Dr. Heather Judkins is an assistant professor in the Department of Biology 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.
We are in the home stretch for this DEEPEND cruise with only one trawl left to process on our last day out here at sea. This cruise has been just as productive as every other trip we have conducted with lots of hard work, long hours, and rewarding finds! Here are some fun facts from our six cruises out here in the Gulf of Mexico:
We have found great diversity of species for the major taxa: 61 cephalopod species, 120 crustacean species and 627 fish species! These are important numbers as in the past the midwater habitat was not considered a particularly diverse region.
Here are the winners for the most abundant animal in each category:
Most abundant fish: Cyclothone sp.
Most abundant crustacean: Euphausiids
Most abundant cephalopod: Pterygioteuthis sp. (P. gemmata and P.giardi)
With regards to operations, here’s what we know:
Number of miles traveled: ~6496 miles on the R/V Point Sur out here in the big blue!
Total number of MOC trawls successfully deployed and retrieved: 122
Total number of hours the MOC was in the water: 671 hours
We have 1764 hours of acoustics data collected.
We have ~40,000 species and team photos from Dante Fenolio’s efforts.
Photo: Acoustics attached to the MOC for deployment
What have we found so far? We have found five cephalopod species and more than 20 species of fish that are new to science (descriptions are in the works) and we have approximately 180 fish species that are new records for the Gulf. We have found that each time out here, we have been surprised about how changeable the water conditions have been as we go down the water column- from moving across eddy features to observing and documenting the outward flow of the Mississippi River. We have found that hard work is exhausting but absolutely rewarding as we have so much science to share with all that we have found so far! We have been able to support more than 30 students, research technicians, and post docs through the DEEPEND program to date. This has been essential to maintaining our productivity for the last four years.
So, how has all of this amazing science been possible? We give a HUGE thank you to NOAA/NRDA and GoMRI for this opportunity to explore this unknown region of the Gulf. We now have eight years of continuous data in the same region, using the same methods which allows us to explore connections, gaps, and patterns that occur within and between these depth layers.
We also thank Captain Nic and the crew of the R/V Point Sur for their tireless work to keep our science moving each and every cruise. We wouldn’t have any science to share without you guys along the way! Thank you!
Each DEEPEND team member wants to thank their home institutions for their support for this effort over the last four years. These cruises have an extremely surprising and enlightening endeavor and we have lots more science to report on from these efforts. We expect to have research output and publications continuing for at least the next ten years. Where would we be without Matt Johnston, our data manger and land connection while on our cruises? Thanks to him for all his efforts! April Cook, our rockstar project manager has kept us all in line for the last four years and continues to do so, thank you! And, we can’t go without thanking our amazing director, Tracey Sutton- his work ethic combined with humor has allowed us all to grow as a team over the years, thanks, Tracey!!
Photos: April and Tracey sorting a sample; Tracey with a Mahi
Keep checking in on us for more news, publications, and highlights from the DEEPEND science team as we continue to “fish for answers”…. Until we sail again!
My name is Nina Pruzinsky. I am a graduate research assistant in Dr. Tracey Sutton’s Oceanic Ecology Lab at Nova Southeastern University. I defended my master’s thesis on the “Identification and spatiotemporal dynamics of tuna (Family: Scombridae; Tribe: Thunnini) early life stages in the oceanic Gulf of Mexico” in May and will continue working in Dr. Sutton’s lab post-graduation. In my thesis, I determined characteristics that differentiate juvenile tuna species, which have been previously poorly described, and then mapped the distributions of the most abundant species (little tunny, blackfin tuna, frigate tuna, and skipjack tuna) collected in the Gulf of Mexico from 2010-2011 and 2015-2017.
Photo: Nina with a juvenile little tunny
With that being said, this is my first DEEPEND cruise! I am ecstatic to be a part of the team that is out surveying the Gulf’s deep pelagic ecosystem. I have worked with these specimens in the lab for the past two and a half years, and it is incredible to see the specimens when they first come up in the nets! The different coloration patterns and photophores of these deep-sea fish are amazing to see! On this DEEPEND cruise, I am working as the database manager and work alongside Natalie Slayden. Our job is to back process the fish specimens identified by taxonomists Drs. Tracey Sutton and Jon Moore. Check out Natalie’s blog below to learn more about our jobs at sea.
