Thank You and Farewell!


Group photo at Little Harbor- apparently the teaching staff didn’t get the memo on the arm positioning! Photo credit- Dawn Bailey

The 2014 Catalina MBQ has officially drawn to a close.  It was an amazing experience for both students and teaching staff alike!  We are so proud of our group for jumping in to their experiments and making the most of their time on the island from day 1!  I hope you enjoy some of my favorite photos I took along the way (others with photo credits indicated).

We quickly settled in to our beautiful island home for our 5 week stay at the Wrigley Marine Science Center.


Views of WMSC from ‘Megastrea Mountain’ and the road to town

Spent many hours exploring the intertidal and subtidal areas around Two Harbors and beyond.

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Lovely intertidal zonation patterns and adventures in underwater research

We explored by kayak, snorkeling, free diving, and a few on SCUBA.

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Julia on an urchin quest, Kim & Lexey Kayaking, Dawn & Colin practicing the giant stride!

Made friends with the locals.

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A few of the colorful and friendly invertebrates, fishes, reptiles, and mammals we saw!

Refined our ping pong and pool skills and celebrated halloween!


Carving pumpkins and getting in costume for the big night and beach party!

Even fit in some volleyball and mountain climbing!


Enjoying some time on land too!

But mostly we were near, on, or in the water.

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(Photo credit: Dovi Kacev, Dawn Bailey, Dawn Bailey)

Many groups spent time separately in the field, but the trip to Little Harbor gave us the chance to all be working (and playing) in the same place together.

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Though our time on the island went far to quickly, we accomplished a lot!  Here are the abstracts of the research papers produced by the class based on their field research during our stay.

Intertidal distributions, abundance and shell characteristic differences between Snails and the Blue Banded Hermit Crab, Pagurus samuelis

Alexa Dalmau-Jones & Kimberly Mak

Hermit crabs and snails have a unique relationship that resembles commensalism where snails must be deceased to provide shells for hermit crabs to protect their soft abdomens. This creates the possibility that hermit crab shell utilization is affected by the abundance of snails and the physical attributes of shells. Depending on the hermit crab species, mobility can range from 1-2 meters a day to a hundred meters day (Hazlett, 1981). Therefore, each hermit crab species has a different potential to find new shells to occupy. To examine patterns of snail and hermit crab abundance in the rocky intertidal areas of Santa Catalina Island, California field surveys were conducted between October 20th to November 20th, 2014. Snail, hermit crab, and empty shell abundances were recorded across 8 to 15 haphazardly placed quadrats from each of the 6 locations. Quadrats without hermit crabs were excluded. Of 1,167 hermit crabs recorded, 1,148 were Pagurus samuelis, therefore other hermit crab species were omitted from further analysis. Throughout all locations except for one, the abundance of snail species was proportionate to the species of shell occupied by hermit crabs, with Tegula spp. as the most common snail and the most common shell occupied by P. samuelis. No relationship was found between the number of snails and P. samuelis present across all locations. In addition to species identification, all shells were measured and evaluated for percent algal and invertebrate coverage, damage, and size. There was no significant difference in the coverage or damage levels of snails; however P. samuelis were found to significantly occupy shells with zero coverage and zero damage compared to all other levels of coverage. These results suggest that environmental factors and snail distribution inhibit hermit crabs’ potential to occupy preferred shells.

The effect of microhabitat variations on the distribution of and endosymbionts in Anthopleura sola and A. elegantissima

Noor AlAlusi & Kelly Wong

Two species of sea anemones, Anthopleura sola and A. elegantissima, have been shown to host different proportions of two types of endosymbiont algae, zooxanthellae and zoochlorellae, based on their location in the intertidal. The amount of variation in temperature and UV exposure between microhabitats in the same region can have a major impact on the anemone’s endosymbiont composition. This study consisted of three components: 1) Variation in endosymbionts with shore height in A. sola; 2) Variation in endosymbionts with rock face in A. elegantissima; and 3) Variations in the distribution of A. elegantissima on different rock faces in the rocky intertidal areas on Santa Catalina Island, CA. Results revealed that regardless of shore height or rock face, all A. sola and A. elegantissima organisms sampled contained only zooxanthellae and no zoochlorellae. At three of seven sites, one rock face had an average percent cover of A. elegantissima that was significantly different from at least two of the other faces. The rock faces that had the different percent cover were the bottom face in Two Harbors Campground, the top face in Catalina Harbor East, and the south face in Cherry Cove South. Since differences are highly sitespecific, it is likely that unique characteristics of each site can account for these differences. We suggest that the observed differences in A. elegantissima distribution are attributable to the loose sediment found in Two Harbors Campground, above average wave action and rock height at Catalina Harbor, and large cliffs on the south side of Cherry Cove South.

