And the winner is…

Thanks to all our organelle fans for voting!

The popular vote chose Cell Membrane and the Electoral College chose Cell Wall. In both cases there was a tie for 2nd place. Popular vote resulted in a tie for 2nd between Vacuole and Cell Wall, while the Electoral College selected Cell Membrane and Golgi Apparatus.

Since Cellandia’s political system uses the Electoral College, we have a new president, Cell Wall!!


photo from Wikimedia Commons

We have co-Vice Presidents, Golgi Apparatus and Cell Membrane. Together they will help Cellandia stay healthy and hard-working.

The Ballot is Here! Vote Today!

Polling for the Cellandia Presidential Campaign will be open from 7:00 am Thursday, November 30th, through 5:00 pm Friday, December 1st. Please choose your candidate on the survey below, then write your first name and last initial at the end. Thanks for doing your civic duty!

Ballot for Cellandia President


Crisis in Cellandia!!

WHS Biology class has started their Organelle Campaigns! Our brilliant investigative reporters, Isabella and Nicole, discovered that President Nucleus has been forced to resign as President of Cellandia, due to health problems.

Upon hearing the news, nine other organelles immediately began building campaigns. Currently they are hard at work on posters, blog posts, and other propaganda. 🙂 Please stay tuned for the next two weeks – we’d love to have your vote count on November 17th!


Organelle Wars!!

Are you tired of the same ol’ nasty campaigning for our national elections?

Need something different to take your mind of the mudslinging?

Well, look no farther!

The Waldport High School Biology class is holding a bold, new type of election — our cell organelles are campaigning to be President of Cellandia. Please follow student blogs as the campaign battle rages to see which organelle deserves to be President!cells

We will be running campaigns for the next few weeks and holding the election on Thursday, November 17th. Students are hard at work on posters, videos, and blog posts to show the international public that their organelle is worthy, healthy, and a strong leader.

Stay tuned for posters, news, videos, and smear campaigns!

Of dolphins and goodbyes

Written Thursday evening:

Today was bittersweet. We saw seabirds and one that was lost at sea.  We woke up to find a female Yellow warbler hitchhiking on the ship – a nice little treat for birders, probably not so nice for the poor warbler, who must have blown off course. When we awoke we were well offshore, headed northeast toward Astoria. During the first shift of observations someone spotted dolphins! As we got closer, we realized there were about 80 of them – Pacific white-sided dolphins – riding the bow waves. Right after they left a pod of Northern right whale dolphins appeared. This was even exciting for Dr. Torres, our marine mammalogist. These dolphins have no dorsal fin and purportedly look like the extremely endangered Northern right whale.


Northern right whale dolphin, named for the extremely endangered Northern right whale

We didn’t see many whales today, but throughout the day we spotted birds galore – Sooty and Pink-footed shearwaters, Black-foot albatross, Sabin’s gulls, Fork-tailed storm petrel, Cassin’s auklets, Marbled murrelets, and many gulls. We also saw an Albacore tuna and several Mola-mola (ocean sunfish). Incredible sightings.

A short video of some of the many dolphins that swam around our bow:

The bitter part of the day came near the end when we had to say goodbye to our scientists and Warrenton High School teacher Josh Jannusch.


We say goodbye to the scientists and Josh

Now we are motoring up the Columbia River – it will take us about 10 hours on the Columbia to reach the Willamette. We expect to arrive in Portland at about 6:30 tomorrow morning, and we are all planning to get up at 4:30 to see the bridges.


Not all fun and games: Natalie and Leland doing homework

Next challenge: giving tours of the Oceanus tomorrow.


Good night!

Spotlight on the Scientists

I have not yet been able to pin down Dr. Torres for an interview as she has been incredibly busy, but the graduate students have told me about their research goals and history. Again, I have pictures but the wifi on board is not allowing me to transfer them, so I’ll do that when we dock in Portland tomorrow.

Meet Jane Dolliber!

Jane grew up in Seattle, Washington. She has been interested in birds for as long as she can remember; her interest in science dates back to high school. She wanted to be a Biochemist until she realized that being a Biochemist meant being in a lab ALL the time, so she switched to a field that would get her outside. Jane did her undergraduate schooling in the Biology Department at the University of Washington; then she converted to Beaverism and now is a Master’s student at Oregon State University. Her specialty is pelagic birds, and her thesis research is on using satellite imagery to count nesting, Short-tailed albatross on colony (as opposed to on the water). Short-tailed albatross are a North Pacific species – they live from the east to the west Pacific down to the Oregon coast. Jane says that the juveniles tend to wander farther than the adults; kind of like sending your kid to the store and they wander around to several stores before the parents tell them, “No, just go to the hardware store.”  When she finishes her Master’s, Jane would like a job that blends teaching and research; she will likely go back to school to earn a PhD. On this cruise she is doing counts of any seabirds found to augment information on how these birds will be affected by development of alternative energy.


