Checking crab traps for research is quite fun, because you never know what you are going find!
I am working with grad student Kat Beheshti who has several different projects, but her main graduate project is focused on the interaction between abiotic as well as biotic factors driving salt marsh panne expansion (http://research.pbsci.ucsc.edu/eeb/rclab/people/graduate-students/kathryn-kat-beheshti/). We found about 20 different panne sites suitable for her experiment, and set up four plots within each panne – crab exclusion, otter exclusion, crab and otter exclusion, and the control. Each plot contains two tennis ball cans in the far back corners with holes for drainage.
This week while checking the crab traps set up in Elkhorn Slough, we found some great information as well as many lovely critters. There were sea hares that squirted purple/pink ink as we tried to measure them, slimy flatfish that slipped out of our hands over and over again, giant striped shore crabs that were intimidating due to the size of their claws yet were very slow, juvenile rockfish that were much more mellow and easier to handle, plus much more. As we drove the boat through the slough, there were certain traps set out that we had to come back to later due to marine mammals around them that we did not want to disturb – such as sea otters and seals.
As for the Black Oystercatchers (BLOY), there is good news on the pair that had a fledgling I was unsure was going to make it, because it is still alive and doing well! A meeting also took place about why BLOYs are experiencing a significantly lower number of chicks and fledglings than previous years (in Monterey County), as well as about possible ways to figure out why, such as assimilated cameras.
This week during outreach I went back to the same summer school (and most of the same classes), but this time we learned about parenting through the activity “Food for the Brood.”