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How do scientists get those up-close, detailed photos of animals from the deep-sea?  You know - the ones that you see in books and movies. This was one of the questions my students asked before I came on the trip.  We have an excellent photographer/videographer on board the DEEPEND research ship.  Dr. Dante Fenolio is a zoologist and a world renowned photographer who serves as the VP of Conservation and Research at the San Antonio Zoo.    He has even published a book called Life in the Dark.  For his book he traveled to many locations around the globe searching out animals that live in darkness.  A section of the book highlights deep-ocean life and many photos were taken while aboard a previous DEEPEND research cruise.

 When the nets come in from the trawl Dr. Fenolio eagerly awaits to see what new specimens might be brought in and to see what shape they are in.  Undocumented species not collected on previous trips and without net damage are pulled out from the sorting trays.  They are logged into the database and taken up to the photo lab to be photographed before being processed for DNA.

 

 In the lab, the windows are blacked out and a black cloth is placed in the background.  A small paint brush may be used to brush off and clean any debris from the animal.  Dr. Fenolio also uses special V-shaped water tanks to help hold the organisms in place for a more natural look.  He takes several shots of each organism from many different angles.  Sometimes this is very difficult when the ship is rocking back and forth and the water is sloshing in the tanks.  The photos are then uploaded to a computer.  Any minor imperfections can be edited out with computer software. 

 

 Here are some photos from a behind the scenes look at his photo lab set-up here on the RV Point Sur.

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Logging the specimens.

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Capturing shots of the specimen.

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Present Captain Nick Allen a copy of his book.

 

 Here are some examples of his work.

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Gigantura composite

 

 

 Hope you enjoyed these pictures. 

Teacher At Sea,

Christia Hewlett

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     Early on in the research cruise, a scientist reported that while he used the head (the restroom) in the middle of the night with the lights off, he observed a bioluminescent glow in the toilet bowl.  This observation was also confirmed by other scientists on following evenings.  While it was not consistently observed every night, it did occur.  What caused this strange phenomena? Bioluminescent plankton is the culprit!  The ship’s toilets run on a salt water system so when water is pumped in, some of the tiny, one celled organisms called dinoflagellates make their way into your toilet.  They can emit a short blue-green flash of light when the water is agitated by such things as flushing the toilet.  If present in enough numbers a faint glow can be observed.

Many marine organisms possess bioluminescence. While it is not as common in the upper portion of the ocean called photic zone which receives sunlight.  It is estimated that approximately 90% of organisms in the deep ocean, between 200 and 1000 meters, use bioluminescence in some form or another.  It may be used for finding a mate, evading predators, or attracting prey.

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 Deep sea organisms have special light producing structures called photophores.  Fish may have  rows of these photophores along the bottom (ventral) side of their body and under their eyes. Some types of angler fish have a bioluminescent lure which dangles above or below the fish’s mouth (a barbel) to attract prey.  Although most marine bioluminescence is not bacterial, the bioluminescence in angler fish lures is created by bacteria. 

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Teacher At Sea,

Christia Hewlett

Here are a few more pictures taken by me. The previous pictures were taken by Dr. Dante Fenolio.

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Photophores near the eye.

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Here you can see rows of photophores along the bottom of the fish.

 

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     The CTD device takes water samples at different depths. CTD stands for conductivity, temperature and depth.  Other measurements can be taken if additional sensors are added for things like oxygen level, salinity, pH or chlorophyll.  From the computer station inside the ship, scientists monitor the water that is passing through the CTD as it is lowered into the depths. They can find out what layers of water have the most chlorophyll, whether there is an oxygen  minimum zone or other needed data. These layers are then targeted as water collection points when the CTD is brought back up to the surface.  The CTD has a number of bottles that are deployed open.  This allows water to pass continuously through the bottles as it is moving in the water column.  At specific depths the scientist instructs the device to close one or two bottles to collect the water.   The scientist running the CTD can communicate with the crewman running the winch and the device can be raised or lowered to the desired depth. Typically the CTD is sent down to 1500 meters.  Data are collected from a station at least two different times, once in the daytime around 6 am and once at night around 6 pm.

