header image

Increasing the taxonomic diversity of my photos

Posted by: jeffrey2015 | July 27, 2015 | 1 Comment |

I’ve received reports that some people feel like my photographs are not representative of the taxonomic diversity here at The Sea Ranch. Some people have claimed that my blog posts are still an “old birds club,” “yet another example of the rampant speciesism that permeates the scientific community” and “just another blog in which the orders Pelicaniformes, Charadriiformes and Suliformes are chronically overrepresented while other taxa fall by the wayside.” In light of these accusations I have been forced to reconsider how my posts are influenced by, and contribute to the systematic oppression certain taxa face in their everyday lives. Starting today, I have taken a pledge to increase the taxonomic diversity featured in these blog posts.

We start off in a completely different class with a member of the order Rodentia. These squirrels were seen on our trip up to Ft. Bragg to see Glass Beach.

Sneaky Squirrel

A member of the order Rodentia, taking a peak of from behind some vegetation. Seen at glass beach in Ft. Bragg

Squirrel Contemplating Life

Contemplating all the ways in which speciesism touches the lives of all organism and what he can do to change.

In the unlikely scenario that someone is holding a gun to your head and will only spare your life if you can identify the order of a bird specimen, your best guess would be Passeriformes. The passerines, or perching birds, account for over half of all species of birds, including many of the most familiar birds like warblers, jays, finches and many many more. One of the defining features of this order is their anisodactyl feet, which is a scientific way of saying they have three toes facing forward and one toe facing backwards. This foot arrangements facilities perching on things like branches and telephone wires.

A member of the order Passeriformes. Specifically a song sparrow perching on a bush.

A member of the order Passeriformes. Specifically a song sparrow perching on a bush.

Traditionally cormorants were placed in the order Pelicaniformes along with pelicans, egrets, and herons. Later Pelicaniformes was absorbed into the heavily restructured Ciconiformes which somehow managed to include grebes, vultures, storks, penguins, falcons, gulls, and albatrosses. Finally, the cormorants have found their place in the order Suliformes with their cousins the anhingas and the boobies.

Pelagic Cormorant

Pelagic Cormorant wondering where she fits in.

The Black Oystercatcher is a member of the “privileged” order Charadriiformes. Charadriiformes includes many of the most common birds we observe on Guala Point Island, including the Pigeon Guillemot, Western Gull, Common Murre and the eccentric Black Oystercatcher.

BLOYs Being BLOys

Black Oyster Catchers calling. Members of the privileged order Charadriiformes that receives so much attention here at The  Sea Ranch

We don’t see too many dolphins here so being able to see a pod of 5 of these guys was certainly a treat.  This certainly isn’t the greatest photo out there since they were pretty far away and I was caught tripodless but I figured I had to include it. The summer isn’t a great time Ceteceans at The Sea Ranch since most of the whales are up in Alaska eating to their car sized hearts content.

GPI Dolphin

A Cetacean, specifically a dolphin  seen in waters surrounding Guala Point Island

A special thanks to Prof. Karnovsky for sharing her taxonomic knowledge in Vert Bio (aka the best class ever).

Navorro Group Photo

A group of four humans (members of the order primate, family Hominidae) seen at Navorro Winery in the Anderson Valley

Filed under: Sea Ranch


Posted by: Mimi | July 27, 2015 | 1 Comment |

So, I have been tasked with beginning a selfie challenge in which you take a selfie in the lab/field and then pass the torch on to another person in the Karnovsky lab!

This is me and my darling otoliths. You can’t tell, but this one is totally making a duck face in honour of this photo.

Your turn, Nikole McDuffie!!

Filed under: News

Where are they now? PART X

Posted by: nina-karnovsky | July 19, 2015 Comments Off on Where are they now? PART X |

Nola Shi’15 has sent an update on her postgrad research adventures in Oregon!

Nola after butterfly surveys up on Steens mountain.

Nola after butterfly surveys up on Steens mountain.

