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The Endless Wonder

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By Tracey Sutton

As we churn towards the finish line of another successful DEEPEND cruise in the offshore Gulf of Mexico, we take a pause to appreciate some new milestones. One of these is our 250th deployment of the 10-m2 MOCNESS pelagic trawling system, which has been the workhorse of DEEPEND. With six nets on each deployment, that means we have collected over 1500 pelagic trawl samples during our DEEPEND time series. Despite its status as the largest sample set of its kind, what continues to amaze us the most is that we continue to observe and collect NEW THINGS on every cruise. This one has been no exception.

We began the cruise by sighting an orca, then watched in wonder as a family of roughtooth dolphins used our ship lights to feed on flyingfishes in the middle of the night, and the just today saw a very large, silver fish leisurely swimming under the boat while we drifted with the afternoon breeze. Our best guess was that it was a louvar (Louvaris imperialis), a pelagic fish exceeding 6 feet in length and 330 lbs in weight. Our sampling has collected some incredible specimens of pelagic shrimps, dragonfishes (pictured), lanternfishes, eels, and one of my favorites, a whip-nosed anglerfish (pictured). We find that every trip out only makes us want to explore this miraculous ecosystem more. Tomorrow we will sample our last oceanic station and then head to a site over a deep-water coral complex to investigate pelagic-benthic coupling along the outer continental shelf.

I am so proud to be associated with the wonderful DEEPEND team.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Anglerfish-Gigantactis-perlatus-DP09-05MAY23-MOC10-B281N-247-N3-Image-No3-LR-M.jpg   b2ap3_thumbnail_Draonfish-Astronesthes-similis-DP09-05MAY23-MOC10-B281N-247-N5-Image-No1-LR-M-1.jpg

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Dr. Heather Judkins is an associate professor in the Integrative Biology Department at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. She received a Bachelors degree in Marine Affairs from the University of Rhode Island, Masters degree in Science Education from Nova Southeastern University and her PhD in Biological Oceanography from the University of South Florida. Her research focuses on understanding the evolution, ecology, and biogeography of cephalopods with a main focus currently in the Wider Caribbean. Her role in this project includes the identification of deep-sea cephalopods, examining genetic diversity, and analysis of cephalopod ecology and distribution in the water column.
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