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Heather Judkins

Heather Judkins

Dr. Heather Judkins is an associate professor in the Integrative Biology Department at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. She received a Bachelors degree in Marine Affairs from the University of Rhode Island, Masters degree in Science Education from Nova Southeastern University and her PhD in Biological Oceanography from the University of South Florida. Her research focuses on understanding the evolution, ecology, and biogeography of cephalopods with a main focus currently in the Wider Caribbean. Her role in this project includes the identification of deep-sea cephalopods, examining genetic diversity, and analysis of cephalopod ecology and distribution in the water column.

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Have you ever wondered how animals communicate, find food, mates and defend themselves in complete darkness?  The answer is that most deep-sea animals have evolved the ability to produce their own light, and this is called bioluminescence.  Most deep-sea creatures either have all the machinery to produce bioluminescence themselves (examples include fish and crustaceans), while others form a unique relationship with glowing bacteria that live in their light organs (example include squid and angler fish).  This results in a beautiful underwater display of flashes, sparks and glows, much like a fireworks display on the 4th of July.  However, in the deep-sea, where food and mates are limited and predators lurk in complete darkness, this light show is not for fun.  The stakes are high, and this underwater “language of light” is critical for the animal’s survival.  

 

During this cruise we have witnessed some incredible examples of bioluminescence which I am excited to share with all of you. 

Deep-sea flashlights:  Do you see all those beautiful dots of purple and red?  Those are called photophores, or light organs, which glow in the dark.  Much like a flashlight they can turn on and off when needed and can be tuned to match the brightness around them.  In many cases they are found along the entire surface of the animal’s body and can be used to lure in prey (oh, something shiny!!), defend themselves (ahhhh, too bright!!) or communicate with others of the same species (hey, you see me over here, what is yourrrrr name?).  Below, you are looking at a loosejaw fangfish (Aristostomias) and Viperfish (Chauliodus sloani).  One has a bring red light organ below the eye and the other has light organs all over!  

 

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Photos:  H. BRacken-Grissom

 

Glowing blue vomit:  Did you know the deep-sea shrimp can vomit a bright blue glowing mucus?  Yep, it is true, and they do this to protect themselves when they get scared.   Ingenious, huh?  Below, you are looking at a deep-sea shrimp by the name of Notostomus gibbosus.  When startled, this deep-sea beauty will secrete a blue smokescreen that will stun a predator while they tail-flip backwards to escape.   Gooo team shrimp!

 

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Photo: H. Bracken-Grissom

Wonder what it looks like?  See below....

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Photo:  Sonke Johnsen

The Language of Light:  We know very little about how dee-sea creatures use bioluminescence to communicate due to the difficulties of studying these creatures in their natural habitat.  However, it is possible that these beautiful multi-colored barbels could be the clue.  Do these help find mates?  Do they lure in prey?  Both?  I assure you we are going to have some fun exploring and trying to solve the many mysteries that the deep-sea holds.  Until next time……. 

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Photo:  H. Bracken-Grissom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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By Daniel Hahn, NOAA

When the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill happened more than a dozen years ago the thought of so much oil impacting the deep sea had not been considered thoroughly enough to fully comprehend the impacts. With the depth of the release nearly a mile below the surface, the high pressure of the release and the application of dispersants at the well head, a large portion of the oil remained trapped in the deep sea. As the strategy advisor for the offshore water column injury assessment, I worked with an incredible team of biologists, modelers, project managers, and more to develop a sampling plan to investigate the impacts of the oil spill on the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the animals that inhabit them. Dozens of offshore sampling missions were part of the investigation and one of the main goals was simply to document what was in the deep waters of the Gulf. We had limited understanding of the diversity, distribution and abundance of the deep sea animals.

Fast forward a dozen years and I am finally offshore in the Gulf of Mexico seeing these animals on board the ship as they come up from the depths. While looking at pictures is great, there is something extra special about seeing the animals first hand. Looking at teeth, scales, spines, eyes, and photophores under a microscope shows just how beautiful and amazing these animals are. Because of the lack of light where these animals live, many are black, red (red light doesn’t penetrate very deep into the sea), or clear. Clear animals always amaze me.

