Monday, August 20, 2012

13 Aug 2012 - Back on Land...

[Ed: We'll have a few follow-up posts about the cruise now that we're back on land.]

Lots of Data!

Well the cruise is over, the equipment is packed, and the data binder is tucked safely in my backpack! We just have a couple more days in Oregon and then it's back to Long Island! I am happy to report that we titrated 1,524 organisms on this cruise! This means I have a lot of data analysis to do when I get home! I wanted to explain how we use our titration data to calculate an organism's density since it was never fully explained earlier. When titrating, we record the amount of seawater and glycerin mix that was added to make the organisms become neutrally buoyant, as well as the temperature and salinity of the seawater. We use the temperature and salinity to calculate the density of seawater. The density of the glycerin mix is calculated from the density of glycerin and the density of seawater. We then use these values in the following equation to calculate the animal's density.

Animal Density = ( (Seawater Density * Seawater Volume) + (Mix Density * Mix Volume))/(Seawater Volume + Mix Volume)

We can then use the animal's density in a model that helps us understand how these animals scatter sound. This information can allow us to use acoustic data to make estimates about how many animals are in the water column.

It was such a great cruise and I have enjoyed being a tourist and getting to see some of Oregon before our trek back to Long Island. With over 1500 organisms measured, I'm predicting a very busy semester filled with data analysis!!

Until our next cruise.


The ALES team on the bow of the Oceanus! Photo credit: Kelly Benoit-Bird

Steph and I busy at collecting data! We each titrated over 600 organisms!! Photo credit: Dezhang Chu.

We spotted some California sea lions in Newport when we went to lunch after we got off of the boat!!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

07 Aug 2012 - Titration Song

Hello Everyone!!

So over the past couple days we have been really busy because we are doing five net (IKMT) tows a day! This is exciting because we get to see so many more organisms from the deep ocean, but it also means we have that many more organisms to titrate!

A large Dragon Fish!
A huge jelly fish we pulled up in the net. Thankfully we didn't have to try to titrate that!
A Hatchet Fish! One of my favorites!

Titrating isn't that bad, but it's tedious. When you do it for hours at a time you can get sick of it really fast. To try and pass the time I started writing/singing a song about it. Soon Stephanie, Emily, and Neal chimed in, and this is what we came up with.

“Don't Stop Titratin' ”
(to the tune of Jouney's famous song “Don't Stop Believin' ”)

Just a small town Hake,
Swimmin' in a giant ocean,
Took the IKMT,
and traveled at four knots.

Just a city squid
Born and raised in the mesopelagic,
Took the IKMT
and traveled at four knots.

A scientist in an empty room,
The smell of glycerin and rotting fish,
Will they sink, or will they float,
It goes on and on and on and oooonnn

Don't stop titrating
Hold on to that beaker
Seawater, glycerin mix, Oh Oh Ohhhhh!

Don't Stop titrating!

Anyways, I hope you enjoyed our song.! We have titrated over 1400 organisms on this trip! I better get going because we have the first net of the day coming in!


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

06 Aug 2012 - Lots of krill

So our luck in catching squid and hake appears to have run out, however we still are catching lots of stuff in our net tows.

By far the most common critters we catch are krill.  Krill are always described as "shrimp-like" animals, but they aren't shrimp (although they do look similar). We've been catching Euphausia pacifica, an animal that's between 1-3 cm in length and serves as the base of the food chain out here with fish and higher predators (whales, seabirds, etc) eating lots and lots of krill.

This catch contains probably more than 100,000 individual krill.

These krill have been eating pretty well as you can tell by their green/brown stomachs which indicate that there's lots of phytoplankton (small ocean plants) in the water column.

The team (Kaylyn, Stephanie, and Emily) have been titrating a lot of animals on this trip (when I say titrate, I mean measuring the density of the animal relative to the density of seawater).  This is an important property which helps us estimate how much sound these animals scatter.  Despite the loss of all our gear before the cruise and only having one working titration set-up (we'd packed two), they've set a new record (for my lab) in number of individuals measured. We're currently at ~ 1100 individuals, although we've got several more tows to come so who knows how many we'll end up with.  Despite this huge number of measurements, Kaylyn is still smiling.

Titration is fun !

The other animal we've caught a lot of in our nets are myctophids.  We've been doing a lot of different measurements on these guys, measuring their lengths, heights, and widths. Dissecting them to locate and measure their swim bladders (an air or wax filled organ in the animal that helps it control its buoyancy), and even dissecting out the myctophids otoliths (very very tiny ear bones that help identify the animal (when they're found in predator scat) or identifying where the animals live via isotope chemistry (not something we're doing).  The OSU group has very adeptly shifted from rod and reel fishing for larger fish and squid, to taking apart small fish.

Who knew junior high cafeteria trays were so useful on a research cruise.  Dave, Neal, and Aaron (top to bottom) and the remnants of one of the tows.

We're on the home stretch now.  Back on shore on friday.