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     The CTD

     In addition to the abiotic factors studied through the water collection, information can also be determined about biotic factors. One of the scientists, Dr. Cole Easson is studying microbes from the different layers of ocean water.  He filters the water from the different layers and extracts the microbes onto a filter.  The filters are taken back to the lab at home where he sequences the DNA of the microbes. A single sample can contain over 7,000 unique microbes.  From the first two DEEPEND research cruises he generated 33.5 million sequences. 

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Dr. Cole Easson

 

Another scientist Travis Richards, is filtering water samples to collect data on primary production.   This allows him to establish what is the base of the food web and correlate this information to his study of stable isotope analysis with fish.  This allows him to predict at what trophic level each animal is located in the food web. 

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Filtering water from the CTD

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      Yesterday when we were pulling the MOCNESS we saw what appeared to be an abandoned boat.  This observation was called into the US Coast Guard.  After finishing the trawl, we circled back by to take a look and make sure there was no one aboard.    The makeshift boat was filled with containers with water and leftover supplies.   It had metal ribs that were filled with some type of foam and then covered in a tarp.  A motor had been attached to it.  We hope that the people on board reached safety.  Perhaps the boat landed and then floated back out to sea or they were picked up by another vessel. Abandoned boats are one type of marine debris.  Luckily other than the boat we have not observed much in the way of marine debris. I personally have only seen 1 or 2 small pieces of trash floating in the water. 

  While we were checking out the boat it was noticed that the floating structure created something for small fish to congregate around.   This attracted some larger fish.   There was a school of Mahi-mahi or dolphin fish schooling.   Several of the fishermen on board were able to grab a fishing pole and some even caught a fish.  Here is a picture of the largest one caught.  We are looking forward to dinner tonight.

 

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Travis and his catch 

 

Teacher At Sea,

Christia Hewlett

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Who are the super scientists on board?  Here is a little information about each of the scientists that are aboard for this research cruise and some action shots of them at work.

 
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Dr. Tracey Sutton from Nova Southeastern University is the Chief Scientist for the DEEPEND Consortium.  He leads up the project and sets the plan for what the group of scientist are focused on.  On the cruise he makes decisions about where we will be doing our specimen collections if we have to make any modifications to the original plan due to weather or equipment issues. Once the organisms are brought on board he does fish identification.  He also removes some of the fish organs so that they can be processed and tested for the presence of hydrocarbons.

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   Dr. Jon Moore is from the Honors College at Florida Atlantic University where he studies Marine and terrestrial ecology.  He specializes in deep sea fish fish ecology & evolution.  On the trip he is serving as a fish taxonomist identifying many of the interesting fish finds.

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Dr. Tammy Frank is a biological oceanographer from Nova Southeastern University. 
She studies deep-sea ecosystems specifically vision and bioluminescence. For the DEEPEND project she is leading studies on crustacean abundance and diversity.

 

 

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Dr. Mike Vecchione is a zoologist who works for NOAA as the Cephalopod Curator at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of Natural History.  He is also an adjunct professor at the College of William & Mary’s Institute of Marine Science. 

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  Dr. Heather Bracken-Grissom from Florida International University specializes in crustacean genetics.  At FIU she teaches genetics and invertebrate zoology. She is using genetic diversity as a way to measure ecosystem health and recovery.

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  Dr. Joseph Warren Stonybrook University uses  Hydroacoustics to study the migration of marine life.  Here he is determining the density of different species of fish to correlate with the acoustic findings.  

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   Dr. Kevin Boswell from Florida International University studies hydroacoustics as well.  Here he is preparing the wombat to be attached to the CTD device.  The wombat can collect more specific data than the regular acoustic transducer.  Dr. Warren and Dr. Boswell can use this information to direct a more targeted trawl that is aimed at specific layers of animals.