In regards to my research, I am continuing to sample the larval and juvenile tuna in the Gulf of Mexico. Scombrid counts on this cruise exceed all other DEEPEND cruises thus far! On this cruise, we have collected various scombrid species and life stages. The majority of our catch has consisted of larval and juvenile little tunny. Due to the collaboration with C-Image III, we have also fished/caught adult tunas as well. As Heather mentioned, we are collected tissue samples of these adults for C-Image III and for stable isotope analyses conducted by Travis Richards.
Photo: Mixed larval tuna species (mostly little tunny)
We have collected larval and juvenile frigate and bullet tuna. At the juvenile stage, these two species cannot be differentiated; thus, we are running genetic analyses to determine which species this specimen is (see picture below). Additionally, we found a skipjack tuna in the stomach of one of the adult little tunny that Max Weber caught on the cruise! The MOCNESS also collected a larval skipjack as well. We also caught an adult bonito, and Gray Lawson, our MOCNESS operator, caught an adult yellowfin tuna. It is exciting to see the diversity of tuna species collected this trip!
Photos: Max and Nina with a little tunny; Bottom photo: Gray with a yellowfin tuna
As I spent the majority of my thesis surveying larval and juvenile tunas, this cruise was the first time I saw adult tunas. We had several schools circling the boat, which was very exciting!! Hoping for more tuna sightings and catches as the cruise continues! J
The DEEPEND program has provided the opportunities for collaboration in so many areas over the last four years! In the education and outreach arena, we have been working with the Oregon Coast Aquarium (http://aquarium.org/education/oceanscape-network/) who highlights DEEPEND work and created our DEEPEND Vertical Distribution poster. This collaboration was made possible by one of our EO team members, Ruth Musgrave, who oversees our K-6 education components. We have worked with middle and high school teachers from Florida to Texas through our Teacher-At-Sea program and have remained in contact with many of them years after their at-sea experiences. We have also collaborated through community efforts such as the St. Petersburg Science Festival where both DEEEPEND and C-Image consortia shared space to enlighten children and adults about our offshore projects through interactive games and question and answer sessions.
Photos: DEEPEND Vertical Migration Poster and 2) C-IMAGE II and DEEPEND teams at the St. Petersburg Science Festival
Throughout the four years, our research efforts have also expanded outside of our consortium and other GoMRI groups. For example, in my case, I have been collaborating with other cephalopod researchers around the world about things we are discovering here in the GoM. From new species descriptions to future publications, I have truly benefitted from the DEEPEND work we have conducted to date!
One exciting new collaboration is the alignment of DEEPEND and C-Image III (http://www.marine.usf.edu/c-image/) consortia to tackle an existing gap in the offshore datasets we’ve been collecting. If you look to the DEEPEND shiptracker on our website, you will see the stations we are visiting for our MOC10 sampling work. What is great is that on August 10th, the C-IMAGE III team will head out to the same stations we’ve visited to conduct their longlining project. A total of 36 pelagic longline sets will be made with two gear sets per station (one during daylight and a second at night). This add-on longline survey will evaluate the abundance, food habits, and population demography of the predators, to take tissue samples for toxicology studies, and to evaluate the stomach fullness, species composition and to obtain genetic samples of prey items.
Photo: C_IMAGE III Director, Steve Murwawski catching a Red Snapper on a previous C-IMAGE cruise
Basically, C-IMAGE III will be collecting stomachs for a subsest of our consortia teams to examine to attempt to fill the gap of knowledge between our deep-sea organisms and their large pelagic fishes. What is the gap? Food web connections are difficult as there are many, many variables involved with who eats whom, when does everybody eat, at what depth are they eating, etc. If we can connect the DEEPEND organisms with these more shallow top predators, we will gain a better sense of the energy transfer that occurs between these two groups. We will be working with this new project when everyone is back on land and in the labs!
