Tuesday, July 31, 2012

30 July 2012 - Meet Frank!


Unfortunately we still haven't caught any Pacific Hake or Humboldt Squid, but we have caught many of other neat organisms in our net tows. Most of our net tows have consisted of krill, shrimp, amphipods, chaetognaths, and larval fish.

A huge amphipod we found in our net. Most of the amphipods I have seen are about the size of a grain of rice, so you can imagine my surprise when we found one this big!
It has been really great to see the great variety of the zooplankton out here, but a couple nights ago, we were caught by surprise when we found that there was a large eel-like animal in our net! Once we were able to get it into a tub we could see that it wasn't an eel at all. It was, in fact, a Lamprey! For those of you that don't know, lampreys are parasitic animals that attach to other fish and suck their blood. Even though I knew this, I thought the one we caught was kinda cute (in an ugly kind of way).I soon named him Frank, Why Frank you ask? Well, because he looked like a Frank of course!

See! He is kinda cute!!

Joe successfully transferring Frank into a bucket. Look at Frank's ring of teeth! Awesome!

Soon the name caught on, and I started the release Frank campaign. Joe took some convincing because he thought he would look pretty cool in a jar in his office, but soon the decision was made that we should let him go! I was very relieved, and I readily volunteered to release him. I am happy to report that Frank is now happily swimming in the ocean again!

 I was so happy to release him back to the ocean! Nice to meet you Frank!

Well, I better go back to work!


Monday, July 30, 2012

29 July 2012 - Fishing and Sunshine

So while the weather so far on this trip has been great, we've had less luck with the fish and squid showing up where we'd like them. Part of this project involves us capturing hake and squid and since we can't trawl from this ship, the Oregon State group has rods and reels to fish for them. So far we haven't had any luck with this since the fish have been very deep (~ 300 m or so).  But we did have some luck yesterday during our survey with one of our scientists doing a bit of recreational trolling and he caught a 25 lb albacore tuna (which is on the menu for tonight).

Aaron, a scientist from OSU, caught this albacore yesterday. It's on the menu for dinner tonight.
This cruise is a bit of a reunion for me with our ship, the RV Oceanus.  The Oceanus used to be operated and located at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution which is where I went to grad school. So I sailed on two cruises on the Oceanus in the late 90s.  The Oceanus is now operated by Oregon State (they even painted the stack Orange and Brown!) so it's been fun to be back on the same ship a decade later.

The RV Oceanus at the dock here in Newport. It's  ~ 175 feet in length, has a crew of  ~ 12 and 10 scientists are onboard this trip.

As part of going to sea, we go through a series of safety drills if we ever needed to abandon ship (for all the mom's reading this blog, this is a very very unlikely event).  One of the safety features are immersion suits (sometimes called Gumby suits) which are neoprene suits that provide floatation and warmth in case you had to get off the Oceanus. It takes a little practice to figure out how to put them on so as part of the ship orientation, everybody tries one on.

Emily,(no really, that's Emily. I'm sure of it.) successfully in her Gumby suit.

That's it for now,

Sunday, July 29, 2012

27 July 2012 - Hit the ground running

Today closes our first full day on the ship out at sea. While we may only be over 400m depth and just close enough to see the tall mountains in Oregon, we have already finished calibrating all of the echo-sounder equipment,
With the echo sounder readings we can determine where things are in the water column, how many organisms there are, and what they might be. Photo by Emily Markowitz
taken two CTD casts,
Retrieving the Conductivity Temperature Depth sensor. The CTD creates a profile of the water column that is documented on a computer onboard. Bottles inside the cage can (though we aren’t using them this trip) be used to take water samples at different depths so further water quality measurements can be made. Photo by Emily Markowitz
and three IKMT net tows.

We are nearly done with sorting, titrating and documenting our latest catch! Photos by Emily Markowitz
One of the goals of this cruise has been to gain a better understanding of the differences of Target Strength between squid and hake. Though we haven’t been able to catch any of either yet, the net tows provide an interesting demographic of the ocean’s water column and a welcome back-up plan in case we don’t find enough of either organism to collect data with.
The weather here is surprisingly calm and sunny despite the west coast’s characteristic overcast. This has made it so much easier to drop our bags off in the state rooms, learn our way around the vessel and basic data collection procedures. Nothing lasts forever though - we still have a little over 2 weeks ahead of us and we’ve been told it will become a little choppier after Monday!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

