Week 7: Yo Ho, Yo Ho, A Biologist’s Life For Me!

Another fantastic week in Charleston! This week we wrapped up the annual red rock crab tagging survey. We pulled our traps up at the end of the week and put them back into storage. It was crazy how at the beginning of the surveys we were catching on average 60 crabs per trap per day and by the end of the survey we were catching only four or five crabs per trap per day. Some of this was in part to our friendly neighborhood harbor seals that would ram our traps to get the bait and make it easier for crabs to escape. However, that is not the only reason behind the poor crabbing and that is the mystery we are now tasked with solving.

One of the last red rocks we marked.

The first part of the week was mainly data entry and analysis. Scott has been teaching me the magical world of Access and R throughout my time at the ODFW and this week put those skills to the test. Access is a Microsoft database program that allows us to better organize our data and create queries that can be used to table data in a form that is easier to analyze. We then use the program R to analyze all the data we’ve put into Access. R has a pretty steep learning curve and as someone with no experience with coding or programming I feel like what I’ve learned so far has been pretty extensive. It’s exciting to see data you’ve collected turn into readable and meaningful graphs.

Scott has also been putting my ArcGIS skills to good use. Scott is creating urchin harvest reports for the ODFW and has been using ArcGIS to analyze the data spatially. Between the two of us we were able to figure out some cool ways to map and analyze the urchin data.

On Thursday, Scott, Nick, and I felt we had enough of our share of office work for this week and decided it would be a perfect day to go fishing. I had never gone fishing in the open ocean before so to say I was excited was an understatement! Within an hour of being out to sea I had caught my first fish: a black rockfish. We were “bottom fishing” which is exactly what it sounds like: fishing along the ocean floor. The trick with bottom fishing is not catching on the bottom, which even experienced fishermen often have trouble with. Once you catch the sea bed there is a lot of organized chaos with unhooking yourself—jerking your line up hard in various directions and trying not to snap it—and an equal amount of shaking your fist at the ocean.

fishing

My mighty black rockfish!

Friday we took out the ODFW’s boat, Ophiodon, to release some basket stars the invertebrate biology professor wanted returned to sea, as well as to collect some spatial data on sport crabbing. When returning basket stars to sea you must first burp them by gently pressing on their disk. Air often gets trapped inside of basket stars which will cause them to float at the surface and will inevitably be eaten by gulls and other hungry sea birds; burping them ensures a (somewhat) safe journey to the ocean floor.

After returning the basket stars we began our data collection. We drove the Ophiodon throughout Coos Bay marking waypoints on the boat’s GPS where we found sport crab gear. We collect this data in order to be able to make informed decisions when companies want to alter the habitat, such as dredge it, so we can be aware of how much sport crabbing we would be affected.

And though only two days at sea isn’t really enough to determine whether I get seasick or not, I am happy to report that seasickness has not been an issue thus far! I’m so happy to finally to be getting my sea legs!

Returning basket stars to their deep sea home.

Saturday I went with a few students from OIMB to go hiking at Gold and Silver Falls. It was unbelievably beautiful. We first hiked to Silver Falls which was my favorite of the two because we were able to play under the waterfall! Gold Falls was also pretty amazing, as the trail leads you to the top of the waterfall and you can look over the edge, which was a surreal experience. We also took it upon ourselves to go off the beaten path and explore some unmarked areas; I definitely improved upon my climbing abilities during this hike! As always, with the end of this week I’ve been left exhausted but completely happy. Until next week!

 

Silver Falls

Playing underneath Silver Falls!

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2 thoughts on “Week 7: Yo Ho, Yo Ho, A Biologist’s Life For Me!

  1. You are talking like a pirate programmer! R!

    When companies consider altering habitat, do they consider the sport crab location data across time, or is there a limitation to the consideration? IE, in August instead of June? How does the annual crabbing survey numbers of caught crabs get incorporated into decision making by these companies, or by the state?

    see you next week

  2. We also like to call it “Rrrrrrr!” because it can often be quite frustrating!

    While we do have the ability to break data down by months, it is generally considered as a total annual effort of sport crabbing over time. Before a channel can be dredged, the public and government agencies have a chance to voice their opinions and predictions and get to weigh in on the decision. These data collected gives us solid proof of where people are crabbing rather than just making remarks about how “we know a lot of people crab there”. It gives us weight in a debate over whether or not dredging is appropriate in an area. If dredging were to commence anyways we also would have an idea of how much sport crabbing we would be losing.

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