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An International Adventure in Japan
Cnidarian Tree of Life Project
Week 1      Week 2      Week 3      Week 4      Week 5





Cnid ToL
Week 1, July 24-30
July 24
Well, after packing and shipping some supplies, some of us are finally on the way to Japan. The first participant to arrive in Japan is Cheryl. She received her Master's degree studying jellyfish in Okinawa. She has gone ahead because she is fluent in Japanese and can get things ready for the rest of us as we trickle in. Thanks Cheryl!
Cheryl! And oh by the way, she's a Canadian, eh. Cheryl has studied the feeding behavior of the flowerhat jellyfish(Hanagasa Kurage, as it is known in Japan), as well as the courtship behavior of a cubozoan jellyfish. Hot stuff, that.
July 25
Allen, Luciana, Jen, Meg, and LittleGuy arrived in the late afternoon and were met by Cheryl who had already figured out the train schedule for getting to the Seto Marine Station in Shirahama, Japan. We were all exhausted, but really excited to be here! The two hour ride from the airport to Shirahama was gorgeous! We passed many lush, green mountains, and cool buildings, but none of us managed to get out our cameras.
For most of our trip, we are staying at the Seto Marine Station. It is a beautiful setting right on the water. Directly in front of the station is this beautiful arched rock.
One of Allen's first impressions is that Japan has many cool signs. What was Nixon doing in Japan anyway? Cool Signs
Here is what we looked like when we finally reached our destination. Poor Meg and Luciana had been up for over 24 hours!
July 26
After much needed sleep at a nice hotel near the marine station, we started our day with one of the most delicious and interesting breakfast buffets. The meal included scrambled buttery eggs, seaweed, potato salad, pot stickers, bean dishes, salmon, and the list goes on. LittleGuy decided that his favorite was a “bumpy roll”. The rest of us agree that this tasty bite belonged at the top of the list.

Today being our first full day at the Seto Marine Station, we spent lots of time getting organized. This included figuring out where we were all going to sleep (last night we stayed in a wonderful hotel), deciding a tentative field schedule, checking out the labs, and biking to the grocery store for supplies. Some of us also visited the onsite public aquarium that displays many different types of local fish and invertebrates.

Hotel View
Pennaria In the afternoon, Luciana, Cheryl, Meg and Jen snorkeled in the bay on the north side of the marine station to get an idea of what was out there. The area was fairly barren…and no one saw any Cnidarians except a beautiful purple octocoral which was not collected. We did see a number of urchins, various bivalves, and fish of many shapes and sizes.
July 27
In the morning, Allen and Meg set out down the road from the marine station to find Cnidarians from some floating docks. There they discovered many octocorals of the genus Dendronephthya and a few hydroids.
Carybdeid In the afternoon, Jen swam with the plankton net outside the station to collect tiny jellies. From the samples brought back, it looks like there are several cubomedusae as well as some trachymedusae. Allen is hard at work identifying them.

News Flash! Tim and Alvaro got on a plane today headed to meet up with us but their plane broke while in the air! The pilots dumped fuel into the ocean and turned around. Luckily their plane landed safely back in Sao Paulo, and everyone is fine, but now the two biologists have no idea when they will make it. They had already had a delay when the airlines they were initially supposed to fly on went bankrupt.

July 28
This picture is of a floating dock down the road from the marine station, a perfect locality for hanging Trichoplax Traps. Allen and Cheryl went with Fukami-san to get permission to hang the traps. The goal is to leave them for 2-3 weeks, then check to see if any Trichoplax (Phylum Placozoa) have colonized the slides.
Trapset You shoud have seen the disdain on the face of the kind fisherman as he looked over the knots we used to secure our traps. He suggested we re-tie the things entirely. But then he seemed to give into our poor judgement and satisfied himself by giving us a fantastic knot tying lesson over a glass of "Moogie Cha".
These traps were made in the garage of BiBi and QuaQua (Jen's parents). It involved one of Jen's favorite tools...a Dremmel Saw. The traps consist of modified microscope slide cases inwhich several slides are placed. The traps are set out several feet underwater attached with fishing line to docks, coral, or rocks. After 2-3 weeks we will recollect the specimens to see what we find!

Meanwhile. . . .