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One of the scientists, Dr. Cole Easson from Nova Southeastern University is studying microbes from the different layers of ocean water that have been collected by the CTD.   He filters the water from the different layers and extracts the microbes onto a filter.  The filters are taken back to the lab and the DNA of the microbes is examined.  Microbes are then divided into two groups; one group which occurs in the photic zone and the other group occurs in the deeper zone where the light does not reach.

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Here is Gray Lawson recording data in his science log book.  He is a marine technician employed by (CSA) Continental Shelf Associates and contracted by the DEEPEND project to run the MOCNESS.  His work as a marine technician has taken him to many interesting locations such as Cameron, Israel, Qatar and the Caribbean.

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Dr. Dante Fenolio is from the San Antonio Zoo where he serves as the Vice President of Conservation and Research.   He is the  Outreach & Filming Lead for the DEEPEND Project.  He is tasked with capturing all of the unique finds on the cruise and documenting the work of the scientists with film and interviews.   

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 April Cook is the DEEPEND Project Manager from Nova Southeastern University. While at sea she is in charge of sample data collection.  April is the glue that helps hold the project together.  She sets up the logistics of the project keeps everyone on task, making sure that all information is logged into the database and all samples are labelled correctly so that the samples will generate valid comparable data.

 Graduate Students

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Max Weber is a masters student at Texas A&M University at Galveston where he focuses on fish genetics.  Some species are difficult to determine differences in appearance only and must be determined genetically.

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Travis Richards is a PhD student at Texas A&M University at Galveston where he is studying food web ecology.  He is helping to process fish genetics.  He will be using stable isotope analysis to examine the structure of the food web in the marine environment.

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Jacki Long is from the University of South Florida College of Marine Science where she is completing her masters in Optical Oceanography. She uses the CTD to collect information about the water column, uses the back scattering device to information about particle size & abundance, and collects optical data to ground truth satellite information from remote sensing devices.

 

  For more information about each of these scientists please click here to check out their biographies available on the team page on another portion of the DEEPEND website.  

 

 

 

 

 

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      By-catch is defined as the unwanted species of fish or marine creatures who are caught in a net by fisherman.  Some students ask about what was kept from the nets vs what was thrown back in the water.  On this trip there is no such thing as by-catch.  Everything that is caught will be used and analyzed to help paint the picture of what is going on in the different layers of the ocean. Above is an example of what might come from just 1 net in the trawl (which has 6 nets total).    This varies with depth and whether the trawl was done in the daytime or night.  

       Everything is kept for abundance and diversity measurements. However species are needed for a number of other projects - DNA, stable isotopes, parasites or hydrocarbons..  Before coming on the research trip scientists collaborated and identified the species needed for these projects and these specimens are processed immediately on board the ship after each trawl.   The rest of the animals are stored in formalin and will be analyzed back on land at different university labs.

 Here is a picture of the different tags that are placed in the specimen sample dishes.  Each sample is given a net number, an identification tag with the genus and species name.  The N tag tells what net the specimen came out of.  The processed samples receive a printed label with more specific details including latitude, longitude, date and trawl number.  This makes sure the correct information is stored with each specimen.   This is critical when you are dealing with tens of thousands of specimens.

 Here is a picture of how the scientist begin the identification process and sort organisms into broad groups.

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Crustaceans!

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Cephalopods

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Fish ready to be identified.

 

Here are some more pictures after the specimens have been sorted and identified.  They are then processed and stored.  

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                           Fish sorted and identified.                                                                           Classified crustaceans.

Teacher At Sea,

Christia Hewlett

 

 

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Today I got a behind the scenes tour of the ship’s engine room with Joshua Jansen, Chief Engineer. 

 

 

 

The first thing we came across was the fuel transfer system.  In this area, the engineer can choose which tanks the fuel is drawn from and can choose where to send it.  The fuel is stored in six cargo tanks under the ship.  The fuel transfer system has a centrifuge which acts like a mechanical filter.  This ensures that any water or dirt that might have gotten in the fuel is removed before it is burned. 

