Researcher blog

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Categories
    Categories Displays a list of categories from this blog.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Team Blogs
    Team Blogs Find your favorite team blogs here.
  • Login
    Login Login form
Recent blog posts

Posted by on in Teachers

Life aboard the Point Sur has been welcomed as well as an open challenge.  Before coming aboard, I really didn’t know what to expect.  The night before leaving Miami I went to dinner with my family at our Tuesday night hangout spot, Sports Grill.  My mother jokingly asked if I was going to eat a good meal that night since the food on the ship will probably consist of bologna sandwiches and bottled water. Boy was she wrong!  To the contrary, the food has been impeccable and life aboard is definitely not as grueling as I imagined.

Surf and Turf  done right! BBQ pork belly with tuna!


One week into my journey I have learned much about life at sea, especially aboard the Point Sur.  Things are very busy on the Point Sur and sleep is a high commodity.  Teams work around the clock to ensure that their research goals are met.  At any given time, you can see people moving about the ship, but at the same time you must also keep in mind that other people are in their bunks sleeping.  Personally, I have found it easier to sleep between my morning and afternoon shift.  For some reason sleeping between the night and morning shift does not suit my body well. 



The crew and scientists on board have been nothing short of entertaining!  Everyone is very easy going, probably because we all realize we have to live together for 2 weeks in such tight quarters.  We all seem to use sarcasm as a way to diffuse possible tension caused by the lack of sleep that one might encounter; therefore, jokes in the lab are a must!  Dr. Sutton is usually the person who breaks the awkward silence that fills the lab during the start of the 3am lab shift by making a silly reference to something hilarious that quickly energizes the morning crew. He is like our “cup of coffee”. 

Dr. Sutton sporting a smile and all that DEEPEND swag!


After the morning lab work is done, many of us stay up to continue the paperwork that is required by all research missions and others take the time to get sleep.  After the evening lab shift we usually gather around the television to watch the Rio Olympics!  The Olympics have become a focal point of discussions and you will hear the occasional cheer when the United States wins a medal, but that is quickly followed by someone in the group saying, “shhhh, people are sleeping”. 

The galley is the spot to be!



After dinner is dessert which may consist of several options, including the infamous Ice Cream Freezer.  This freezer’s sole purpose is dedicated to housing all the sorted ice cream you can think of. The freezer lid even has a sense of levity and encourages you to eat some!  I am sure my daughter and niece will love to have one of these at their grandparent’s house! 

Ice cream humor!



For tonight’s dessert we were in for a treat as the grill was still hot from the steak dinner.  Chef Alex quickly took out some graham crackers, Hershey’s chocolate, and marshmellows for a s’mores delight!  We had a great time on the boat’s deck grilling our dessert and then laughing at each other for the chocolate and marshmallow leftovers on our faces.



After s’mores we celebrated Ben’s (Bio-acoustics) birthday with a song and cake!

 Happy Birthday Ben!

With no morning MOCNESS trawl, we will be gearing up for some night fishing!  If I land that 1,000lbs sailfish I will definitely update this blog and post some pictures!





Chris Valdes, Teacher at Sea

Last modified on

Posted by on in Teachers


Laura, a PhD candidate from Florida International University, and Megan a graduate student from NOVA Southeastern University head the crustacean team on DEEPEND 04.  Most people are familiar with shrimp and crabs, but Team Crusty is concerned with much more.  Crabs, lobsters, shrimp, krill, and even mantis shrimp are points of interest. 


Both Laura and Megan are trying to establish the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 on the overall health of the Gulf crustaceans.  After the oil spill, species may have been completely wiped out, but may be supported by other crustaceans migrating from other areas like the Atlantic or Caribbean.

Laura is gathering her last specimens for her study on the crustacean genetic population in the Gulf after the oil spill.  She is trying to collect genetic data that may support that other crustaceans from the Atlantic and/or Caribbean may be migrating to the Gulf. And if so, are they helping to replenish the population that was lost after the oil spill? 

