Monthly Archives: January 2015

Meroplankton vs. Holoplankton

Meroplankton vs. Holoplankton! In the diverse and unseen world of plankton, scientists have found that all of the zooplankton fall into one of two categories. The first group is called holoplankton. Combining the Greek words of “holo” meaning whole or entire and “plankt” meaning drifter, these zooplankton spend their entire lives drifting through the epi- and meso- pelagic zones. These organisms can range in size from tiny but abundant copepods to the extremely large gelatinous cnidarians such as sea jellies and siphonophores. These animals are incredibly important food source for both small fish such as mackerel and sardines as well as some of the largest baleen whales.

The second group is called meroplankton. This name comes from the Greek terms “mero” meaning part and “plankt” meaning drifter. This group of organisms begins life drifting throughout the sea until they grow and mature enough to settle in another area. This adaptation allows many of our favorite invertebrates to colonize vast areas of sea floor and prevents competition between parents and offspring.

Pacific Electric Ray

The Pacific Electric Ray, Torpedo californica, is one of 14 described species of electric rays, but is the only species limited with the west coast of the United States. These rays are also called torpedo rays, electric rays and pacific torpedo rays. Their habitat is found on sandy bottoms around rocky reefs and kelp forests. They are mostly solitary and nomadic and endemic to the coastal waters of the Pacific Ocean from Baja, California to British Columbia.

Rays can generate and control electrical charges at will. Muscle tissues in two kidney-shaped glands on their head can produce currents of up to 45 volts—an electrical shock strong enough to knock down an adult. Torpedo rays jaws are highly distensible, allowing it to swallow surprisingly large prey, a 4-foot female has been observed ingesting a coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) nearly half her length. The pacific torpedo employs several strategies to capture prey including using bottom topography to sneak up on prey, cupping its pectoral fins and executing a barrel roll to manipulate prey into the mouth.

Torpedo rays generate two types of electrical pulse: a regular ‘warning pulses’ when pursued and sharp, powerful blasts to stun their prey. Pacific electric rays are ovoviviparous with embryos feeding initially on yolk and eventually receiving additional food from the mother through absorption of uterine fluid.

DIY Algae Press 9 Simple Steps

DIY Algae presses are a fun way for students to take a little piece of CIMI home with them. After learning about the three different types of algae (Chlorophyta, Phaeophyta, and Rhodophyta), each student has an opportunity to design their very own algae art piece. Now if you’re trying to do this at home, you may not have easy access to tons of algae, like us, so feel free to go find some plants or flowers in your neighborhood to use.

Things you’ll need:

  • Something to press, like flowers or leaves (stay away from anything with a large stem, as it won’t press very flat)
  • A piece of cardstock or thick paper cut to about 6 by 9 inches
  • Some wax paper or parchment paper
  • Cardboard cut into small 6 by 9 inch sections or so
  • Rubber bands
  • A few heavy books
  • Two weeks of patience
  1. To start, gather all your plants and decide upon a design that you want to create.
  2. Take your piece of cardstock and carefully place your plants down in the shape you picked out. Try not to overlap pieces of plants, instead try to keep just one plant layer all over your paper.
  3. Do not use glue to stick the plants down; they will change shape and size as they dry.
  4. Once you have positioned your plants as you like, place a sheet of wax paper on top of your creation. This will keep the plants from sticking to the cardboard as they dry.
  5. When you are ready, place the cardstock and wax paper in between two piece of cardboard. Basically making a sandwich.
  6. Then use 4-5 rubber bands in both directions to hold your project together.
  7. Find a few heavy books and place your project in a cool dry place for about 2 weeks.
  8. If you check your press after two weeks and its not completely dry, leave it there for another week.
  9. Once everything is dry you can remove your press from the cardboard and wax paper. If the plants aren’t staying in place, feel free to glue them or get your press laminated, this will protect it from general wear and tear.