Assessing marine ecosystems health requires multiple tools to study in an integrative way environmental pollution and impacts across different biological levels. One of the main challenges is to link physical, chemical and biological components in large-scale ecosystems when little information is available. For example, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, contaminated the water column in the Gulf of Mexico from the epipelagic (0-200 m) to the mesopelagic (200 -1000) and bathypelagic (>1000 m) habitats; but assessment of the impact to the deep-pelagic GoM was hampered due to a lack of comprehensive data regarding diversity, abundance, distribution, and pollutants baseline-content of pelagic fauna. Several programs since the spill (e.g. DEEPEND Consortium) have improved our knowledge and understanding of the deep-pelagic ecosystem, the largest habitat in the Gulf of Mexico, and on Earth. However, information regarding the source, composition and inputs of chemical contaminants to deep pelagic fauna is still absent. Chemical contaminants can alter biological diversity and ecosystem functioning, therefore are key for linking long-term population dynamics and environmental stressors.
As part of the DEEPEND Consortium, my role is to establish a time series of chemical composition in deep-pelagic fauna (fishes, shrimps, cephalopods) collected after the Deepwater Horizon spill. For this study, the analysis of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) was chosen because: 1) these compounds are common in crude oil; 2) are persistent in the environment; 3) their composition can be used to broadly detect the source of contamination; and 4) can be toxic to fauna. PAHs are a large group of organic compounds organized in multiple aromatic rings typically found as complex mixtures. They are present in petroleum, coal, wood, and their combustion products. When present in high amounts, for example after an oil spill in the ocean, PAHs can cause lethal and sub-lethal effects on fauna like juvenile and adult fishes, potentially increasing mortality, skeletal malformations, genetic damage, immunotoxicity, etc.
Recently, with the collaboration of different programs, we were able to establish a decadal assessment of PAHs in mesopelagic fish tissues as indicators of environmental contamination in the deep-pelagic ecosystem. The results generated from this study indicate deep-pelagic fishes were exposed to elevated concentrations of PAHs after the Deepwater Horizon spill (2010-2011). In 2015-2016, PAH concentrations were close to the levels measured in 2007; but only for muscle tissues, because elevated concentrations were found in ovaries containing eggs. The high concentrations of PAHs found in 2010-2011 (muscle tissue), and 2015-2016 (eggs) are within the range of PAH concentrations found to cause lethal and sublethal effects on fishes. These results suggest a long-term sink for oil in deep pelagic organisms, potentially greater than shallower counterparts. Our findings demonstrate the importance of monitoring the persistence of organic contaminants in deep pelagic organisms. However, our study also indicates the need for more extensive ecosystem-based efforts of the deep-pelagic ocean (> 10 years) to better understand the long-term impacts across multiple levels of biological organization.
Here are some of the animals I am examining for PAH contamination:
1) Cyclothone obscura; 2) Onychoteuthis banksii,; 3) Histioteuthis corona
For DEEPEND, I am one of the taxonomists that identify the cephalopods (squid and octopus) that are collected from the MOCNESS nets. I am also collecting two other mollusc groups, pteropods (Sea Butterflies) and heteropods (Sea Elephants). Once animals are identified, tissue could go to one or more of the following places for further DEEPEND study: Stable isotope analysis (examples food web interactions among fauna), PAH (studying possible contaminants), or genetic barcoding for species identification verification and genetic diversity analysis.
Photo 1: A Sea Elephant, Carinaria sp.
Photo 2: A sample of Sea Butterflies (pteropods)
One of the advantages of using the MOCNESS is that we can collect organisms at discreet depths to analyze patterns on a fine scale. All focus animals: fishes, crustaceans, gelatinous organisms, and cephalopods are examined to piece together a more complete picture of the midwater column dynamics as they all contribute to the carbon moving from the surface waters to the deep-sea floor.
Team Mollusca are looking at vertical migration patterns for our three groups. Past studies on cephalopod vertical migration involve very few individuals per species so it is important to make the most of the large collection we have to further analyze these patterns. Our findings suggest that there is no one set vertical migration pattern by group but the patterns differ by species. For example, deep-sea pelagic octopods and the Vampire Squid are not found above 600m in the water column while the Moon Squid and Firefly squid move from the mesopelagic (200-1000m) to the epipelagic (0-200m) nightly, presumably for feeding purposes. We are noticing similar patterns in the heteropods, some migrate upwards and some do not. Pteropod analysis is underway at this time, stay tuned!
