Biodiversity of Seaweeds

Overview: An introduction to the taxonomic, morphological, and functional diversity of seaweeds, with an emphasis on the flora of the local area (Barkley Sound, British Columbia). In addition to this floristic work, we will examine the ecological adaptations to life in the intertidal zone and evolutionary causes for the observed patterns of diversity. Students will be trained in biodiversity survey skills and quantitative analyses.  In addition students will complete a herbarium project of seaweed collections, write a scientific journal with field and laboratory observations and gain experience preparing and preserving specimens for deposition in herbaria and downstream DNA sequencing. Students should expect to spend a good deal of time in the field, including a snorkeling trip to observe subtidal seaweeds.

Practical Skills: You will develop skills in seaweed keying and field identification, herbarium specimen preparation, light microscopy, biodiversity sampling techniques, experimental design, data collection and analysis, and getting up early.

Prerequisites: Third year standing in biology or permission of the instructor.

Note: Students are permitted to take both our Summer seaweeds course (Biodiversity of Seaweeds) and Fall Semester seaweeds course (Ecological Adaptations of Seaweeds) for credit. These courses are set up to be complimentary to each other.

Physical Requirements: In this course, we have a roughly equal balance of class, lab, and field time. This means that we spend ~1/3 of our time in the field, so you can expect some early morning walks along gravel roads, plenty of time on slippery and rocky shores, and getting in and out of boats. There will also be several prolonged sessions of microscope work, so some sitting will be necessary. This course includes at least 1 hiking trip (~3 hours) on uneven and potentially muddy forest trail.

Textbook: There is no required text, but the instructor recommends students purchase Pacific Seaweeds: Updated and Expanded Edition by Drs. Louis Druehl and Bridgette Clarkston. (You may ship your text to BMSC with c/o your name.)


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Barkley Sound is one of the best places in the world to learn about seaweeds, owing to a diverse flora and wide array of habitats in close proximity to BMSC. Biodiversity of Seaweeds is three weeks (well) spent exploring the full potential of all of this seaweed-y greatness. The students spend many an early morning low tide exploring rocky shores, from wave sheltered habitats characterized by Fucus distichus, all the way out to shores exposed to the brute force of the open Pacific ocean, where Postelsia dwells.

We also explore subtidal habitats with snorkels and dredges, and all of these field trips allow the students to collect samples for keying in the lab and for pressing for a herbarium project. It is great to see the students start to recognize in the field all the features and species we introduced in lecture and lab. This half of the course is capped off with a flora test in the field.

For the last half of the course, students conduct an independent research project detailing the natural history of their ‘favourite’ alga.  They will use local biodiversity databases and field observations to map the local distribution of their alga and present their findings in a scientific poster.  This half of the course will conclude with student presentations.

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