Researcher blog

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Categories
    Categories Displays a list of categories from this blog.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Team Blogs
    Team Blogs Find your favorite team blogs here.
  • Login
    Login Login form

Posted by on in News

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.



b2ap3_thumbnail_thumbnail_DSC_1084.jpg     b2ap3_thumbnail_thumbnail_DSC_1072.jpg 

 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).

    b2ap3_thumbnail_thumbnail__DSC6818.jpg      b2ap3_thumbnail_thumbnail_imagejpeg_020.jpg   

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).



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

Last modified on

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.


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.



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.



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!

Last modified on

Posted by on in News

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


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. 




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.    



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. 


 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!


 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!

Last modified on

Posted by on in News

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.


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!

b2ap3_thumbnail_mw4.jpg    b2ap3_thumbnail_mw3.jpg   

 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.


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



Last modified on

Posted by on in News

Post by Drew Mertzlufft


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.


      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:

b2ap3_thumbnail_thumbnail_Image_20210428-183247_1.jpg    b2ap3_thumbnail_2_thumbnail_Image-1_20210428-183255_1.jpg    

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


Cookie Cutter Shark (Isistius brasiliensis)  Photo: DM

Last modified on