Megan is gathering data for her thesis which is focusing on the abundance and diversity of crustaceans.  She is also using that data to compare to the past DEEPEND cruises. She uses morphology rather than genetics to identify her specimens.  Her animal of interest is krill, but is very passionate about Phromina sedentaria (shown below).  This creature lives in this tiny barrel in order to capture its prey and to lay its eggs.




One area of focus that is becoming more predominant are parasites.  Below is a parasite attached to a Benthesicymidae.  This specimen will be sent to the lab for further study.



One of the coolest crustacean pulled up was a Cystisoma.  This deep sea, alien looking creature is transparent and are fairly rigged compared to its appearance.  Laura and Megan pointed out that it has 2 large lens on its head to detect light very similar to the way eyes do.




Team Crusty is definitely a joy to work with in the lab, even when they “bother me” for station net tags!


Chris Valdes, Teacher at Sea

Last modified on

Posted by on in Teachers

Today I spent some time on the bridge of the Point Sur and Captain Nic Allen was very generous to show me the ropes.  He helped explain some basic features that are needed for a smooth ride.  He was first to point out the Furuno X band radar which came in handy during the storm that was rolling in.  He was able to make adjustments to the ships course according to the weather system.  He also pointed out that with this machine, he is able to locate other vessels within a18-25-mile range.  Along with the position coordinates of the vessels within that range, the radar is capable of giving great detail about them as well.  He was able to tell me the ships origins and final destination, how many crew were on board, its speed, and the closest distance between it and us if we continued the same trajectory.  This comes in handy because Capt. Allen is constantly walking from one end of the wheel house to the other.  Many times he is checking instrumentation and other times he is overseeing the crew as they manipulate the heavy machinery needed aboard the Point Sur. 

The Furuno X band radar system.



Captain Allen was able to give me a rundown of the ship’s throttle and steering controls.  He said that this ship is easily guided because it is equipped with great electronics and a great crew.  I plan on spending more time with Capt. Allen as the trip continues so he can give me a detailed tour of the ship’s navigational capabilities. 

Captain Allen explains the throttle system on the Point Sur.





The command center.



Chris Valdes, Teacher at Sea

Last modified on

Posted by on in Teachers

Last night, after the Soul Train excitement in the laboratory, we decided to use an hour of down time to play with the “Green Magnet”.  I’ve been hearing the crew and the scientists speak about it, but I had no idea what they were talking about.  I learned the Green Magnet is a green lighting system that is placed in the water next to the boat.  This light attracts a wide arrange of animals including cephalopods and fish.  Almost simultaneously, the squid and fish began gathering toward the green light as soon as it entered the water, which was a sight to see.  Swarms of small schooling fish began hovering around the Green Magnet as squid would jet from one side to the other.  A few of us even dropped some fishing lines in the water in the hopes of catching a fish or even jigging a squid.



Nice catch Travis!



In the early afternoon today I had a chance to remember why I love teaching.  I was able to Skype with students from the Florida Aquarium Summer Camp.  The students were elementary aged but were full of energy and questions.  Dr. Judkins and I started off the video session by introducing ourselves and explaining our research goals at sea. 

After learning about our mission the students were very eager to ask questions, so we opened it up to the floor.  Many great questions were asked and it was apparent these students had knowledge of the ocean.  Many questions were asked about cephalopods, particularly cuttlefish and giant squid, which is Dr. Judkins’ specialty.

Students were also very eager to ask about life at sea, specifically on the vessel.  They were in shock when they learned the DEEPEND team will spend 16 days and nights at sea.  With that in mind, they inquired about what the staterooms looked like.  They were excited to hear we have bunk beds aboard the Point Sur, and they even started laughing when I told them I hit my head sitting up in bed.   Then they asked about the number of people on board and Dr. Judkins answered “23” and the student replied “so it’s like a party” and immediately all the kids started dancing.  I even caught a student in the back doing the Whip and Nae Nae (I loved this and my COAST students will tell you I often Whip and Nae Nae with them in class). 

After the camp counselors settled them down, they became very intrigued with anglerfish and blobfish.  It was at that exact moment Dr. Moore peaked his head into the Skype session to give detailed answers being his expertise. We all had a great time educating and laughing with the students while we Skyped.