Now for a quick comparison of how I identify with a couple of the animals that I had the privilege of being able to observe as they were brought up from the depths of the Gulf of Mexico:

The Angler has a lure attached to its body to attract its prey. While I don’t have a lure attached, I once spent a year fishing only with flies that I tied from my own mustache hair.

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The first Angler I saw aboard the DEEPEND RESTORE cruise on the R/V Point Sur! Insets: Mustache fly and tripletail caught on mustache fly. (Photo: D. Hahn)

The Swallower eats big meals. Since I typically don’t eat breakfast, and have been known to skip lunch too, with three great meals a day on board the ship, I feel a bit like a Swallower.

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I feel like a Swallower after three big meals a day! (Photo: D. Hahn)

While we certainly hope that we don’t have another major spill like the Deepwater Horizon, there is always a chance. Additionally, there have been several smaller spills that have occurred in the depths of the Gulf in the last decade. In order to understand how these deep-water spills impact this incredibly diverse assemblage of fish and invertebrates, long term investigations such as this DEEPEND RESTORE project are crucial.

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Hi everyone! My name is Haley Glasmann and I am a second year PhD student in Dr. Kevin Boswell’s Marine Ecology and Acoustics Laboratory at Florida International University. I am very excited to be here on the R/V Point Sur on my first ever scientific research cruise. Dr. Boswell’s lab focuses on using active acoustic a.k.a. SONAR (Sound Navigation and Ranging) technology to understand the processes that mediate behavioral and distributional patterns in marine organisms.

As part of the DP08 cruise, we are using ship-mounted echosounders to observe the deep scattering layer community. The “Pod” is where we have echosounders operating at frequencies of 18, 38, 70, 120, and 200 kHz. Having multiple frequencies helps us characterize the water column based on the acoustic response (echo) of individuals and/or the aggregations that are dispersed under the pod during data collection. This data is shown to us in real time, which allows us to inform where to deploy our WBAT (Wideband Autonomous Transceiver) and MOCNESS (Multiple Open/Closing Net and Environmental Sensing System). The WBAT (that we affectionally also call the “wombat”) is currently fitted with a 38 and 200 kHz transducer operating in wideband and is mounted to the CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth) profiler, which travels through the water column down to depths of 1500m. With the ability to bring the WBAT/CTD into the scattering layers themselves, we can collect high resolution data on the individual scattering types (organisms) present within. For my dissertation, I am interested in using the WBAT data in tandem with the ship-mounted echosounders to analyze the spatial arrangement and density of scatters within different parts of the layer. Fine scale interpretation of the community that undergoes diel vertical migration has important implications for developing an enhanced understanding of carbon cycling in the open ocean and mesopelagic fisheries management

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The acoustics lab and Haley deploying a CTD array (Photos: Haley Glasmann)

A typical “day” on the R/V Point Sur for me begins at about 4:30pm, let’s hear it for the night shift! First order of business is programing the WBAT for deployment on an evening CTD cast. I then eat dinner for my “breakfast” while the unit is collecting data. At about 8:45pm, we retrieve the CTD/WBAT back on deck and then the crew prepares to deploy the MOCNESS. During the night I monitor the ship-mounted echosounders, keeping a close eye on computer processing and power supply to ensure we are continuously collecting data. Other parts of the night include catching up on reading, replying to emails, jamming out to my Spotify playlists, making Styrofoam crafts (check out my shrunken head!) and the best part of all- seeing all the deep-sea creatures that come up in the MOCNESS around 3am. As the sun rises, I prepare to end my day with another CTD/WBAT deployment and enjoy a savory breakfast of bacon, grits, and biscuits from Chef Mike! …and after that at about 9am, time to get some rest!

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Styrofoam head before and after CTD deployment down to 1000 m (Photos: H. Glasmann)

Check out my video on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/reel/Cg0jjLEFspY/?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y=

Interested in keeping up of my graduate school adventures and the Boswell Lab? Check out @scubahaleykat and @boswelllab on Instagram for more!

Thanks for reading!