 

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Here is the water maker.  Because the ship is out to sea for many days it is important to be able to make enough water for all of the activities on board.  Water is needed for drinking, cooking, cleaning and the science work that is done on the ship.  The water maker can produce a half a gallon of fresh water per minute.  This is equivalent to 720 gallons per day.  The ship does have a storage tank that is filled before leaving the dock, but the desalination device is the main source of water for the ship.  Water is pumped up from the sea chest in the bottom of the ship.  It is sent through a series of pumps with increasing pressure  from 40 PSI to 1000 PSI.  This pressure pushes it through a series of tubes which contain membranes.  The membrane allows the water to pass through but not the sodium chloride ions.  After the salt is removed, the water is then treated by a UV light to kill any harmful bacteria before it is available for use on the ship. 

 

 

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Here are the hydraulics which are used to operate the big trawl winch.  The winch is used to raise and lower the nets on the ship.  It has a 150 horsepower motor which is larger than most cars.

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Next up, the marine sanitation device.  This is where the waste water is treated before it is released from the ship.  This machine is unique because while some devices use stored chlorine to treat the water, this machine is able to remove chlorine from the sea water and use it to treat the water before it released.  (The system of toilets uses salt water taken in directly from the sea but all water used on board is treated before it is returned.)

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Here are the fire and dewatering pumps.  These would be used in case of an emergency if it was necessary to put out a fire or remove water leaking into the bottom of the boat.  The system is accessible from a switch outside the engine room because if there were a dangerous situation in the engine room an inside switch would be hard to access.

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Here is the oily water separator device. The separator device makes sure that any oil (usually less than 15 ppm) is removed from water that has collected in the bilge (the bottom part of the hull) before it is pumped out.  The left side of the photo also contains the air receivers for the air compressors.

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Air compressors that make the air for the air receivers.  This is used to start the engines and run power tools used on the ship.

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Here is the main engine.  It is a Caterpillar D-379 from 1981 and is 565 horsepower.

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Here are the two Caterpillar 3406 generators.  Each is 175 kilowatt.  These generators run all of the power on the boat. 

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This is the gear shaft.   It turns and is attached to the propeller directly connecting to the engine through the gear.  The blades of the propeller can be tilted to adjust the pitch of the blades which give more options when the operator wishes to vary the speed of the boat. 

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This photo attempts to show where the rudders are connected under the boat.  The rudders are controlled by the autopilot computer program but can also be adjusted manually if necessary.

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So there you have it.  A behind the scenes look at what powers a ship and keeps it running!

Teacher At Sea,

Christia Hewlett

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     Once the trip got underway the days start to fall into a predictable pattern.  The nets go down at night and get pulled up around 3 am.  The scientists collect the organisms from the different nets which are sorted through one net at a time (there are a total of 6 nets).  There are specialists to identify the different fish, cephalopods, and crustaceans but they still use guides  to help make a positive id.  All of the organisms are entered into the database, weighed and measured.  Some are sampled for DNA, while others are frozen for stable isotope analysis when they are returned to the lab back on land.  It can take up to around six hours to process all of the organisms that are brought in during one trawl.    Sometimes we stopped for a meal during the processing time, other times we wait until we are finished and grab a bite afterwards.  Then it’s time to take a nap or relax until the nets come back up at 3 pm and we start the whole process all over again. 

 

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Bringing in the 3 am Trawl

     There are no hitchhikers on this trip.  Everyone has a job to do and I get to help April Cook, the database manager.  I help her weigh, measure and store all of the fish samples. 

 

 Teacher  At Sea,

Christia Hewlett

 

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Our Work station

 

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Juvenile puffer fish, one of the smallest items I measured.

 

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     Yesterday was filled with the wonders of nature, not only from the ocean depths but at the surface as well.  Early in the day we were lucky enough to see some dolphins. The pod of dolphins was quite substantial and had around 50 members. They were splashing and jumping up in the water and bow riding along with the ship. 