Here are some of the molluscs that are migrators and non-migrators,
Non-migrators: Japetella diaphana and Vampyroteuthis infernalis
Migrators: Selenoteuthis scintallins and Pterygioteuthis sp.
In the DEEPEND, we apply many techniques to learn about the animals that live in the depths of the twilight zone. One of the types of equipment we use is called an echosounder. While this may sound like a strange instrument, its actually quite common and in fact is on most fishing boats, and often called the ‘fish finder’ or the ‘bottom machine’. We use a similar type of fish finder that is powerful enough to send and receive sound to the depths of the ocean and use the data we collect to study the patterns of the animals in the deep scattering layers (DSLs). In the figure, the daily migration event can be seen with many of the animals within the DSL moving from the depths into the surface at night. Interestingly, not all animals move up at night and some remain at depth and the use of the acoustic devices helps us to better understand how the DSLs change in space and time.
Photo 1: Output from the echosounder of the DSL layer moving up at dusk
Photo 2: Examples of collected animals in the MOCNESS that the echospunder attempts to pick up. Interestingly, squid and octopods don't create a strong enough signal for the echosounder to pick up.
While the echosounder provides important data about the timing, extent and intensity of the migration patterns and the DSL in general, acoustics are limited in their ability to discriminate among species. Because of this limitation, we use net to collect samples to identify the community of organisms which also permits us to describe the diversity of species that we encounter. The mesopelagic community in the Gulf of Mexico is hyperdiverse with greater than 800 species of fishes, crustaceans and other invertebrates.
Indeed, the most prominent piece of equipment that we rely on is the MOCNESS which allows us to collect specimens at through the water column.
The echosounders on the ship provide a picture of large patterns in the ocean so we can learn about the processes that are important at broad scales. However, it is often useful to be able to zoom into the layers and see the individuals that live in those deep areas and to look at them one-on-one. To achieve this, we have attached an autonomous battery-powered echosounder onto the frame of the MOCNESS and added two transducers that collect acoustic data very close to the individuals (~20-40m). By placing the echosounder closer to the animals at depth, we can actually count and measure individuals and learn about their behavior in the dark without the need for any lights. We are learning a tremendous amount from the data we have collected on these animals and are excited to see what tonight’s sampling event shows us!!
Photo: Echosounder attached to the MOCNESS and output screen of individual animals
Hi! My name is Natalie Slayden, and I am a Master’s student at Nova Southeastern University working as a Research Assistant in Dr. Tracey Sutton’s Oceanic Ecology Lab. This DEEPEND cruise is my first research cruise!
Photo: Natalie and Nina prepping the MOC
On this DEEPEND cruise, I am a part of the fish processing team. The process begins with the boat pulling the MOCNESS which is a net system consisting of six nets. One net fishes open the entire time, while the other five nets open and close at different depths allowing us to determine where we catch certain species by depth in the water column. Once the nets are pulled out of the water, the fishes are brought into the lab per net. Dr. Tracey Sutton sorts and identifies each fish to species. I then weigh, measure, and preserve the fishes based on how they will be utilized. All this information is entered into the DEEPEND database by my partner in crime, Nina Pruzinski. Several universities use these fishes for varying projects.
For my thesis project, I am looking at the otoliths (ear stones) of non-vertically migrating deep-pelagic fishes to determine their age. I will also describe the otolith patterns and correlate those patterns to the life history of the fishes. Fishes have otoliths to help them orient themselves within the water column and detect sound. The otoliths have rings that can be counted to determine age. The rings can represent days, months, years, or a single meal. The fishes I will use for my project are frozen so that I can remove and analyze the otoliths once I get back to the lab at Nova Southeastern University. Below are some pictures of the fishes that I will be using for my age and growth study!
Photo 1: Nannobranchium lineatum (Lanternfish species)
Photo 2: Chauliodus sloani (Viperfish species)
On DEEPEND cruises we spend most of our time doing science-related activities that you may have read about in previous blogs. Believe it or not, we do occasionally have down time and we have to figure out how to fill it. There is a TV in the galley that is quite popular to hang around and watch during meal times and late at night. My favorite DEEPEND pastime however, is fishing!