Plants on Catalina Island

The chaparral environment of Catalina Island provides little rain for terrestrial plants. Most of the coastal environment is dominated by small shrub-like plants and scrub communities. These include scrub oaks and Coastal Sage Brush. Catalina Island is also home to several endemic species of plants, meaning they are found nowhere in the world but the island! St. Catherine’s Lace, Catalina Liveforever, Catalina Bedstraw, Catalina Figwort, Catalina Manzanita and Catalina Island Mountain-mahogany are among the endemic species on Catalina Island.

There are also many plants on Catalina Island with varied histories and uses. Coastal Sage Brush is also nicknamed Cowboy Cologne, for its pleasant smell. When men came to the island after spending time at sea, they would rub the small leaves on their bodies to mask their smells before heading into town. The native Tongva people of Catalina Island used the smell of Coastal Sage Brush to keep pests out of their homes. Lemonade Berry is a shrub with waxy leaves to prevent dessication, and bundles of small red berries. The Tongva people historically used these berries to create a tart lemonade drink. Wild Cucumber is an epiphytic vine, meaning it winds its tendrils on other plants. These plants have large, intricate seed pods that, when dried, were used by the Tongva people to create jewlery and accessories. Another very common plant found on Catalina Island is Prickly Pear Cactus. These cacti prove particularly problematic for inattentive hikers, because the possess two types of spines. Prickly Pear Cactus have long, splinter-like spines as well as numerous hair-like spines that break off into the skin, called glochids. Glochids possess barbs on their ends, and can be particularly problematic to remove. On a sweeter note, Prickly Pear Cactus bear a bright purple fruit called a tuna, which is edible. Just make sure to remove the spines!

Pelican vs Cormorant! The Winner Is…

Pelican vs Cormorant! Okay, so a pelican and a cormorant may not ever battle each other, daydreams aside. But what if they did? First, let us compare and contrast.

Around Catalina Island we typically see the brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, one of only three pelican species found in the Western Hemisphere. The Brown Pelican is considered the smallest kind of pelican, weighing in at 8 to 10 lbs, but can have a wingspan of over 7.5 ft (for reference, Phil and Cullen are only about 6 feet tall)! This species has a very large bill (over a foot long) with a pouch at the bottom to drain water when it scoops its prey from the ocean. This pouch can hold over three times more than its stomach! It’s head is often white, or yellowish in color and they have red coloration under their throat, while they have brown plumage (that’s a code word for feathers) and are brown to black on their chest, legs and feet. When it hunts, the brown pelican soars above the ocean and dive-bombs its prey, snatching it with its bill. Rad. You’ve heard that saying “pelicans fly together,” right? Well, they do. You can see them gliding together, their wingtips almost touching, low over the water.


Cormorants are typically darker in color, and may appear completely black at first glance. They catch their prey not by dive-bombing, as the brown pelican does, but instead by slipping head first underwater and swimming with their feet to snag fish, eels and water snakes! They have been observed diving as deep as 150 feet to catch food! Talk about persistence. After a dive, cormorants can be seen resting ashore with their wings spread out in the sunlight so they may dry. Around Catalina Island we commonly see Brandt’s Cormorant, Phalacrocorax penicillatus, whose scientific name means “painter’s brush” in Latin for the plumes that appear on its neck during its breeding season. Brandt’s Cormorant only grows to about 4.6 lbs, with a 4 ft wingspan.


Alright, so what if they were to fight? The brown pelican has a distinct size advantage, weighing in at almost double that of our cormorant! Dropping the two birds in the ring for a one-on-one battle, the size, strength and bill size of the pelican would overpower the cormorant. Let’s not forget the pouch below the pelicans bill, which is probably big enough to hold an entire cormorant captive! Now remember that a cormorant can dive well below the surface of the ocean! So let’s crack open a scenario to play this thing out. We have pelicans soaring over the water and they spot a few cormorants paddling about below. The pelicans point their bills down and begin hurdling down towards the unsuspecting victims. The cormorants, spotting their nemesis, dive below the surface, leaving the pelicans to faceplant in nothing but water. Now it is the pelicans who must evade as the sleek cormorants can spring surprise attacks from the depths, likely scaring off the larger, more buoyant bird. Yep, my money’s on the cormorant.

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