Speck of Science 10/29/2018 – Batch of Brooding Octopuses Sighted

I’ve been busy dissertating and haven’t posted for a long time, but what better way to get back in the blog game than to talk about mobs of octopuses! And before you cringe about the pluralization of the word “octopus” check out grammerly’s page here, and the following video settling the debate once and for all (octopuses, octopi, and octopodes oh my!):

But before I digress too far, the cool bit of marine science-y news is that scientists have just spotted a huge amassment of octopuses watching over their eggs. These brooding cephlapods adopted an inverted protective posture with tentacles facing outward. This observation was made at the Davidson Sea Mount, which was subsumed into the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary in 2008. Interestingly, this is only the second time such an aggregation has been observed, but this recent discovery comes only a short time after work published about a smaller example of the phenomenon spotted in Costa Rica most likely involving the same genus.

The following video footage is of the sighting paired with background discussion from the scientists who were stoked about what they were witnessing:

I love these videos as they sometimes remind me of the scientist version of Mystery Science Theater 3000. That’s especially true of this amusing video of a gulper eel’s defensive behavior, also filmed during the same series of Nautilis expeditions responsible for the octopus footage:

Other interesting observations of octopus behavior have also been observed off the Monterey Bay area including an example of a deep sea octopus who brooded over her eggs for four years.

Advertisements

Art & Poetry

Our local art museum held a recent contest called Words on Canvas asking students to submit poetry or prose pieces inspired by certain works in their collection. I used to write poetry as an undergraduate regularly so this was an amazing chance to flex those muscles again and to really reside in the art pieces in an unusual way. I chose to write about Bertram Hartam’s painting City Blocks. The resulting poem is below:

IMG_20180210_122200110
City Blocks by Bertram Hartman c.1929

The Place Where We Dwell

The wall-ridden people in the city, they stir,
Their thoughts brazen and free like birds,
Their souls full and mottled
like the high-rise walls,
The insides of their skulls a place for
the graffiti of being
Signs of experience and civilization,
like an oil slick in a harbor, an
oil slick of humanness, beauty and noise
Castoffs and culture, scraps and silver splinters,
rage of steel-laced angles and corners
The thump-thump rise, itch of internal amorphous beat,
The breath of socketed despair
The breath of burning struggle
Of punch-drunk ambition
The breath of disquiet
Of zoetic love
Of thick-skinned passion
All trying to swell, to climb, to rise to heaven in one heaving breath
Visible
In a divine line of view
The place where we dwell

 

Oyster Update – Feb 2018

58d153add6043-image

So you thought the oysters went dormant? Never you fear, this busy grad student is here to update you.

The crowdfunding campaign we ran was successful and helped add $700 to my research budget! I have to sheepishly admit I didn’t as of yet get around to recording my oyster “ted talk” as a busy semester got the best of me, but with the help of my friend and collaberator, Natelle of Natelledrawsstuff.com, we sent out some very cool stickers and postcards.

Though it did come with some challenge, I’ve also been able to accrue a small collection of interviews and am starting to analyze my results. Here’s a little detail on both these aspects:

I’ve collected:

  • 5-6 informal interviews to give me context while developing interview questions
  • 11 formal interviews, one of which had 3 interviewees for a total of 13 participants

Some of these were with local fishermen and fishing guides, some were with commercial oystermen, and some were with other individuals who occasionally harvested oysters in a non-commercial setting.

So what happens next you ask? Now I start to pull out themes and central ideas I see occurring within my interview transcripts and notes. We call this kind of approach qualitative content analysis, and the process of identifying and categorizing themes is referred to as “coding”. I will develop a codebook starting with the ideas I might expect to see based on prior studies, not surprisingly referred to as “expected codes”, and add the concepts that emerge during closer analysis of the interviews or “emergent codes”. Transcripts will be examined several times in order to refine the codebook. I can then start to develop ideas about how these groups may differ or be similar in their perspectives on oysters in the regions.

I will be presenting some preliminary results at upcoming meetings and conferences, but full analysis may take a little time. I may also try to add another interview or two to round out the ideas I’m seeing and to make sure I’m capturing most of the key people within this community. Stay Tuned for additional updates as I get further into this process!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Podcast Picks – 36 Questions: The Podcast Musical

retro-microphones_23-2147510571

I listen to podcasts. Boy, do I ever listen to podcasts.  I find these short-form bits of culture the perfect way to multitask, to learn something new while I exercise, drive, unwind from the day. All kinds of podcasts. Science podcasts, tech podcasts, storytelling podcasts. WNCY Studios, NPR, Gimlet Media. They’re the perfect length to invest in during a time in my life where succinct is king.

I’ve also noticed friends will ask for podcast suggestions. Peeps looking for roadtrip fodder will show up occasionally on my facebook feed. However, as an avid listener of the format, I know some episodes are occasionally better than others. I can sometimes recommend the entirety of a podcast series, or sometimes I need to make the age-old plea to stick with something because it “gets better as you go.”

So, it is with that in mind that I thought I would occasionally highlight the odd interesting series or perhaps isolated episode of podcasts that I frequent. There’s so much great content being created, so why not celebrate and share?

