HSU scientists work to understand sea star wasting

by Lindsey Wright
Flapjack Chronicle

Scientists have been baffled by falling stars for many years, however marine biologists are now struggling to understand a new type of falling star. Many species of sea star have been found withering off of the rocky tide pools. A large-scale wasting epidemic, similar to a mass marine die-off, has been observed along the Pacific coast and a few other places in the world. It can be found locally on Humboldt County’s breathtaking beaches. The stars can be found melting off the rocks on the Trinidad beaches. The beautiful orange or purple colored Pisaster ochraceus, an intertidal sea star found locally, is one the star species that have been affected by this wasting epidemic.

Halle Shauer, a freshman marine biology student, uses her spare time to go explore the Trinidad tide pools in her wetsuit. “It is crazy how different the sea star tidal pool populations are from beach to beach,” said Shauer. “You go to some pools and the populations are largely healthy, but at some beaches the stars are twisted up and look like they are drooping off the rocks.” Shauer is describing some of the effects of the sea star wasting syndrome. This wasting event is worrying scientist and community members alike.

To understand the disease, a person must first know that sea stars are one of the marine organisms that are able to preform regeneration. That is, when they are healthy, as a response to predation, they will sometimes detach their arm or a portion of their arm. After some time the lost appendage will grow back. The casting off of the limb is called autotomizing.

A diseased sea star will usually develop white, fleshy lesions along their arms, sometimes extending onto the central disk. These lesions have been carefully monitored and it has been noted that they will sometimes heal before they become too extensive. The best indicator of the wasting syndrome is called posturing. The arms begin to intertwine with each other and the body twists. It looks as if a person tried to braid the arms together. They then start a rapid deterioration. The stars become visibly weak. The tube feet that suction the animal to the substrate no longer have strength to hold the sea star in place. The arms soon begin to autotomize. The rate at which they are autotomizing is too rapid for the star to regenerate. The sea star eventually loses all of its arms and deteriorates until it dies.

HSU’s own Professor, Dr. Kathryn McDonald, has been working throughout this school year with her research team at the Telonicher Marine Lab in Trinidad to analyze and study this syndrome. Her team includes Jana Hennessy, MC Hannon, Kristen Orth, Jacqueline Haggerty, Taylor Daniels and Jordan Smith. They have all put in countless hours at the lab monitoring the stars and collecting important data.

“We are working diligently to discover not the ‘what it is’ but the ‘how it works’,” said graduate student Jana Hennessy. “Being able to distinguish what may or may not exacerbate the lesions or provide an environment that allows some form of lesion healing may be our biggest advantage in narrowing down the potential causative agents.”

Hennessy hopes that if they are able to figure out how the syndrome works among sea star populations and within individual stars, then they will be clued into what exactly is causing the wasting.

The first experiment that they ran in the fall used 64 common Orche stars of the species Pisaster ochraceus. They looked specifically at the effects of emersion, exposure to air, verses immersion, submersion in water. They used precise temperature control in the small immersion tanks. When in the emersion stage the stars were kept in buckets with sponges soaked in seawater to create a moist air environment. The results were pretty surprising. Out of the 64 stars, there were only five star deaths. The deaths all occurred within the first two weeks of the six-week experiment. Many of the unhealthy looking stars seemed to heal. “They looked better in January than they did in November,” said McDonald. “One of the most hopeful and interesting things that we found is that sea stars are able to heal their lesions. They can look unhealthy and then again ‘fix’ themselves.” She and her team were impressed with these results.

The second experiment was run in the spring and focused on a smaller population of stars. They did only immersion. Twenty stars were placed in tanks at 10 degrees Celsius and 20 stars at 12 degrees Celsius. The water oxygen levels were also monitored very closely. The mortality rate was way higher than in the fall experiment. They also noticed that the lesions did not heal as often as they had in the fall experiment.

McDonald and her team are very intrigued by the data that they were able to collect from these preliminary experiments. McDonald said that if she was able to further continue this work she would want to formulate a question revolving around the effects that the wasting has on the different marine trophic levels or if other trophic levels are effecting the wasting. Many questions are still yet to be answered. What will the beaches be like if sea stars are absent? How are these deaths going to be stopped? Can the marine ecosystems survive this mass wasting event? 


With legalization probable, Humboldt remains uncertain about future of cannabis culture

By Patrick Kertz
Flapjack Chronicle

The unregulated cannabis agriculture in Humboldt County poses an abundance of problems to consumers and local community members. Resident’s concerns include  an increase in crime due to illegal cultivation and how the price of real estate may be affected. Lifelong resident, and politician Chris Kerrigan believes a proactive approach within the community and sustainable methods of cannabis cultivation is pertinent to Humboldt County’s relationship with marijuana. Kerrigan, a candidate for District Four Board of Supervisors, believes legalization will ease the uncertainty of community members who are invested in the future of Humboldt.