Monday, August 6, 2012

05 Aug 2012 - Mrs. Burger Would be Proud

[Ed: Somehow this post didn't go up when it was supposed. I blame user (joe) error. Sorry about that.]

Or not. But I do think she’d be miiiiiighty impressed.

Besides phromina, there are a lot of other neat organisms in the ocean.
Team Trainwreck (what we sometimes call ourselves in the lab in memory of certain events), just in our studies, have specifically been looking at myctophids (lantern fish), krill, shrimp, juvenile squid, siphonophores, cheatognaths, amphipods.

Today I came across a deep sea friend with which I go way back.

…the Dragonfish.

Today’s big dragonfish find! A male? Ooooooooh eerie eyessss. Photo by Emily Markowitz.

Back a long, long time ago when the world was young, a fledgling high school Emily was in the midst of a very big decision. She had to decide whether to go to a science school and pursue her interest of the deep sea or to undertake a fine arts degree so she could appreciate them for their amazing portrait.

OK, so it was a little over a year ago, but still…

In the build up for this great life changing decision, Emily was taking a variety of science classes as well as Mrs. Burger’s AP Studio Art. Our concentration portfolio had to include 12 pieces and a common theme. I choose deep sea marine life.

My rendering of a dragon fish from when high schoolers roamed the earth. Watercolors by Emily Markowitz, 2011

Back then, my renderings were inspired by The Deep: The Extraordinary Creatures of the Abyss by Claire Nouvian (Check out:, too bad I don’t see my original dragonfish there). It’s funny to think that now, as turn of events would have it, I’ve now seen some of them in real life.

The dragon fish above may not look too similar to my ‘interpretation,’ but this larval dragon fish may give a better representation…

 Still not clicking for you? Oh well, I guess that’s why I choose science. Photo by Emily Markowitz.
The dragon fish, for all their visual worth, have no really cool story (or at least that I know of) to tell like Phronima does. According to, the order etymology of Stomiiformes means “mouth-shape” (stoma is Greek for mouth and forma is Latin for shape)… which is pretty self explanatory.

Until next time,

Post script: NOM

Mouth of a larval dragonfish. Photo by Emily Markowitz

Sunday, August 5, 2012

04 Aug 2012 - The Crew

Since we have been doing the same thing every day for a week now, I figured you might be tired of all the titration business… So I’m going to introduce you to some of the crew here on the Oceanus!! Since we have the night shift it is mostly always quiet and lonely because everyone else is sleeping (except tonight, tonight the lab is hoppin’ with scientists measuring myctophids!), we had the pleasure of getting to know some of the crew since there are always people up on watch on the boat. First thing we do when we wake up is head for food… obvious.
In the kitchen are two of my favourite people! Kris and Taylor! Kris probably takes the cake for my most favorite person on the ship, not just because he makes the best food ever, but because he really cares about us! Every single meal there is a “gluten-free” option for myself since I am intolerant. But it is so much more than that! He gets up around 11pm every night and makes us a midnight snack, and by snack I mean delicious meal! Last night there was pizza and it was fantastic. Now for my favorite part of the day, BREAKFAST. Seriously every single day there is a fantastic breakfast ready for us when we’re done working. We’ve even been given the choice for breakfast since we’re pretty much the only ones who ever come to breakfast… and our favorite breakfast is French toast. Seriously, I don’t know how he does it but it is the best breakfast I have ever eaten, and he even takes the time to bring it over to us at the table where we are eagerly waiting and giggling (as soon as the sky turns blue we get really really hyper and excited for breakfast), he even brings over the maple syrup! REALLY? He is awesome. I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with him a while too during breaks and what not and he is such a down to earth person who also happens to love Zac Brown Band! We really appreciate everything he does for us out here; the cruise would not be the same without him!
Kris and I hanging in the kitchen.
Now Taylor, AKA Taylor Swift, his partner in crime also works in the kitchen helping him cook and clean and such, he’s a good guy. Taylor is trying to learn Spanish, so what do we do? Speak to him in Spanish… or try to since we’re a little rusty, Kaylyn is much better than I am but it is still fun.
Now when we are titrating for hours on end we always are greeted by visitors passing through as they make their rounds about the boat. A few I have had the pleasure of getting to know. First, there is Marc, he is one of the crew I’m not sure really what his job is [Ed: Marc's an AB (able-bodied seaman) meaning he does a little bit of everything on the ship.], but he can be found fixing things on the boat and making the rounds to see that everything is a o k! Marc has two beautiful 6 month old twins and he always has pictures of them to show us, they are seriously the cutest little things ever! Makenna and Caleb, Caleb always smiling and laughing in every single picture Marc shows us and the little girl is known as “miss moody” she is quite the character, and is always dressed in the cutest little outfits! Marc is also really helpful when we have questions or want to go out on the bow of the boat in 8 ft seas. He is always there when you need him!
Another frequent visitor is Jay he’s the engineer (pronunciation of engineer: ang –in- eer), he was in the Navy for a while and is a very entertaining part of the crew he always makes me laugh! He loves Jimmy Buffet as much as I do and amphi-amphi-amphi-amphipods! When you’re feeling down he will always bring a smile to your face no matter what.
Then there is the Captain, Jeff, he is usually hidden away in the bridge or somewhere but when he is about he is really funny! Kaylyn and I went up to the bridge one night to check it out and he gave us the rundown on some of the equipment, but then we saw on the camera that they caught a squid so we hurried downstairs to see the catch. But anyways, he is a great guy.
Well that’s it for now! I will report back with more later.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

03 Aug 2012 - The Perks of the Night Shift

Hello Everyone!

