August Already!? (Goals, Projects, and a Random Scientific Question)

Wow so much time has passed. I can’t believe the summer is getting ever closer to coming to an end. The past week or two I’ve been using my time wisely in Oregon. I’ve managed to attempt spear fishing and going into it I figured it would be difficult. I was correct in believing so, because swimming down 15-20ft into the dark unknown on a single breath all the while trying not to scare the fish once you’ve reached the bottom is nearly impossible for a newbie. With all the difficulty aside though, it was a rich experience and I plan on attempting it again after taking a few more snorkeling trips to gather some confidence in my diving abilities in low visibility waters. Something on my bucket list also water related is that while out here I’m going to go surfing and the next opportunity I get I’m taking it.

On the science end of things, crab data has been gathered and we are beginning to conduct analyses and have begun building the prototype stereocam rigs. There’s really only two weeks until our poster sessions, so the scrambling of trying to get projects done and putting the “final” product into a physical presentation will soon be among us.

Something totally unrelated to my crab/camera project, but I feel like is worth noting about science is that I recently had brought to my attention a thought. A philosophical question put into my mind by a movie. The movie “Chappie”, not to give too much away is about a police sentry robot in South Africa that is programmed with consciousness. Unlike most movies that portray robots enslaving our species or eradicating us entirely, Chappie brings up the question as to how we would potentially treat and raise this artificial intelligence and whether it would be morally considered a sentient subject with rights like you and I. You may be thinking that this is a far off thought that is merely fiction, but as we progress with technology we are fast approaching a time where this could be reality in the not so distant future. Some of the top minds in the world are already raising concerns over the topic like Stephen Hawking. What are your thoughts on this debatable topic? Although some parts of the movie are not for younger viewers, I suggest checking it out if you feel like acquiring some new “keeping you up at night” material to think about.

Theatre poster for the movie Chappie

Just an-“otter” pun…

What a great week! Tons of field work in the mudflats last week and got to spend last Friday with all the fellow SeaGrant scholars at Beverly Beach. We went to the Newport Aquarium and I got to spend my birthday with friends while exploring Eugene. Bought my first wetsuit and plan on giving surfing a try this week! Please enjoy the photos below that show all the nifty native creatures of the Pacific Northwest coast. Also I highly recommend clicking on the Otter_Video link below. You won’t regret it!



Big ole eel

Wolf eel being fed

Jellyfish tank

Hagfish are not exactly the best looking fish, but they are used as a fake eel skin in a lot of clothing

Baby Pacific octopus

Puffin’ puffin his chest

Crustacean Examination

After successfully deploying 23 pit traps in the last week (one went missing), on the 7th we were able to check them after being open for 24 hours. The results were pleasing to see, as we did in fact have crabs of multiple species in all of our traps. Many sculpin were caught as well and were noted. The number of Hemigrapsus crabs seemed to increase as we got closer to shore and the number of Dungeness was less and more randomly distributed. We also found two strange looking crabs that turned out to be Pea crabs. As planned the size selection method worked in a fairly smooth manner. I say fairly, because the majority of the traps caught small crabs, but a few actually caught large crabs that we are unsure of as to how they managed to get in. (while molted soft enough to squeeze??). This will be repeated several more times as the summer continues on.

Here is a video of the Dungeness Crab GoPro footage that was shot a few weeks back. We believe the crab is exhibiting this behavior because he (it is a male) is trying to crack his own shell open so that he may begin molting. The video is sped up from 30fps to 120fps.

Pit trap in action

Removing the zip ties on a trap to access the catch.

Staghorn sculpins that were caught in the traps


The panoramic camera work is taking a bit longer than expected, mostly because some equipment we were thought to of had by now, has not arrived so that testing our design is not possible yet. I have been working with a few video editing softwares that allow panoramas to be made via stitching.

This weekend a trip up to The Gorge is being made. Will post pictures!

