The North Pacific Giant Octopus graces the Hatfield Marine Science Center logo and comprises the prime exhibit at the Visitor’s Center, but we lack validated aging techniques, population structure, and movement patterns for this iconic species. Despite being highly charismatic megafauna, most cephalopod species lack basic stock assessment metrics such as age structure or size-at-age models. Without this information, scientists and managers have trouble assessing the status of a population. Bycatch of species with incomplete life history and population structure information can lead to the closure of fisheries, economic hardship, and food shortages. The North Pacific Giant Octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini) caused such a closure of North Pacific cod pot fishery in 2011.

This year, the Marine Team will collaborate with National Marine Fisheries Service stock assessors to develop a method for aging Enteroctopus dolfleini using beaks and stylets. These hard parts have growth increments similar to tree rings or fish otoliths. These growth increments are believed to represent days that the individual has been alive. By determining the ages of octopus caught in NOAA survey trawls during 2010, 2011 and 2016, we can investigate size-at-age relationships, stock structure and potentially develop protocols for expediting age estimates.

Currently, stylets and beaks are being processed and imaged for increment reading. All volunteers will be trained to prepare, embed, and mount stylets or beaks; image samples using microscope mounted cameras and software; and/or count growth increments using images, software, and developed protocols.

We are currently looking for students to participate by

  1. Becoming a project leader (~ 10 hours/week).
  2. Assisting existing project leaders with polishing samples, imaging and reading growth increments (3-5 hours/week).
  3. Working on an additional side project for this study which involves measuring morphometrics of beaks collected from stomach contents and using these to identify species. (~5-10 hours/week).

Time commitments are flexible, but students are encouraged to evaluate their schedules for both the current and future terms.

Project leaders will review literature, design protocols, evaluate methodology, perform sample processing, train other student volunteers, analyze data, and/or present findings.

If you are interested in joining this project, clearly describe your availability, previous experience, and which level you would like to volunteer for to

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