Best fishes,

Haley K. Glasmann

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By Jon Moore

While this DEEPEND RESTORE project is focused on deep-sea animals, we are also exploring linkages between those deep-sea animals and other marine life out in the ocean. One of those links is with the oceanic bird fauna. Some oceanic birds (petrels and storm-petrels) are known to feed on the mesopelagic fishes and squids that migrate to the surface at night.

 A ship out at sea is like a moving island in the ocean. Especially when storms occur, various birds may seek refuge on ships or are attracted to the lights of the ship at night. During a thunderstorm yesterday, we had two Cliff Swallows visit the ship. So, we are doing observations, when possible, to see what birds are visible from the ship.

 The first thing we noticed is that we have a few hitchhikers that have decided to stay on the vessel as a convenient place to rest and launch feeding excursions into the surrounding waters. A juvenile Brown Booby and a juvenile White Ibis have each taken residence on the ship. The ibis is wandering around the decks and poking around in various holes and crevices. The booby perches on the ship’s anchor and is sometimes joined by other brown boobies (at least one other juvenile and 2 adults over the past week). A Masked Booby has perched on the bow a couple of times. When the ship disturbs a group of flying fishes, these boobies launch themselves quickly and swoop down to catch those flying fishes while they are gliding over the water.

Other birds we have seen this past week include Royal Terns, Sandwich Terns, Laughing Gulls, Magnificent Frigates, Leach’s Storm Petrels, and Audubon’s Shearwater.

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Left to right:  Brown Booby (Photo: LRose-Mann) Juvenile White Ibis (Photo: H Judkins)  Masked Booby (Photos: J. Moore)

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Hey everyone!

My name is Pedro A. Peres and I am a postdoc at Florida International University working with Dr. Heather Bracken-Grissom. The focus of my research is to use genomic methods to understand how fish and crustacean species' DNA has changed over time after the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

This is my first DEEPEND|RESTORE cruise and I am more than thrilled! The DEEPEND|RESTORE group has done amazing work in the past years, and we know for a fact that many deep-sea species populations are crashing. But what does genetics have to do with this? Everything! Genetic diversity is expected to follow population size changes, and it represents the potential of populations to deal with environmental changes (higher genetic diversity = higher potential to respond after disturbances).  Therefore, if population abundances are declining, can we detect changes in genetic diversity? If the genetic diversity is declining, species might not be able to survive after a future potential disaster. For this cruise, I am in charge of making sure that all fish specimens are being preserved in the right way for the many genetic analyses we want to do. This means preserving specimens or tissue, writing labels, flash-freezing specimens in liquid nitrogen, sterilizing materials, and changing gloves all the time (haha). If I have a little time, I go bug HBG to look at some of the cool crustaceans we are also collecting. So far, we have more questions than answers..  but I’ll be back in a future post!

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Pedro sampling a whalefish (Photo: H. Bracken-Grissom) and a dragonfish that is waiting to be processed (Photo: P.A. Peres)

Besides all the scientific experience, I celebrated my 30th birthday on board and had a surprise party! Who else can say they spent their 3.0 birthday in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, with lots of cool creatures and amazing people? For sure an experience I will remember for a long time.

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Happy Birthday to Pedro!  (Photo: A. Cook)

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By Dante Fenolio

Sea cucumbers are echinoderms – related to starfishes and sea urchins.  Sea cucumbers have an interesting body plan that includes something known as a “respiratory tree.”  The respiratory trees are highly branched systems (two per animal on either side of the sea cucumber) that take water in and out through a cloacal pore.  The flow of water is used in respiration.  Now consider the “pearlfish.”  These fishes are a moderately diverse assemblage – but they have one thing in common… they inhabit the digestive tract of sea cucumbers.  They use the water flow going in and out of the sea cucumber to locate the cloaca… then they swim right in.  Often times these fishes live alone but sometimes, a pair will live together within the same sea cucumber.  One group of pearlfishes harm their host by consuming their gonads and other internal organs – a truly parasitic relationship.  But with the rest of the pearlfishes, the fishes do not do any harm while the sea cucumber serves as a home base. 