Photo: Max on the hunt for his first tuna
DEEPEND researchers assemble a stack of rods and reels before every cruise in the hopes we will stumble across some good fishing action. This is not guaranteed and I have been skunked on previous DEEPEND cruises. On afternoons when the net is not in the water and we are in transit to another station trolling is the go-to method of fishing. We have already landed on small tuna on this cruise while trolling.
Photo: The rod and reel assemblage area of the lab
Typically the best fishing takes place when a school of fish or some sort of floating structure (like sargassum or floating boards) is spotted. Floating structure often attract small baitfish, which in turn attract larger predators. Already this cruise we have stumbled across a school of Chicken (small) Mahi and Little Tunny. I have landed two Mahi and a Little Tunny, which was my first ever tuna species caught on a rod and reel!
Phptps: Ocean Triggerfish; Travis with a Little Tunny; Bpttom photo: Little Tunny
Photo: Laura on a DEEPEND cruise
I went on the very first DEEPEND cruise. I was in the second year of my PhD and I couldn’t believe my advisor, Dr. Heather Bracken-Grissom, was sending me to initialize collection protocols for the crustacean genetics portion of the proposed research. Because research cruises are the best (only) means of collecting our target specimens, they are very important. Moreover, every cruise is an opportunity to collect for multiple projects. When I went out that first time, I was collecting for five or six research projects…it was a lot of pressure.
Since then, the DEEPEND cruises have been a staple of my graduate school career. I’ve been on five of the six cruises. It’s difficult to describe what these cruises are like: a flurry of collection activity, a sleep-deprived science bender, a two-week oceanic boot camp. They are challenging and rewarding and they shape what sorts of questions DEEPEND can ask and address. Over the course of these cruises, I’ve collected thousands of specimens and used them to illuminate the connections between the midwater Gulf and the Atlantic.
Last month, I successfully defended my doctoral dissertation. In the days preceding the event, many DEEPEND scientists reached out to wish me luck. And along with all the concrete, quantifiable benefits of these research cruises, these communications emphasized again the myriad qualitative benefits: I’m a better scientist for having been a part of DEEPEND. On that first cruise I was a slightly under-prepared, over-eager graduate student on a ship full of experienced researchers and scientists who immediately supported and accepted me as one of them. They encouraged me and offered me a place at their table. The collaborations and relationships established on these cruises will last my entire professional career.
One month before this cruise left dock, I accepted an NIH postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Colorado. One month after we return to dock, I’ll move to Denver and take up the position in the Computational Biosciences Department. The talk I gave during the application process was comprised entirely of my work with DEEPEND – a talk refined through rehearsals with DEEPEND scientists and GOMOSES presentations.
This post is getting a little longer than I intended, so I’ll end it the way I end most cruises: with gratitude. GOMRI, DEEPEND, FIU, R/V Point Sur, Dr. Bracken-Grissom, thank you. Thank you for letting me roll with you.
Photos: Laura hard at work during DEEPEND cruises. So many crustaceans to identify and sample!
When the nets come up, it’s time to sort…. Each net is processed one net time so we don’t mix up samples between one net and another. The entire process can take anywhere from four to six hours depending on how full each cod end is. We first identify the organisms and then they go to Nina and Natalie for data entry. Animals are being used for multiple studies once we are back on our labs: DNA barcoding, genetic diversity studies, stable isotope analysis, contaminant analysis and vertical distribution studies.
Here is just a sample of some unique specimens we’ve collected so far!
Photo 1: Nina and Natalie at the data entry station
Photo 2: A sample of the over 600 euphausiids (krill) that team crusty had the pleasure of counting from one net
Photo 3: A selection of bristlemouths and a hatchetfish that was going to processing for the PAH study
Photo 4: Nina with a Fangtooth fish
Photo 5: The mollusca collected on one of the tows- 4 small pelagic snails, one small Vampire squid and a Chiroteuthis mega (deep-sea squid)
One of the new projects onboard this DEEPEND trip is the use of a drone to capture images and video from a different perspective around the Point Sur. Thomas Wheeler is a full time drone operator who contracts with different science and engineering projects that require drone work. This trip, he is assisting Ryan Killackey and Dante Fenolio who are creating a documentary titled “Life in the Dark” which focuses on various organisms that create light.