Good folks, the excitement for today did not stop there…


With storm clouds rolling in, and 2 AUV’s to be picked up, I was to experience something really cool!  The weather became stormy and the waves were too great to deploy the zodiac to retrieve the AUV’s so the captain decided to position the Point Sur to use the crane on board to assist with the retrievals.  I quickly put on my hard hat and PFD, then witnessed the intense process of the retrieval.  I was on deck with the rain beating down and the waves crashing over the stern of the vessel.  I truly felt an adrenaline rush as it reminded me of episodes of The Deadliest Catch.  The ship was rocking consistently by the large waves from the storm.  After a couple of unsuccessful attempts, the ECOGIG’s AUV, the SALTY DAWG, was successfully retrieved from the stormy ocean.  The SALTY DAWG and the MODENA (retrieved yesterday) are safely onboard heading back to land with us.  Even though these AUV’s are not operated by DEEPEND, this shows the dedication and collaboration of the science community to work together in achieving our goals.




This experience was so amazing and heart throbbing; I will remember it for time to come!  I am looking forward to more amazing experiences as the ones I was able to experience today!



Chris Valdes, Teacher at Sea






Last modified on

Posted by on in Teachers

With stormy weather on the horizon, the 3am MOCNESS net pull showed some really great and unique fish.  For the first time, I saw a Red Velvet Whalefish.  I asked many questions about this fish as it was the first time I have seen or heard of it.  This fish occurs in deep tropical waters between 200m – 2,000m. To the touch, it felt fragile and not as hearty as it looks but it was still very impressive.

Below is a picture of the Red Velvet Whalefish.


Another cool catch was this juvenile Strawberry squid. Dr. Judkins quickly called me over to her station so I may take a look at it. If you look closely, this magnificent specimen is very tiny but what it lacks in size, it makes up in appearance.  This squid species can grow up to 0.5m in length and has 2 different sized eyes.  1 regular eye which is responsible for the positioning of the body’s trajectory and another telescopic eye that sits on top and constantly searches for food. 

Below is a picture taken through a microscope. My daughter says it looks like Minnie Mouse, what do you think?



The afternoon nets seem to pull up even stranger things.  With a completely full net 0 (254 fish specimens), Dr. Cook and Dr. Judkins completely transformed in to 90’s hip hop/pop queens!  They turned on the radio and the mood completely changed.  With records like Ice Ice Baby, Salt-n-Pepa’s Push It, and MC Hammer’s Can’t Touch This, the laboratory was almost like a karaoke party.  Everyone was singing along to every word without missing a beat.  I even got my partner Mike to jump in with a few verses.  But the total shock value increased when Dr. Sutton began rapping Snoop Dogg lyrics while sporting a backwards DEEPEND hat.  Everyone was filled with laughs and smiles, which helped overshadow the daunting task of many specimens to process, hence the title of this blog – MOC-MOC Baby!


Chris Valdes, Teacher at Sea



Last modified on

Posted by on in Teachers

Wow, what a day it has been aboard the Point Sur!  After what would seem to be a regular MOCNESS sort, I was told that the SLOCUM glider was ready to be launched.  I was very excited for this news because I have only seen this done on television shows and now I had a chance to be a part of it in real life!   

The SLOCUM glider is an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) that can dive up to 1,000m to record different data including temperature, conductivity (to calculate water salinity and density), currents, and bio-acoustical data. As is rises from the depths, it synchs with satellites so data can be downloaded.  This particular AUV can spend up to 2 weeks roaming the ocean before it is ready to be picked up.  I was told that later on our cruise, we will be picking up 2 other SLOCUMs that were deployed about 2 weeks ago.  That data will be instrumental to our understanding of the ocean’s depths. Below is a picture of our crew launching the SLOCUM.  You may notice in the last picture the tail of the glider is pointing to the sky.  This is the data uplink communicating with the satellite above.  After a few moments, the glider was on its way.

Below is a diagram of the SLOCUM's inner make up.



Below is the crew loading the SLOCUM into the zodiac.  



Below is the crew deploying the SLOCUM as it begins its data up link to the satellite.