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Pearlfish collected on DP08 in the Gulf of Mexico (Photo:  D. Fenolio)

The "Tongue Eating Isopods" are a group of isopod crustaceans that inhabit the mouths of fishes as adults. This "Tongue Eater" is of the family Cymothoidae and is of the genus Cymothoa. Ispods of this genus all start life as males. If they are lucky enough to find their way into the mouth of a fish (lots of larvae in the water column - perhaps larvae grab onto small fish and move into a larger fish when the small one is eaten?). Once they do get into the mouth of a fish, they latch onto the tongue with sharp grasping legs. They tighten their grip of the tongue and cut circulation. Ultimately, the tongue rots away except for a stub at the floor of the mouth. The isopod will spend the rest of its life living in the space where the tongue of the fish was and holding onto the "tongue stub." Presumably, the isopod helps itself to bits and pieces of food as the fish eats. We found this individual within the remains of a large flying fish that was itself in the gut of a Mahi Mahi (Coryphaena hippurus). We assume the isopod had replaced the tongue of the flying fish. The dorsal aspect is to the left, the ventral aspect to the right. If you look under the ventral aspect, you can see a pouch (a "marsupium") where this female had been brooding a clutch of developing young. All of these isopods start life as males. If they find a fish host and replace the tongue, they change to the female sex. Newly arrived males to a fish mouth will mate with the resident female - yes, in the mouth of the host fish or on the gill arches. Males typically inhabit the gill arches of the fish. Some sources argue that all isopods enter the fish through the gills, not the mouth. Observed on the Gulf of Mexico, July 2022 during DEEPEND-RESTORE work.

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Tongue eating isopod collected from DP08 in the Gulf of Mexico (Photo: D. Fenolio)

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 Hi!

My name is Hannah Johnson and I am currently pursuing my Master’s of Science degree in Marine Science under Dr. Tracey Sutton at Nova Southeastern University. I am lucky enough to attend my first DEEPEND/RESTORE cruise on R/V Point Sur this year. While the focus of my thesis project relates to the reproductive habits of the deep sea fish genus Chiasmodon (Scombriformes; Chiasmondontidae), my predominant purpose on this cruise is to help record the collection of all the deep sea fauna we find.  

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The MOC coming onboard from a night tow (Photo: H. Johnson)

I work with Dr. Rosanna Milligan and April Cook to weigh, measure, and preserve each specimen.  We log the specimens into the database to be able to document various notes, along with the measurements, site collection, and much more.

It is extremely important that we ensure each speciment gets preserved properly as many scientists and students will use our specimens for projects, even years later.  For example, the fish genus Chiasmodon I work with was caught and documents 10 years ago!  Thanks to great preservation techniques, I am able to do kinds of analyses with their reproductive tract as well as gut and diet analysis by my colleague Travis Kirk.

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We were able to catch a Chiasmodon sp. with a full stomach!

 It has been an amazing experience to see first-hand what goes on during the DEEPEND cruises. It helps to give insight into how the lab specimens from years ago were collected.

Thanks for reading!

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By Lisa Rose-Mann

Hi! I’m having a great time on my first research cruise. Having worked with samples from previous cruises I have longed to be able to join the DEEPEND crew. I really wanted to see the MOCNESS in action!  This is a net system that opens and closes at different depths (for this cruise, 0-1500 m down).  The diversity of life we are finding is amazing and I’m completely blown away by the cool deep sea creatures and their adaptations I’ve been able to see firsthand.

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From left to right:  Loosejaw, hatchetfish, viperfish, black dragonfish (photo: L. Rose-Mann)

My current research is performing chemical analysis on the tissues of squid and their predators for signs of contaminants from things like oil spills, pesticides, plastics and other persistent organic pollutants. As part of this crew I am collecting samples to bring back to the lab for that purpose.

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Lisa processing a sample onboard (Photo:  H. Judkins)

I’ve eaten really well on board, seen a lot of cool birds, taken my shot a Mahi Mahi (haven’t caught my own yet, but there’s still time) and learned a ton about these animals so far. Additionally, having this kind of time with some really amazing scientists and been very rewarding.  I’m beyond thrilled to have had this opportunity and hope to find a way join the crew again in the future.

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Our first stop!

This area is a deep water coral reef on the upper continental slope dominated by Lophilia species (a deep sea coral).  We explored this area briefly last year to investigate interactions between the deep scattering layer and the benthic community.  This year, we are visiting this site twice to continue exploration with our first MOC deployment and retrieval happening last night.

