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What does a day on the R.V. Point Sur look like?

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A day in the life of a scientist

The day for a scientist is a good mixture of work, sleep, more work, more sleep, and food in between. We sample each site twice, once in the evening and once in the morning, and the reason for this is to allow the scientists to study the vertical migration of the animals and to enable them to better understand their behavioral ecology.

Each night and afternoon the nets go out between 9-10 p.m. coming back at 3 a.m. and then again the following morning at 9 a.m. coming back at 3 p.m.  The nets are “fishing” at predetermined depths for about six hours. Gray is our MOCNESS operator and controls and monitors the net while the rest of us get some sleep. Everyone on board arises from their slumber around 2:30 a.m., fumbling around in their state room, with their eyes half closed; they get dressed, brush their teeth, grab their morning coffee, and head to the lab for setup.  During setup Gray fills us in on how much time we have and from there we begin our countdown until the nets hit the surface of the water. Once the nets are on board the vessel the scientists are cleared and may enter the net area. The whole process is very succinct; Tracey, Max, Travis, and Dante pull the nets up while Tammy, John, Heather, Laura, Katie, and I process the cod ends into the holding containers and bring them inside where they are placed in the refrigerator immediately. The holding containers are very cold because we want the specimens to stay as fresh as possible. The cod ends are then washed by Lacey with freshwater and organized for the next trawl. 

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Gray monitoring the MOCNESS from inside the lab.                                Gray operating the MOCNESS manually, bringing the nets up with the                                                                                                                help of the R.V. Point Sur crew. 

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The cod ends, where all the samples are.                     Tammy and Heather waiting patiently for the nets to reach the deck. 

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                                                                                        Lacey rinsing the cod ends. 

The nets are processed in order from zero to five (Net zero 0- 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).  Sometimes the stations are shallower in depth; therefore the depth of each net has to be adjusted. Once all the scientists are in the lab the sample in emptied into a large white shallow container and each scientist grabs their forceps and begins picking out the animals that they specialize in (Tracey Sutton- fish, Jon Moore- fish and leptocephalus, Tammy Frank- crustaceans, and Heather Judkins- cephalopods). After they have collected their specimens from the sample the identification process begins. They meticulously analyze the specimens by looking at them under the microscope, utilizing dichotomous keys, and field guides. Once they have identified the specimens to the species level they are processed through a variety of lab stations: DNA sampling, length/weight/quantity, standard isotopes, and contaminants.  The procedure is the same for both the morning and afternoon trawl. Following a strict procedure allows the scientists to maintain consistency and prevent errors from happening. 

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Tammy, Jon, Tracey, and Heather observing                                          We use these laminated tags to keep track of the processing. 

and sorting the sample.

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The identification process begins!                              Heather identifying the octopus that came up in that sample.

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Dante and Heather double checking the sample!                                 Lacey, Travis, Katie, and Max are eager to process the samples!

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Laura is really excited about processing DNA!!!!                                  Tammy utilizing an identification guide to ID her crustaceans.

The other projects that are occurring simultaneously are quantitative acoustic profiling that looks at the distribution and scattering of oceanic nekton and chemical analysis of the water in which the trawls are occurring.  Dr. Joe Warren and Dr. Boswell are working on the scattering of nekton by listening to the reflection of sound waves in the different ocean layers. By studying the scattering layer it also allows the scientists to study the vertical migration of organisms (organisms rise to the upper layers of the ocean at night and retreat back to the depths during the day).  Charles Kovach and Travis Richards are administering the CTD (measures conductivity, temperature, and depth) after each trawl. This information will allow them to understand the chemical composition of the sea water and how it directly affects the biotic factors in the ocean. 

 

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The CTD!

A quick snapshot of life around sampling times.

After the early a.m. processing,  6 a.m. breakfast is served in the galley, and we try to catch the sunrise if we are finished processing the current sample. When the sample is complete we all take a nap until lunch at noon, and then afterwards all of the scientists are assiduously working on their laptops inputting data, researching, and checking emails. Around 3 p.m. in the afternoon we process the second sample. Dinner is at 6 p.m. and then it’s time for a little rest and relaxation which could be a movie, reading a book, or just resting up and going to bed. 

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Hanging out in the galley between trawls. 

This is the day of a DEEPEND scientist on board the R.V. Point Sur. Of course there are always situations that pop up such as unpleasant weather or technical difficulties with equipment. At the end of the day the cooperation of all of the scientists is like no other. They all collaborate and assist one another with ease and everyone enjoys each other’s company.  It has truly been a pleasure to be a part of this research cruise. 

Until next time,

Alisha Stahl, Teacher at Sea

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