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Teachers at sea blog category.

Posted by on in Teachers

The 2:30am wakeup call on day 4 was a bit of a challenge. We arrived at station SW6 around midnight and the MOCNESS net was deployed.  Last evening, I spent some time learning how this intricate piece of equipment is put together.  Chief scientist Dr. Sutton headed the team to properly assemble the MOCNESS.  If just one step in assembly process is missed, or incorrectly completed, we will lose valuable samples and have incorrect data. 


During the MOCNESS assembly, Dr. Sutton and Dr. Judkins took the time to explain convergence zone that were noticed in the water.  This is an area of water where surface currents converge nutrient rich waters to form what can be described as a smooth river-like appearance on the surface of the ocean. At one point this wrapped completely around the boat.


After the MOCNESS net was assembled and deployed, it was time to pull it up at 3am so we began the data collection.  The lab team is separated in to 3 taxonomic categories:  fish, cephalopods, and crustaceans. Once a specimen is correctly identified it is set to the team that will record its weight, length, genetic make-up, and some are sent to record its stable isotopes or PAH’s back on land.  


Some very rare or unique specimens are sent to Dante so he may photograph them.  He is responsible for putting together a collection of pictures of the creatures in the Gulf.  Below is him capturing an eel larvae in the science photo laboratory that was created aboard the Point Sur.


The sorting process took some time for me to understand.  There are so many different collections bags and containers that need to be labeled properly with the correct specimen inside. There is also a process for each specimen depending on the data goals that were set before the trip.  Below is me sorting pteropods.  


Learning the scientific names have been much of a challenge too, but everyone has been very helpful and patient with me as I learn.  The toughest part of the job was trying to properly weigh and measure something that was only a few millimeters in length with a boat that was rocking enough to make someone fall over.  I will definitely adapt better during the next collection today at 3pm and I am looking forward to the challenge.

Below is a picture of a Melanolagus berycoides that was caught in MOCNESS net #2 which is set between 1,000-1,2000m deep.



As I close out today’s entry I will leave you with a beautiful picture of the Gulf of Mexico sun set!






Chris Valdes, Teacher at Sea


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               Waking up upon day 3 to rainy weather and a rocking vessel, I quickly had to rethink my shower taking strategy.  The sway of the vessel from the waves caused me to hold on to the shower head or brace myself to the wall to prevent me from falling over.  I learned to always keep 1 hand for myself and 1 hand for the boat.  It is a great thing I began dosing myself with Dramamine last night as the symptoms of motion sickness have not been much of a factor. 

               After washing up, I head to the galley for coffee and some breakfast.  After about 4 cups of coffee and another Dramamine pill, I was ready for the MUSTER Drill.  After the safety meeting the alarm bell rang which is the signal to grab your personal flotation device (PFD) and head to your MUSTER station for a head count, this is where you would meet in case of an emergency. This is also where the life boats are housed.


For my COAST students, this is what a LEVEL I Off-Shore PFD looks like and it is designed to keep you upright while floating in the water.


After the drill we had the science laboratory meeting where instructions and specific job duties were discussed.  Dr. Sutton reviewed the procedures of the MOCNESS net (Multiple Opening/Closing Net Environmental Sensing System) and the importance for following strict guidelines.  He then diagramed how the 6 different nets operate in order to get the samples from different depths (200m-1500m)


Dr. Cook and Dr. Judkins then gave me my assignment.  I will be helping to sort, measure, and weigh the different species that come aboard. I will be working with Mike at this station here.


As I am typing this, Dr. Judkins came running in and said there are a pod of dolphins on the bow of the boat.  I thought this would be a perfect way to end this blog entry right before dinner!  SEE THE VIDEO BELOW!!!




Dolphin video


We should be at our 1st station at around midnight tonight, so stay tuned in for more exciting updates!



Chris Valdes, Teacher at Sea


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Posted by on in Teachers

               Hello all, this is Chris Valdes checking in for the first time aboard the Point Sur, Gulfport, Mississippi. I am very honored to be aboard as the Teacher at Sea and awaiting this adventure.  We are set to leave port at midnight and I am filled with many emotions, mainly excitement.  I can sense the same emotions from everyone aboard.  We have shared many laughs and great stories about life and our careers.  Everyone aboard has been very helpful getting me settled in as a member of the DEEPEND family.

               Upon arrival on day 1, I eagerly helped unload the lab equipment and food delivery truck.  I was completely amazed by the amount of equipment that is needed.  Everything that is needed to sustain a laboratory on land is equally needed at sea.  Major equipment like microscopes, electronics, and even a SLOCUM glider are not over shadowed by even the smallest of lab gear such as pens, pencils, duct tape, and Sharpie markers. Every item has its specific place in the lab and needs to be secured to the vessel for safety precautions.

               Day 2 was filled with final preparation for our journey.  A quick stop at Walmart and an amazing lunch at Murky Waters Blues and BBQ turned in to great conversation as the weather prevented us from leaving.  Stories from past DEEPEND cruises were shared and I really sensed the passion from everyone around the table.  Everyone has a specific task while at sea.  Species identification, population migrations, and bio-acoustical sampling are a few areas of interest.  Everyone has a plethora of knowledge about their specific field and has been very helpful sharing it with me.

Make sure you stay tuned in to the blog so I may share that knowledge with you!

We are ready to set sail!

Signing off,


Chris Valdes, Teacher at Sea 



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Posted by on in Teachers

Due to mechanical problems with the ship, the cruise unfortunately had to end early. We docked at Port Fourchon around 2:30am today.

However, the good news is that the next ichthyoplankton cruise will be at the end of July!

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Posted by on in Teachers

All nine of us have a specific task once the boat stops at a station. Travis and Jeff collect water samples to bring back to TAMUG; the water samples are filtered in order to characterize the food web in the Gulf. We also gather environmental data, such as salinity and temperature at each station.


Travis and Jeff collecting water samples

The bongo net and neuston net sampling methods are very similar. They only differ in mesh sizes—this allows us to catch different species along with fish of different sizes. Once the nets are brought on board, we thoroughly rinse all the fish to the bottom of the codends. Then the codends are emptied into a bucket, filtered through a net, placed in their station’s designated jar and preserved. The fish are identified back in Dr. Rooker’s lab at TAMUG.

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Retrieving the bongo nets Rinsing the net
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Emptying the codend Jarring the sample


If the fish is in good condition, it is brought to the dry lab and Kim takes a picture of it. Like this ribbonfish...

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