 

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  Dolphins Bow Riding 

 

 

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Sunset at Sea  

     In the evening around 10 pm after we had processed the samples from the nets, the lights were turned off on the deck of the boat.  It was possible to see so many stars and a few of us even got to see some shooting stars.  And not to be outdone, the ocean water was putting on a show too!  The wake of the boat had a slight glow from the bioluminescent plankton in the water.  Bright flashes of light were able to be seen sparkling in the water when some of the floating pyrosomes & other bioluminescent organisms were churned up at the water’s surface. Unfortunately my camera could not capture the beautiful display.

Teacher at Sea,

Christia Hewlett

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       You might be wondering what like life is like on the ship.   The ship has many amenities that you would have at home.  Most of the state rooms house two people, although there is a room which is shared by four.  Pairs of state rooms share a common bathroom called the head.   The bathrooms include a toilet & shower.  In each stateroom there is a sink and the beds are arranged in bunks.   There is a little curtain that you can pull closed for privacy in case you want to sleep and your roommate is still awake.  (Most of the scientists are on the same schedule, however there are a few of them that are on a different time schedule.)  The scientists that collect data with the CTD device & acoustics sometimes have an opposite schedule so they are up when we are sleeping and they are sleeping while we are processing data.

 

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My  Stateroom

            There is a dining space (called the mess) that also serves as a common area when meals are over. There is a television where we can watch satellite tv, read or do work on our computers.  (Right now as I am writing this everyone has finished eating dinner and they are watching Myth Busters.) There is a washing machine & dryer on board to do laundry so everyone did not have to pack clothes for two entire weeks.  The ship has a device on board so that it can make fresh water for everyone to use for washing, drinking and cooking.

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The two common areas

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Chef Alex preparing a meal

            Chef Alex prepares the meals at set times 6:00 am, 12 noon and 6:00 pm.  If we are working we will break for the meal.  If it is an off time some people will choose to skip eating to get some extra sleep.  I have enjoyed the food very much after I got my “sea legs.”  The first day and half I had trouble keeping things down and I was really wondering what I had gotten myself into with this trip and if I was going to survive ship life.)   All of the food waste that we create is dumped overboard and the recyclable and trash are stored until we reach land for disposal.

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 Trash Storage

 

            Everything on board has to be adapted for boat life. When the chef is cooking he has special equipment to keep the pots from sliding off of the stove top.  Most doors have a hook that keeps them open so that it does not keep swinging open.  The shower and other areas have a bar on the wall if you need to grab it to hold on to something.  Several of the doorways are set up to be waterproof in case of emergency.  So that is a little run down on our home away from home!

Teacher At Sea,

Christia Hewlett

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Here are some pictures of some of the organisms that we have found so far.  After 6 trawls we have cataloged 656 taxa (different types of fish.)  I don’t have numbers for the other organisms (shrimp, jellyfish, squid, or crabs) because some of them are totaled when they are brought back to the university labs, but we have collected 2,411 fish alone.  The majority of the fish are under 3 inches because most of the deep sea fish are not very large.  The largest fish that we collected so far was 36.8 centimeters.

Teacher At Sea,

Christia Hewlett

 

 I am including a couple pictures that I took as well as some taken by the expert photographer aboard the ship.

Here are 2 photos I took with the Genus and species label included.

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Here are a three photos taken by Dante Fenolio.  In an upcoming blog I will give you a look into the photography area where they are photographing certain species.

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Larval Linophrynid

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Mentodus facilis

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This is a Myctophum with a close up of the scales.

 

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      After each trawl the MOCNESS frame is reeled in and the nets are collected.  Scientists pulled in the nets by hand.  The nets stay on for the whole trip but at the bottom of each net there is a section called a cod end.  It is where the marine organisms collect.  This portion of the net is removable and after each trawl it is opened and poured into a collection jar with very cold sea water. The specimens are then stored in the refrigerator until the researchers are ready to look at a specific sample. It is very important for their data that they know what organisms came from what depths so we work on one net sample at a time.  Here are some pictures from yesterday’s trawl.

