Skylar Bayer, Biology


Summer larval Biology course at Friday Harbor Labs

The funds allotted to me from COI this year was put towards tuition for the course “Larval Biology” at Friday Harbor Labs (FHL) of the University of Washington on San Juan Island, WA.  The tuition was covered by my COI allotment, financial aid from FHL and the WHOI Academic Programs Office.

 “Larval Biology” is a five-week course taught by Richard Strathmann and Daniel Grünbaum this past summer. The course consisted of lectures, field and lab work, and two research projects. My projects (with another graduate student) examined (1) swimming behavior and biomechanics Cancer spp. megalopae in response to disturbance and (2) megalopae vertical distribution over the course of coastal tidal cycles. Through these projects and the instructors, I learned how to use video analysis tools, such as particle tracking, in MATLAB. I think this course has been especially useful in learning how to code MATLAB script to answer biological questions. This has been especially helpful in thinking about the data analysis component of my dissertation work.

 In addition to acquiring practical skills in data analysis and laboratory techniques for studying invertebrate larvae, we had lectures and discussions regarding the importance of larval dispersal and survival from an ecological perspective. Topics included biological invasions, competition between species, timing of development and impacts of predation and other environmental factors. Many of the species we reviewed, saw in the field and used in our experiments are common coastal species of the Pacific Northwest.  Although my dissertation work will be about lobster (Homarus americanus) larvae, and not Cancer spp. larvae or any other specific Pacific Northwest species, the concepts and tools I learned through both my projects and lectures have aided me in more clearly defining my thesis both in conceptual and experimental work.