Rachel Down Under!

Under the Scope…

Posted in Australia, Sydney by rssmith218 on September 13, 2010

Imagine that you’re sitting in lab. Perhaps it’s been a long day at the microscope, as you can see here for my labmate, Damo.

You’re tired and look up from the scope to see THIS VIEW just outside the window of the lab. You are instantly rejuvenated for another couple of hours at the scope!

When you’re done sorting your samples, you walk down to replace them at the dock. And again, THIS VIEW reminds you why working as a marine biologist is awesome.

Haha, that all said, the above pictures are definitely a bit misleading, as these photos were taken on a daytrip to the Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS), and not at the slightly less glamorous UNSW lab where I work on a daily basis, but you still get the idea. Sydney is a great place to be doing marine science, and so far my time in lab has been really great.

And what exactly have I been doing? Good question. My Fulbright “media profile” offers a polished overview of my project, but I have to say that the development of my project in real life has been a bit tricky.

The work I wrote about for my Fulbright research proposal is part of a lab-wide “linkage project” meant to assess ecological changes in highly disturbed vs. undisturbed estuaries. The fieldwork for this project begins in November, and I will be developing an independent project and question to address as a part of this project (more info to come later!).

In the meantime, I have been developing a series of experimental designs for another Johnston Lab project. The lab is contracted for a 3-year impact study of a newly constructed desalination plant, and we get plates in twice a year to assess the plant’s effect on the surrounding marine community. The “plates” are basically just pieces of PVC that we set out in the water for a couple of months; with time, the plates are settled by different organisms, mostly invertebrates (my favorites!), and eventually the plates develop discrete marine communities- pretty cool, huh?

These plates are particularly cool because, based on the location of desalination plant, they are settled mostly by native species, so these plates are a great tool for manipulative experiments in invasions ecology. Anyway, before I was able to use the plates for one of my brilliant experimental designs, I first had to “sort” all 128 plates by doing an assessment of species density and percent cover that was necessary for the impact study.

This involved two weeks of long days at the microscope, but then again, look at the cute invertebrates I was counting during this time:

It’s a polychaete- Galeoraria hystix to be exact!

Just another friendly ascidian- wait is that Herdmania momus?

So handsome! Lookin’ good,  Megabalanus rosa- a PINK barnacle!

After the first couple of days, I noticed that even the barnacles were starting to slow down, and my work quickly became a race to finish the sorting before all of the inverts died! I diligently changed their water and grew them delicious sea monkeys to eat, but in the end it was all for naught- I came into work on the Monday of my second week to find all of the barnacles covered in a mysterious white substance- all of my inverts suffocated in a deadly fungal infection! Boo!

Haha, such is science, and now that I have finished all of my sorting, I am set to begin the experimental design for my portion of the “linkage project.” So unfortunately, I again can’t give much information on the direction of my future project, but hopefully I will have a better idea by the end of this week.

Finally, a bit of a research update! In terms of a weekend update, there is not too much to report. On Saturday, I went back out to the lovely Watson’s Bay for a bit of adventuring, and today I enjoyed Bondi’s Festival of the Winds!

And what a festival it was! KITES, food, entertainment- we saw it all! Here are some photos from a day out in the wind:

Lots and lots of little kites…..but look at these guys:

MONSTER KITES!

And now, Fulbright visits the beach!

Overall, a very “sejuicing” day. Haha. Anyway, glad to finally update about my research even if I still don’t really know what I’m doing. Everyone in lab is so friendly and helpful, it really has been a great first month at work and I can’t wait to start designing my new (and hopefully more successful) project. Here’s to a productive week ahead!

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2 Responses

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  1. Lenore said, on September 13, 2010 at 3:59 am

    Amazing kites, Rachel – how do they keep them from getting all tangled up? How many people on a kite like that? Fun!
    I like the little pink barnacle, too!!!
    How warm is the water?

  2. Lisa said, on September 15, 2010 at 11:39 am

    Aww, sorry your cute invertebrates died, but at least it looks like you are having fun over there. Good luck on your project ideas.


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