This is our most shallow site with a bottom depth of 450 m and we towed the MOC10 downslope heading deeper to a depth of 402 m as to not disturb any benthic communities.  This was a night trawl so we expected many deeper-living animals coming to the epipelagic zone (0-200 m) as there is a nightly vertical migration of animals towards the surface to feed under the cover of darkness.

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T. Frank and H. Judkins emptying the cod ends into buckets for lab sorting (Photo: L. Rose-Mann)

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J. Moore, T. Sutton, T. Frank, H. Bracken-Grissom sorting species (Photo:  L. Rose-Mann)

Once the cod ends were collected and sorted by the taxonomists, identifications were made of the various faunal groups (fishes, cephalopods, crustaceans). Highlights included our usual suspects such as eel larvae, a pseudo-oceanic hatchetfish species which is common in this habitat, Sergia hans jacobi (crustacean species), pteropods, and heteropods as well as some unexpected finds like a Star Eater fish and a snake-eel larvae that doesn’t match any known species at this time.  Exciting stuff!

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J. Moore holding an example of an eel larvae he identifies in the field (Photo: H. Judkins)

We are now off to deeper waters of the Gulf of Mexico for our next deployment- stay tuned!

Heather J.

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Yeehaw!  Almost time to shove off on our next DEEPEND/RESTORE cruise which will set sail tonight just after midnight on the R/V Point Sur.  The team is busy stowing gear, repairing holes in nets, and making sure we have everything we need for the next 12 days.  We will be deploying the MOCNESS net system as we have on past cruises and will be getting to out our first station tomorrow afternoon.  We will be posting blogs throughout our journey so stay tuned!

Cheers- Heather J

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R/V Point Sur, docked in Gulfport, MS (photo: L. Rose-Mann)

 

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Hi Everyone!

We are heading back to the dock today and can't believe the trip is almost over!  All we have left is to enter data, clean the nets, clean and pack everything in the lab and disassemble the acoustics equipment- all by 8 am tomorrow morning!  This post is all about the animals as we wanted to share just a few images of the amazing creatures we have collected during this trip.  

We can't thank the crew of the R/V Point Sur enough for this safe and amazing research cruise.  We also would like to shout out CSA, Continental Shelf Associates for our MOC10 operator, Gray- without him, we wouldn't have animals to work with!  The support from our organizations and universities has been consistent throughout the DEEPEND program which we truly appreciate. 

See you next year for our next adventure!

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Left: Sergestids

Right:  Deep Sea Shrimp

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Left:  deep sea luminsecent squid

Right:  Seven-arm octopus

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Left:  Atolla jellyfish

Right:  deep sea crab on pyrosome

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Left:  Octopus

Right:  Anoplogaster cornuta, Fangtooth fish   

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Left:  Stylephorus chordatus

Right:  Chauliodus sloani, Viperfish

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Left:  Serrivomer lanceolatoides, Sawpallet Eel

Middle:  Zenopsis conchifer

Right:  Omosudis lowii, Hammerjaw fish

 

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Hi Folks,

My name is Jon Moore and I am a professor of biology at Florida Atlantic University’s Wilkes Honors College. While I serve as a fish biologist for the DEEPEND project during this cruise, I have always had an interest in other wildlife and I was recently asked to keep records of sightings of various oceanic birds during this cruise. This data may help bird biologists and conservationists understand more about what birds are doing far offshore, where there are fewer observers to keep track of things.

We are working in an area beyond the continental shelf, roughly 140 miles south of Gulfport Mississippi, where our voyage started from. Out here in the blue waters of the open ocean, there are several different groups of birds that you might encounter: truly oceanic birds that rarely come to shore (petrels, shearwaters, storm petrels, jaegers, etc.); coastal shore birds (gulls, terns, sandpipers, pelicans, etc.); and land birds that may be migrating over the ocean or are blown offshore by costal storms (songbirds, herons, hawks, etc.).

 

 Sailors and ornithologists (bird biologists) have noted for more than a hundred years that migratory and wayward land birds will often land for a period of time on ships out at sea. You can think of ships as moving islands that may give birds a place to rest, sleep, and possibly feed or drink freshwater.

