The perks of early morning science

Sometimes in the process of doing science, you see an awesome sunrise. For instance, last week I woke up super early to collect snails for an experiment in which I measured their excretion of nitrogenous waste. Low tide was at 4am, but luckily sunrise was not until 5:30, so I snoozed an extra hour or so, since I figured collecting tiny snails in the dark might be difficult. Since these snails are so small, and since replication is the key to any good experiment, I collected over 400 of them! I wanted to be sure I had enough to detect the small amounts of ammonium that they excrete.

Why am I measuring snail excretion, you may ask? These snails live directly on and inside seaweed beds where they can hide from predators, keep from drying out at low tide, and munch on a seaweed snack. To return the favor for all these benefits the seaweed provides, the snails excrete ammonium which can serve as an important source of nutrients for the seaweed. I really enjoy quantifying this cool symbiotic relationship between snails and seaweed. Other experiments I have done have indicated that snails might excrete more waste during different seasons, so I am testing this idea by measuring snail excretion rates at different times of year.

So despite my reluctance to get up when my alarm sounded at 5am, a serene sunrise in the intertidal was a lovely start to my day!


Good morning sun!

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