DEEPEND and C-Image researchers (T. Sutton, S. Murawski, H. Judkins, I. Romero and others) met in December to process pelagic fishes that were collected during a C-Image longline cruise that occurred in August in order to examine the possible linkages between these fast, deep-diving fishes to the midwater organisms that are the focus of DEEPEND research. Over 45 fish stomachs (including Lancetfish, Swordfish, Silky Shark, and others) were examined and contents were identified to the species level when possible. The stomach contents were in surprisingly good condition with many species successfully identified. There were multiple midwater fishes and cephalopods that were discovered which shows a strong link between the two groups by way of predator/prey interactions.

Heather Judkins was thrilled to coordinate the triennial CIAC Conference in St. Petersburg, FL in November. CIAC (Cephalopod International Advisory Council Conference) was formed in 1983 to promote the sharing of cephalopod research around the world. This CIAC conference drew 230 scientists to the region for two-day practical application workshops as well as the five-day conference with over 100 oral presentations, 18 Lightning talks, and 150 Poster presentations. There were 30 countries represented at the event and attendees enjoyed a welcome reception at The Florida Aquarium, field trips around the region, and a final CIAC Celebration banquet in Gulfport, FL. During the week, Dr. Judkins was also elected the next CIAC president until 2021 at the next conference which will be held in Portugal. Overall, it was a great success! For more information about the conference or the CIAC organization, please visit

On August 3rd, 2018 Dr. Tracey Sutton's Oceanic Ecology lab at Nova Southeastern University was featured on the new series "In Search Of" on the History Channel with host Zachary Quinto. Check out this episode about the deep sea!! You will learn about a new snaggletooth species (Astronesthes) discovered through DEEPEND's research! 


One of the DEEPEND team members, Dante Fenolio, our resident photographer, conducted a series of short videos during our recent cruise highlighting "Life Aboard a Research Ship" through his Facebook page. If you're interested about the many pieces it takes to make a research cruise successful, check out the 20 or so video clips! Many of the Point Sur crew and the DEEPEND science team discuss their roles while onboard. Enjoy!

Travis sorts through Neuston net samples looking for the Sargassum frogfish (<em>Histrio histrio</em>) aboard the R/V Point Sur. (Provided by DEEPEND)

The deep-pelagic habitat (200 m depth to just above the seabed) is the largest habitat in the Gulf of Mexico, yet we know very little about it compared to coastal and shallow-water habitats. Our limited understanding of this major marine habitat makes it extremely difficult to assess the effects of disturbances such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Travis Richards seeks to better understand the structure of deep-pelagic food webs by tracing the energy flow from the food web base through higher trophic levels. His research will help expand our understanding of the deep-pelagic habitat and serve as a reference point for future studies and response efforts.

The GoMRI community embraces bright and dedicated students like Travis Richards and their important contributions. The GoMRI Scholars Program recognizes graduate students whose work focuses on GoMRI-funded projects and builds community for the next generation of ocean science professionals.

Travis's work is a feature story on the GoMRI website.  Read about it here

The DEEPEND Consortium held it's first Synthesis Workshop at NSU's Guy Harvey Oceanographic Center in Dania Beach Florida on May 14th-15th, 2018.  The workshop was well-attended by 50 consortia members, students, and affiliated scientists, including the following external participants:

Stacy Calhoun (ULL; Deep-pelagic zooplankton)
Kait Frasier (SIO; Marine mammal collaboration)
Dean Grubbs (FSU; Deep-demersal predator collaboration)
Dan Hahn (NOAA Office of Response and Restoration)
Bill Hogarth (GoMRI Research Board Member)
John Quinlan (NOAA NMFS SEFSC – NRDA water column assessment)
Steve Murawski (USF; C-IMAGE I-III PI; epipelagic top predator collaboration)
Kelly Robinson (ULL; RFP VI co-PI – Deep-pelagic zooplankton)
Jim Ruzicka (OSU, RFP VI co-PI – ecosystem modeling)
Verena Wang (USM: – Deep-pelagic zooplankton, larval fish time-series)
Eric Weissberger (NOAA NMFS Monitoring and Adaptive Management)
Chuck Wilson (GoMRI Chief Science Officer)

We thank all participants who joined us in this synthesis effort.  The meeting was recorded and will be transcribed for a report.