After seeing the SLOCUM start its journey, I smelled a great odor in the air.  The smell that your olfactory nerves usually react to on the 4th of July…barbeque! As I walked around the deck I saw Chef Alex grilling steak. It smelled delicious and tasted even better.  He said he wanted to cook a Brazilian inspired dish in honor of the Rio Olympic Games. 

Chef Alex stopped for a quick picture before getting back to the grill! 



After dinner, the science team was to witness a magical and very rare specimen!  The Linophryne is a type of angler fish. This angler fish is the only one to use both intrinsic and symbiotic bioluminescence.  This specimen is so rare the entire team stopped working to take photos with the magnificent creature.  Dante also was able to work his magic and take the incredible picture below! If you look closely there is a male Linophryne (called a parasitic male) attached to the bottom side of the female that is used for its sperm for reproductive purposes, while its circulatory system is infused with the female.  The other impressive characteristic of this specimen is its size.  According to Dr. Sutton, he has never seen one of this magnitude.  We all were in awe just looking at this beautiful creature!

Below is the specimen caught today.



Below is the transformation of this species from juvenile to adult.



I am definitely looking forward to more moments like the ones I experienced today.  I am always learning something new and I love that I am able to actively participate in these moments.


Chris Valdes, Teacher at Sea

Last modified on

Posted by on in Teachers

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


Last modified on

               Waking up upon day 3 to rainy weather and a rocking vessel, I quickly had to rethink my shower taking strategy.  The sway of the vessel from the waves caused me to hold on to the shower head or brace myself to the wall to prevent me from falling over.  I learned to always keep 1 hand for myself and 1 hand for the boat.  It is a great thing I began dosing myself with Dramamine last night as the symptoms of motion sickness have not been much of a factor. 

               After washing up, I head to the galley for coffee and some breakfast.  After about 4 cups of coffee and another Dramamine pill, I was ready for the MUSTER Drill.  After the safety meeting the alarm bell rang which is the signal to grab your personal flotation device (PFD) and head to your MUSTER station for a head count, this is where you would meet in case of an emergency. This is also where the life boats are housed.


For my COAST students, this is what a LEVEL I Off-Shore PFD looks like and it is designed to keep you upright while floating in the water.


After the drill we had the science laboratory meeting where instructions and specific job duties were discussed.  Dr. Sutton reviewed the procedures of the MOCNESS net (Multiple Opening/Closing Net Environmental Sensing System) and the importance for following strict guidelines.  He then diagramed how the 6 different nets operate in order to get the samples from different depths (200m-1500m)


Dr. Cook and Dr. Judkins then gave me my assignment.  I will be helping to sort, measure, and weigh the different species that come aboard. I will be working with Mike at this station here.


As I am typing this, Dr. Judkins came running in and said there are a pod of dolphins on the bow of the boat.  I thought this would be a perfect way to end this blog entry right before dinner!  SEE THE VIDEO BELOW!!!




Dolphin video


We should be at our 1st station at around midnight tonight, so stay tuned in for more exciting updates!



Chris Valdes, Teacher at Sea


Last modified on

Posted by on in Teachers

               Hello all, this is Chris Valdes checking in for the first time aboard the Point Sur, Gulfport, Mississippi. I am very honored to be aboard as the Teacher at Sea and awaiting this adventure.  We are set to leave port at midnight and I am filled with many emotions, mainly excitement.  I can sense the same emotions from everyone aboard.  We have shared many laughs and great stories about life and our careers.  Everyone aboard has been very helpful getting me settled in as a member of the DEEPEND family.

               Upon arrival on day 1, I eagerly helped unload the lab equipment and food delivery truck.  I was completely amazed by the amount of equipment that is needed.  Everything that is needed to sustain a laboratory on land is equally needed at sea.  Major equipment like microscopes, electronics, and even a SLOCUM glider are not over shadowed by even the smallest of lab gear such as pens, pencils, duct tape, and Sharpie markers. Every item has its specific place in the lab and needs to be secured to the vessel for safety precautions.

