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Officially started at WHOI!!!

Posted by: Mimi | July 1, 2015 | 1 Comment |

Hi Everyone!!

Monday was my first day of work here at WHOI (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution). Let me just say that Woods Hole is AMAZING! It’s so beautiful, the weather is perfect (most of the time… there’s a storm coming in now and the power keeps going out). But here is a picture from Monday night.

After work on Monday, two friends and I picked up dinner and hung out on the beach until about 8pm. This is a photo of the sunset as we were walking home.

After work on Monday, two friends and I picked up dinner and hung out on the beach until about 8pm. This is a photo of the sunset as we were walking home.

Also, there is this family of ducks that I’ve been drinking coffee with every morning before work, a momma duck and 6 or 7 little ducklings. They get fed all the time, so they come right up to you and expect food.

Papa duck was looking for some food, but I didn't have anything, so he figured that he would see if my toes tasted alright. I've been remembering to bring bread now.

Papa duck was looking for some food, but I didn’t have anything, so he figured that he would see if my toes tasted alright. I’ve been remembering to bring bread now.

I’m working on ageing my otoliths in Joel Llopiz’s lab. His work focuses on larval fish, and he has 2 undergrads (Sara and Justin), a post-grad (Julie), and a post-doc (Andy) working on various projects with him.

This is my lab space! Otoliths on otoliths on otoliths.

This is my lab space! Otoliths on otoliths on otoliths.

For the foreseeable future, I’ll be sorting out individual otoliths to age from as many samples as possible from each year (the 04-05 season through the 10-11 season).

This is what I got through yesterday...

This is what I got through yesterday…


The sorted samples

And this is what I have left to do (each stack is about 15 high).

And this is what I have left to do (each stack is about 15 high).

So… I have a little bit of work ahead of me before I can start actually reading the otoliths, but it’ll be worth it! I’m hoping to get some really cool data from this! :)

I hope that everyone’s summer is going well, and I’ll keep y’all updated on this end!


Mimi at her lab bench (photo inserted by Prof. K. )

Mimi at her lab bench (photo inserted by Prof. K. )



Filed under: Antarctic, Senior Thesis
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Field Trips!

Posted by: nicole2015 | June 28, 2015 | 1 Comment |

Hi all! Nicole here, and since I’m the semi-local of the group I wanted to write about places I’ve been showing the others! Yay field trips! But first here are some pictures of my Black Oystercatcher nest through a scope!




Also here’s a picture of the sunset from the house we’re staying in!


A few weeks ago we used one of our half days off to go to a tide pool beach where we saw tadpoles (in freshwater pools), anemones, chitons, crabs, hermit crabs, sea snails, and a few other cool things.  Here’s a picture of Jeffrey looking contemplative:


And Kyle and Leo taking lots of pictures:


Crab friend!


And a gorgeous Garter Snake that was hanging out by the trail!


A few days later we went to Anderson Valley to check out the Rock Stop (a geology shop) and a small apple orchard.  The orchard had some friendly dogs that took a liking to Leo and Kyle:



This dog especially liked trying to herd Kyle and would try to tag him with his paw when Kyle wasn’t looking.


And then we stopped in the redwood forest on the way back!


My mom came to visit last weekend and we played a lot of Settlers of Catan (Kyle continued his winning streak).  We’ve been going through my childhood art supplies and I found my old loom that I’ve started making a purse on!


I passed on joining their game of Risk, and I’m glad I did…it has been going on for more than a week now (Leo and Jeffrey are fighting it out).


And Leo observing Pelagic Cormorants in front of the house:


Lastly on Thursday Kyle and I headed to a part of the Gualala River where we a lot of really cool animals, including a swimming Garter Snake…


…and what we think is a Crayfish? Kyle almost stepped on it!


Now we’re visiting Jeffrey’s parents in Sonoma! We’ll probably spend tomorrow swimming and enjoying the unlimited wifi!

Lots more to come!


Filed under: News

More Bird Pictures!

Posted by: jeffrey2015 | June 23, 2015 | 1 Comment |

The double crested cormorant (DCCO) is the most common cormorant in the United States, but you wouldn’t know that in Sea Ranch since we see relatively few of these guys around. Unlike the Pelagic Cormorant and the Brandt’s Cormorant, the Double Crested Cormorant prefers to nest around freshwater. Their orange faces make identification easy.

Double Crested Cormorant

Double Crested Cormorant in flight

The majestic Great Blue Heron(GBHE) is certainly a sight to behold, unless you happen to be a small animal living in shallow water because by the time you see this stealthy assassin you have likely been snatched out the water and impaled by its bill and will soon be eaten. Sometimes it’s good to be human.