The meeting agenda can be downloaded here.

Okeanos Explorer Banner

Saturday, April 28th, DEEPEND team member, Heather Judkins, narrated the midwater transect portion of the NOAA Okeanos dive which is part of a cruise currently being conducted in the Gulf of Mexico which ends on May 3rd. Tracey Sutton was also part of the shore-based scientific team, identifying the various fish species that were seen. We had amazing sightings from siphonophores to fishes to even cephalopods!

The goal of the Okeanos cruises are to explore new areas of both benthic and midwater regions around the world. This year, the Okeanos team will be in the Gulf of Mexico and the western Atlantic Ocean. The public are invited to view the live feed of the explorations at this site:

R/V Cape Fear

Nova Southeastern University kicked off the conference program for the year by hosting a two-day Graduate Student Symposium, which featured seven great talks from DEEPEND’s principle investigators and graduate students. Presentations included: genomic analysis of microbial symbionts found in deep-sea in anglerfish lures and in the water column of the Gulf of Mexico (Lopez et al.), the trophic ecology of a bathypelagic fish family (tubeshoulders, Novotny et al.), ingestion of microplastics by deep-pelagic animals (Bos et al.), the relationship between parasites and size, species, and behaviour of deep-pelagic fishes (Woodstock et al.), the distribution of larval tuna (Pruzinsky et al.) with respect to oceanographic features; the dramatic declines in pelagic fishes (Sutton et al.) and crustaceans (Nichols et al.) in the Gulf after Deepwater Horizon, and classifying pelagic habitat features in the Gulf of Mexico (Johnston et al.)

In February DEEPEND researchers from multiple institutions presented research findings at the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference (GOMOSES) in New Orleans, LA, and at AGU/ASLO/TOS Ocean Sciences Meeting in Portland, OR. 

The aim of the GOMOSES meeting is to bring together a diverse range of researchers from all disciplines who are working on understanding the biological, chemical and physical processes that operate in the Gulf of Mexico. DEEPEND was well-represented, with 11 presentations. Heather Bracken-Grissom and Laura Timm presented work on the genetic connectivity of crustaceans in the Gulf of Mexico with surrounding regions. Heather Judkins and Kris Clark presented their work describing the distributions and diversity of pelagic molluscs (squids and heteropods, respectively). Regarding fishes, presentations described dramatic declines in abundances of deep-pelagic fishes after Deepwater Horizon (Sutton et al.),  biophysical coupling in a dominant mesopelagic fish family (lanternfishes; Milligan et al.), and pelagic habitat use by important coastal fishes (snappers/groupers; Velez et al.). Physical oceanographic presentations included work on frontal densities (Hu et al.), methods to track the Mississippi River plumes using satellite measurements (Hu & Le), and a newly developed method to classify pelagic habitat features in the GoM (Johnston et al.). 

After the GOMOSES meeting, we were straight on a plane to Portland and the Ocean Sciences Meeting, where (despite an unfortunate outbreak of the flu), the DEEPEND team gave another eight presentations. These included talks describing the ecology of deep-living fishes (see above), and an assessment hydrocarbon contaminants (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) in mesopelagic animals after Deepwater Horizon (Romero et al.). DEEPEND members presented posters describing how microbial communities in the Gulf of Mexico are influenced by diel vertical migrations (Easson et al.), how the assemblage of Oplophorid shrimps has changed since the oil spill (Nichols et al.), habitat classification (Johnston et al.), and the great successes of DEEPEND’s educational outreach program (Musgrave et al.).

To round out our program of talks, DEEPEND’s lead scientist, Tracey Sutton, and DEEPEND’s data manger, Matthew Johnston, gave invited lectures at  NSU’s Distinguished Lecture Series.  Tracey presented some of his recent work describing the global importance and structure of the deep-pelagic biome to faculty and students and Matt lectured on data visualization and interpretation.