“We finished up our woody riparian and wet meadow point counts. We basically trudged 6-8 miles through marshland (nothing like water and cow poop sloshing around in your hiking boots for several hours!) and through fields with grasses taller than I am at 4 AM, and there are 99999 mosquitos here.


Intern covered in mosquitoes!

The point counts were really cool — tons of white faced ibises, black necked stilts, avocets, black terns, double crested corms, curlews and phalaropes. We’re also just about done with our impoundment brood surveys — one of the lakes here has around 3000-5000 birds on it, so it takes hours to count them all! Someone took a sandhill crane colt from near its nest and brought it to refuge headquarters. So we had to drive 10 hrs to a rehab center in Portland and the poor thing is probably going to be put into a zoo.” IMG_8961

Nola also reported on a trip to the coast where she was able to check nests of snowy plovers with other biologists. IMG_8985 Looking forward to more updates!

Filed under: Senior Thesis, Where are they now?


Posted by: Mimi | July 13, 2015 | No Comment |

So, I’m up to my ears in otoliths (pun intended). I’ve gotten a decent way through sorting all of them and picking out a pretty representative sample from each season to put in immersion oil, and I’ve finally started taking pictures of and ageing the otoliths that I put in oil last week and the week before!

An Electrona otolith that I've aged to be about 8 years old

An Electrona otolith that I’ve aged to be about 8 years old

A Pleurogramma otolith that I've aged to be about 6 years old

A Pleurogramma otolith that I’ve aged to be about 6 years old

It’s really exciting when they look this great!!

But then other times they turn out to still look like this:

My notes for this one just say "nope"

My notes for this one just say “nope”

And then most of they time they’re somewhere in between


This one's currently down as 3 years, but I'm gonna re-check it in a few days

This one’s currently down as 3 years, but I’m gonna re-check it in a few days

My favourite ones though are the juvenile otoliths of the Pleurogramma

IMG_0045 IMG_0050 IMG_0091 IMG_0092

Those bands aren’t annual, but they’re so cool to look at!


Last night, Prof. K had me over for dinner and I had fried clams for the first time! They were DELICIOUS!! Max showed us some magic tricks, and Lillian sang lots of Frozen songs. And I also got to see Darrell, a seabird biologist from CA who I met at PSG and got to help out with some Scripps’ Murrelet surveys on Catalina Island last semester, so that was really fun also!

I’m still having such a great time here! Living on the beach, fresh seafood, and a whole bunch of really freaking smart people who are all into marine science–it’s paradise!

I do have to get back to work now though.

Until next time 🙂


Filed under: Antarctic, News, Senior Thesis
Tags: , ,

Looking around

Posted by: kyle2015 | July 11, 2015 | 2 Comments |

There is a lot going on here besides just the seabirds, and I thought it would be nice to make a post showing some of the animals we see when we stop to just look around a bit. There’s a lot to see, so I’ll just post a few of the photos I’ve taken and maybe add a few more the next time I offload my camera. 2015 Jun 10_5011Of course to start out this list of things we’ve seen that aren’t seabirds, I have a picture of some of the birds we’re watching. This was on our off-time however, so I think I’ll let it slide. This was taken a while ago around sundown, when I happened to be on a walk with my parents who were visiting. We decided to go past Leo’s cormorant viewing site, and when I looked over I was surprised to see that along with the dozen or so pelagic cormorants with nests there were somewhere around fifty cormorants strewn across the bluff (we counted when I brought the others out to take a look). Since we never see that many during the day, we figured that this must be a convenient place for birds without nests to come and rest during the night. They were there again at sunset a few days later, so it seemed like we had the right idea.

2015 Jun 07_5146

On a similar walk, this time with a little fog, we saw something partway up a tree whose branches reached across the edge of the bluff and hung above the rocks and surf below. As we got closer I realized that the bird was actually an osprey perched on one of the longer boughs. It looked as though it was considering the ocean hazed in fog, perhaps thinking how best to go about its next hunt. Or perhaps it was simply nesting.

