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I am a student working on a research project through the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. My project is on intertidal succession and settlement. I am observing what settles first on different substrates and seeing if organisms prefer certain substrates. My ideas for substrates are shale, plastic (represent PVC piping used in oceans), steel (represent ships and oil dereks), and the artificial reef at Goleta Beach. I am wondering about intertidal settlement and what organisms would be good to possibly observe. Thank you.
Answer 1:

If you are planning on out-planting these various substrates in the field (what is typically done in these sorts of studies), your best bet would be to just look at and document what actually settles and grows on the substrates as a function of time (which it sounds like is the goal of your study anyway), rather than looking for specific species. A relatively easy method for initially predicting what species might settle there is to look around the area in which you plan on setting up your experiments and do a quick survey to find out what's currently surviving in your specific microenvironment of interest. Unfortunately, there are many variables (both biological and physical) such as competition, predation, desiccation, abrasion, etc. (and these can also fluctuate dramatically form day to day as well as from season to season) that can have a dramatic effect not only on which species settle on these substrates, but also who actually survives over the long term. Also, it is not uncommon to have species coming into a given area from at outside source and taking up residence when a new surface becomes available for colonization. For these reasons, you may be surprised to discover species initially settling on you plates that you wouldn't normally expect, but the best thing to do is keep good records as you go and see who persists and who doesn't and who outcompetes and who is outcompeted. Good luck.


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