Not too long ago, my classmates and I had the opportunity to participate in a rocky intertidal monitoring project with LiMPETS at Carmel Point, CA. LiMPETS (Long-term Monitoring Program and Experiential Training for Students) is an environmental monitoring and education program seeking to increase stewardship of and monitor California’s coastal communities. A core component of LiMPETS is the “Rocky Intertidal Monitoring Program”, a monitoring project aimed at establishing a baseline for tracking rocky intertidal community changes over time.
Our class collected data along vertical transects, which was plenty fun. After collecting data, we decided to poke and explore around the intertidal community.
These type of field excursions make me feel like a kid again. I was the kind of kid that had a blast turning over rocks in the backyard and looking at the little crawly critters hiding underneath. Being in the intertidal and finding little organisms living between and underneath rocks was a real treat.
One of the organisms I was pretty excited to see was the surfgrass, Phyllospadix sp. Phyllospadix sp is part of the seagrass family, a group of marine angiosperms. These organisms bloom and release pollen just like terrestrial plants. However, they’re adapted to living in marine waters! Pretty neat, huh?
I decided to look at a blade of Phyllospadix sp. using my handy dandy Foldscope. Since my Foldscope lacks a sleek and compact light source, I brought with me a little light box I created out of cardboard, a clothes pin, a mini flashlight, and binder clips.
I took a blade of surfgrass and put it on a slide. Then, I clipped my Foldscope onto my light box. I was able to hold the light box up to my face and pan the Foldscope around.
The set up also made it easy to take pictures in the field. Here are some pictures I took of the fresh, green surfgrass blades:
While they are a bit grainy, you can still see some fine detail. You can see the faint outline of cell walls, which is pretty impressive.
Videos taken on the field also gave some equally impressive results:
Not all surfgrass blades were green and healthy. Some blades looked like they were damaged:
Underneath the Foldscope, I observed a marked difference between green blades and these degraded blades.
The thicker tissues near the shoot of the seagrass blades also looked different:
I took a few blades of surfgrass with me and made a few more videos offsite:
I wonder what caused the surf grass blades to degrade? I know seagrasses degrade in conditions of high heat in a process known as “seagrass burning”. Do surfgrasses also “burn” at high temperatures? Or is this an algae growth on the surf grass that is causing it to degrade?
I had a blast in the intertidal. It was a day full of exploration: peering under rocks, counting marine organisms for LiMPETS, and exploring the micro-level with my Foldscope!