The effects of marine reserve design on sea urchins and their predators off Santa Catalina Island

 Satthea Khay & Colin Shew

 Sea urchins have been widely reported to impact the community structure of their ecosystems. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) reduce fishing pressures on key urchin predators, which may reduce urchin populations via a trophic cascade effect. Additionally, urchins and higher trophic levels can be effected by the bottom-up effects of primary producers. In this study, surveys were conducted to count and determine the density of urchins (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus, Strongylocentrotus franciscanus, and Centrostephanus coronatus); urchin predators, the California sheephead (Semicossyphus pulcher) and the California spiny lobster (Panulirus interruptus); and quantify algal abundance. Surveys were conducted in rocky subtidal habitats along 30-meter transects in three areas under different levels of protection on Santa Catalina Island, California, USA, at depths of 1-3 meters and 9-11 meters. Urchin densities were highest in unprotected areas and lower in invertebrate-protected and no-take areas on both shallow and deep surveys. Sheephead densities were highest in the no-take areas and lower in the invertebrate reserve and unprotected areas on the deep surveys, and only counted in the no-take areas in shallow water. Spiny lobster densities only differed on deep water surveys and were highest in the invertebrate-protected areas and lower in the other two. These patterns are consistent with an effect of top-down controls on urchin and lobster populations. No correlative evidence of bottom-up effects of producers on urchin densities were observed. Overall, the abundance of organisms of different trophic levels appears to be sensitive to the particular regulations instituted by a reserve.

Brittle Star Distributions in Intertidal and Shallow Subtidal Regions around Santa Catalina Island

Kirsten Denicola & Jordan Beasley

Brittle stars that reside in areas closer to shore are observed to live under rocks in the intertidal and subtidal areas during the daytime to avoid predation (Summers and Nybakken, 2000). Not all rocks shelter brittle stars, but the ones that do reveal trends in brittle star distributions and substrate preference. Four sites at the northern end of Santa Catalina Island, California were surveyed under randomly selected rocks by recording the number of brittle stars in relation to possible factors that may influence brittle star abundance including rock size, substrate type, distance from shore, and presence of sea urchins. We found that sea urchin presence, rock distance from shore, and rock size each have significant influences on brittle star abundance. Brittle stars were significantly more abundant under rocks with sea urchins present, at distances 7‐15 meters from shore, and larger sized rocks. These components are interconnected with other factors that shape these brittle star distributions.

We thank you all for helping to make this a wonderful experience and wish you all the best as you finish your time at UCLA!

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Saying goodbye to the island was a bit sad as we sped off on the Miss Christi, but the memories will last forever!


Farewell Santa Catalina Catalina Island (for now…)!


Laura K Jordan, PhD

Annulata and the Chamber of Experiments

As this wonderful quarter finally wraps up, the brittle stars’ in-lab results are in. As predicted, the brittle stars preferred darkness over light and darkness over rock contact; however, the brittle stars showed extreme trends, rather than any sort of gradient.


The Extreme Trends in our Light/Dark Experiment

The Extreme Trends in our Red/Blue Experiment

The Extreme Trends in our Red/Blue Experiment

The brittle stars preferred dark and avoided light, but no trend was seen when including shading along the gradient. As for wavelengths of light, the brittle stars preferred red light and avoided blue light, but once again no trend was seen when including a yellow filter. From this, Kirsten and I concluded that red light triggered and “dark” response, and blue light triggered a “light” response. Could this have any significance to how sensitive brittle stars’ photoreceptors are? We say yes. We believe that the brittle stars could not detect red light because of their limited or inexistent exposure to it, thereby responding like they do in a dark environment. Although the brittle stars were of subtidal species Ophioderma panamensis and Ophionereis annulata, red light wavelengths dissipate so quickly in ocean water that they are not close enough to the surface to have the ability to view it.