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Bringing in the Nets

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Nets Coming In

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Pulling in the Nets

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Emptying the Cod Ends

 

     Typically at each location, we will do a day and a night collection.  Sometimes based on acoustic data the scientists will target a specific depth of water.  Early this morning they were going to do one of those targeted trawls.  However there were some complications with the net and they discovered there was a seam on one of the nets that had come undone.   So last night before it went back in the water that net had to be changed out.  Three extra nets were brought along on the trip in case of any net damage. 

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 Seam Tear on Net

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Repairing the Net

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Close Up of Net Attachment

   Keep posting comments & questions. I am trying to respond to them as quickly as possible.  We have had a few technical difficulties with the internet so be patient, I will get to them.  The scientists & I love getting your questions!  Tomorrow I will be posting some pictures of our finds!

Teacher At Sea,

Christia Hewlett

 

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     When the ship reaches a station, the location where the scientists want to collect their data, the acoustic transducer is lowered into the water.  The transducer acts like a “telescope” underwater by sending sound waves down.  These sound waves bounce off of the layers of animals and create picture of the layers of animals.  The data are put into a computer model to help analyze the data collected and to help the scientists know at what depth to fish the nets. 

 

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       Assistant Professor Kevin Boswell, Reading the Acoustic Data                          

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                   MOCHNESS Operator Gray Lawson

     After scientists have taken readings with the transducer, the MOCNESS nets are lowered and deployed at different depths that range from 1500 meters to the surface.  The process of the nets being lowered and collecting samples can take several hours. The MOCNESS is made up of six different nets. Net 0 goes down open to the deepest depth.  When Net 0 is closed, Net 1 opens. The rest of the nets open at specific depths.  For example Net 1 may collect samples from 1500 meters  to 1200 meters. The next net would collect from 1200 to 1000 meters.  All of the net openings and closing and the data associated with the nets is controlled from a computer inside the ship. 

 

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                                   Lowering the nets                                                                             Nets in the water

   When the nets are brought up scientists go through a process to identify the organisms that are collected.  They are identified by specialists, weighed, measured and in some cases DNA samples are taken.  For other samples, some parts of their body are selected to look for an accumulation of mercury or hydrocarbons (from the oil spill). 

 

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                      Sorting the Organisms

Teacher At Sea,

Christia Hewlett

 

 

 

 

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 Hi, I am Christia Hewlett and I teach middle school science and marine biology at Sheridan Hills Christian School.  I was chosen as the Teacher at Sea for the 3rd DEEPEND research cruise and I will be keeping you updated on all of our adventures.

We are underway!  After a day busy day spent getting the ship ready for the trip, the ship headed out to sea a little after midnight.  There was plenty to do to prep the ship yesterday.  The lab equipment had to be unpacked and secured for being out on the water.  The crew was busy preparing the ship for the research specific to this group of scientists.  They attached the pole for the acoustic transducer which allows the scientists to help locate layers of organisms before the nets are lowered.   They also had to weld on a special device to help control the MOCNESS (Multiple Opening/Closing Net & Environmental Sensing System) nets which will be lowered down to maximum depths of 1500 meters to collect the samples.

In addition, the ship’s crew had to load the ship with a tremendous amount of supplies and food to feed the seven member crew and the 16 scientists for the two weeks at sea. 

            Over the last two days scientists arrived and set up their work stations for the various projects.  Some are studying cephalopods, some deep-sea fish, some crustaceans.  Others are conducting molecular and genetic studies of organisms and some will be filtering the collected water to learn about the microbes it contains.  This will be a great learning opportunity as I set out on this new adventure!

Teacher At Sea,

Christia Hewlett

For my marine biology students I wanted to share that I overheard two scientists talking today about obligate and facultative symbiosis in sponges and because of what we learned in class you should know what they were talking about. :)

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Getting the Acoustic Transducer ready and attaching it to the boom on the ship.