Kaylyn here, currently trying to type without falling off my chair. We're in 8-10 foot seas right now and the boat is pitching and rolling. I think it's fun because it feels like a roller coaster! I love looking out the port holes for when a big wave comes up and splashes them because it looks like a washing machine.

Anyways, it's 5pm and it's my morning because the rest of the titration team and I have been working the night shift. This is because we usually do two net tows, one at a 6pm and another at midnight. Even though we are getting much faster at measuring the density of the organisms (Steph did 20 krill in about 5 minutes this morning), it still takes awhile so we end up working until 6am. I know this sounds awful., but it's really not that bad once you get used to it, and there actually are some perks! I have decided to outline the top three for you.

The first perk is that since everyone usually goes to bed around 2 am, so from 2 until 6am we have the lab to ourselves. This gives us free range to play whatever music we want to, and be silly! Steph even did some Zumba in the lab this morning. I'm sure this doesn't sound like much to you guys, but when you are titrating for several hours good music and some silliness helps the time pass more quickly.

The second perk of the night shift is that we get to see the sun rise and set every single day. There is nothing more beautiful than a gorgeous sunrise or sunset when you're out on the ocean.

 Sunset through the porthole.

 Me and a beautiful Pacific coast sunrise.

Honestly, the number one perk of the night shift is breakfast. Most of the time Steph and I are the only ones who show up for breakfast because the rest of the science party is still sleeping. Because of this, we have been able to choose what Chef Kris serves for breakfast. So far, his french toast is our favorite! The best french toast we have ever tasted!!

So happy about my delicious breakfast! Thanks Kris!
Well, I better get ready because I'm sure we will be doing a net tow soon!

Bye for now!


Thursday, August 2, 2012

02 August 2012 - Meet the Humboldt Squid !

One of the target species we're looking for out here is the Humboldt squid.  They can be tricky to catch, particularly from an oceanographic research vessel which isn't designed to trawl large nets or long-line fish.  However, last night we had success with rod-and-reel fishing (albeit really fancy reels) targeting fish that were somewhere between 70-100 m depth.  We've been fishing like this as part of our regular station operations trying to catch hake or squid (depending on where we are and what time of the day it is).

We (the royal "we" meaning Kelly Benoit-Bird's group from Oregon State)  have three fishing stations on the port side of the back deck.

They use a lure/jig with a series of sharp hooks such that if the squid encounters it, it gets hooked on the barbs and as the reel pulls the squid back to the surface, it can't escape.

This animal still has lots of energy even out of water. When we first pulled it out, it was inking/squirting everywhere.
The Humboldt squid we caught last night is on the small side (they can be 5' long).  Kelly's past research has measured how much sound these animals scatter, but we don't know exactly what part(s) of the animal cause the acoustic scattering. If we can figure that out, then we (scientists) would be better able to measure their presence and abundance in the ocean.  These animals have started to show up along the Western coast of the United States more regularly (and over larger areas) over the past decade. The change in their distribution may be related to environmental factors such as changes in water temperature or oxygen levels which may expand or reduce their preferred habitat areas.
Various parts of the squid that we are measuring.
Our group is responsible for measuring the material properties of the different parts of the squid which will help us to better understand their acoustic scattering characteristics. We measure the density and the soundspeed of the various tissues and organs.  In order to get these pieces, we dissect the animal and then measure different parts of it. For this squid, we did measurements on its mantle (body tissue), arms, eye, brain case (i.e. the cartilaginous skull), the pen (which helps make the animal rigid), and the beak.
A dissected myctophid, the balloon-like structure in its body cavity is its swimbladder (probably over-inflated due to us bringing it up from depth). Other internal organs have been removed so we can measure the swimbladder.

In addition to the squid, we've been examining other animals we catch in the net (as you've seen previously). One of the most interesting animals we catch regularly are myctophids which are small fish that spend most of their time in the middle of the ocean (i.e. hundreds of meters deep). These animals were first observed (acoustically) over 60 years ago, and we still know very little about them. They have a swim-bladder (an air or wax filled organ) inside of them which 1) helps them maintain their buoyancy in the water column and 2) scatters a lot of acoustic energy. We've been dissecting the animals that we catch and measuring their swim bladders to better understand our acoustic backscatter data.

We've been busy the past few days with lots of measurements and Chad just caught a hake (on a squid jig) so it's back to the wet lab.