So without further delay, here’s suggestion numero uno:

36 Questions: The Podcast Musical is the perfect experimental take on short-form podcast serials. The website connects you to podcast feeds but also links directly to each of three episodes or just the music sans all the narrative bits inbetween.

Jonathan Groff and Jessie Shelton strike a balance create a modern interpretation of a musical by creating a lead female character who records her experience on her cell phone. The plot revolves around a woman who has kept parts of her identity and true self from her husband. With their marriage in shambles, she suggests they try asking one another a list of 36 questions. This list is a very real phenomenon that resulted from a this study and is meant to foster closeness between two people. The idea creates an interesting scaffold for character interaction and development.

Here’s hoping that we see more from Groff and Shelton in the future!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Depth of Field 8/19/17: From Mangrove to Coral – Exploring Key Largo

Last week I was able to get down to Key Largo for the American Water Resources Association (AWRA) Florida chapter annual meeting. Like any opportunistic biologist I always take the opportunity to look around.

The first place I went before even checking into my hotel room was John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. One of my favorite things to do there is to snorkel around mangrove roots. People familiar with mangroves often know that they harbor a complex root system (especially red mangroves with buttressing roots) that protects and supports many species including juvenile fish. What surprised me on my first visit several years ago to the park, is how many different things live on the roots themselves. These epiphytes (“epi” meaning on, and “phyte” meaning plant) and epizoans (“zoans” refers to animals) are vibrant and diverse. The delicate little tendrils of minute anenomes are littered in among examples of solitary and colonial species of tunicates, little squishy organisms with in-current and ex-current siphons. Clusters of Isognomon alatus, the flat tree oyster, are visible. It’s an amazing brackish little universe.

While they may seem a little frenetic, I captured a couple videos as well. The first is a little tour of the mangrove roots I describe above:

And the next is of a small barracuda I followed for a moment or two:

I later moved my prospecting off shore a couple days later when I donned scuba gear with Rainbow Reef Dive Center.  Besides the surprise siting of an interesting shark or notable sea creature, one of the appeals of diving down in the keys is the intricate landscape of benthic creatures including things like corals, sponges, and christmas tree worms.

And while I can always be kept busy watching the variety of oddly colored and shaped fish, the appearance of a rather large green moray eel doesn’t disappoint!:

8/3/17 Oyster Update – Word of Mouth

 

Robert de Gast Chesapeake Bay photos
Oysterman on the Chesapeake – Photo Credit: Robert De Gast

Thanks in part to the generosity of donors to my crowdfunding campaign, I’ve started the process of listening to fishermen and oystermen in St. Augustine and nearby!

In order to capture different ideas and access multiple types of people, I am using a technique commonly called snowball sampling. Every time I interview someone, either formally or informally, I ask them who else I should be talking to. The idea is that eventually there will be enough overlap in the answers you’re getting that you know you are starting to capture the population you’re interested in.  This approach is known to have some drawbacks in that it can be challenging to not talk exclusively to people who think similarly to one another. However, when your target populations are small, this method may be the most effective way of accessing them.

While not giving too much away, I’ll also say that I’m already noticing some common themes in the answers I’m hearing to my questions which is exciting. I’m learning interesting details about what fishermen and oystermen look for in reefs. One of the most enjoyable aspects however, is the extra details that are being shared, the personal history and anecdotes people are peppering in with their responses. The experience of local oyster roasts has been mentioned, with each telling rich in explanation about methods of cooking and cultural significance. Stories about growing up on the local waterways abound as well. This kind of research is affording me a chance to really root around and understand the complexity of ways these groups are identifying with this resource, and I’m excited to have the opportunity.

Keep an eye on my blog for continued updates on all things oyster!

Depth of Field #6 – Cicada Days

The following picture is not overly well composed or striking. But it does represent a moment I found particularly exciting – my first cicada!

IMG_20170728_102350502.jpg

I’ve had the stray thought several times that it seemed unusual to always hear the constant summer whine of cicadas in Florida without ever seeing any. Finally, I spotted one!

It turns out IDing him is an altogether different task. According to the University of Florida’s entymology and nematology department, Florida supports 19 different species of cicada. They categorize species relative to their size as defined by the length of their forewings. The cicada picture above most squarely fits into the larger species. The coloring indicates what I saw was some species in the genus Tibicen (or Neotibicen according to this site). However, it turns out species in this genus can experience quite a bit of color variation.

This graph, also from the UF site might not entirely narrow things down either:

I took my cicada picture on July 28th, which according to the timing of different species in our county, could suggest five different Tibicen species. This summer appearance also gives this genus it’s more common name of dog-day cicadas in reference to the dog-days of summer.  So short of some insight from someone more versed in than I am, he will ever after be referred to as Tibicen spp.

Another detail I found surprising is Florida has no periodical species of cicada, which refers to 13 and 17 year cicadas that emerge all at once in some regions of the country. Instead our summer denizens will be present every year.

To listen to some of our local cicada songs, visit the website here.