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Students conducting research at the Mudflats

Immersed in the Mudflats

May 20, 2018

Students at Mud FlatsIf you have been following our journey thus far, you are either most likely a parent or getting sick of hearing about Oregon. The latter of you will be disappointed to hear that today, in Oregon, we went to the mudflats! If you haven’t already guessed from the pictures or from the name, the mudflats were muddy. Muddier than the muddiest of muds. Though it sounds pretty dull and messy, we were informed that there was a plethora of marine organisms there, whether they were out in the open or buried deep beneath the sand.

I was pretty excited to be honest. Over the past few days, we had been slipping on wet seaweed, climbing over treacherous rocks, and enduring long hikes and car rides to get to each of the sites. The mudflats however, provided a nice and filthy alternative to our typical day. We arrived that morning and suited up in some waders. Stepping into the mudflats was the equivalent to stepping into a nice thick pool of quicksand. Every other step would have a likely chance of getting stuck. If you weren’t getting stuck, you were probably Clamslipping in the mud. It was quite a challenge to make it anywhere, but it was also really funny to watch each other struggle. Speaking of funny, we had also brought a “clam gun” along. No, you do not shoot clams out the other end, rather the exact opposite. Using the gun, we found many clams in the central area of the mudflats. Many were either crushed or had their siphons cut off, which were sad but necessary casualties in the name of science. We headed to the furthest section of the mudflats to perform a transect. We used a quadrat to see what kind of life was present at a certain measurement. We would dig up the sand, put it in a sifter, and then sift out all of the muddy sand until all that was left were eelgrass, worms, and other organisms. There were countless worms. I was surprised by how many could exist in one small scoop of sand. As we continued to do our quadrats, we would realize that it was becoming increasingly difficult to move without falling or sinking. The mud would just engulf your foot. Once we got back, we hosed off our boots and worked on our experiments in lab. After a week of rocky shores, the mud was a nice change of scenery. I am very grateful for this opportunity and can’t wait to see what we do next. I can’t quite get the smell of the mudflats off my hands but it is a nice reminder of the fun we had here on this trip.

PS: If you have not done so already, look up a gumboot chiton. It will most likely not be worth your time but it is definitely something that made this trip interesting!