27 July 2012 - Sharks and Zoops

Hello from somewhere in the Pacific Ocean!! Today is day three of the cruise and so far it has been a blast, a ton of work of course but very exciting and fun at the same time. So far we have calibrated all the equipment, dropped a couple nets out, and sorted the contents of the net tows. We have come across numerous types of organisms; the first net tow gave us many medusa, jellies, and ctenophores along with a couple fish, some copepods and a krill or two. However, the net tow that came up yesterday provided us with many different organisms that were very foreign to me, we found some ctenophores, baby crabs, amphipods (some monster amphipods tossed in there), chaetognaths (which terrify me.. if you do not know what they are please google them… then cry about it), some large krill, a bunch of medium and small krill, more fish, about a dozen little squid and a baby octopus! Needless to say it was a pretty exciting catch for me haha. 
Product of the second net tow.
Now on to the most exciting part of the trip for me… WE SAW A BLUE SHARK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 
Blue shark sighted 3 meters off the bow of the boat! VERY EXCITING

Ah one of my all-time favourite sharks! I had previously told one of the other scientists how badly I wanted to see whales/sharks/birds out on the water and he came rushing down early yesterday afternoon and told me to follow him to the bow of the boat, so I did and there off the bow was a 6 foot(ish) blue shark! Not even 3 meters away from the boat! Then we saw a few more further out either fighting or something who knows. But it was amazing. Well that’s all for now! Talk to you guys again soon (:

Stephanie Mincieli (AKA Blondie)

26 July 2012 - The Good and the Bad...

Hello! Kaylyn here, writing from the R/V Oceanus. We are currently in the search for Pacific Hake and Humboldt Squid (but more on that later). I wanted to fill everyone in on the hectic start to our cruise so far.

The Bad News:
On the morning of our first day in Oregon, Joe received a call that all of our cruise gear was lost due to a large train derailment in Montana. We had spent a week painstakingly packing everything we needed for our cruise, and now we find out three days before the start of the cruise that we now have no gear!

“R.I.P. Cruise Gear :(”

We were devastated, but we were not defeated! Over the next two days we ran around and tried to replace all of the necessary gear we need to carry out our experiments on the cruise. We needed everything from pencils and foul weather gear to titration equipment and aquarium pumps. We were able to acquire some of the more specific scientific gear from the other scientists on the cruise, but everything else we needed to buy. This consisted of going to two Walmarts, three Drug Stores, a Staples, a Marine Supply Shop, and a Home Depot. Surprisingly, we were able to acquire the essential gear we needed for the cruise. No train derailment can stop the ALES team!

 “Stephanie and I trying on our foul weather gear in the middle of Walmart”

The Good News:
After we had shipped our gear a couple of weeks ago, I had realized that I had forgotten to pack our mascot Wolfie! I didn't want to leave him behind, so I packed him in my suitcase. Thank goodness because he would have been lost with the rest of our gear! He is now happily sitting in the dry lab!

“Wolfie just chillin' with the graduated cylinders. “


Friday, July 27, 2012

25 July 2012 -- Off to an "interesting" start.

So the ALES lab is back on the road, heading to Newport, OR for a research cruise in the Pacific Ocean with collaborators from Oregon State University and the National Marine Fisheries Service. We'll be at sea for over two weeks looking for schools of hake (a fish) and Humboldt squid (as well as any other interesting creatures we can find). We'll talk more about what and why we're doing this as the blog progresses. We should have daily updates once I get my act together and start putting up the posts.

One of the logistical issues we have in doing a cruise on the west coast (being based in NY) is that we have to get ourselves and our gear to Oregon. Moving people is easy (flights, hotels, rental minivan) and normally shipping 700 lbs of gear is pretty easy as well.

But not this time as this picture from the Billings Gazette illustrates.

Yep, guess who had all his gear (mostly scientific equipment like computers, electronics, sample jars, nets, etc  but also a good chunk of the clothing I normally wear when I'm on a ship) destroyed in a train derailment.  Not a good time. What made this particularly aggravating was that the shipping company had told me TWICE that my boxes were not involved in the accident (which thankfully didn't injure any people, just cargo) and would just be delayed.  Instead on tuesday morning I was woken up (in the hotel at the Portland Airport) by the shipping company telling me that my stuff was a "total loss".

So several months of planning, several years of gear acquisition and development, and thousands of dollars were now gone. So what do you do ?  You call your collaborators and your fellow marine scientists spring into action.  Fortunately, colleagues of Kelly Benoit-Bird (our Chief Scientist) at Oregon State University and Dezhang Chu (the other PI on the cruise) at National Marine Fisheries Service were able to assist and between the 3 of us, our contacts, the generosity of our fellow scientists (and thousands of dollars spent in 36 hours at local hardware, plumbing, electronic, and general stores), we were able to get enough stuff to leave the dock on time on thursday.

We unfortunately won't be able to do everything we were hoping to accomplish on this cruise, but we should be able to complete our primary objectives (as long as the weather and the biology cooperate).

So we've had a bit of a rough start to this trip, but as you'll see in future blog posts the science will continue!
Joe Warren