Pit Traps for the Mudflats

This week was great for field experience. I spent a majority of the time working in the mudflats deploying pit traps (24 in total). Multiple field days, waking up at the early hours, and trekking through the mud has been both tiring and rewarding. I have learned about capture methods for crabs and also have been looking into new methods for panoramic/stereoscopic filming (will have more information next blog). Also it has been long awaited, but in the middle of this coming week I will have some video footage of the crabs from the experimental pit traps from last week. Found some very interesting footage of a crab which, from what we believe, is trying to crack open his shell to molt. Spending the 4th of July in Oregon was wonderful as well. The fireworks show may not have been an Indiana show, but it was definitely enjoyable.

Example of pit trap for size selection of Dungeness crabs

Week 2: Dungeness Crab in the Lab

Week 2 has ended and I have to say that Oregon is becoming more and more homely. Friends are being made and new experiences are occurring. Early in the week, core samples were taken in order to capture mud shrimp. A core sample, to those of you unaware of what that is, is where you take a large metal tube and press it completely into the ground and then proceed to dig all of the sediment out and sift through it while for mud shrimp. To get the core into the ground you must stand on top of it and do the “shrimp dance” which consists of wobbling motions. Once the mud shrimp were captured we measured the carapace length, sexed them, and checked for the infestation of parasites. The parasites are definitely not the most appealing creatures to look at, but they are still very interesting.

The mudflats show no mercy to those who science.

Mid-week many bucket lids were purchased (24 total). The reasoning for this is that we began to build experimental pit traps that would be size selective for the capture of small Dungeness crabs. We made two different designs, one with a larger whole and steeper funnel, and the other with a smaller hole and more gradual funneling. To set these traps, you basically just dig a hole in the ground and place the bucket in and wait for the crabs to fall in. Some people around here call them the “Dodos of the sea”. This is not due to having a resemblance with birds, but because of their ease of capture. After setting the traps we decided to place GoPro cameras onto two of the traps to capture some footage and observe the crab’s interactions with the traps. I’ve taken a brief look at the footage and there is some interesting behavior to note. I will definitely be including some of the video in my next blog entry. Several crabs were captured overnight, as well as a few Staghorn Sculpins, and a lone jellyfish. The next step will be to build 24 traps in total, and set them out in various locations. I’m really looking forward to see how things will play out with the implementation of our traps.

Young Dungeness crab captured in the pit traps

It’s been only two weeks and I already feel like I’ve learned quite a lot. Being from a freshwater background, marine and estuarine has offered a new perspective. 8 more weeks to go!

From Cornfields to Coastal Mudflats

It has been roughly 12 days since I departed on my 4 day cross-country road trip from Indiana to the coast of Oregon. Many sites were seen like Medicine Bow, Winnemucca Mountain, and Crater Lake. Taking the time to see such colossal structures really made me realize how small we are in the vastness of our own country, let alone the planet.
It took 35+ hours to get to Oregon, and I’ve only been here for roughly a week, but I already feel a sense of home here. For the next 9 weeks, to my understanding, I will be working with integrating different pit trap methods for the capture of juvenile Dungeness crabs (Cancer magister) as well as the utility of using underwater video to get quality quantitative data on fish and invertebrate use of US West Coast intertidal estuarine habitats. Working this week with the USDA under my mentors, I have been very fortunate to already be getting out into the field.


Dungeness Crab (Cancer magister) caught from pit trap

This week we drove 60 miles north to Netarts, OR and checked shell bags for colonization by shellfish. We also took water quality in areas that were bare (lacked vegetation) and areas with seagrass present. Closer by (Yaquina Bay), pit traps were set up for the capture of Dungeness crabs to quantify their morphometrics to create more accurate size selection in the future. To our delight, we managed to catch several crabs, along with a few mud shrimp.

Mud shrimp that was dug up with the traps
















There is no doubt that the next 9 weeks will pass by quickly, a lot will be learned and a lot of great memories are to be made. With that I hope you continue to enjoy my blogging as the weeks go by. I’m lucky to call this beautiful city and state my home for the summer. Follow me on here or via twitter @Prechtelguy93