 

 Some of the more open ocean birds we saw included Pomarine Jaegers, Sandwich Terns, Magnificent Frigatebirds, and Brown Boobies. Some surprising land birds we saw during this cruise were American Redstart and Common Yellowthroat wood warblers, a Shiny Cowbird, a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, flocks of Barn Swallows, and a hummingbird that zoomed by us before we could identify the species.

 

 

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 A Pomarine Jaeger, an oceanic skua relative (photo by Jon Moore).

Sandwich Terns, comfortable both along the shoreline and far out at sea (photo by Jon Moore).

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Black-necked stilt, a wading shorebird, seen during this cruise (Photo by Casey Hurt)

A Shiny Cowbird typically found on Peninsular Florida, Cuba, and other Islands of the Caribbean (photo by Jon Moore).

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A flock of Barn Swallows resting on the ship’s bridge (photo by Jon Moore).

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Post by Ashley Marranzino

Hi everyone!

My name is Ashley Marranzino. I am an incoming PhD student working with Dr. Tracey Sutton. I am excited to be joining the fantastic team aboard the R/V Point Sur for my first DEEPEND cruise!

For this cruise I work predominately with “team fish” and help to weight, measure, and preserve every single fish specimen we collect after they have been identified. A range of scientists use the specimens we collect during DEEPEND cruises, so we make sure certain species are preserved appropriately for future analyses on topics like genetics, morphology, and diet.

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Ashley Marranzino, April Cook, and Drew Mertzlufft process the fish specimens after every tow. Photo taken by Dr. Isabelle Romero

I am also in charge of recording all of the size and preservation information for each specimen in our database. This ensures that we can track everything we catch and that the specimens and data we collect at sea can be effectively used and dispersed to different scientists after the cruise.

After we finish sorting through and processing our catch, I have also been collecting data for my own research looking at the sensory biology and ecology of deep-sea dragonfishes.

 

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The threadfin dragonfish, Echiostoma barbatum, is covered in bioluminescent organs called “photophores”. Image by Dr. Isabelle Romero.

Bioluminescent (light-producing) organs cover the head and body of these midwater predators. Scientists hypothesize that some of these organs are used to find food (like the elaborate chin barbels on many species that likely lure in prey) while others are used to camouflage the fish by producing light similar to that filtering through the waters above (called “countershading”). But we still do not know the function of other bioluminescent structures in dragonfishes. Since we cannot keep dragonfishes alive in aquaria or easily watch them in their natural environment, I am trying to infer the function of the bioluminescent organs by examining their structure and placement on the body.

 

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Image by H Judkins

 I am excited to get back into the lab and continue examining some of the beautiful dragonfish specimens we have collected this trip!

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Post by:  Heather Bracken-Grissom

Hi everyone!  My name is Heather Bracken-Grissom and I am an Associate Professor at Florida International University.  My lab studies crustacean systematics and genomics, but today I want to talk about life at sea.  Ever wonder if we get a little stir-crazy living on a research vessel in very tight corridors?  Well, the answer is YES, so we need to be creative in the ways we get our bodies moving.  Not only do we find creative ways to exercise on the ship, we also need to work off ALL the delicious food (and goodies) Chef Michael is cooking up for us every day!  Exhibit A below J

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Photo:  Chef Michael and lunch options! (Photo:  HBG)

 So today, I want to introduce you to some of the ways we integrate exercise into our daily routine.   The ship is small, but the view is fantastic, so many of us take long walks around the upper deck.  Integrate stairs into the mix for a little added challenge!  Don’t be surprised to see a pod of dolphins or a sperm whale off the bow. 

 

 

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Heather J and April C. walking the 01 deck loop (Photo:  HBG)

If you want to add a bit of cardio for those days we eat not 1, not 2, but 3 desserts (because breakfast, lunch and dinner dessert is a thing on this cruise), feel free to join me on the upper deck for a “Cardio Circuit” fitness class.  This is only possible on days when the waves are not 5 to 7 ft and ideally flat and calm.    

