMSC. This was a good opportunity to establish some connections and learn about additional research opportunity to get involved in. You never know what could arise from a simple volunteering effort, thus it is important to be involved and take every possible opportunity. And with that, I wish everyone a fantastic Fourth of July weekend.

under: Patrick Cousineau

Hello HMSC!

Posted by: | June 24, 2013 | 2 Comments |

Hello all! What an incredible opportunity it is to be a part of the marine science community here at Hatfield Marine Science Center (HSMC) in Newport Oregon. My name is Patrick Cousineau, I was born and raised in Southern California and grew up surfing, sailing, and swimming off the coast of Los Angeles. All my life I have been drawn to the peaceful tranquility of natural places. The ocean has molded and shaped my personality, educational and career interest, and has served as a place for personal thought and reflection. The ocean, however, places immense barriers to human exploration, but the intrinsic curiosity in humans to explore new places will always overcome difficulties. Oceanographers, marine biologists, atmospheric scientists, geologists, and other scientific research teams are making new discoveries about our oceans every day. It is an amazing experience for me to be studying and working alongside prominent marine researchers and helping to better understand the natural processes of our oceans.

I am working with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, where I am helping conduct research in Oregon’s network of Marine Reserves. A few days ago I went on what was intended to be a multi day, overnight benthic survey. Unfortunately the turbidity in the water column and low visibility conditions cut our research efforts short and we were only able to stay out at sea for one day. On the vessel, I helped deploy and retrieve an underwater camera system that takes footage of the benthic community, allowing us to identify fish species, assess population density, and estimate fish size. This camera system, called a sled, is towed behind the vessel where it slides along the ocean floor on two skis. The footage is saved onto a standard SD card where it is later analyzed and compared with other study sites.

Outside of work, I have seamlessly bonded with my roommates and the many other interns. Already in the first week we have come to know each other so well and have bonded over trips to the aquarium, tide pools, and the beach. I am so excited for what is in store for the following nine weeks, but I know that my time here is short and that I must take full advantage of every opportunity to come.

under: Patrick Cousineau

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