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 Studying the animals in the deep sea within their natural habitat is very difficult. It often requires sophisticated instruments or equipment and scientists have to be careful to make sure that they don’t disturb the animals they are studying. During the DEEPEND cruises, we use sound to study how animals move through the ocean and the daily movement patterns as they go up and down from the surface at night to the deep sea during the day.  Using sonars, we can create a picture of where the animals are by measuring how much sound they reflect. While this gives scientists a broad picture of where the animals are, it does not provide enough detail to look at the individuals within the layers.

During this cruise, we have been using a new tool to study fish and invertebrates down in the depths of the ocean. We have attached an autonomous sonar (WBAT- WideBand Autonomous Transceiver) on to the MOCNESS (see photo above) to look at the animals that are near the net. This new sonar provides much higher resolution data at small scales, kind of like an underwater magnifying glass.  With this new instrument we can look at the individuals that are being collected by the MOCNESS and then compare this back to what we see on the ship’s sonar. So far we have noticed that the animals do not seem to avoid the net as we expected they would.

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We are pleased to present you with the fourth in a series of teaching and learning modules developed by the DEEPEND (Deep-Pelagic Nekton Dynamics) Consortium and their consultants. Whenever possible, the lessons will focus specifically on events of the Gulf of Mexico or work from the DEEPEND scientists.

All modules in this series aim to engage students in grades 6 through 12 in STEM disciplines, while promoting student learning of the marine environment. We hope these lessons enable teachers to address student misconceptions and apprehensions regarding the unique organisms and properties of marine ecosystems. We intend for these modules to be a guide for teaching. Teachers are welcome to use the lessons in any order, use just portions of lessons, and may modify the lessons as they wish. Furthermore, educators may share these lessons with other school districts and teachers; however, please do not receive monetary gain for lessons in any of the modules.

You can download the module and view our other modules here; http://outreach.deependconsortium.org/index.php/education/resources/lesson-plans

 

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Hello DeepEnd readers!


I want to let you know about a special opportunity that I had recently!  On February 18 2016 I was a guest speaker at Sheridan Technical High School!!  Ms. Brittney Smith, who is a first year teacher down in Fort Lauderdale, invited me to speak to her AP Environmental Science class.  Their recent unit dealt with different biomes found throughout the planet, the variety of life found within, and how human activity has altered the environment. 

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The reason for my visit was to dive a little deeper into the oceanic environment and teach the kids about an area of the ocean that is little understood or explored.  The deep sea is considered to be the world’s largest biome, with 90% of the ocean classified as deep sea.  Contained within this massive volume are some truly unique ecosystems each with their own challenges, organisms, and adaptations.  We discussed general challenges that organisms face in the deep-sea such as: increased pressure, lack of down-welling light, low temperatures, and a food poor environment.  The kids learned some adaptations commonly seen in deep-sea critters: bioluminescence, transparency, red, brown, and black skin pigmentation, slower metabolism, delayed sexual maturity, longevity, brittle bones and flabby muscle tissues.  Much to the students delight I was able to bring some specimens along so they could see what these amazing critters look like and how different they are to the classical fish image that comes to their minds.

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I reintroduced the kids to the unique ecosystems that the deep contains, such as hydrothermal vents, methane seeps, brine pools, and whale falls.  We also learned about some of the critters associated with these unique oases. 

Human impact is a very consistent theme for AP Environmental Science.  We learned how and why deep-sea fisheries are unsustainable by looking at case studies of Orange Roughy and Chilean Sea Bass.  We learned the dangers of bottom trawling and how plastics can impact the oceans. 


As my time with each class came to a close I was able to tell them about all the cool stuff we are doing with DeepEnd and how they can follow us on social media and even ask us questions!  The students left the classroom seeing fish that most of the world does not know exist and with a deeper understanding and sense of wonderment of the world’s largest biome!!

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The eels and their relatives (Elopomorpha) have larval stages known as leptocephali (singular is leptocephalus). They can be leaf shaped (bottom of figure, top most whole body image) or they can be more elongate and eel like (bottom of figure, middle whole body image). The fishes that are related to true eels include the halosaurs and the ladyfishes (bottom of figure, bottom whole body image). Head shapes can be elongate and serpent-like or rounded (top images). We have been intensively surveying the leptocephali of the Gulf of Mexico during our cruises. I have about 50 species photographed so far.

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A full body shot of the Orangeback Flying Squid (Sthenoteuthis pteropus). This species can jump out of the water and glide, just like flying fishes.

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A deep water marine ostracod, (Gigantocypris sp.). Ostracods are related to crabs, shrimp, lobsters, etc. Both individuals are brooding eggs. The specialized eyes detect bioluminescence in the copepods that they hunt and eat.

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Brought up some more Bobtail Squid (Heteroteuthis dagamensis) in a trawl. This is as big as they grow.

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A Bobtail Squid (Heteroteuthis dagamensis)

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Moonfish (Selene sp.)

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Another immature shrimp from this morning's trawl...perhaps an Atlantic Coral Banded Shrimp?

 

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So folks ask me all the time about the size of the deep water wildlife we see. Most are really small. One exception can be found with several species of dragonfish (this is Echiostoma barbatum). Pictured here is Katie Bowen with the dragonfish.

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The Orangeback Flying Squid (Sthenoteuthis pteropus). This species can jump out of the water and glide, just like flying fishes.

