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August 8, 2015: Day 1- Traveling to our first site and setting up

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Greetings from the R.V. Point Sur! My name is Alisha Stahl and I’m your teacher at sea from Ellenton, Fl. It is such an honor to be chosen for this position and to be given the opportunity to work with some of the most distinguished scientists from Nova Southeastern University, University of South Florida St. Petersburg, Florida Atlantic University, Texas A&M at Galveston, and Florida International University.  The research we will be focusing on over the next two weeks is developing a quantitative taxonomic assessment of deep sea pelagic species of the northern Gulf of Mexico in the region surrounding the Deepwater Horizons oil spill.

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The R.V. Point Sur diligently set sail around midnight on August 8, 2015 with all 15 scientists and a multitude of crew members on board. Prior to our departure everyone spent the first few hours setting up their bunks or state rooms and getting settled in for the next 15 days. The rooms are spacious and comfortable with ample storage to keep all of our items, while the swaying of the Gulf’s waves rocked each of us into a deep slumber.

 The first site is roughly 200 miles offshore resulting in about 20 hours of travel time on this gorgeous Saturday afternoon. The waves are about three feet high, the sun is shining, and the water is gradually taking on a gorgeous deep blue hue with sporadic racks of Saragassum floating by. The day was spent resting, going over protocol, and setting up the MOCNESS (Multiple Opening and Closing Net and Environmental Sampling System) net.

The MOCNESS is a unique apparatus consisting of several nets stacked on top of one another in a single frame which is then towed behind the boat. The scientists can manipulate the nets to open and close based on the depth in which they want to measure. During this research trip the net will be broken up into six different nets labeled 0-5. Net zero will be deployed, remain open, and sample the first 1500 meters, net one 1500-1200 meters, net two 1200-1000 meters, net three 1000-600 meters, net four 600- 200 meters, and net five 200 meters to the surface. Each tow will last six hours and then the samples will be processed according to protocols set by the chief scientist (Tracey Sutton). The benefit of using a net system such as the MOCNESS is that it allows scientists to  study specific depth ecosystems more efficiently especially since the organisms living in the deep move a lot slower, making them a little easier to catch.

 

Can’t wait to share what we collect tonight during our first tows!!!

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