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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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