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A "Swallower" (Pseudoscopelus sp.) - they have greatly expandable stomach tissue and can eat fish twice their size. Also called a "Snaketooth."

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The Sargassum Triggerfish (Xanthichthys ringens)

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A larval flatfish (Bothus sp.)

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I Love me some squid (Abralia redfieldi)

 

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Female anglerfish, larvae (Linophrynidae). Still has her jelly coat.

 

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Leptocephalus (eel larvae)..and a cool species at that - the False Moray(Kaupichthys hyoproroides).

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Happiness is shooting anglerfishes day in and day out. This is an odd one (Oneirodes carlsbergi). A close up of the esca (lure) is in the upper corner. The lure glows and attracts prey items. Only females grow to this size and have lures.

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Another (Centrophryne spinulosa). Close op of the esca to the upper left....

 

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Larval shrimp

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Crazy weather this morning....this right next to the ship.

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The life and death of a waterspout.

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Although the weather was crazy it didn't' stop us from pulling up some really cool animals like this larval shrimp.

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And this Dragonfish (Photostomias guernei).

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And this Joubin's squid (Joubiniteuthis portieri)

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A fish I have wanted to see for years (Inops murrayi). This deep water species is usually found between 1,460m and 3,500m. This is a juvenile we caught in the water column. Instead of functional eyes, what remains of photoreceptive tissue lies beneath bone in this species. The "eyes" have no lenses but can detect light.

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We also captured a beautiful shrimp today. She is "in berry" or brooding eggs beneath her tail. The inset to the top left depicts the eggs beneath her tail. I am holding her to show size.

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Catch of yesterday morning...a lobster larvae.

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Another encounter in the afternoon trawl. A Dragonfish (Idiacanthus fasciola). This Dragonfish is sexually dimorphic. Males don't get the barbel and bioluminescent bulb hanging off of their chins. They have short lives and last just long enough to breed. This is a female. Note the bioluminescent photophores on her sides. Those spots glow in the dark and most likely aid in recognition of same species individuals and even recognition between the sexes. The bulb at the end of her barbel glows and attracts her prey items.

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A deep water fish (Scopelarchus analis) with upward facing eyes that are adapted to see faint light or to key in on bioluminescence.

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Yesterday morning we deployed our drone - an "autonomous underwater vehicle or AUV." The unit will move to various ocean depths across the next two weeks and collect water parameters. When we are ready for it, we will signal for it to stop and go to the surface. It will then start "pinging" using a GPS unit and we will locate and retrieve it.

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We have had some questions come in about the MOCNESS that we are using to collect our deep-sea animals. “MOCNESS” is an acronym for a Multiple Opening/Closing Net and Environmental Sampling System and it comes in a variety of sizes. The one we are using is called a 10-meter MOCNESS because it samples an area of about 10 square meters. It has a rigid frame and six different nets with codends attached that can be opened and closed at different depths through the touch of a button on the MOC10 operator’s computer. We know the exact depth of the net due to the conducting cable that attaches the MOC10 frame to the ship. This allows information to be sent back to the ship from the many sensors mounted to the frame. In addition to depth, the MOC10 sensors include temperature and conductivity (salinity). The multiple codends allow us to sample within particular depth zones so that we can learn where the organisms live. For example, whalefishes, like the one pictured here, live only below 1000 meters and the lanternfish is only found above 1000 meters.

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                                  Whalefish                                                                                    Lanternfish

The nets only fish one at a time and are attached to the frame in such a way that as one net closes it opens the next net. The MOC10 is sent down to its max depth of 1500 meters with the first net open which is called an oblique trawl since it samples from the surface to depth. At 1500 meters, a signal is sent through the conducting cable to tell the MOC10 frame to open the next net, which closes the first one. Our sampling plan is to target the following depth layers: 1500-1200 m, 1200-1000 m, 1000-600 m, 600-200 m, and 200 m-surface. Keep an eye out for a later post on the layers of the ocean to find out why!

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FORT LAUDERDALE-DAVIE, Fla. – It has been said that we know more about the surface of the moon than we do about our own planet’s oceans. That especially applies to the deepest parts of our oceans – depths that are 200 meters or deeper.

Researchers from organizations around the world who specialize in studying and exploring the deepest regions of our oceans have come together to pen a cautionary tale that urges we take a critical look at how we’re treating our seas.

“We need to consider the common heritage of mankind - when do we have the right to take something that will basically never be replaced or take millions of years,” said Tracey Sutton, Ph.D., Associate Professor at Nova Southeastern University’s Oceanographic Center.

Sutton, along with scientists and professors from California to Germany to the United Kingdom have written a paper that is being published by Science magazine that calls for increased stewardship when it comes to our oceans. The paper can be found online at Sciencemag.org 

The paper addresses the many ways the oceans are currently being exploited (i.e. mining, over-fishing, etc.) and says that we have to “make smart decisions now about the future of the deep ocean.” The goal is to reach a “happy balance” that weigh benefits of use against both direct and indirect costs of extraction, including damage to sensitive and yet unknown ecosystems.

“There’s so much more we need to learn about these deep, mysterious places on our planet and our fear is some ecosystems and marine species will be eradicated before we even know they existed,” said Sutton. “The deep ocean is already experiencing impacts from fishing, oil and gas development and waste disposal, and we are trying to get people to pause and see if there are better ways to do things before we negatively impact our seas.”

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