               Day 2 was filled with final preparation for our journey.  A quick stop at Walmart and an amazing lunch at Murky Waters Blues and BBQ turned in to great conversation as the weather prevented us from leaving.  Stories from past DEEPEND cruises were shared and I really sensed the passion from everyone around the table.  Everyone has a specific task while at sea.  Species identification, population migrations, and bio-acoustical sampling are a few areas of interest.  Everyone has a plethora of knowledge about their specific field and has been very helpful sharing it with me.

Make sure you stay tuned in to the blog so I may share that knowledge with you!

We are ready to set sail!

Signing off,


Chris Valdes, Teacher at Sea 



Last modified on

Posted by on in Scientists

After a 2 day weather delay, we are back on track today. As usual we began sampling at sunrise.


We caught bucket loads of jellyfish.


And a really cool moonfish!


After competing all of our sampling stations, we are ready to pack up and head to shore. Thanks for following along with us!b2ap3_thumbnail_crew.JPG

Last modified on

Posted by on in Scientists

Today started out with rain and lightening delays but quickly turned to rainbows.




Last night's dip netting resulted in more myctophid samples. These will be used for the otolith chemistry component of our project.


This billfish from today's sample was exceptional!


We finished up the sampling at sunset with a total of 12 stations.

Last modified on

Posted by on in Scientists

We had a great second day out on the water. Last night we caught some neat myctophids in the ring net.


Mike, Kim and Chris also had good luck with the dip nets at night! Here is one of the flyingfish they caught.


Today we completed stations 15-24 which finished our first transect. We caught tuna, billfish, flying fish, and a dolphinfish. This is one of the larval tunas.


Now we are traveling to the beginning of our second transect, which is about a 7 hour steam. We will be ready to start sampling at dawn tomorrow!

Last modified on

Posted by on in Scientists

Howdy DEEPENDers!

We have just complete our first day of sampling on the LF2016B Cruise aboard the Blazing Seven. Our crew consists of 9 researchers including: Dr. David Wells, Dr. John Mohan, Cori Meinert, Mike Lewis, Chris Steffen, Jessica Lee, and Jillian Gilmartin from Texas A&M University at Galveston and Sebastian Velez from Florida Atlantic University. We sampled at 14 stations today and had some interesting finds including billfish, swordfish, and a puffer.


We will be towing the ring net again tonight, so look forward to pictures from the deep!

Last modified on

Posted by on in Teachers

Due to mechanical problems with the ship, the cruise unfortunately had to end early. We docked at Port Fourchon around 2:30am today.

However, the good news is that the next ichthyoplankton cruise will be at the end of July!

Last modified on

Posted by on in Teachers

All nine of us have a specific task once the boat stops at a station. Travis and Jeff collect water samples to bring back to TAMUG; the water samples are filtered in order to characterize the food web in the Gulf. We also gather environmental data, such as salinity and temperature at each station.


Travis and Jeff collecting water samples

The bongo net and neuston net sampling methods are very similar. They only differ in mesh sizes—this allows us to catch different species along with fish of different sizes. Once the nets are brought on board, we thoroughly rinse all the fish to the bottom of the codends. Then the codends are emptied into a bucket, filtered through a net, placed in their station’s designated jar and preserved. The fish are identified back in Dr. Rooker’s lab at TAMUG.

b2ap3_thumbnail_GOPR7021.JPG b2ap3_thumbnail_GOPR7029.JPG
Retrieving the bongo nets Rinsing the net
b2ap3_thumbnail_GOPR7030.JPG b2ap3_thumbnail_GOPR7032_20160610-222152_1.JPG
Emptying the codend Jarring the sample


If the fish is in good condition, it is brought to the dry lab and Kim takes a picture of it. Like this ribbonfish...

b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_0695.JPG b2ap3_thumbnail_IC800220_20160610-213531_1.JPG




Last modified on

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:

b2ap3_thumbnail_IC800342.JPG b2ap3_thumbnail_IC800341.JPG b2ap3_thumbnail_IC800226.JPG
barracuda damselfish swallower


b2ap3_thumbnail_IC800316.JPG b2ap3_thumbnail_IC809811.JPG
Antenna codlet lanternfish



Last modified on

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.


b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_0628.JPG b2ap3_thumbnail_neuston.png
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!



Last modified on

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


Last modified on

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 

Last modified on

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

Last modified on