Outing: Shoreline and Botany, Miracle Beach, 4th March 2019

Between the Botany group and the Shoreline group, we had a big turnout on a lovely late winter day. Conditions were so great, in fact, that we were hardly bothered by the lack of seaweeds that were supposed to be the focus of the day. Betty was giving demonstrations on how to press seaweeds, replete with finished examples of lovely red algae and miniature bull kelp, among others. 
A few notes:

  • A seaweed reading and resource list is attached as a PDF. I intended to hand this out with a little preamble about what to be on the lookout for, but didn’t want to interrupt a pleasant lunch. 
  • Sharon N. followed up on a question about whether any seaweeds could be used for dying of fibres. She passed along a paper that used a green algae from Malaysia as a natural source for green coloration of textiles using boiling water and “ammonia-fermentation”. I’m sure Sharon would agree that there would be a lot of interest in a local seaweed that could be used as a dye. 
  • There was talk about using seaweed as fertilizer and food. Sharon also kicked up this old DFO report on uses of marine plants. Forgive the antiquated language, but I paste an excerpt from the publication below to catch the attention of those who might be excited at the thought of making beverages, knife blades or insulating materials from local seaweeds. This old (1961) publication has a short discussion of impacts of seaweed harvesting

“There is a variety of uses of algae that can be recorded in connection with human activities. Rhodymenia palmata is used in Kamchatka to prepare a strong alcoholic drink. The Alaskan Indians and Eskimos are reported to make a brew called hoochenoo from Nereocystis. Methods have been proposed for the manufacture of manna-like substances from certain species of Laminaria containing a considerable amount of sugar and mannitol. A candied peel and pickles have been prepared from the fleshy stipe of Nereocystis”.   

  • On the fertilizer front, Roger and Betty were talking about the use of dead, fermenting piles of seaweed on their garden. VIU’s Marine Field Station down in Deep Bay did a study on the utility, logistics and impacts of seaweed piles as a fertilizer. Of interest to our group– they monitored when the largest volume of seaweed washed up. We will plant out outing for late October next year (see chart below of shore seaweed biomass v. calendar date)
  • There was a lot of interest in the flatworms. There are lots of interesting things about flatworms. This video shows a high-resolution sequence of their regenerative ability. Lastly, no mention of flatworms would be complete without mention of their famous “Penis Fencing”. You can chose to watch this video or not, but be assured it is very biological and very interesting. 
  • Crustose seaweeds. We saw a dark “tar spot” that I was erroneously referring to as Ralfsia-like. While some of these dark spots may have been that tar-spot genus, others showed young Turkish washcloth (Mastocarpus) emerging. There was also a lively, red crust.
  • Jocie snagged a thin, brown-green filamentous seaweed that at first blush looked like cyanobacteria. How do you distinguish between uniseriate (single-cell thick) seaweeds and cyanobacteria? Broadly speaking, algae are relatively more robust (they can take more tensile stress). Under the microscope, the difference is much clearer. Cyanobacteria, by virtue of being prokaryotic organisms, have no membrane bound organelles. A simple stain shows nuclei if you have a true alga. The little mucky looking seaweed that Jocie saw turns out to be a brown alga. Sea felt
  • Some seaweeds have remarkably complex life histories. We saw some encrusting phases and some leafy phases of red alga. We saw young sea lettuce, which alternate between haploid (gametophyte) and diploid (sporophyte) that are morphologically and functionally identical . The preceding links show lovely life cycles.
  • What did we see? 
    • Rockweed (Fucus)
    • Sea Lettuce (Ulva)
    • Black pine (Neorhodomela)
    • “Laver”/Sushi Seaweed (Porphyra)
    • Turkish towel (Chondracanthus)
    • Turkish Washcloth (Mastocarpus)
    • Sea Lace (Microcladia)
    • Sea felt (Pylaiella)
    • Rusty rock (Hildenbrandia)
    • Unidentified tubular species. 
  • Lastly– the peaks in the distance to the north and east. Peakfinder is a handy website and app for making sense of landscapes. According to that site, the Matterhorn-like peak was Mt. Denman, and the tall peak to the left was Mt. Doogie Dowler. 

Thanks again to Betty for hosting and demonstrating and sharing all of her knowledge.
See you soon, Randal

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