The Red Aura around our Dark/Rock Experiment at Night

The Red Aura around our Dark/Rock Experiment at Night

The blue light, however, penetrates deep down in ocean water. This being said, since the brittle stars studied live underneath rocks, they avoid blue light since it triggers an open ocean response. In the future, it would be interesting to include more brittle stars in testing as well as making more precise light/dark and wavelength gradients. With this, a gradient that was not noted in our experiments may be seen.

On a different note, now that the quarter is coming to a close, here are some fond memories from CatShore:

One of the many foxes which had no limitations on where they relaxed in our facility

One of the many foxes which had no limitations on where they relaxed in our facility

Kirsten and I discovering new areas to sample our brittle stars

Kirsten and I discovering new areas to sample our brittle stars

The Tole Mour, a ship which takes groups of children around the Catalina Island area; one which I was on nine years ago

The Tole Mour, a ship which takes groups of children around the Catalina Island area; one which I was on nine years ago

A sunset over the island

A sunset over the island

The group of us researchers on Halloween

The group of us researchers on Halloween

Happy holidays and until next time, 


This is the End, Beautiful Friend(s)


fun on the boat!

Last week, we finished up our last transects at both Cherry Cove and Little Harbor and began to statistically analyze all of our data. At Cherry Cove we got very similar data to what we found in Isthmus Cove, which is really what we needed. The layout of Cherry Cove was very different than compared with Isthmus in that it was much more densely covered in rocks past our 15 meter range. There was also a greater abundance of larger rocks present as well and more rocks that were stacked on top of each other. When the rocks are stacked on each other, this leaves more gaps under the rocks as opposed to rocks and sand underneath. But when the rocks were stacked, this left much more room for sea urchins and brittle stars to be under the rocks, so we saw a higher density of sea urchins alone in Cherry Cove.


some dining hall fun before we left!


more fun

When analyzing our data, one of the major trends we found with respect to brittle star abundance was no significant difference between the three sites that we surveyed, not including Little Harbor. The three sites had approximately the same amount of brittle stars observed under rocks. This makes sense due to the similarity of each site including the reduced amount of wave action, the similar sediment type which is mixed with sand and small rocks, and a large amount of rocks in our size range. Further analysis will go into each distinct site and how all four sites (including Little Harbor) differed from each other to try to analyze most of the probable explanations that could impact brittle star dispersion. 20141121_122451

Our last day was filled with so much fun and excitement to go back to the mainland mixed with some feeling of sadness that our fun times here would have to come to an end. It’s safe to say that it was a great experience that I will never forget and I’m glad I got to share it with some really awesome people.


Where a Button? There a Button!

The final day on Catalina Island is upon us and while is was difficult to fit in everything that we wanted to do in the past 5 weeks, I think both Kim and I can say that we were very productive in conducting our research, but also made time to have fun!


While Kim may have chosen fun over sleeping more that I did (she hiked “Megastrea Mountain” at sunrise and stayed up to watch the meteor shower this week) I am pleased with the amount of adventure and exploration I fit in during my time here, and I am going to miss it! Conducting our own field and lab research projects truly brought good wholesome fun into science.  While I have always been interested in biology, doing this Marine Biology Quarter is much more valuable than learning biology in a classroom because the ecology and behavior of organisms are observed first hand.

This week we did get a first hand experience of one of the the challenges of filed work: if you place something in the ocean, you may not always be able to find it later.  This “something” as you may have guessed, was the iButtons.  About a two weeks ago we attached two iButtons to rocks at each location we surveyed, totaling in 12 iButtons.  On Monday we spent five hours at Isthmus and Campground only to recover three of the four iButtons we were looking for, one of which was damaged and did not collect data.  On Tuesday we spent six hours at Cat Harbor searching (with the help of our generous volunteers Dovi, Colin, and Satthea) for four iButtons, but only found two. Finally, on Wednesday we returned to Little Harbor where four iButtons once again had been attached to rocks, and with many eyes looking we recovered three of the iButtons!


