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By- Heather Judkins
Well, that's a wrap! We finished processing our last station in the wee hours of Friday morning and headed bock to Gulfport, MS. It's been quite a successful trip with many new finds and exciting new questions to look into as we continue to explore this region of the Gulf of Mexico!
At the last station, we had quite a haul of crustacean species as well as lots of hatchetfishes- both of which scatter sound. We did acoustic work using the multibeam sonar to locate the DSL and towed the MOC10 system within these layers to get an idea of which animals may be found. This region is of the ocean is important because it represents the transfer of energy from the upper epipelagic to the deeper benthic systems. Many of the fish and crustaceans in the DSL are prey for benthic invertebrates and predatory fishes. (see Haley G's blog for more on acoustics).
Various hatchetfish species and lots of crustaceans collected at the last station
Friday was a flurry of activity with packing up the lab, washing down the nets, and preparing samples for their journey home.
Nets drying out before being packed up with the R/V Point Sur in the background.
We could not have done any of this without the amazing work by the R/V Point Sur crew which included feeding us morning, noon, and night; celebrating birthdays with us, and providing a safe and successful trip all around. This is the last of the three DEEPEND/RESTORE cruises for this grant award and now we switch to analyzing all the data we've collected and producing products in the next year that can be used by resource managers.
This morning, the DEEPEND team members packed up their vehicles and made their way back home with so much to work on- Until the next time!
DEEPEND Team photo
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.
By Lisa Rose-Mann
Hello again! I’m Lisa Rose-Mann and I’ve made it back on the R/V Point Sur for my second cruise with DEEPEND. YES! My research focuses on contaminants in the tissues of animals from the Gulf of Mexico. I am analyzing the stomach contents of Yellowfin Tuna (Thunnus albacares) and Blackfin Tuna (Thunnus atlanticus) and the fish themselves to discover if any persistent organic pollutants (POPs) like, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs), pesticides, and phthalates are present in their muscle or liver tissues. I use a method developed by Dr. Isabel Romero for the GC/MS/MS to detect these compounds in the tissues. The Gulf of Mexico has an enormous watershed which can bring many of these compounds to the ocean from runoff and PAHs occur both naturally and as a result of oil spills. It was especially striking for me on this trip out to see the marker on the navigation chart where the Deepwater Horizon oil platform once was. I couldn’t help but to take some time to reflect on what happened thirteen years ago and try to imagine what that must have been like out here on the water. The effects of the spill are still being studied by many scientists including myself.
Me and a squid from dissections; Dr. Isabel Romero and I in the lab.
Over the past year I have been very fortunate to be a NOAA Gulf B-WET (Bay Watershed Education and Training) fellow. I’ve been able to bring science to the classrooms of 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders of some Title I schools in St. Petersburg, FL. They have really enjoyed the program and the specimens I’ve been able to introduce them to. After a few visits to the classroom and their own atmospheric observations they come to The Clam Bayou which is an Education and Outreach center for the USF College of Marine Science. There we provide an experiential learning experience for the kids in their own watershed. We take the kids fishing with the seine net, teach them about the importance of mangroves and explore a fresh plankton sample under the microscope, my personal favorite. I’ve already shared with them that I am on this cruise, and they are all watching the ship tracking and blogs. I’m really hoping to be able to connect with them online while I’m out here and introduce them to some of the coolest scientists I’ve been able to work with so far. And I really can’t wait to share some of these unique animals with them too! Shout out to Betsy, Kate, Nash, and students!
Photo of students (and me with them bottom left) at The Clam Bayou observing plankton.
And while those awesome kids are pretty far away from me right now, I cannot help but notice the little kids we all are on the inside in each of the scientists on board this vessel. The awe of each net’s product, the joy of discovering something never seen before, the ah ha’s shouted as the number of fin rays distinguishes one species from another. I can see it in their eyes, their smiles and utter passion for what they do. I always admire their endless conquest to answer some of those questions we carry forward from our own childhood curiosity…what is that, what’s that for, and why.
Photo of the MOCNESS (Multiple Opening-Closing Net and Environmental Sensing System) as it arrives to the deck.
Greetings, fellow deep-sea enthusiasts! I'm Pedro A. Peres, a postdoc at Florida International University, and I'm back with my second post on the blog. Today, I want to talk about an exciting new technique that is revolutionizing the way we study deep-sea environments: environmental DNA (eDNA).
Traditionally, to analyze the DNA of marine animals, we would collect and extract tissue samples directly from the animal. But what if we could get DNA samples without even seeing or sampling the animal? This is where eDNA comes in. Every living creature in nature releases DNA molecules in the environment through various means like skin, mucus, feces, and more. Scientists have discovered that we can extract and sequence these DNA fragments to detect specific species or assess community composition, all without ever having to interact with the animals directly.
In DEEPEND|RESTORE, Dr. Bracken-Grissom and I are working with Jonah Ventures (ww.jonahventures.com) to use this amazing technique focusing on deep-sea environments. The main challenge is that eDNA is a relatively new method but even newer for deep-sea environments. Many of the references available investigate freshwater or shallow waters, which have different features than the deep sea. This means that replicating their sampling method might not be ideal for the deep sea. For instance, animals in the deep sea are more spread out than in other environments, so should we filter more water to have a fair representation of the community we are investigating? Can we use acoustics to guide where to fire the CTD to collect water? And many other questions that we are thrilled to investigate!
On this cruise, PhD candidate Stormie Collins is in charge of filtering the water, preserving the filters, and logging the CTD data so we can analyze everything later. She and I assembled a cool eDNA setup provided by Jonah Ventures, and Dr. Kevin Boswell and PhD student Haley Glasmann are helping with the CTD. Teamwork! I’m excited to see our findings and what eDNA can reveal to us about deep waters.