Since I have last posted, I successfully led and finished the last sea star wasting intertidal survey for Otter Rock Marine Reserve in 2018. We had a great turnout of volunteers and were able to survey everything very quickly. Unfortunately we did see a few sea stars with advanced signs of wasting. The good news was that the percent of sea stars wasting has continued to decrease at Otter Rock since the outbreak of the epidemic.
For this survey we identified, measured, and assigned disease codes to ochre sea stars, blood stars, and six-rayed sea stars along 5 established transects at Otter Rock. These transects are 5 meters long and we searched a meter to each side of the transect for a total of 10m2 for each transect. After we completed these types of surveys we conducted timed searches. For this, we record the length of time searched for and the number of people searching and then cover a large area looking for ochre sea stars and false ochre sea stars. When we find a sea star we record the species, size, and disease code. Currently I am analyzing the data from Otter Rock and looking forward to collecting the last of the data from Cascade Head Marine Reserve next weekend.
Oregon’s coast has a lot to offer other than its intertidal. Last weekend I went on a beautiful hike. The first part was called Hobbit Trail and I had to duck/crawl to hike through most of it. It was very cool to be surrounded by plants to the point where it felt like I was tunneling through the bushes and trees. The later part of the trail lead to Heceta Head Lighthouse. This trail was so different. It was right next to highway 101 but you would have no idea on the trail because the forest was amazing. The trees were very tall and the canopy dense so that it was very dark on the trail. Additionally there was a steep incline so that we entered the mist that was hovering above. This eerie setting made for great pictures and an excellent hike.
Another great experience I have had was SMURFing this week. SMURF is an acronym for standard monitoring unit for the recruitment of reef fishes. These contraptions that are meant to simulate kelp environment are to capture juvenile fishes. In order to do this, a SMURF is attached to a mooring line by snorkelers and then recovered a couple of weeks later. We pull up next to the mooring in the boat and jump over the side, snorkel to the mooring, and wrap the SMURF with a large fine mesh net. A new SMURF is attached while the old one is carried back to the boat. Once we are back on the boat we shake out the contents of the SMURF and look for juvenile fish. This last week we followed this procedure for the SMURFs inside and outside Otter Rock Marine Reserve. During this time of year we don’t usually observe as many juvenile fish as this time we only got 8 juvenile rockfish. While sampling we saw whales, seals, and many birds. It was a great way to start the day.