Jen Making Traps
Meg and Luciana headed off for some tidepool collecting. They were a bit early for low tide, so while they waited they stopped in a local store and found something they just could not pass up…a Bullet Train coloring book! When they got back with the present, you should have seen LittleGuy’s eyes. Meg and Luciana are so way cool!!!

Most of the anemones we have collected belong to the genus Anthopleura. We have found at least 4 different kinds of Anthopleura on rocks in the intertidal zone near the Lab. Although these anemones are fairly abundant and common, the can be hard to spot because they hold tiny rocks and shells to the column using sucker-like verrucae.

Fanning Sticky Rice Food! Boy have we had some amazing food. Thanks to Cheryl, who is fluent in Japanese and lived in Japan for 6 years, we have had some spectacular station-cooked meals. For today's lunch, Cheryl taught us how to make sticky rice. Meg and LittleGuy helped fan the rice to cool it. Then we each stuck our hands in a bowl of water, grabbed a chunck of rice, molded the rice into triangles (most of us made shapes that looked more like balls), then wraped it with a square of seaweed. Yum, Yum, Yummy!
Luciana and Meg went snorkeling while Jen pulled the plankton net. Luciana spotted some golden-brown octocorals, and dove down to collect a sample to send back to Cathy McFadden. Luciana
Diadema Although we were focused on cnidarians, we saw many other kinds of animals such as these sea urchins.

On the way back to the station, Jen and Meg got lost, and ended up in a really beautiful Japanese garden that they did not know existed. The garden was full of labeled vegetation, none of which either of them could read, and little pathways that eventually led to the top of a hill behind the station.

Tonight’s dinner was a buffet of odds and end treats that Cheryl and Luciana bought– prawn balls; veggie and crab sushi; fried octopus, chicken, and fish; veggie things; and more. None of us claimed to have anymore room for food once we finished our meal, but somehow all of the wonderful desserts and saki got polished off! Dessert
Jelly Poles We started the evening’s entertainment by creating a jellyfish catcher out of local goods bought at the store. We used two poles of different lengths and attached a plastic colander to one and a plastic bowl with several holes drilled into the sides to the other. The idea is to scoop up an animal into a container that holds water to keep the animal happy, but won’t spill over letting the animal get away.
We then took a walk down the road to the floating docks where the local fishermen often see Carybdea rastonii, a member of the class Cubozoa.

These are the jellyfish with complex eyes and behaviors like courtship. How they see and do the things they do without a brain remains a question. . . . ah . . . deep ignorance is deep bliss!

There were tons of these fantastic animals swimming around, voraciously trolling for the plankton that was attracted by the lights. Carybdea rastonii
Night Hunt We had GREAT fun watching the beautiful animals. It became very clear that Luciana is an amazing animal catcher. She had a knack for calmly scooping them up as they navigated their way around.

We also saw a really cool polycheate worm that moved so fast it was difficult to see exactly what it looked like. In one of the scoops, Allen caught a small swimming crab. The last cool thing we saw before heading home was a group of Diadema clinging to the side of the dock with all of their spines sticking straight up! Some of the urchin’s spines were a good 20 cm long!