Meet Florence Sullivan!

Florence is a graduate student in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon State University. Originally she hails from Seattle, like Jane and myself. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from University of Washington in the Oceanography department. Florence’s research is on the foraging ecology of gray whales on the coast – the specific group she studies is the Pacific Coast Feeding Group – about 200 individuals that, instead of migrating up to the Bering Sea, stays between Northern California and southeast Alaska. Usually gray whales range from Baja to northern Alaska. They are hoping to do long-term ecological research. Gray whales are very plastic on what they eat, so part of her research is looking at what they eat. She has also been investigating the impact of whale-watching tour boats on gray whales. As this industry grows, she and Dr. Torres just want to help the average boater understand how to keep the whales safe. They are very close to having a brochure to distribute up and down the coast. On this cruise, Florence is in charge of oceanography, running the CTD casts to profile the water column to get snapshot images of the ocean conditions that the whales are traveling through. In particular, they are looking at the temperature and primary production (plankton). Regions that are very productive because of upwelling have high productivity and this magnifies up the food chain. In essence, what is good for the prey is good for the predators. Florence and Amanda have been writing blog posts and they wrote a great post about humpback whales. Here’s the link:


Meet Amanda Holdman!

Amanda is currently working on her Master’s degree with Dr. Torres at Oregon State University. She is a transplant from Bloomington, Indiana, having earned her bachelor’s degree from Purdue University in northern Indiana. Amanda is nearly finished with her thesis. She has been researching the habitat ecology of harbor porpoises, along with a bit of behavioral ecology; she accomplishes this through both visual and acoustic data. In other words, she watches them and listens to the sounds they make. To do this, she has used hydrophones that are designed for high-frequency sounds, such as those made by porpoises, dolphins, and killer whales. On this cruise, Amanda is collecting data on all marine mammals we’ve spotted, but she will only analyze the data on harbor porpoises. Amanda also has done research in terrestrial habitats – she has worked with black bears in Michigan, white-tailed deer, coyote pups, and fox in Indiana. She has a passion for protecting animals from anthropogenic impacts, so information about their habitats is essential. When she finishes, Amanda would like to continue researching conservation ecology of mammals, and after a couple years, she will likely pursue a PhD.
Link to OSU blog

What happens to styrofoam, paper, and plastic when it’s dropped to the ocean floor?

Yesterday afternoon we dropped the mesh bags with experiments from Ms. Steinman’s Ocean Engineering class. The experimental material contained Styrofoam cups, paper cups, 2-liter plastic soda bottles with paper inside, and two Pelican brand, water-tight containers. Both mesh bags were attached to the CTD (see previous post) and went down to 1,383 meters!  Yes, meters, not feet. It took a full hour to drop the CTD and return it to the surface. I’ll try to embed a video here to show the return of the CTD to the vessel. The results are interesting, but I’ll wait to report on that until the Ocean Engineering students can see and interpret the evidence. I will include a photo of the cups and, if wifi is good, I’ll include a short video of the CTD coming up to the ship.


Cups attached to the CTD with my hand for scale.

Martha, the teacher from Bandon High School, calculated that at a depth of 1,383 meters, the pressure is 1,400 decibars, which converts 138.2 atmospheres and 2,031.589 PSI (pounds per square inch). Just for comparison, we live at sea level which has an atmospheric pressure of 1.0.  Wow! And how cool that scientists really use dimensional analysis, like Martha did. OK, so here’s a picture of the cups after they came up – unfortunately I didn’t stick my hand in the picture, so it might be hard to see the difference.


After being submerged to 1,383 m the styrofoam cups are much smaller, but the paper cups are not.

Above is a short video of the CTD being raised to the boat. The poles extending out to clip ropes on are being managed by two of the high school students. The white blobs at the top of the CTD are the paper and styrofoam cups.

Also this afternoon I saw three life species of birds – this means I saw them for the first time in my life. Birders often keep life lists; I’m too lazy to do this, but I do get pretty excited when I see a new species. The first is the Black-footed albatross – I’ve seen about 20 of them, total. While waiting for the CTD to come up, Jane and I birded on the fly deck and she pointed out a single Long-tailed jaeger. Finally, during my observation shift this evening we saw several Cassin’s auklet – a tiny, cute little bird that nests in burrows. This is a great adaptation, because the holes are small and it’s difficult for predators to pass through. I’m hoping to see Storm petrels tonight – Matthew told me about a recent discovery with these diminutive predators – apparently they can leave eggs on the nest for long periods of time, with little to no incubation. It’s thought that this is an evolutionary adaptation to the birds being blown out to sea (while foraging for food) during a storm. They are so small that it can take a long time to be able to get back to the nest, so the chicks don’t die, but their growth stops until a parent can get back to the nest.