Oh iButton, where did you go?

Although we were not able to recover all of the iButtons we think (and hope!) that the 8 iButtons that we were able to retrieve will provide enough data for us to see if there is a significant difference in the the average temperature and temperature range between locations.

Although everyone was quite busy finishing up their research and fiddling with R Studio this week, we did all get to spend some time together on our day trip to Little Harbor.  Not only is it a beautiful cove, but it was a clear, sunny day and we had it all to ourselves! What beach have you visited lately that was not crowded with people?


Kim skipping a rock majestically into the sunset

Today we leave the pristine beaches behind and go back to Los Angeles, where we will statistically analyze our data and write our papers for the next three weeks.  Although I will miss it here, I am very thankful for this experience and proud to be a Bruin!


2(Kelly) + 2(Lexey) = UCLA!

Lexey Dalmau

Trials and tribulations

Just when when we think we’re on the home stretch, the curse of the Aplysia strikes again. Kelly and I had been getting great data this week, but yesterday afternoon I discovered that two of our sea hares drifting unresponsive in their tank. All the animals in the other tanks were fine, though. The air bubbler was still running, and our subsequent investigation (checking the iButtons temperature recorders in the tank) found that the water temperature was no different from what it had been set to for the past three days (25 degrees Celsius). We suspect some kind of accidental contamination, but we cannot rule out foul play…

We put the animals in a flowthrough tank hoping that they were still alive, and as of late last night they showed some signs of movement. Unfortunately, we couldn’t run our trials to get any data from them, but it looks like the mortality rate for our sea hares will stay below 5% (2/43) for these 5 weeks.

I also wrapped up the SCUBA surveys for Satthea’s and my field project and checked out some cool sites with my extra underwater time. We found the local celebrity green sea turtle, who’s currently visiting from lower latitudes because of our unseasonably warm water temperatures. We heard from a lot of people that it liked to hang around Bird Rock, but almost as soon as we reached the bottom, it was sitting there waiting for us. The rock is also home to a colony of sea lions, and they took the time to come see what we were up to and swim circles around us. They weren’t quite as delightful above water, though, since we had to smell them while eating lunch. I almost wasn’t hungry. Almost.


The turtle resting in some kelp before taking off.


We also found some Pelagophycus growing on the seafloor about 90 feet down, and it looks way cooler than the stuff that washes up on the beach. The blades are massive, maybe a few feet wide, trailing off into the distance in the majestic way that only Pelagophycus blades do.


Maybe more majestic in person.

Not quite ready to go back to the mainland.

— Colin

Little Harbor, Big Adventures


Getting started recording data


Look at all that surf grass!


We still have yet to master those underwater selfies

Yesterday, our whole class took a little trip over to Little Harbor, a cove located on a different area of Catalina than we have been spending our time. I guess it was a true “field” trip since all of us spent the day collecting data for our field projects. We started off with a short survey of the area (and a few photos). Colin and I then jumped in and started taking surveys. Surprisingly, we found very few urchins on our transects. We don’t know why we did not see many urchins, but one striking difference between Little Harbor and all of our other sites was the amount of surf grass (Phylospadix torryei) covering the bedrock. I also saw very few Girabaldi, which have been incredibly abundant in all other areas I’ve snorkeled in. I definitely thought this was a really interesting display of how connectivity can be important in determining community structure. I guess this was one of those moments where no matter how many times you read it in a textbook, seeing it with your own eyes can make a world of difference. By the end of the day, Colin and I had completed four transects but we had some of the lowest urchin counts we have had so far on our trip. We ended the day watching the sunset together as a group, the perfect end to a fun filled day.

As I’m writing this, it is nearly the end of our last full day on the island. It is definitely bittersweet. I have to say that this has been a once in a lifetime experience for me, and this has definitely been an adventure that I’m so glad I decided to take on.

Signing off for the final time from the island


Strong Finish

It has been a very busy week for me and Kelly in the field! We have been in the field for long hours every day taking UV measurements, conducting our last surveys, retrieving iButtons, collecting additional anemone tentacle samples, and processing the samples in the lab.