Shoes July 29
Outdoor shoes. Indoor shoes. Toilet shoes. Shower shoes. Shoes are a major part of our stay here. Each of us is getting better at remembering which shoes to wear where, but it has consumed a tad bit of our mental powers. When you walk into the station dormitory from the outside, you leave your outdoor shoes in an entry way and step into a beautiful pair of communal green rubber indoor shoes. These shoes will take you to any room inside the dormitory except the toilet room. Before entering this room, you switch to a pair of communal toilet shoes. Once you leave, you have to remember to switch back to the indoor shoes. And don’t go outside in the indoor shoes! It all makes great sense, but its not always easy to remember. Luciana and Cheryl surprised Jen, who is not so sure about sticking her feet into indoor shoes that have been worn by a million other people, with a brand new pair of her own! Others were so envious of Jen’s new shoes that they too splurged for their own pair. What a cohesive team we have!
It is summer season here in Japan and boy are the beaches popular. About 2 km away from the station is a well-known vacation destination for the Japanese. The white sandy beach wraps around a nice swimming area where people gather as early as 5am to set up camp. Every night starting at 8:30 fireworks are set off from this beach and can be seen at the station. Apparently people write messages, pay some money, and the message is converted into a fireworks display. Today, several of us wandered to the area to buy food and supplies for Tim and Alvaro who arrive today. We also ate yummy snowcones.
BBQ We were invited to a BBQ held at the station this evening. What fun it was! Unlike BBQs we are familiar with, the Japanese style is to stand by the fire and transfer the meat and vegetables right from the grill to a handheld sauce bowl and straight to the mouth. It is kind of a hot process, but yummy!
We had a lot of fun talking to other researchers and the students who were visiting from Tokyo University for a four day class at the station. Chatting
BBQYum Jen’s favorite was the BBQ pumpkin. LittleGuy really liked the BBQ octopus (and flirting with the cute Japanese students). Allen learned how to wrap meat in lettuce leaves before consuming. Meg and Luciana refrained from eating much because Tim and Alvaro were to arrive at 7:30. They have much more control than the Collins family!
Tim and Alvaro made it to the station around 9:45pm! We learned that the plane that got turned around a couple of days ago had an engine that burst into flame and the situation was pretty serious. Luckily they are safe and sound although even the plane they arrived on had problems (computer malfunction) so they arrived later than expected. You would never have known they had such complications, both guys are so cool. Hopefully they have met their quota of problems for the trip and the rest of the adventure will be smooth sailing! Alvaro and Tim Arrive
Meg and Tim Depart for Hokkaido July 30
Now that the team is fully assembled, they are splitting apart. This morning Tim and Meg got on their way to Akkeshi, Hokkaido where they are meeting Kensuke Yanagi (a Japanese expert of anemones) and then traveling down the eastern coast collecting cnidarians. We probably won’t have any updates on their adventure until they get back next week. Read about their adventures here.
Meanwhile the rest of the team got right to work. After breakfast, Luciana worked in the lab identifying and documenting specimens. The others went down to the North shore of the station. Allen searched for places to hang Trichoplax traps, but only found one appropriate spot. Alvaro and Cheryl snorkeled looking for cnidarians. Alvaro was successful at finding a hydroid. Jen swam with the net to catch tiny jellies, of which there were many.

Important Note: The weekends here are crazy with vacationers! Starting early in the morning, not only are people sunbathing and swimming everywhere, but the motor boats and jet skis go crazy. The latter activity has definitely impacted our ability to get in the water safely.

Allen Gets Ready
Kubota-sensei Teaching the Next Generation We were invited to take a public tour of the aquarium led by Shin Kubota. We were all excited, but only Cheryl and LittleGuy got to go because the rest of the group was too slow. (They got caught up in photographing each other in front of a large tank of tunas.) But Cheryl and LittleGuy had a great time going behind the scenes to see special specimens and learn how the place operates.

Shin was nice to offer us a second chance to take a tour in the public section of the aquarium. It was of course in Japanese but LittleGuy was able to get answers to his questions in English. Of course Cheryl did her usual outstanding job of translating for the rest of us. Obregado Cheryl!

Allen hung traps in several of the aquarium tanks and Jen put others in the water out of the South Shore. The Aquarium is actually a research aquarium first and a public display second so they were very willing to help!

Allen, LittleGuy, Cheryl, and Jen leave for Hokkaido tomorrow morning. Depending on Internet availability, they may not be updating this site until they return on Friday. Stay tuned for them too…

Alvaro and Luciana will hold down the fort in Shirahama at the Seto Marine Biological Laboratory. Tomorrow they hop on a boat for some diving and they also be towing a net.

Allen Gets Ready
Here is the plankton net that Jen swims with to catch jellies. Net
Fire Works of Shirahama Our first week ended with a bang!

Shirahama deserves its reputation for its famous fireworks. We all agreed that Meg and Tim missed something special, a fireworks display that was more impressive than any we had seen before. LittleGuy was reminded of volcanoes, whereas some of us could not help but see the tentacles of the animals we love. I wonder what accountants think of when they see fireworks.

The choreography was great, as the lights would fade and then crescendo. Just when you thought it was over, the sky was lit by the rising trajectory of a new blast. Then boom over the water. The Seto Marine Lab sits directly on the opposite side of the bay from the point (actually three launching sites) from which the fireworks were launched. Fire Works of Shirahama
Fire Works of Shirahama Fire Works of Shirahama
© 2006 -- All images copyright by Cheryl Ames, Allen Collins, Jennifer Collins, Meg Daly, Luciana Gusmao, Antonio Marques, and/or Alvaro Migotto and may not be copied or re-used without explicit permission.