Why use a drone? Drones are quickly becoming a standard tool that we use in all areas of science. It is very important to capture the true nature of organisms in their habitat and drones can do that with little interference. In addition, using a drone broadens the scanning area for a project so more area can be covered. Lastly, drone footage captures large amounts of data that will be analyzed and used by scientists. The different perspective that drones capture provide the public spectacular images and video of events not often seen by anyone other than the scientists.
Thomas loves that this job allows him to travel to different venues and allows him to contribute to science while doing something he loves. The eternal challenge for drone work of course, is to be able to collect data in a safe manner, in this case, not allow the drone to fall to the bottom of the ocean!
Facts about Thomas’s drone, the Inspire 2 (lovingly named Zephyr):
Battery airtime: 25 minutes
Range: up to 4 miles
Here are pictures that Jon Moore took from the initial deployment and retrieval on Day 1 of this trip, Enjoy!
Photo 1: Inspire 2 ready for launch
Photo 2: Thomas piloting the first mission Photo 3: Ryan collecting the drone on the return
When the MOC10 comes up to the ship, it is time for the whole science team to leap into action. To someone not familiar to the process, it may appear to be utter chaos but each person on the team has a role and things usually run like clockwork. I say “usually” because occasionally, there is a hang-up. One hang-up has been the equipment that runs the MOC last night and today. There has to be communication between the equipment on the net frame to the computer that monitors the entire process for a successful tow. We have a wonderful MOC operator, Gray, who is the master of this equipment and has been out with us for every cruise. He has been working hard to make sure our science can happen! He has spent hours trying to troubleshoot and solve the mystery problem and so far, we have been able to deploy the nets! Thank you, Gray for all of your hard work with this!
Our MOC operator, Gray, prepping the nets
We are waiting for the second trawl of the trip to come up now and we will processing our deep-sea organisms soon! Stay tuned for some animal highlights in the following posts… We collect things from microbes to large fishes and here is a couple of photos from today!
Photo 1: Jon Moore, Tracey Sutton, Tammy Frank sorting a sample Photo 2: Travis Richards catching a Blue Runner
Hi everyone, after checking to make sure all gear, crew, and science team were onboard the R/V Point Sur, we left the dock just after midnight and we have arrived at our first station! Today, the team spent time calibrating the multibeam sonar and putting the nets onto the MOCNESS frame. You will hear more soon from the acoustics team about the sonar and I will describe the MOCNESS for you now.
Well Wishes from the Restore Sargassum Team as we moved gear into the lab
MOCNESS is an acronym for a Multiple Opening and Closing Net and Environmental Sensing System, which will deploy six nets in the water from the surface down to 1500m (~4500 ft). One net at a time opens at a specified depth (1200-1500m, 1000-1200m, 600-1000m, 200-600m, 0-200m), and net 1 which stays open as the whole system goes down to 1500m. At each depth, a net is open for 45 minutes, moving through the water and collects organisms in the cod end (container at end of each net). The whole thing is brought back onto the deck where the science team then processes the collections. We spent a couple of hours today setting up the MOCNESS nets and cod ends in a light rain and we are now ready for our first deployment which is tonight!
Assembling the nets is a team effort
This trawl we are doing tonight is the 100th trawl of the DEEPEND cruises. What an accomplishment! The nets will go down at 9pm and we will be ready to sort through the samples at 3am when processing begins.
Stay tuned for how the 100th trawl goes!
Hello, everyone! The DEEPEND team is preparing and packing up gear for our next DEEPEND cruise which will be July 18th through August 2nd. We are heading out on the R/V Point Sur from Gulfport, MS and are excited to get back out on the big blue! We will have the shiptracker and real-time surface currents maps per usual on the DEEPEND homepage and we will be blogging along the way with our progress and discoveries! Hope you can virtually join us for our adventure, stay tuned!
Hi Everyone! Quick update that the DEEPEND team is currently staging/getting underway for our 5th DEEPEND cruise of our project! Stay tuned for blog updates as well as updates to the shiptracker on the home page as coordinates are available. You can also watch where our glider is moving in the GoM and we are planning to retrieve it later in the cruise. The team will be returning to port by May13th. Stay tuned! We here on land are excited to see what they discover this trip!
