Rachel Down Under!

Working it out

Posted in Australia, Sydney by rssmith218 on July 1, 2011

Over the past few days I have been putting together a poster for a conference in Perth next week, and I realize how much my blog has recently neglected the “working” side of my life here in Australia.

Between counting the hundreds of plates we collected in February and March for the linkage project and analyzing the data from my niche opportunity experiment, I have been pretty busy with work these past couple of months (haha, when I’m not on holiday, that is…).

I am presenting the work from my niche opportunity project at the conference next week, so perhaps I’ll go through an update on this project. The last time I mentioned it here, I had just set out panels with my complexity/heterogeneity treatments attached to them, last December, I believe it was. Remember this?

I then returned to my plates a month later, removed half of them from under the dock, and took these plates back to the lab to see what communities had developed over the previous month. The other half of the plates remained out in the water to allow me to observe community development over time.

Time to get these plates back to the lab!

Back in the lab, I began to count the plates. So, what’s under the microscope?

All sorts of good stuff! Bryozoans like Watersipora subtorquata (left) and Bugula flabellata (right),

ascidians like Botrylloides sp,

barnacles like Megabalanus rosa,

and, of course, heaps of serpulids, among hundreds of other species!

You can see that after one month, many of these critters were settling into my different types of structure- can you see the grooves and rows of holes on these plates?

After counting the species on all of my plates within a couple of days, I scraped the plates clean, and brought them back out to the field to develop new communities for another month.

I repeated this process for the following two months and during the last month I also brought in and counted the plates that had been out in the field for the full three months. Look how different they look!

I am still analyzing my data to see whether there were differences between complex and heterogeneous treatments, but I am presenting my preliminary results next week.

Since I am using this post to catch-up on old field work, I also want to quickly highlight a fieldtrip up to Port Stephens from over two months ago (note the short-sleeves in these photos!). In April, a bunch of us volunteered to help Luke and Christine with some experiments at the Port Stephens Fisheries Institute, and what an epic few days it was!

My labmates’ experiments were significantly more large-scale than anything I have attempted this year and we spent three l o n g days in both the lab and the field setting up these experiments. Their work focuses on how genetic diversity and propagule pressure interact to play a role in larval recruitment, and we set up two experiments during our time in Port Stephens.

In the lab, we mixed batches of different oyster strains and added them in different numbers to petri dishes to see how settlement would differ between these combinations.

Larval oysters!


Did I mention that there were a thousand petri dishes?

And that we had to add specific numbers of the tiny oysters to each dish? Yes, this was time-consuming!

The next day, we did the field component of this work, where we made panels (like the ones I made for my experiment) and then performed larval dosing, in which we added a set number of oysters to each plate under the water.

Step one- making the panels!

Almost done, Christine?

Just have to add the lids before they’re ready for the water!

Finally- they’re ready to hang!

While the panels were hanging, we added a certain number of larvae to each plate using a syringe- larval dosing!

A long day of work- are you guys tired?

Overall, our trip to Port Stephens was a crazy whirlwind of science, larval oysters, and some hard-core teamwork!


Now that I have finally caught up on some of the work I’ve been doing the past couple of months, I can begin my next adventure to the other side of Australia- Perth is supposed to be lovely and I can’t wait to see another part of Australia!

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