 

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Heather BG in the middle of her cardio circuit (Photo:  HJ)

If you can handle the heat (literally the room is about 90 degrees) the spin bike is always an option!  This is a true luxury, as most research vessels are NOT equipped with these.  The space is cramped, but WORTH IT. 

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 Kevin biking away (Photo:  HJ)

Lastly, we do get “some” exercise while we sample the amazing creatures of the deep sea.  This is Danté and Tracey pulling in the large MOC10 nets we use to collect our critters.  Believe me, this is no easy task.  Those nets are heavy and will get your heart-a-pumpin!

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 Tracey and Dante with their daily upper body workout (Photo:  HJ)

So, as you will see we can still get movin’ to the motion of the ocean and stay in shape, even at sea!

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Post by Matt Woodstock

Hey everyone!

My name is Matt Woodstock and I am a PhD Candidate at Florida International University working under Dr. Yuying Zhang. The focus of my dissertation research is to develop computer models that simulate conditions we observe in the Gulf of Mexico and answer ecosystem-level questions about the ecology of the system. Examples of these types of questions are changes to food web structure as populations fluctuate over time, the influence of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the mortality rates of mesopelagic animals, and vertical nutrient transfer by vertically migrating fishes and cetaceans. Ecosystem-based modelling is rarely done in the oceanic zone because it requires a lot of data, but because of projects like DEEPEND these types of research questions are feasible. Previously I completed a masters under Dr. Tracey Sutton studying the diet and parasites of mesopelagic fishes in the Gulf of Mexico.

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Dr. Boswell (right) and I (left) securing acoustic equipment to the CTD as a way to monitor fish behavior.

 

This is my third research cruise and second on the R/V Point Sur with the DEEPEND crew! My main job is to help Dr. Kevin Boswell gather our acoustic data by setting up gear and monitoring the data as it comes in. Aside from the few hours that we are moving between stations, we are constantly collecting acoustic data. I am also helping Dr. Isabel Romero collect and filter water samples for chemicals in the water column using a CTD. The acoustic and water chemistry projects are collaborating by placing an automated acoustic transducer on the CTD and collecting water at the same time that the deep scattering layer (a collection of deep-sea organisms in the water column recognizable through acoustic receivers) moves by. Being out at sea is one of my favorite things to do as a scientist and each time is special!

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 Left:  Dr. Romero (left) and Dr. Boswell (right) deliberating on the best game plan for sampling.

 

 Right:  My main workstation that has monitors of real-time data from the acoustic equipment.

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Dr. Boswell with the main acoustic gear during assembly prior to the cruise.

 

 

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Post by Drew Mertzlufft

Heya!

My name is Drew Mertzlufft and I am pursuing a Masters degree in marine biology in the Oceanic Ecology lab at Nova Southeastern University (NSU) under the guidance of Dr. Tracey Sutton. The main goal of my thesis project is to describe the diet and ecology of pelagic juvenile scorpionfishes (suborder: Scorpaenoidei) from the Gulf of Mexico (GoM). In addition, I am creating a taxonomic key to aid in the future identification of Atlantic pelagic juvenile scorpaenoids. While the taxonomy, diet, ecology, and life history of adult scorpionfishes in the GoM are well documented, the identification methods, diet, and food web relationships of juvenile scorpionfish remain largely unresolved.

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      Drew in action (Photo:  H. Judkins)

Aside from my thesis, this is my first time out to sea on a research vessel. I must admit that it has been an extremely humbling experience thus far. I am very fortunate to be surrounded by an extremely considerate and compassionate team of highly distinguished scientists as well as the incredibly proficient and friendly crew. All of which have been helping me use the scientific method to figure out how to remedy sea sickness. Not to mention the chance to see and work with fishes that most people go their entire lives without knowing of their existence! I am very grateful to be able to assist with the collection and processing of all fishes captured during the seventh DEEPEND expedition as well as helping update the Cruise Track.

Some of my favorite animals so far:

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     Deep sea amphipod (Phronima) Photo: DM                    Lanternfish (Myctophid species)  Photo:  DM

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Cookie Cutter Shark (Isistius brasiliensis)  Photo: DM

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Post by Daniella Milanese

Hello, everyone!

