Last week we started our own research projects. My partner, Danica, and I decided we wanted to do something with the mangroves. Our original idea was to see how burrowing isopod abundance changed when the prop roots were in or out of the ground. We were going to attach something to the ones that were not touching the ground to make them touch the ground and see if the benthic predators (crabs) would consume them. The time limit made this impossible so we took a sample from one of the roots and literally picked through the algae to see what we found. We found amphipods and only amphipods. We then changed our project slightly.
Now we are trying to see if there is a difference between amphipod abundance on prop roots that are touching versus those that aren’t. The same idea applies where we thought the benthic predators would be unable to get to the amphipods on the prop roots that weren’t touching the ground, therefore leading to greater abundance. We have been collecting algae in 6-inch sections from the prop roots. So far we have collected 15 samples and literally picked through algae to find amphipods. On one root we got a different type of algae than we usually collect and we found many more things such as baby brittle stars, sea cucumbers, and fire worms. We are still working and basically we live in the wet lab bent over small dishes. So far our data shows an opposite trend from what we expected, but that’s alright.
Samples of the amphipods we found. Pictures were taken by my ipohone through the awesome DIY microscope that John Carrol built. We have yet to identify them, but that will happen eventually.
[Ed: Fun fact: The monster in the Alien series of movies is based (in part) on a hyperiid amphipod. That's a different species than what Megan and Danica have found here, but you can see some similarities. Amphipods are the kind of zooplankton you don't want to run into at night in a dark alley. Look at their raptorial claws!]
The supplies we are using to go through the algae and count the amphipods.