Hello, everyone! Report from the Education-Outreach Team on our first Teacher-at-Sea, Carol Gordy, preparing for the DEEPEND Ichthyoplankton Cruise heading out in a couple of days. Carol joins our team from Sunlake High School in Pasco County, Fl where she teaches marine science classes. She has been teaching for 25 years and will be sharing her experience at sea with us through her daily blog posts. Follow her journey and ask lots of questions! Check out the DEEPEND main page and news for more details about this cruise and it's role in the DEEPEND program- safe travels, Carol!
The DEEPEND cruise on the R/V Point Sur is underway and currently at their first station! We are out in the northern Gulf of Mexico until May 8th where we will be hoping to hit 8 stations during our journey. This is the first time out for the ship's crew, first time using this MOCNESS net system on this ship, and first time to try out all of the science protocols that we have set up for our cruises. The first cruise of a survey is usually called the "shake down" cruise, designed to work out glitches that may come up during the trip with quick troubleshooting and lots of problem solving by the DEEPEND Team which is extremely important to set the stage for efficient future cruises. We have quickly discovered, for example, that the internet is currently not reliable and Dante (on board) has sent me pictures to put into this blog so you can share our experience with us! I am not on board but can relay questions to the DEEPEND Team if you've got any! Post them and we can answer!
The R/V Point Sur at the dock in Gulfport, MS
The team is at the first station working through the deployment of the MOCNESS net (Multiple Opening/Closing Net Environmental Sensing System) which is a multi-net system that drops into the water at the same time with each net settling at different depths from the surface down to 1500m.. We are going to collect all organisms from each of the 5 nets and take tissues samples, identify the crustaceans, fishes, and cephalopods, and freeze some animals for lab studies back on land. We will detail our projects as the days progress. Stay tuned!
One of the MOCNESS nets being checked before assembled on the deck
Team checking the spool of wire that will deploy the net system.... SO much cable!
So, post any questions you have about our journey! Anything about life on a research ship, the science we're doing, what the crew does to run the ship, you ask it, we will try to answer the best we can! There will be great pictures of the other equipment and of course, the animals once these nets come up!
The first GOM Exploration Teacher Workshop (grades 6-12) through the DEEPEND Program was held Saturday, April 18th at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and was a great success! Teachers joined us from Florida and Alabama for the day-long workshop and learned about DEEPEND projects, background content and classroom activities they can take back into their classrooms. Activities included exploring the dark with bioluminescence, exploring cephalopod and plankton taxonomy as well as practicing with DNA extraction methods!
They also received details about the first DEEPEND cruise that is scheduled for May 1- May 8th where they will be able to follow the DEEPEND crew as they begin their science adventures. Teachers and their classes can follow along, ask the scientists questions, and receive feedback from the crew as the cruise progresses on the Point Sur, our vessel for this year which calls Gulfport, MS home.
I am thrilled that the first workshop went so well with only a few minor things to adjust for next year's workshop for grade 6-12 teachers which will be in Dania Beach, FL at the Nova Southeastern Oceanographic Center. The group was enthusiastic and I was excited to share our upcoming experience with them all! Out of this first group, 3 teachers will be selected to join us at-sea. There is an application they submit, the DEEPEND team reviews the applications and will be announcing the teachers by May 2nd. Stay tuned to hear who will be joining us!
The DEEPEND Consortium held it's Kick-off meeting February 23-25th at the Nova Southeastern Oceanographic Center on Dania Beach. It was an all-hands meeting where science projects were shared, the education/outreach plan was finalized and break out sessions focused on the finer details of collecting organisms and samples at sea.
I thought the meeting was well-organized and full of positive energy as we were able to all come together to share the vision that was created during the grant proposal process. We have a robust game plan and I have no doubts that the next three years will be full of excitement, great scientific findings, challenges and lots of laughs.
Our first cruise will be coming up in late spring if the plan stays on track. There will be 2, 1-week ichthyoplankton (fish larvae and juveniles) cruises in June and July with a final cruise this year slotted for late August/early September. All dates are tentative pending weather and gear availability.
We are moving full steam ahead as we head down into the deep this year!