This pilot study started in June, 2017 with the goal of better understanding local water conditions. We are most interested in select biotic (living) and abiotic (non-living) features. Specifically, we are looking at plankton abundance and diversity, as well as monitoring the pH, temperature, and salinity of the water column.
We hope to be able to characterize this system and create a baseline data-set for the area. Additionally, we hope to communicate with shellfish farmers and other stakeholders about local conditions (and how they change over time).
Follow along with our project on this page!
Learning from the Pros - June 28th, 2017
We spent our first feild day under the helpful gaze of oceanography expert Dr. Cheryl Greengrove of the University of Washington Tacoma.
Dr. Greengrove and her team offered us sound advice on techniques and field planning, which greatly shaped our project methods. One peice of advice Dr. Greengrove offered was to test as your methods before applying them on a long time scale. On this date, we sampled on both the incoming and outgoing tide to better understand the system we are studying: Lemmen's Inlet near the Tofino harbour.
Out on the water - July & August 2017
Sampling is well under way! We have added additional field days this summer to better refine our methods. It great to have the help of our summer interns! Once the summer is over, we will compare the different conditions and use this information to help select a single, monthly sample day moving forward.
Changing Communities - September 2017
We are noticing the abundance of plankton is dropping as the fall weather sets in.
Here are a few of the species we commonly see:
Noctiluca scintillans - A dinoflagellate responsible for creating the ocean later light up at night (commonly refered to as bioluminesence):
Coscinodiscus spp. (and a water bubble above it) - A beautiful diatom species:
A copepod (zooplankton):
Sunny days and plankton blooms!? - October 2017
This month has been a bit of an oddity on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. Except for one mid-month storm, we have expereinced a series of clear, bright, sunny days, which has made the logisitics of sampling relativley easy so far!
On this last sampling session, we found evidence of a small, localized autumn plankton bloom. The water was a murky, reddish colour. Compared to the crystal clear conditions in other parts of Clayoquot Sound, this was surprising to find!
Look at the colour of the top sample, as compared to the other three samples:
Under the microscope, it was evident what was causing the colouring of the water. Look at all of the individual plankton cells!
A plankton "bloom" is the term used to describe a sharp increase in biomass within a given area. A bloom may occur when conditions such as temperature, pH, or salinity, among others, are favourable. In response, spcecies may undergo excellerated cellular division, which increases the total number of cells present in the water column. If the area does not expereince sufficient flushing via currents, wind, or tide, an accumulation of plankton will create a bloom.
In many cases, the species causing a bloom are considered non-harmful, and the bloom provides a beneficial source of nutrients to the local ecological food-web (Smayda, 1997). However, blooms can also be a cause for concern (have you ever heard of "Red Tide?") if the species is considered harmful to other marine organisms, or to humans (Cassis, 2007).
Ongoing monitoring efforts by the Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans work to ensure that commercially grown and harvested shellfish are safe for human comsumption. If you are interested in harvesting wild bivalve species such as mussels, or eating locally harvested shellfish, make sure to check if it's safe first: http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/contamination/biotox/a-s-24-eng.html
Cassis, D. (2007). "Temperature, Harmful Algae, and Summer Shellfish Mortalities in British Columbia." Aquaculture Update, Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
Retrieved from: http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/Library/335333.pdf
Smayda, T.J. (1997). "What is a bloom? A commentary." Journal of Limnology and Oceanography 42(5, part 2), pg 1132-1136.
Retrieved from: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.4319/lo.1997.42.5_part_2.1132/pdf