Call Me Master

14 09 2013

Pontus the sea, Roman mosaic, Bardo Museum (

I apologize for the long hiatus to blogging.  All my focus was devoted to working on my thesis, which I fondly nicknamed Pontus (after the pre-Olympian god of the sea that fathered all fishes and sea creatures).   I got bored of saying “I’m working on my thesis at Starbucks,” or “the thesis going is rough today.”  It was much more fun to say “I’m playing with Pontus at the park” or “Pontus is in a bad mood today, so I might spend a little more time with him than originally planned.”


All the sweat, tears, hard work, and long nights paid off though!  They finally gave me the certificate saying everyone must call me Master.  I read the degree and it says so in the fine print.  Now that the two chapter, 97-page thesis has been submitted AND accepted, I have spent the past three weeks catching up on sleep, working as many hours as Starbucks will allow to pay off a growing number of bills  I have accumulated in graduate school, and have scoured the local area for marine biologist positions.  I do miss blogging though, and want to fill you all in on the final chapter regarding my work towards an upper-graduate degree.


On par with the first part of this adventure, completing the project was not easy by any means.  There were several more failed experiments with varying degrees of devastation, frustrating hours spent in front of the microscope, and weeks of hair pulling while analyzing data.  (I’m lucky my hair is so long and thick that it covers the bald spots.)


When I last wrote, I had described the revised experimental design for three experimental releases in the tide pool habitat.  Most black abalone, however, are found in the more cryptic crevice habitat, formed by breaks and cracks in the sandstone and shale along the shoreline.  I expanded the project to include three additional releases in a crevice habitat and compare the results between the habitat types to see if it influences fertilization success.


By the time I started the revised releases in the tidepool habitat, I had worked out many of the kinks in the experimental design, all discovered through trial and error.  The three tide pool releases progressed smoothly, and for some reason, I didn’t anticipate many more problems with additional releases in a different habitat type.  Yeah, I’m a slow learner.  When choosing an appropriate release location, I needed a continuous trajectory of 13m with a main unidirectional flow, and happily found this habitat just a few hundred yards from the tide pool location.  Let the new releases begin!


The first release in the crevice habitat was an utter catastrophe.  The waves were slightly higher, so we tried to wait until there was enough flow to distribute the particles, but not too high that it would be dangerous.  We started the experiment when the waves were slightly higher than I was comfortable with, but I didn’t want to lose the tidal height.  Unfortunately, as soon as I started the experiment, the waves and water disappeared completely.  I was so worried about protecting my bucket of surrogate sperm (worth $2400) from the now non-existent waves that I forgot to release the surrogate eggs at 10 minutes, and instead released it after 20 minutes.  Additionally, the lack of water flow left literally no water for some samples at the 2m-collection location.  That was definitely NOT awesome.


Bundled up against the wind launching small projectiles at all the field workers during the last experimental release (J. Ugoretz).

Bundled up against the wind launching small projectiles at all the field workers during the last experimental release (J. Ugoretz).

The second crevice habitat release went incredibly smoothly, giving me a false sense of security, because disaster struck again on the third release.  One exciting aspect to work in the crevice habitat was doing work on bare rock one moment, then being up to your chest the next moment in rushing water that is trying to pull you out to sea while you scramble to hold on to the $2400 bucket of surrogate sperm and IV stand.  Thrilling, I’m going with thrilling to describe that, and will leave out terrifying, stressful, and intimidating.  Yup, not mentioning those words at all.  During the third crevice release, one of those waves hit, and although I was able to protect my bucket of surrogate sperm, the IV stand got knocked over.  We were able to recover the stand, replace the IV bag quickly, and there was minimal amount of solution lost, so we carried on with the experiment, but it was a nerve-wracking couple of minutes.  The only thing note worthy about the last crevice release was the high wind, making all field workers feel like they were being pelted with mini-missiles.  I like my field work that way – no excitement that effects the actual sample collection.


But that’s not all folks…