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Let the Sort Begin!

Posted by on in Teachers
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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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  • Guest
    Christia Hewlett Sunday, 07 August 2016

    It looks like you guys are having a great time. I am enjoying reading your blog postings. Have a great time!

  • Chris Valdes
    Chris Valdes Monday, 08 August 2016

    Thanks Christia! You were right, this is truly an AMAZING experience! Today was a big day. I am waiting for Dante to finish up with his photos so I can post toady's blog with a really unique catch!

  • Guest
    Casey Crane Monday, 08 August 2016

    What a great blog post! Do you have any bigger versions of the photos that you've been posting that you would be willing to share? I'd love to share them on our USF St. Petersburg Facebook page as a photo gallery, crediting the Deepend Consortium for the images. Dr. Judkins is one of our faculty members and we'd love to be able to share these images with our 6,700+ students, staff, faculty, and other followers on Facebook as well as our 1,670+ followers on Twitter.

  • Chris Valdes
    Chris Valdes Monday, 08 August 2016

    Hi Casey, I will be more than happy to send bigger versions once we get back to Gulfport. The internet on the Point Sur is great, but cannot handle large files.

    Thanks for reading! :)

  • Chris Valdes
    Chris Valdes Monday, 08 August 2016

    Hi Casey, I will be more than happy to send bigger versions once we get back to Gulfport. The internet on the Point Sur is great, but cannot handle large files.

    Thanks for reading! :)

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