Marine Bio Club Gets Dirty for Research

It’s a dirty, stinky job, but someone has to do it.

The marine bio club volunteered their hands -and cleanliness- to the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro last Friday, Nov. 21. The club assisted other volunteers and on-site researchers in collecting, measuring and counting various species of marine life in the muddy salt marsh near the aquarium.

Cabrillo Salt Marsh

The researchers use this data, collected periodically throughout the year, to study the levels of marine life in the area. The marsh is usually filled by the nearby Los Angeles basin, but during low tide conditions, the on-site researchers need as many hands as possible to help. The Cypress Marine Biology club was more than happy to volunteer.

Five club members and advisor Jesus Reyes piled into a van Friday morning to make the trip to San Pedro. Arriving in the early afternoon, the members suited up, were briefed by the aquarium staff, and quickly got to work.

Club members suit up to head into the marsh.

Club members suit up to head into the marsh.

The goal of the project was to dig into varying depths of the mud around different parts of the marsh. After digging out these muddy samples, the volunteers collected and counted what kinds of organisms were found.

Xavier examines a carnivorous sea snail.

Xavier examines a carnivorous sea snail.

Stephanie Alegria writes data on her clipboard while identifying clams with aquarium researchers.

Stephanie Alegria writes data on her clipboard while identifying clams with aquarium researchers.

Heather Thomson observes a small organism.

Heather Thomson observes a small organism.

Club members Xavier and Christian look for invertebrates in a sift box.

Club members Xavier and Christian look for invertebrates in a sift box.

Club president Lynnette Reed stands knee-deep in mud working with aquarium biologists.

Club president Lynnette Reed stands knee-deep in mud working with aquarium biologists.

According to professor Reyes, the amount of organisms found in the small marsh can actually tell a lot about the surrounding area.

“If we find 15 different species of an invertebrate one year, then come back the next year and find only 1, we know there’s a big problem,” Reyes explained.

Club advisor Jesus Reyes helps Heather and Lynnette measure recovered fish.

Club advisor Jesus Reyes helps Heather and Lynnette measure recovered fish.

The part of the day that required the most volunteers was the marsh seine. A seine, a kind of large net, is pulled through the water by hand to pick up any swimming organisms and pull them ashore. The marine biology club was critical in the project, even volunteering to pull the net through the murky, waist-deep water, soaking their clothes in the process.

Club members walk into the muddy marsh water.

Club members walk into the muddy marsh water.

Club members pull the seine through the water to collect fish.

Club members pull the seine through the water to collect fish.

Once on land, the researchers and volunteers hurried to count, measure, and classify the fish pulled up, then released them back into the water.

Club members and other volunteers hurry to collect fish from the seine.

Club members and other volunteers hurry to collect fish from the seine.

Stephanie shows her seine count to one of the aquarium staff.

Stephanie shows her seine count to one of the aquarium staff.

The seine proved to be a big success, with the aquarium staff even saying they recovered and counted more fish than “the previous two or three seines.”

Researchers tag a recovered Leopard shark before releasing it.

Researchers tag a recovered Leopard shark before releasing it.

Luckily, the group came prepared with extra changes of clothes and shoes. After a rinse-off with a nearby hose, the club took a tour of the aquarium, then climbed back into the van to head home. Though tired, dirty and smelly, the club members were extremely satisfied with their work.

Christian offers a high-five that surprisingly was not returned.

Christian offers a high-five, with limited success.

Christian and Xavier carry organisms back to the water.

Christian and Xavier carry organisms back to the water.

Lynnette strikes a pose in her soiled wetsuit.

Lynnette strikes a pose in her soiled wetsuit.

“It’s definitely something we’ll do again,” said club president and founder Lynnette Reed.

The marine biology club is always looking for new members. To join, attend their next meeting in room 310 on Dec. 4 at 4:30. Contact cypressmbc@gmail.com for more details.

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