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Teachers at sea blog category.

Posted by on in Teachers

We were up early today so we could get our nets in at sunrise! It was 5:54am when we deployed the bongo nets. So far this morning, we completed 3 stations! We’ve been catching a variety of fish in our samples! Here’s a few pictures to show you guys what we are seeing:

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barracuda damselfish swallower


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Antenna codlet lanternfish



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Posted by on in Teachers

Hello from the R/V Blazing Seven!

We are a group of eight student/scientists headed by Dr. Jay Rooker from TAMU - Galveston. We will be conducting ichthyoplankton (e.g., larval fish) tows for the next five days!

Due to some last minute repairs, we had a delayed start yesterday. However, this allowed us to set up and secure all of our nets while we were still docked at Port Fourchon. We left the dock at 1pm yesterday and arrived at our first station at 7:50am today. In order to sample a station, we deploy the bongo nets to 100 m followed by the neuston net at the surface. The bongo nets are towed for 4-8 minutes, and the neuston net is towed for 10 minutes. Once the nets are retrieved, our job is to sort through and jar the samples.


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Bongo nets neuston net



We’ve collected several larval fishes in the nets so far. At the first station, we collected a larval mahi-mahi and a larval sargassumfish. We also caught several larval tuna, to my excitement (since I am studying them for my thesis), and we are hoping to catch more! Unfortunately at Station 3, we had to replace our nets since it ripped while it was being towed, but the new net is functioning perfectly! At Station 8, we collected a swordfish! In all, we completed 11 stations today. It was a very successful first day and we’re looking forward to sampling tomorrow! Check back tomorrow for more pictures!


Tuna larvae



Check back tomorrow for more pictures!



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Posted by on in Teachers

     We finished our last collection today and celebrated with an excellent dinner prepared by the chef Alex, and then started to pack up the lab.  Tomorrow we will finish packing the lab and prepare the samples & equipment to be taken home.  As I write, our ship is steaming back to Gulfport. This return trip will take at least 14 hours from our current location.  I cannot believe that our time at sea has come to an end.  While at the beginning of the trip I was not sure that I was up to the challenge of one day at sea - let alone two weeks, I can proudly say I have completed my mission. I learned so much along the way and I am very thankful for the people who allowed me to participate in the program  A big thank you to project scientists,  Dr. Heather Judkins and Dr. Tammy Franks who hosted the Gulf of Mexico Teacher workshop that allowed me to qualify for this trip.  Thank you to my husband and daughter for allowing me to go and holding down the fort at home without me.   Thank you to Mrs. Edmonds who served as a substitute for all of my classes during the two weeks I was away.  



All of the scientists & most of the crew


Working in the lab

     As I close out my time at sea I want to thank all of the awesome scientists who patiently answered numerous questions for me about the different areas of study for the project.  Especially Chief scientist Tracey Sutton who directs the DEEPEND project and always kept us laughing in the lab, and Project Manager April Cook who patiently let me help her measure and prepare samples.    


They let me pour the sample bucket!! (Thanks Dr. Jon Moore!)


     I hope that I will be able to take back what I have learned and share it with generations of students; inspiring them to explore the world around them, ask questions and love science - especially marine science!

Teacher At Sea,

Christia Hewlett

b2ap3_thumbnail_Science-Selfie.pngScience Selfie at Sea with Dr. Heather Bracken-Grissom


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Posted by on in Teachers

The largest daily migration happens here in the ocean.  Millions of zooplankton and other small marine life travel up from the depths at night to feed on phytoplankton.  At daylight they travel back down to the depths to keep them safe from predators.  Fish and crustaceans that feed on the zooplankton also travel up and down with this cycle in search of food.  Two of the scientists on board, Dr. Joe Warren and Dr. Kevin Boswell use hydroacoustics to help gather data and track this daily migration. 

 Several student questions were posted on an earlier blog entry about the pictures created from the acoustic data from the sound waves sent down into the water.  Here is a little more information about how that works, why it is done and what the data look like.

  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 transducer boom is always transmitting from a fixed location.  However to gather more detailed information at different depths the scientists can use an additional transducer.


Attaching the wombat.

 The autonomous echo sounder system (referred to here as wombat) is attached to the CTD rosette to collect data from the different layers of the ocean.  With the system attached to the CTD it can be lowered by the ship’s winch to the desired depth to gather information.  This allows the scientists to get a close up of the organisms and you can even see individual items in the water column.



Here is another picture of the data sample.



 In this photo you can see on the graph the abundance levels of the organisms with red being the most concentrated and blue being the least concentrated.  Also included in this graph are the sampling depths of the MOCNESS and the depth/range of the “wombat”.  Notice the abundance of the organisms at the surface peaks at night and decreases during the day.  This is visible in both of the above images. 


The scientists also correlate the data that they collect by determining the density of different organisms in the lab.  The density of the animals can vary due to the presence of swim bladders or lipids.  They test multiple numbers of a species for verification and record the data in their science science log.


Dr. Joe Warren performing the density calculations.

All of the acoustic information is used in combination with the collected samples to better understand the dynamics and biology of the ocean.

Teacher At Sea,

Christia Hewlett 

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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.


Logging the specimens.


Capturing shots of the specimen.


Present Captain Nick Allen a copy of his book.


 Here are some examples of his work.





Gigantura composite



 Hope you enjoyed these pictures. 

Teacher At Sea,

Christia Hewlett

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