Biodiversity of Seaweeds


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 and evolutionary causes for the observed patterns of diversity. We will survey the cultural and economic importance of algae, invasive algae, and patterns and consequences of anthropogenic stressors on seaweed assemblages. Students should expect to spend a good deal of time in the field, including a multiple-night excursion off station.

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

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

Note: Students are not permitted to take both our Summer seaweeds course (Biodiversity of Seaweeds) and Fall Semester seaweeds course (Ecological Adaptations of Seaweeds) for credit.

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 be a few 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 by Dr. Louis Druehl. (You may ship your text to BMSC with c/o your name.)

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Check out the Biodiversity of Seaweeds 2017 ‘Storify’ of their course!

“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.

Students are able to get up close and personal with the ‘weeds at our ‘Economics of Algae’ lab; extensive research demonstrates that the specimens are both delicious and therapeutic. We even make seaweed print t-shirts.

For the last half of the course, student independent research project topics include alginic acid extraction techniques, wrack deposition, Fucus reproductive output, host-epiphyte dynamics for Microcladia, functional groups and dessication, kelp biomechanics, effects of bryozoan cover on kelp stretching, and invertebrate distributions on Egregia. The course is capped off with a brisk 5:30am flora test in the field.

What a way to end another phyctastic phycology class at BMSC!


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