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Week 5 Toxic dinoflagellates do exist in the CRE!

             This week started off with me analyzing 42 dinoflagellate DNA sequences collected in different parts of the Columbia River estuary and at different times of the M. Rubra blooms from last year. The two different locations where the samples were collected were Iwaco Harbor station and main channel station # 7. It was interesting to find out that the dinoflagellate community structure before, during and after the bloom, found near Iwaco Harbor, didn’t show much variation between species. However, the dominant species is a species that no one has ever successfully cultured before. This is interesting, because the hypothesis theories indicate that the M. Rubra blooms start every year in Iwaco Harbor. This result maybe indicates that this unknown mysterious species either can tolerate or benefit from the red water blooms. The main channel station # 7 samples showed much more variation, since it is located at the mouth of the Columbia River connected to the Pacific Ocean. The unknown dinoflagellate species found in abundant amounts in Iwaco Harbor, however, was not found in the main channel station samples. Maybe this result can suggest/confirm that the M. Rubra blooms do start in Iwaco Harbor, and the blooms most likely are not from the Pacific Ocean?

            I also analyzed some more dinoflagellate DNA sequences collected from Young’s bay and Iwaco Harbor samples from this year (7/6/2012). Results were interesting. The dinoflagellate species present this year in the CRE doesn’t seem like they have much correlation with the dinoflagellate species found last year. For example, the Iwaco Harbor prebloom DNA species found last year were mostly an unknown species close to genus Eudobusquella. However, I have not found this kind of unknown species yet in this year’s samples. I wonder what causes the shift in dinoflagellate community structure, not just during M. Rubra bloom season in the late summer, but during non-bloom seasons like the winter.

            Ben also taught me how to make alignments of over hundreds of DNA sequences, so I can start making the dinoflagellate clone library/phylogenetic trees for my project. Using our preliminary results (dinoflagellate DNA sequences from last year) and trying to align them with known dinoflagellate DNA sequences from online gene databases, we found that there are some unknown dinoflagellate species that are closely related to few species of the harmful algal bloom. This is a very interesting result because now we have identified that CRE do harbor some toxic dinoflagellate species. These toxic dinoflagellate species might have a chance to bloom and create harmful algal blooms in the CRE. We also found that some unknown dinoflagellate species are closely related to coral reef symbiotic dinoflagellates, which is really interesting because there are no coral reefs in the CRE.

            Also, I got to go on a field trip to Astoria, Oregon to visit the M.E.R.T.S campus at Clatsop community college. M.E.R.T.S stands for the Marine and Environmental Research and Training Station. I learnt that they are currently working with CMOP to study Maritime Science, coastal resources, environmental studies etc. I met an environmental engineer at MERTS who showed us around and explained to us more about SATURN and endurance stations. It was very interesting to learn that there are SO MANY data collection stations located along the Columbia River.

I also got to meet three different researchers/technicians. I got to learn what they each specialize in and what they contribute to MERTS and CMOP’s research.


 Katie, a lab technician showed as the Glider. The Glider, a big yellow bullet, can “swim” under water according to its adjusted buoyancy. It collects all sorts of samples and sends the data to Katie’s computer every few seconds. It also has a GPS on it, so Katie will always know where the Glider is located and the Glider won’t get lost. MERTS just lost a Glider named Phoebe, and I learnt that a Glider costs at least 125,000 $.


I also got to meet another lab technician, who is responsible for assembling the most basic parts required to build a successful data collection station (both Saturn/endurance stations). He said that at least one error will occur at one station every day, so every day he has to fix the technical error and maintain these data collection stations (some of his task includes fixing a giant data collection machine with thousands of seagulls surrounding him, and diving down into the Columbia River to fix a underwater station). However, the endurance stations can last a long time without any error. These endurance stations just keep on collecting salinity and water temperature data every few seconds and send the data to MERTs and CMOP.


 Lastly, I met Joy, who is a research for UCSB that studies what I study, M. Rubra plankton blooms and high nutrient water upwelling situations associated with the blooms. I learnt from her that the high nutrient waters from the bottom of the Columbia River that upwell to the river surface are the main cause/source of the bloom formation of M.Rubra in the CRE .