Blue Heron 3

Great Blue Heron hunting during low tide

Blue Heron 4

Blue Heron


It might be cheating to include this picture of a Brown Pelican (BRPE pronounced Burpee) since it was actually taken in Cabo nearly 2 years ago, but who cares about technicalities anyway. On the West Coast Brown Pelicans breed down in Mexico and make their way up north to hang out and feed. As intimidating as these guys can be, we are lucky to have them around since we had nearly driven them to extinction by the 1960s by spraying DDT everywhere. Thankfully a really awesome woman by the name of Rachel Carson came along and and published Silent Spring in 1962. It only took 10 more years of spraying DDT everywhere and killing tons of birds before DDT was finally banned. As Winston Churchill once said “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing–after they’ve tried everything else”


A rather intimidating Brown Pelican

Rachel Carson- marine biologist, author, BRPE savior and DDT eradicator






Filed under: Sea Ranch


Pesky paparazzi…


Ready for my close-up


Plans of world domination or an innocent clearing of the throat – we will never know…


Exclusive rabbit party – you’re not invited


Get my good side


And my other good side


Silly humans… My cuteness knows no bounds

Filed under: News

Intertidal Surveys!

Posted by: leo2015 | June 19, 2015 | 2 Comments |

This past week brought a new adventure for the Sea Ranch team! We (Jeffrey, Kyle, Nicole, and I) volunteered along with several other individuals to help with an intertidal survey conducted by  UC Santa Cruz’s Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department. Maya, Melissa, Karah, and Molly were our mentors throughout the project as the grad students in charge of conducting the survey.


Kyle scanning species into an electronic database as Karah goes through a typical plot. Each plot was divided into a 10×10 grid and belonged to one of five different species plots. Each individual rectangle was classified by the predominant covering species (if no species present, just rock or sand) and then scanned using pre-made barcodes and a PalmPilot (essentially a PDA with a scanning machine like in a grocery store). A bit tedious, but the plots were only exposed during low tide and we were racing the clock to get all the plots done before the tides rose again. (Thankfully we won the race)


Jeffrey and Nicole setting up the rig for an overhead photo of a plot.


Nicole carrying the camera rig. Climbing over wet, algae-covered rocks was hard enough without the rig, but she did it!


Me using the Palm Pilot to scan species into a preset database as Maya identifies the predominant species per area. The heavy jacket was crucial in the cold morning wind, and the gloves (almost) kept my hands from freezing solid.

IMG_0038 (resized) UCSC led sampling group at breakfast[2]

After the survey, we all went to Trinks cafe in Gualala to warm up and talk without the impending threat of the rising tide. From Left to Right: Doug Forsell, Lynn Suer, Karah, Kyle, Nicole, Amy and Bob van Soyk, Jeffrey, Me, (wonderful person who’s name I didn’t catch but am thankful to have met), Melissa, and Maya.

Overall this was an amazing adventure and an incredibly fun morning.

Filed under: News, Sea Ranch
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Updates on the BFS

Posted by: elika2015 | June 19, 2015 | No Comment |

This summer, with funding from the Thoreau Foundation (, I’m keeping track of the animals that visit different areas of the field station. The main question this project is exploring is how species composition is different between burned and unburned areas, and because of the 2013 fire, the BFS is an invaluable resource for this project. We have set up 10 cameras in a grid at the BFS, with 4 in the unburned area and 6 in the burned area. So far we’ve seen far more kangaroo rats and rabbits in the burned area, and woodrats have only been seen in unburned areas. This makes sense, since kangaroo rats and rabbits prefer more open areas similar to the burned portion of the BFS, while woodrats prefer more densely vegetated areas. More updates coming soon!


Kangaroo rat




Kangaroo rat and rabbit!

Filed under: News

Watching Cormorants

Posted by: kyle2015 | June 17, 2015 | 1 Comment |

Today we are in our third week of our time here at Sea Ranch, and I am amazed at how quickly the days fly by. It seems really like only a few days since we got here. From having dinner at Diane’s to walking along the top of the bluff, to watching the first western gull chicks stumble out from the safety of their nests, all these things you could tell me had happened yesterday and, though they happened even a week or two ago, I might be convinced that I had simply imagined that intervening time. Perhaps part of the cause of this is our return nearly daily to the same points of observation, whether it be between the two vantages of Gualala Point Island or the two coves of Breakers Reach, so that each day flows into the next with a mixing of the time between.