“For 20 years we’ve had medical use of marijuana in place and the views are shifting rapidly as we see other communities and states moving forward with legalization,” Kerrigan said. ”It’s probably going to be inevitable that marijuana is going to be legal and it’s really important that Humboldt County has a good grip on what that means for the local economy.”

The quality of the cannabis varies from farmer to farmer, as does the growing methods which are passed on to unsuspecting users across the country. Agricultural standards are also unique to the farmer. Some farmers cultivate with care and respect to the land while others grow recklessly and destroy the environment. Alyson Martin, author and freelance journalist on cannabis issues, co-wrote a book on cannabis that focused on a range of topics including the legalization process in Colorado and Washington. Martin isn’t sure legalization will affect the production of cannabis in Humboldt.

“I know that people have been growing here for decades,” Martin said. “ I don’t necessarily think people are going to stop if the regulations say that they can’t grow. I think it’s going to continue to create headaches for regulators and law enforcement.”

Humboldt County does not collect taxes on over $500 million from the estimated 26% of residents involved in the cannabis industry according to Tony Silvaggio, a sociology professor at Humboldt State University.  (cite/explain where numbers came from) and impairs a region with high unemployment rates.  In 2010 voters in Humboldt unanimously rejected Prop 19, a ballot initiative that would have allowed local governments to regulate cannabis.  Nushin Rashidian, author and journalist on drug policy, believes the policy should be specific to the area.

“It’s a reality that there’s a lot of cannabis being grown here, so it’s really all in the language of the initiative,” Rashidian said. “Are they going to ignore that, or try and fight against it, or will they try to work with what’s there?”

Humboldt County’s tourism lies amongst the trees of the Redwood forest and the secluded beaches of the coast. An estimated half million people visit parts of Redwood National Park. Would cannabis cultivation create a sustainable agricultural industry that also entices visitors to enjoy the exquisite environment of Northern California while enjoying a homegrown product? Convincing cannabis cultivators to conform to regulations is a tough sale, but the assurance of being a legal business could allow farmers who grow with integrity to harvest the most profits. The decline of the timber industry has allowed the illegal cultivation of cannabis to dominate the Humboldt County economy. The black market marijuana agriculture and nationwide distribution has allowed Humboldt County to maintain a lifestyle that rivals the wine industry of Napa Valley.

“I think there are some parallels to the wine industry,” Kerrigan said. “The sustainability aspect is going to be crucial in developing benefit back to the community.”

A patch of paradise rests in downtown Arcata

By Madison Carlin

Flapjack Chronicle

Walk down the hill, wipe off the sweat, look over and spy a beautiful patch of peace in the subtle hustle and bustle of downtown Arcata. The Community Garden, located on the corner of F and 11 provides food to the patients and staff of the Open Door Clinic but also to any volunteers. The Open Door Clinic, started in 1971 and has been dedicated to providing health care to the community ever since.

The garden is a part of something much larger than the space it occupies. It’s a support network through the North Coast Community Garden Collaborative. The NCCGC has many gardens in Humboldt, Del Norte and Trinity counties. Their mission is “to create, facilitate, and nurture partnerships of community garden groups and their supporters to improve people’s access to healthy, locally-grown, and culturally appropriate foods in the North Coast region.”

Debbie Perticara is one of the overseers of these gardens on the Redwood Community Action Agency properties.

“They provide fresh food and opportunities to learn ecologically-sound gardening practices for homeless clients of RCAA including families and youth,” Perticara said.

The community meets every Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. If one does decide to stop by, they might just run into Alissa Pattison, the manager for the local garden, who has been working there since December. Pattison is passionate about her work.

“I love gardening, I love working with plants and growing food for people,” Pattison said. “I love doing it and it’s helping the community. And I just love playing in the dirt.”

Volunteers would be put to good use.

“The usual turnout is about two to six people and we always need more help,” Pattison said.

Not only does the garden provide food for the community and a chance to pick up useful skills but  it is also a peaceful place to hangout.

“People come here to enjoy the space because it is a peaceful environment,” Pattison said. ” We want it to be a welcoming environment that anyone can come hangout in as long as they’re not disturbing someone else’s peace.”

Besides gardening, Arcata residents Beau Barton and Calvin Martin enjoy the garden as a regular smoke spot.

“There is a no smoking zone two blocks in any direction from the plaza,” says Martin. “This is just outside of it.”

For people interested in gardening, Pattison is there to help out.

” I love beautifying the space and showing people how to grow their own food.” Pattison said. “It’s really fun, getting people involved with gardening and empowering them to grow their own food if they want to.”