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The highlight of the week was definitely our trip to Little Harbor and Shark Harbor yesterday. It was really nice to be together with the whole MBQ group and to see a very different part of the island. Though Little Harbor did not have rocks that were appropriate for us to collect data from, we were able to find some anemones on cliffs and in crevices that we were able to collect samples from and analyze for symbionts. In Shark Harbor, however, there were lots of rocks perfect for our study. We collected a good amount of data on anemone density on the different faces of rocks and also collected several tentacles samples that we analyzed back in the lab.


Kelly and I have been getting progressively better at quickly and cleanly collecting tentacle samples in the field and obtaining clear images of their symbionts under the microscope in the lab. Though unfortunately none of our samples have contained any zoochlorellae, we are very glad that we retained this component of our project as it has been very interesting and educational!


Today we were ready to collect our last set of UV data from Catalina Harbor West, but unfortunately the UV light meter was not cooperating. It seems like it needs to be sent in to be recalibrated. Shortly after getting dropped off at Cat Harbor, we had to call Dovi to pick us up. It turns out that this was extremely lucky for us as a few minutes after getting picked up, it started raining.

We spent the rest of the day today cleaning up the lab, importing our iButton data, and doing statistical analyses. Though at first we faced some major obstacles navigating the R software, we made some major breakthroughs and were able to conduct most of the analyses and create most of the images we wanted to.

Campground Percent Cover Boxplot

It has finally sunken in that we’re leaving the island tomorrow. I thought I’d be excited to go back home and see my family and friends, but now I’m sad and not ready to leave behind this beautiful island and my classmates and teachers who I’ve grown so close to over the past five weeks. Overall, the MBQ has been such a wonderful experience. It was everything I hoped it would be and more. I highly recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity!


– Noor

Operation Where’s Waldo?

Background: Approximately two weeks ago, Lexey and I placed 2 iButtons in each of the 8 locations: Isthmus, Campground, both sides of Cat Harbor, and both sides of Little Harbor. We will extract the mean, max, and min temperature readings for each location. We will analyze whether the variations in temperature of each location have an effect on snail and hermit crab abundances, and whether it influence the species of shell the hermit crabs occupy.

Mission: Recover iButtons.

Status: In Progress

Detailed Report: We were able to recover both iButtons from Campground and one from each side of Cat Harbor. Our back up support, Dovi and Satthea, were crucial to the recovery of one of the iButtons. Dovi’s knack of rock identification aided in our rediscovery of the iButtons during our expedition to the east side of Cat Harbor, allowing me to find the iButton after searching for 3 hours. Satthea was able to identify the rock our iButton was on for the west side of Cat Harbor and Dovi found the iButton instantly after. The All-Star was Lexey because she found both of the ones at Campground. We will only search for the rest of the iButtons at Little Harbor because the rocks at Isthmus and Cat Harbor didn’t have the iButtons; only remnants of the epoxy were left. Therefore it is futile to attempt another search in Isthmus and Cat Harbor. We also that we at least had one temperature reading on each side of Cat Harbor. However, upon further inspection I noticed that the iButton from Cat Harbor West had a hole in it, rendering the data irretrievable. Another setback is that the one from Isthmus didn’t record any temperature readings. Our team is not easily despaired; we have high hopes for our next search at Little Harbor.

iButton squished in epoxy

iButton squished in epoxy


Bye, Aplysia!

This last week had been filled with 24/7 science. Noor and I have been racing the clock to finish our field project and take all the UV measurements of our anemone sites. While in the lab Colin and I have been working on our last seven animals of our sea hare experiments.

Field work can be quite tiring, but so interesting and unlike any other experience. For the past few days, Noor and I have been going to each of our sites and taking UV readings every hour, collecting tentacles to examine algal symbionts, and collecting previously placed temperature sensors (iButtons). Easy enough, right? Not so much. Let’s start with the iButtons. We stuck them to rocks with a two part epoxy (a mixture of tan and black goo) that blend in very well with surrounding rocks. We used a GPS locater but it only has an accuracy of approximately 15ft. When we were searching rock cliff faces, it was hard to see the small silver sensors in a wall of browns and blacks. We did locate all of the senors but there was a lot of climbing and searching and re-searching! Then with the UV meter we had a small water leakage inside of the mechanism, causing the sensor and reader to act up. Noor saved the day with some fresh water and hydrogen peroxide!