 

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Putting the nets on the MOCNESS.

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Before picture of the lab.                                                                     Unpacking the lab and getting the stations ready.

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As I was preparing for our next research cruise I received a very exciting letter in the mail! In fact, it was more than just a letter…it was Flat Stanley! (http://www.flatstanleybooks.com/) He wants to join us on our research cruise. How could I say no? He travels light, does not take up much space, and will not require any extra food! Better yet, he has decided to join us in the van while we drive the gear from Dania Beach, FL to Gulfport, MS where the RV Point Sur is docked. It will be good to have him out there with us to show him all of the cool shrimp, squid, and fish that we collect. If we happen to lose any of our tools in tight spaces he will be able to fish them out for us! We’ve set him up with his own blog profile so that he can blog about his experiences with you guys! So keep checking the Kids blog between April 27th and May 14th to learn about his first official deep-sea cruise!


 

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On Friday, March 4, 2016, Mike Novotny and I visited Mr. Kyle Lendick's 6th grade Marine Science classes at New River Middle School. The three classes spent several weeks completing DEEPEND's grade 6-8 lesson plans (found in the Education/Outreach section under Education, Resources, Lesson Plans) before our visit, so the students had already obtained a knowledgeable background regarding the deep sea and our research. Upon our arrival, we could tell that every student was very excited to learn more about our experiences as DEEPEND members.

 

To start, Mike and I briefly explained how the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill influenced the need for research and baseline data in the Gulf of Mexico and how we were sampling the Gulf's ecosystem. The students found the discrete depth sampling of the MOCNESS net to be very interesting, and throughout our discussions, I stressed the term diel vertical migration. This was a new term for most students, and they were shocked to hear that it is the world's largest migration! After our short presentation and tons of questions, we split into two groups to talk about at the deep sea fishes we brought in to share with them. With each specimen, we stressed the importance of the adaptations it uses to survive in the deep sea. The students loved the hands-on experience, and their questions were endless! Overall, I had an amazing time teaching the students about the work that we do for the DEEPEND Consortium. It was great to see how students as early as 6th grade were curious about life in the deep sea.

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Fun with deep sea fishes!

 

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Hello DeepEnd readers!


I want to let you know about a special opportunity that I had recently!  On February 18 2016 I was a guest speaker at Sheridan Technical High School!!  Ms. Brittney Smith, who is a first year teacher down in Fort Lauderdale, invited me to speak to her AP Environmental Science class.  Their recent unit dealt with different biomes found throughout the planet, the variety of life found within, and how human activity has altered the environment. 

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The reason for my visit was to dive a little deeper into the oceanic environment and teach the kids about an area of the ocean that is little understood or explored.  The deep sea is considered to be the world’s largest biome, with 90% of the ocean classified as deep sea.  Contained within this massive volume are some truly unique ecosystems each with their own challenges, organisms, and adaptations.  We discussed general challenges that organisms face in the deep-sea such as: increased pressure, lack of down-welling light, low temperatures, and a food poor environment.  The kids learned some adaptations commonly seen in deep-sea critters: bioluminescence, transparency, red, brown, and black skin pigmentation, slower metabolism, delayed sexual maturity, longevity, brittle bones and flabby muscle tissues.  Much to the students delight I was able to bring some specimens along so they could see what these amazing critters look like and how different they are to the classical fish image that comes to their minds.

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I reintroduced the kids to the unique ecosystems that the deep contains, such as hydrothermal vents, methane seeps, brine pools, and whale falls.  We also learned about some of the critters associated with these unique oases. 

Human impact is a very consistent theme for AP Environmental Science.  We learned how and why deep-sea fisheries are unsustainable by looking at case studies of Orange Roughy and Chilean Sea Bass.  We learned the dangers of bottom trawling and how plastics can impact the oceans. 


As my time with each class came to a close I was able to tell them about all the cool stuff we are doing with DeepEnd and how they can follow us on social media and even ask us questions!  The students left the classroom seeing fish that most of the world does not know exist and with a deeper understanding and sense of wonderment of the world’s largest biome!!