Students find pet adoption complex

By Caitlin Mitchell 🙂

Flapjack Chronicle

The Sequoia Humane Society is taking very specific and stringent measures to insure a high level of care is being met before they allow one of their animals to be adopted.  Those looking to adopt must fill out paperwork and pass a compatibility and interview section from an adoption counselor before even having a one-on-one with the animals.  Animals are only adopted to homes where application responses, counselor interview, and history of pet-ownership indicates that the animal will receive appropriate lifelong care.  The president for the shelter’s Board of Directors Leonard McLaughlin feels that animals should only be allowed to leave if they can be truly welcomed in as a lifetime companion.

“Legally our pets-dogs and cats-are considered property,” McLaughlin said. “This has always bothered me.  I have always thought of my four-pawed friends as family.”

However, not everyone views the commitment of pet ownership in such heavy terms.  The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates that of the average 7.6 million animals being brought into shelters nationwide every year, 8 percent are animals being returned to the shelter by their adopters.

The Sequoia Humane Society is actively working to combat these statistics.  With their thorough adoption process, the SHS forces prospective owners not only to think of if they can care for a pet now, but also if their future allows for such a commitment.  For instance, applicants must not only have consent from their current landlord, but also a reference from someone close to them able to take in the animal should they no longer be able to.

Many students will be moving around in the next couple of years and owning a pet makes said moves all the more difficult.  As stated by Bill Linn, a local landlord of seven residential properties, many landlords refuse pets in rental houses, himself included.

“I have been burned too many times by pet owners’ irresponsibility,” Linn said.  “I have a dog, myself.  I don’t blame the pets, I blame the owners being busy and careless.”

Pets require a lot of time and attention to be properly cared for.  Especially in college, a highly transitional time, it is important to have a back-up plan for a pet’s care.  Sammi Rippetoe, an HSU student and pet owner, adopted her dog Rollie through the Sequoia Humane Society and had to think through all of these considerations before adopting, as she states “the cutest puppy in America.”

“I am so glad I was confident enough in my ability to make time, because I don’t know how I would have made it through this past year without Rollie,” Rippetoe said.  “Rollie is a huge form of stress and anxiety release for me and especially with being a student and being so busy, I feel I need a dog more now, not less.”

Living the Greek Life

By Hailey Donohue
Flapjack Chronicle

The Greek community at HSU is different than you see in the movies but members of the Greek community, such as Chi Phi President, Miguel Serrano, said they take pride in being a part of a Greek organization.

“Here Greek life is more valued because Humboldt County is more liberal,” Serrano said. “Where here at other universities Greek life is much more supported making it a less though out decision.”

Greek life at HSU started in 1987 when the Chi Phi fraternity was first chartered. Within the next year, the Delta Phi Epsilon sorority came into play. Since then, other organizations have come and gone from the Greek community, but these two organizations still stand.

Humboldt State now has six Greek organizations ranging from 10 to 50 members. Keeping the Greek Community organized is something that Delta Phi Epsilon former President Rosa Franko thinks keeps them strong on campus.

“Greek Council keeps us updated on what each organization is doing and makes sure we are all on our best behavior,” Franko said. “There are weekly meetings between each organization so that everyone knows what is happening within the Greek community.”

One of the biggest differences of HSU Greek Life is the fact that there is not a Greek Row, which is traditionally a location off campus where all the Greeks have houses. Some Greeks, like Chi Phi member Arturo Basurto, think that the absence of Greek Row is beneficial.

“Not having a Greek Row has slowed down the process of making us get bigger, but then again the members we gain aren’t just looking for a party house,” Basurto said. “Our interests aren’t looking for any extra perks other than being a part of something bigger than themselves.”

The biggest Greek life stereotype is they are all in it for the party, but what people don’t take into account is all the good things the Greek Community does. Delta Phi Epsilon Vice President of Operations, Jaclyn Todd, feels that the best part of being Greek is charitable actions.

“Delta Phi Epsilon is a service based sorority, which is what initially made me come Rush,” Todd said. “Each organization puts in so much effort every semester to give back to their philanthropies and the community. For example, my organization puts on Deepher Dude where we raise money for Cystic Fibrosis.”

Though some people are wiry on contributing to the Greek Community, those who make the switch, like in-coming Delta Phi Epsilon President Vanessa Silva have found it extremely beneficial.

“It was a nice surprise coming to HSU and noticing Greek life here was different and I wanted to be a part of it because I needed to have that family away from home,” Silva said. “It was one of the best decisions I made because I have sisters who support me, opportunities to network and skills that can contribute to my future.

The future of HSU Greek life is positively endorsed throughout each Greek organization. Chi Phi member Eric Morales sees Greek Life potentially growing into a much bigger deal at HSU.

“The Greek Community’s main focus at the moment is expanding,” Morales said. “It’s going to take a lot of recruiting quality students who are willing to build something very unique and personal.”

“Being Greek means finding a useful and respected position on the college community, we all grow as one and eventually become individuals who stand for something more than ourselves,” Morales said.