We’ve also managed to collect and process almost all of the samples we’ve needed from most of the sites —and they are all brown. This ties into the first project we started here on the island, showing that both Anthopleura elegantissima and Anthopleura sola have similar cove-wide algal symbiont distributions. With all the anemones having brown symbionts, this could mean that because of other factors, the anemones are limited to certain regions, or aspect on a rock face. This is where we tie in our UV and temperature readings, and basic information on the shape and orientation of the cove/site → we are running statistics on this right now!

The day we kayaked for at least 6 hours in Cherry Cove

The day we kayaked for at least 6 hours in Cherry Cove

Lab work with Colin has for once, gone smoothly this week! Although we don’t have as many test specimens as we planned for, we are working with what we got. We’ve added a small sub-question to our experiments regarding the sea hare species Aplysia vaccaria, the California black sea hare. Since we’ve been finding some in the field, we added some to our temperature experiments and have been using the same protocol to test their reactions the tactile stimulus. We shall see if they have a similar response over multiple trials as the Aplysia californica. From what we have seen so far, they are similar in reaction time but since they have different siphon/parapodia structuring it’s harder to tell if they are fully retracting the siphon or only half retracting it. We will run statistics this week on the program R to see if there is any significant differences between the two species.

Colin and I working during the island wide electrical black-out

Colin and I working during the island wide electrical black-out

Sad to leave the island in a few short days,


Don’t be fooled by the rocks that I got

Yesterday, the tides were finally low enough for Kelly and I to collect some more anemone tentacles from the Two Harbors Campground and Isthmus Cove. Since we were unable to detect differences in the type of symbionts found on Anthopleura sola in the low, middle, and high regions of the intertidal (all of them only had zooxanthellae, none of them had the zoochlorellae we were expecting to find based on previous studies), we decided to collect more tentacles from Anthopleura elegantissima (which are much more abundant than sola) on different rock faces to see if that factor had an influence on which symbionts they contain.

IMG_4470   P1070617

Unfortunately, we found collecting Anthopleura elegantissima tentacles to be very difficult. First, low tide this week was considerably higher than it was two weeks ago. Second, the tentacles of Anthopleura elegantissima tend to be much smaller than those of Anthopleura sola. They also tend to be entirely covered in little pebbles and rocks. Every time the water was calm enough for me to snip a sample off an anemone, I was disappointed to find that I did not actually get any tentacles and was just fooled by the rocks that I got.

Eventually, I got the hang of it and Kelly and I were able to get all of the samples we needed. After coming back to the lab, I processed all twelve samples immediately. After carefully studying each one, I still found that all of the symbionts were golden (zooxanthellae) and none were green (zoochlorellae).

Today, Kelly and I had a long day at Catalina Harbor taking UV measurements. We had originally intended to spend the day getting hourly UV measurements from the East and West sides by kayaking back and forth between the two sites from 8:30am to 4pm. Though we anticipated that this would be tiring, we were not expecting it to be as physically exhausting as the huge gales of wind we encountered this morning made it. We kayaked from the dock to Catalina Harbor East to take our first reading there, then we kayaked to Catalina Harbor West to take our initial reading at that site. Upon kayaking back to Catalina Harbor East, the wind pushed us way off course and we were paddling for our lives to not end up in the middle of the ocean (lol maybe an exaggeration but that’s how it felt at the time). We were kayaking for over 90 minutes, and we realized we couldn’t keep it up for six more hours, so we decided to just take measurements for Catalina Harbor East today and do the West side later this week.


In between UV measurements, we also tried collecting anemone tentacles for our symbiont composition analysis. Unfortunately, we were not able to get the samples we needed since in Catalina Harbor the anemones are all found in very low tide, low tide was not that low today, and the waves were extremely strong. We are still going to examine symbionts in tentacles from the other sites.

– Noor