My name is Daniella Milanese and I am a graduate student in Dr. Tamara Frank’s deep-sea biology lab at Nova Southeastern University. I am currently working on my master’s thesis on “Plastic Ingestion of Deep-sea Pelagic and Benthic Decapods of the Charlie Gibbs Fracture Zone at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge”. For my thesis, I’ve extracted plastic particles out of pelagic and benthic crustaceans before I find out if ingestion differs by region of the fracture zone.

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Photo:  Daniella and Tammy Frank (Photo:  H. Judkins)

Besides my research, this is my first DEEPEND cruise and I am beyond excited to be part of such a wonderful team that works together to survey the Gulf’s deep-water ecosystem. Being in Dr. Frank’s lab, I have worked with majority of the decapod species captured in the Gulf, but to work with fresh specimens is a brand new experience! Being able to see true coloration and pristine photophores is truly a treat and a wonder to see. On this DEEPEND expedition, it’s my job to help identify and process all decapods captured.

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Photo:  Deep Sea Shrimp (Photo: DM)                                       Photo:  Deep Sea Shrimp (Photo: DM)

 

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    Photo:  Fangtooth  (Anoplogaster cornuta) (Photo: DM)

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We left the dock on the R/V Point Sur at midnight and reached our first station in the Gulf of Mexico around 2 pm today.  All supplies, microscopes and equipment got set up and stored away in the dry lab and we settled in for the welcome and safety meeting.  The great news is that since we followed the LUMCON Covid-19 protocols including quarantine, and we are vaccinated, the team is ready work!

 

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Today has been spent putting the MOCNESS together.  This is a Multiple Opening and Closing Net and Environmental Sensing System that we use to collect a variety of organisms from various depths in the midwater column (MOC10).  We will be dropping the 6-net system to 1500 m and collecting animals at different depths as it comes back to the surface.  Part of the team is testing and calibrating the acoustics array which will collect data using sound waves throughout the cruise.  The CTD (measures conductivity, temperature, and depth) has been set up as well which will be deployed to collect water quality data.  Our DEEPEND photographer is spending the day setting up his lab as well.  Things are coming together quite nicely so far.

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We are excited to be out here and ready to do some science!

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The time has come!  Our first NOAA RESTORE cruise efforts are underway.  Strategically packing the van for the trip is the true test for the team.  All the nets, acoustic equipment, microscopes, field guides and supplies are loaded into a van under the watchful eye of April Cook, our amazing program manager at Nova Southeastern University.  Every year, it seems like a miracle that everything fits but it always does!  It takes approximately 12 hours to make the journey through Florida, Alabama, and into Mississippi.  Other team members drive cars/SUVs with their own gear and everyone arrives in Gulfport, MS tonight so we are ready bright and early tomorrow morning to load the gear onto the R/V Point Sur.  Tomorrow will be a day of setting up the dry lab, storing supplies, putting the MOC10 net together, and attaching the acoustics equipment to the vessel so we can leave at midnight.

We are excited to get underway and will update you in the next day or two!

(Photos:  Ashley Marranzino)

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After an odd year dealing with the pandemic, which resulted in one postponed research cruise, the DEEPEND team is gearing up for our first NOAA/RESTORE cruise later this month!  We are excited that we received funding through 2024 to continue our important midwater survey and associated projects.  We have a series of three cruises planned, with the first one going out on April 24th, 2021. We will be exploring the northern Gulf of Mexico using a midwater trawl and acoustic equipment to identify long-term trends in pelagic fish, shrimp, and squid abundance, and determine how observed trends relate to environmental changes and human pressure (e.g., pollution). The ultimate goal of the project is to provide information that can be used by resource managers to protect the natural resources of the Gulf.

 

The team will be leaving from Gulfport, MS, on the R/V Point Sur for 12 days and we are ready to get to work!  As in the past, we will have a shiptracker and a HYCOM oceanographic model running in real time to help guide our voyage.  We will also maintain a blog to document the various projects and discoveries throughout our journey.  These are all accessible on the home page of the DEEPEND website: www.deependconsortium.org   

If you want to read more about NOAA/RESTORE Science program, here is the link: https://restoreactscienceprogram.noaa.gov/

Looking forward to sharing our experience with you!

 

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