I finally made it out in the South Slough! I got to see Valino Island, the Slough's main survey site for SeagrassNet, and a few others farther up the estuary. The expedition was tagging along with South Slough and OSU researchers (names withheld for now for privacy). It was nice to be out on some eelgrass again, and really neat to see some new sites.
Valino Island was the first site we got to. There have been quarterly surveys of the eelgrass beds since 2005, and in recent years, there have been huge declines in cover. See my post for more details about it. The survey plots were very bare, but at least there was some good cover adjacent to them.
And lo and behold, the eelgrass was diseased! There wasn't heaps of disease (fortunately) but there were substantial numbers and sizes of them.
I brought a particularly lesion-y blade into the lab so I could image it better.
It was also really exciting to see other biota that I hope to use in my research. I'll be seeing if disease eelgrass is more or less palatable to herbivores compared to healthy eelgrass and epiphytic algae. The lower eelgrass had good amounts of Smithora, an epiphytic red algae that seems tasty to isopods (its FA content suggests it to).
There were also eelgrass isopods (Pentidotea resecata)! I didn't see heaps, but I'm hoping because it was because I didn't look too well. But it was exciting nonetheless, since they're one of the herbivores I want to use. There were TONS of amphipods but I didn't take any pictures.
Although unrelated to my research, there were gazillions of saccoglossan sea slugs. Saccoglossans aren't nudibranchs. Rather, they're herbivorous and slurp up the cellular contents of plants, sometimes retaining the chloroplasts. The intact chloroplast continue photosynthesizing, making these kleptoplastic slugs into solar powered animals! (forgive the warped image)
After Valino, we got back to shore and scooted up to Hinch, where the paddle launch allowed us to kayak to two other sites, Danger Point and Hidden Cove. We were on the lookout for eelgrass, but unfortunately we only saw a single blade in a single rooted shoot.
I also capsized the kayak. Oops.
But all in all a great day!