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Visting Viosca Knoll

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Our first stop!

This area is a deep water coral reef on the upper continental slope dominated by Lophilia species (a deep sea coral).  We explored this area briefly last year to investigate interactions between the deep scattering layer and the benthic community.  This year, we are visiting this site twice to continue exploration with our first MOC deployment and retrieval happening last night.

This is our most shallow site with a bottom depth of 450 m and we towed the MOC10 downslope heading deeper to a depth of 402 m as to not disturb any benthic communities.  This was a night trawl so we expected many deeper-living animals coming to the epipelagic zone (0-200 m) as there is a nightly vertical migration of animals towards the surface to feed under the cover of darkness.

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T. Frank and H. Judkins emptying the cod ends into buckets for lab sorting (Photo: L. Rose-Mann)

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J. Moore, T. Sutton, T. Frank, H. Bracken-Grissom sorting species (Photo:  L. Rose-Mann)

Once the cod ends were collected and sorted by the taxonomists, identifications were made of the various faunal groups (fishes, cephalopods, crustaceans). Highlights included our usual suspects such as eel larvae, a pseudo-oceanic hatchetfish species which is common in this habitat, Sergia hans jacobi (crustacean species), pteropods, and heteropods as well as some unexpected finds like a Star Eater fish and a snake-eel larvae that doesn’t match any known species at this time.  Exciting stuff!

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J. Moore holding an example of an eel larvae he identifies in the field (Photo: H. Judkins)

We are now off to deeper waters of the Gulf of Mexico for our next deployment- stay tuned!

Heather J.

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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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