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Day 1 a smashing success!

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Jeff Plumlee

Blog post from Jeff Plumlee on the Blazing Seven:

 

Howdy from the Blazing Seven!

We have had an incredibly productive day! This morning we woke up at 0300 as we arrived on our first site at N 27 W 91. Shortly after, we completed our first 500m mid-water tow with a ring net. In the tow we collected several deepwater species including, lanternfish (Myctophidae), deepwater shrimp, and various fish larvae. After the 500m tow we rested and prepared till 0600 to start our first site for neuston and 100-m bongo nets tows looking for billfish and tuna larvae. The most abundant feature of today was Sargassum, and there was plenty of it, a pattern we are very familiar with in Galveston, Texas. However even with the Sargassum we were able to find plenty of jacks (Carangidae), f ilefish (Monacanthidae), and a good number of flyingfish larvae, among other pelagic species. Despite the potential setbacks Sargassum can cause, we were able to complete 12 sites from N 27 W 91 to N 27 W 89.5 which, according to Captain Thomas, is a TAMUG Billfish cruise record for site sampling productivity, WHOOP! 

 

In addition to towing nets, we also filtered water at several select stations to help aid fellow researchers at TAMUG. Dr. David Wells of Texas A&M at Galveston, and his soon-to-be PhD student, Travis Richards, are focusing their efforts as apart of the DEEPEND Consortium on pelagic organisms and their trophic connectivity. One way that this can be accomplished is through stable isotope analysis. Looking at the ratio of heavy isotopes (Carbon 13 and Nitrogen 15) can help researchers understand the contributions to an organisms' diet. Specifically, contributions from primary production (using Carbon 13), and trophic position (using Nitrogen 15). Gathering the contributors of the base of the trophic web as well as the estimates of their associated locations and oceanographic features is crucial to applying effective models to the system. That's where we come in. Filtering water and analyzing the phytoplankton collected in the filter, along with collecting vegetation from the site (like Sargassum) is an easy way to create these regional maps and is crucial to understand food web dynamics.

 

Tonight we will complete our second 500-m mid-water tow, and tomorrow we hope to finish our N 27 transect as well as a third 500-m mid-water tow. We are continuing to run into new and dynamic oceanographic features, so stay tuned for updates!

 

Jeff

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