I quite enjoy the feeling actually, and especially enjoy the observation of the pelagic cormorants, as it allows me to return almost daily to the same location and consistently observe the same group of birds. While I appreciate seeing and learning of many places, I often wish I could go beyond the surface of what I am observing. A study like ours allows that opportunity.


Four days a week we venture onto the bluff finding, at least for my site, a comfortable place to sit on the exposed shale of the rocky point. From there we observe nests of a six pairs of pelagic cormorants (or PECOs), with the areas in between visited intermittently by various other PECOs which having no nest site themselves simply find a place to rest upon the rock face. For three hours at a time we sit and watch these birds as intently as we can, recording their comings and goings so that later perhaps we can analyze their feeding habits and tracking the state of their nest success over time. In the meantime I’ll enjoy watching their progress and learning more of their character and even perhaps personalities.

Three of the nests are well built stacks of grass and twigs formed into comfortable bowls in which to sit, their bottom edges colored white by the feces which lightly coat the rocks beneath each nest. Each has a clutch of three to four eggs, which are often in need of re-positioning by the waiting parent. One of the other nests has almost matched these original three in its construction, yet there is more work to do before it can be considered fully developed. Another follows closely behind, and just today we found that two new pairs had started form nests among our original six.

It has been awesome to see a nest built from nothing over a matter of days, and to know for certain that the eggs I see today had not been there the day before. And I have to admire the parents, who sometimes will sit still for the entire three hours of an observation while their mate is away foraging or otherwise occupied. They do get uncomfortable from time to time, and adjust the same as we do when sitting on an awkward seat. But always they are thinking of the eggs, adjusting them for best positioning beneath them, rearranging and reinforcing the nest structure, or even trying discourage the landing of wandering PECOs on any nearby rock.

They makes calls at the intruder’s presence, their cries ringing with a sense of time gone by, bringing to mind what one might imagine the dinosaurs to have sounded. The harsh line of their beak, combined with the raw gaze of a blue-green eye in a sea of red give it the look of something ancient. If I were to only look upon them, I might think them fierce creatures, cold in the ways of emotion. Their actions however speak differently, for when the mates of some return from a time away, the cormorants reveal another side of themselves. They call softly, craning their necks forward and backwards toward their partner. A few nests in particular are especially affectionate, cooing and rubbing against each other for minutes at a time. Perhaps I read too much into things, but I can’t think of a better explanation than that they wish to greet their partner after a time away, though perhaps they ask as we might what took them so long in coming back.

I hope that during my stay here I may be able to unlock such secrets, or at least glean some little information from the light filtering through the keyhole. At the very least I can follow the fate of these wonderful birds, and learn all I can as they reveal the measure and pace of their lives to us day after foggy day.

Filed under: Sea Ranch

Family Visit at the BFS!

Posted by: elika2015 | June 17, 2015 | 1 Comment |

A family of California quails, with two adults and three chicks, made a visit to the BFS a few days ago, and their outing was captured by one of our cameras! If you look closely you can see the three chicks following the adults in the pictures. California quails are very social birds and have been spotted in groups of two and three in other pictures taken by our cameras. Fun fact – the California quail is the state bird of California! Looks and personality – good choice California.

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Filed under: News

Another (Nesting) Day at The Sea Ranch

Posted by: leo2015 | June 12, 2015 | 1 Comment |

Today we spotted our first BLOY egg! Hopefully there will be more to come and many new hatchlings.


PECO nests aren’t too far behind either.


And the day wouldn’t be complete without exploring a few tide pools.


Filed under: Sea Ranch
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Ramon is back!

Posted by: nicole2015 | June 8, 2015 | 2 Comments |

The Sea Ranch Sagehens (Kyle, Jeffrey, Leo, and me, Nicole) were excited to have Ramon visit to help settle into our research! He has been especially helpful with the protocol of the Pelagic Cormorant study; with his advice we were able to locate the same nests he did last last year to have consistency and a new set in the cove next door.  We’ve gotten a lot of really great work done in the last few days!


Leo and I surveying the south side of Gualala Point Island this morning!



It was rather foggy so seeing the island (right above the scope in this picture) was difficult this morning.


It’s been a ton of fun to have Ramon staying with us, we’ve been playing board games and rented The Birds because not only are we studying birds but it is also filmed in the area! It was pretty dated so we had a lot of fun joking about the acting and misidentification of the birds.



Playing Settlers of Catan!


The DVD menu for The Birds.


images (6)

They kept calling the birds Seagulls and Crows, when really they were Western Gulls and Ravens!

Looking forward to many more eventful weeks at Sea Ranch!


Filed under: News

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