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Well, there you have it folks, another workshop in the books.  On Saturday February 20, 2016, the DeepEnd crew hosted a diverse group of educators for the Teacher Workshop at the Oceanographic Campus of NOVA Southeastern University.  This year we had 16 participants, ranging from first year teachers to seasoned veterans.  The day started with introductions from members of DeepEnd and a fun game of Get-2-Know BINGO!  A short pretest was all that was standing in the way of activities and deep-sea knowledge!

  

Teachers were given a flash drive loaded with tons of deep-sea information and fun labs they can incorporate into their lessons.  The rest of the day was centered around demonstrating and participating  in some of these labs.  As every class is different the teachers always had helpful hints and tips to improve or tweak the lab to fit a specific curriculum. 

 

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The workshop focuses on how to bring deep-sea research into the class room, and what would a deep-sea workshop be without some show and tell!!  These teachers were able to see a variety of deep sea critters, most of which many people don’t even know exist!!!  Challenges of the deep ocean and special adaptations were discussed to give the educators a better background when they cover oceanic environments in class.

 

  As Saturday afternoon turned to early evening we wrapped up the workshop.  A day filled with interactive labs and deep-sea facts was coming to an end.  The post test was handed out and applications to Teacher at Sea were distributed.  Who would have thought that spending a Saturday with a bunch of teachers would be so fun!! We hope the information gained on this day helps them continue doing an amazing job both inside and outside the classroom!  

  

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Thank you teachers for joining us!

 

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Greetings!

We wrapped up our last trawl around 5 p.m. last night and celebrated with a tropical themed dinner of grilled pineapple and tuna steaks. After dinner we watched our last gorgeous sunset on the R.V. Point Sur, accompanied by a few dolphins traveling through the glassy calm water. Once the sun was fully at rest we took advantage of the clear night sky and observed the stars and constellations. I have never observed the night sky as beautiful as it was last night, so clear and free of obstruction. 

As we steam back to port I can’t help but reflect on the last two weeks at sea. The amazing people I have had the privilege to work with, the research I have participated in, and the incredible organisms that I have seen firsthand. I’m so excited to go back to Florida and share all of the knowledge I have learned with my students. If I could sum up this “Teacher at Sea” experience in one word, it would be awesome! A huge thank you goes out to all of the scientists and graduate students: Tracey Sutton, Tammy Frank, Jon Moore, Heather Judkins, Dante Fenolio, Joe Warren, Charles Kovak, Katie Bowen, Lacey Malarky, Travis Richards, Max Weber, and Laura Timm. Thank you for answering my copious amounts of questions, keeping the environment light and fun, and providing an amazing opportunity. Another big thank you goes out to my amazing husband for holding down the fort so that I could experience this. 

Teacher at Sea,

Alisha Stahl

 

 

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The beautiful sunset on our last night.

 

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The team!                                                                                          Thanks Heather for everything! 

 

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Cephalopods (squid, octopus, cuttlefish, and nautilus) are considered to be the most complex and intelligent of the invertebrates. They are the most diverse in size of the molluscs. These elusive critters have evolved many adaptations that make them successful in the ocean, such as suction cup tentacles to capture prey (some squid have little hooks on the end which allows them to hunt more efficiently), venom (blue ringed octopus), bioluminescence (firefly squids, bobtail squid), dark coloration to live in the depths (vampire squid), chromatophores on their skin (can function in defense / alarm displays and courtship rituals), and the ability to change colors so that they can blend into their environment (mimic octopus). To date there are approximately 900 species of cephalopods worldwide, and those are only the ones we know about. I have had the chance to see some beautiful specimens while out here on the Gulf. 

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Mastigoteuthis agassiz, Whiplash squid                              Japetella diaphana, Octopod

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Heteroteuthis dagamensis, Female Bobtail squid                  Grimalditeuthis bonplandi

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Abralia redfieldi, Hooked squid

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