We were able to get pretty close as far as seeing osprey go, though that wasn’t quite close enough for my camera. We end up seeing osprey from a much closer view at Jeffrey’s GPI site, where we sit on a point of the bluff which the osprey glide over in passing. One had to have come within twenty feet, giving a perfect profile of its wings strained against the sky.

2015 Jun 09_5018

Song sparrow

2015 Jun 07_5115

Scrub jay

2015 Jun 10_4982

Dark eyed junco

For all the seabirds that we see, there are certainly plenty which prefer to stick to land. As most of our work keeps us in open spaces away from trees, most of the birds we see either are varied in habitat preference or enjoy the scrub and grass in which we sit.

Our most common visitor as we sit at Nicole’s site on the south side of the island has to be the sparrows, namely the song and white-crowned, which flit between the soft branches of the yellow lupine bushes. Their songs are always enjoyable.

The scrub jays, who I know quite well from my time working with Professor Levin at the Bernard Field Station,  can be heard around the houses and the bigger bushes, swooping, calling, and hopping along the ground, their plumage a mix of muted blues and brown. They always have something to say when they’re around.

A few birds we only see glimpse of, like the dark eyed junco, which I have only seen the one time. Others include the gold finch, which bobs when it flies, the spotted plover up the river, the herons which Jeffrey had in one of his posts, and many others.

2015 Jun 10_4971

  2015 Jun 07_5158

We also have seen a lot of one of my favorite birds, the ravens! They’re everywhere along the coast, and not a day has gone by that we haven’t seen at least a few pairs flying about. At Jeffrey’s GPI site they fly overhead in groups of six, sometimes with grass or food, making caws and croaks and strange rolling rattles. At my cormorant viewing site they fly overhead and through the cove, sometimes with a morsel, or even swooping overhead in long arcs in the company of turkey vultures.

In the picture on the top the three ravens were having some sort of conversation with coos and calls so soft and sonorous that I can’t find the words to describe them. I would love to know what they were talking about, as it did seem clear they were speaking towards each other.

The picture on the bottom has a small blackbird (brewers?) which was mobbing a raven. They both started out perched on a house, and I’m guessing the raven was a little to close to the nest for comfort. The little bird got a few good swipes in, and I could see it make impact a few times. The raven got out pretty quick.

2015 Jun 11_4967

Here we have a family of North American gray foxes. We’ve seen a few of these guys around wandering right past, heading somewhere into the grass. Usually we only see a lone adult, but we managed to spot the ones in this photo while driving around. They were heading behind a fence into someones yard, though one of them got sidetracked and took a little detour around the house.

2015 Jun 11_4924This is another picture of the garter snake that Nicole talked about in her last post, minus the flowers of course. I got it at the perfect time to show of its tongue, and I have to say I wasn’t expecting the contrast of the red and blue coloration. We’ve seen a few other of these guys around, but usually they’re pretty quick to slide into the brush.

2015 Jun 11_4896

 2015 Jun 11_4863

And here’s a few from our tidepooling forays to finish things off. On the bottom is a velella, color leaking onto the rocks as it dries in the sun. And on the top is some kind of isopod. Probably (I don’t know marine invertebrates that well, anyone have ideas?).

Anyways, hope you liked the post, and I hope to have another one soon!

Filed under: Sea Ranch

Night Owls

Posted by: elika2015 | July 9, 2015 | 2 Comments |

Well only some of them are actually owls…

Owl 1 Owl 2

Great horned owl attempting to bore holes into the camera with its eyes

Owl 3 Owl 4

Barn Owl (This is the first time we’ve seen owls in the project so far!)


Rabbits staring into the distance contemplatively… What is life? What is love?


Woodrat looking very guilty… Of being adorable


Coyote looking at camera with suspicion


Woodrat checking out a tree


Rabbit with bat casually flying overhead

Racoon Family

Raccoon family!

Filed under: News

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
Tags: , ,

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

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »