The R/V Point Sur is heading home this week, and students have had the opportunity to help with various science operations and add some cruise time to their resumes by joining up for a leg or two of the trip. Check out this post by Ashley Wheeler, a first year in the Geological Oceanography Lab at MLML, about her experiences aboard our beloved vessel.
By Diane Wyse, Physical Oceanography Lab
Last week, students from the Chemical Oceanography class took advantage of many of the resources at Moss Landing Marine Labs to perform an analysis of dissolved oxygen throughout the seawater intake system. The system supplies seawater from offshore to the MLML aquarium (up on “the hill,” at the main campus of the lab), the live tanks at Phil’s Fish Market, MBARI’s Test Tank, and to SLEWTHS.
For the first stop of the day, students Kristin Walovich and Ashley Wheeler joined professor Kenneth Coale and teaching assistant Diane Wyse in loading up a whaler with supplies for sampling. The team set out to collect water offshore at 17 m, around the depth that water is brought into the system. The whaler, one of three available to students through the MLML Small Boats, was equipped with an aluminum pulley system to collect water at depth.
The second stop on the seawater sampling adventure was at the MLML Pumphouse, where unfiltered seawater passes through the instruments of the data acquisition system. A variety of oceanographic parameters, including temperature, salinity, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen concentration, are measured and shared with the public through the MLML Public Data Portal.
Finally, the sampling team headed up the hill to the MLML aquarium, and collected and pickled water that is pumped in for the marine flora and fauna kept for thesis research and class projects. The “pickling” step involves addition of reagents to the glass collection bottles before they are sealed to prevent further biological processes from altering the concentration of dissolved oxygen in the sample. The pickling process was applied in the same fashion, immediately after collecting, to all of the samples taken that day.
Back at the MLML Environmental Biotechnology Lab students performed a Winkler titration to determine the concentration of dissolved oxygen in the samples. The data from this class experiment can be used to help calibrate the oxygen optodes on the Public Data Portal system.
by Diane Wyse, Physical Oceanography Lab
Last week the biological oceanography class took a field trip to the California Maritime Academy in Vallejo. The purpose of the trip was to learn about the MLML Biological Oceanography Lab’s work with ballast water treatment aboard the Training Ship Golden Bear.
We started the day with background about the importance of ballast water treatment for aquatic invasive species management, led by Biological Oceanography Lab students Brian Maurer, Heather Fulton-Bennet, and Julie Kuo.
After that we took a tour of the ship’s engine room, bridge, and saw some of the living quarters. The ship can house up to 350 people and each year takes a 2-month cruise in different parts of the world to train Cal Maritime students about merchant marine operations and engineering.
In the afternoon we took a tour of the marine biology lab, where Biological Oceanography lab students, under the direction of Dr Nick Welshmeyer, analyze the effectiveness of different ballast water treatment methods.
Moss Landing Marine Labs resumes classes today, and with the new semester comes renewed offering of exciting courses. This spring, students at MLML have a number of options to satiate their appetites for statistics and data analysis, courses on scientific writing, methods, organisms both macro and micro, and field trips from the surface waters of Monterey Bay to the Elkhorn Slough to explorations of the seafloor and beyond.
Keep an eye out for stories from these classes and more as we hypothesize, test, and study our way through the spring semester:
Haiku of the Week – Scientific Writing
Subtidal Ecology – one of our triennial field course offerings is back!
Algae pressing and herbaria - Biology of Seaweeds
Nutrient analyses and profiles of Monterey Bay, nearshore to offshore – Chemical Oceanography
Sampling, shipboard techniques, and plankton identification – Biological Oceanography
…and much more!
On Thursday, November 29 the R/V Point Sur, MLML’s largest research vessel and a member of the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System fleet, set sail for Palmer Station, Antarctica. The ship and her crew, accessed for class cruises and interdisciplinary and inter-organizational research projects, will be making several stops through Central and South America during her voyage over the next several months. You can even track the trip here.
Over the course of her 8,200 mile journey the crew will post updates about all aspects of the cruise. While we will miss the Pt Sur during her first voyage to Antarctica, we can look forward to exciting updates on the Pt Sur blog.
Stay tuned for updates and stories from the crew!
By Kelley Andrews, Pacific Shark Research Center
The high-pitched whine of the winch jolts me awake. I come groggily to my senses, noticing the cigarette smoke from some of the crewmembers wafting through the door of the bunkroom and the dim morning light. It’s somewhere around 5:45 am.
It is my third morning out at sea. I am on the F/V Noah’s Ark, volunteering for a leg of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Fisheries Research Analysis and Monitoring (FRAM) survey. The mission of the survey is to assess the health of groundfish populations off the west coast of the United States. The survey makes two passes of the coast from Washington to Southern California every summer, fishing and taking samples and data. I am part of a team of three scientists, and we are with a crew of four fishermen on the 80-foot vessel. Right now we are somewhere west of Monterey, CA.
The first tow of the day begins around 5:30 am, so we can begin processing the catch by 6:30. The winches deploy and reel in the net from depths over 1,000 feet. As I go out on deck to get ready to sort fish, I notice that the weather has picked up. The first two days were flat calm, and I had no idea the ocean could be glassy 50 miles from shore. But today the winds and swell are picking up, and it feels as though we are headed for rougher weather.
With classes underway, the lab is abuzz with new activities and learning. This fall, the MLML community welcomes 22 new students to ten of our labs. Ever find yourself wondering how graduate students at Moss Landing got their start in marine science? Our new student backgrounds range from gray whale surveys off the Washington coast, to photographing white sharks in South Africa, to shipboard oceanography in Canada, and much more! Learn about their paths to marine science and research interests by checking out their profiles on our Meet the Students page.
Stay tuned for their stories and more from your MLML blog team.
By Jeff Christensen, CSU Stanislaus
In 2011, I had the opportunity to participate in a California Collaborative Fisheries Research Program (CCFRP) fishing trip. When I received a message from Andrea Launer, CCFRP Volunteer Coordinator, this spring about the summer data collection schedule, I knew I wanted to go out again and be part of this amazing project.
With one of my classes starting on the first day of sampling, I wasn’t able to make the Monday, August 6th date but I was aboard F/V Caroline at Monterey’s Fisherman’s Wharf before sunrise on Tuesday with hot coffee in hand ready to do some angling. After a safety briefing by Captain Shorty we headed out along the Monterey coastline as Cannery row began to stir in the light of the pre-dawn sky. The sea was a bit rough and the wind waves made the trip out to the Point Lobos State Reserve a small adventure in and of itself.
Cheryl Barnes, CCFRP Field Coordinator and MLML graduate student, gave the anglers an amusing briefing about the specifics of the collection protocols of the catch and release program. In order for this work to be helpful in determining if the Marine Protected Areas (MPA) are effective in propagating the species within these areas since their inception in 2007, a variety of anglers were assigned different lures and/ or bait similar to fishing techniques used on guided recreational fishing trips from the area.
By the time Captain Shorty announced over the loud speaker to drop our lines in the water of the first research cell of the day, the rolling waves were already taking its toll on our balance and stomachs. The port side “fish feeding station” was busy early on but as the fog receded, we all got our sea legs and the fishing improved. The boat as a whole ended up catching and releasing a total of 176 fish from 14 different species, including a 84cm lingcod (Ophiodon elongates) caught by Chris L., fishing next to me. We must have been in some big fish because not too long after Chris’s lingcod, I hooked another giant fish, I estimated at over 100 cm (due to how hard it was to pull up) but after a perilous fight, the “Big One” got away as it neared the surface.
While the anglers were pulling up their catch, the scientific staff was busy collecting the fish, measuring them, tagging some, and making sure they were returned to the bottom as soon as possible. I was thoroughly impressed how each staff member tried to make sure every fish was returned to their home with human stories to tell of their own. One sea lion, however, was happy to accept a free lingcod h’ordurve as it took a large bite out of an angler’s catch as it was reeled up. That lingcod, too, was returned to the ocean making a meal for the fish, crab, and sea stars that would finish the work of the sea lion. The seas were rough as we headed back in and even tossed a few of us out of our seats to the deck (Ouch!).
By Diane Wyse, Physical Oceanography Lab
Among the coolest aspects of interning at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) are all of the opportunities for new and exciting experiences in marine science and engineering. On a beautiful Moss Landing summer day, fellow intern Samantha Peterson and I enjoyed one of those opportunities on a day cruise aboard MBARI’s R/V Zephyr. We steamed out of Moss Landing Harbor early in the morning, and after two hours of getting our sea legs and munching on snacks (to avoid sea sickness, for sure), we arrived at our first of two stops for the day. The cruise plan included a visit to the M2 mooring, a buoy deployed and maintained by MBARI scientists and engineers in partnership with the National Data Buoy Center (ID 46044), to download acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP) data and perform routine maintenance.
The whole process of visiting and maintaining a mooring was really exciting to experience, especially as a student of physical oceanography. I got a kick out of the adventure inherent in maintaining oceanographic and meteorological instruments bobbing at the surface, moored 1000+ meters below on the seafloor. As I stood at the back of the Zephyr taking in the experience- the albatrosses gracefully landing to investigate our activities, the sea lion curiously poking it’s head up around the buoy, the scientists and technicians climbing onto the buoy from the side of the ship- I wondered what sort of training or security clearance one has the endure to work on the buoy. After pondering this aloud to my fellow intern, I inquired with the ship operator. His job was to carefully back the boat up to the buoy to transfer people and equipment, then to maintain a safe distance from the buoy while the technicians were working on it. As it turns out, it was surprisingly simple; I had to confirm with just about everyone on that day cruise that I am not sensitive to seasickness before getting the go-ahead to disembark the trusty Zephry and climb (well, pounce, really) aboard M2. I could see immediately what everyone was driving at once I was aboard the mooring. Because the platform is only about 10 ft in diameter, it is much easier to get tossed about with the swell. You feel much more in touch with the ocean on a smaller vessel. While ocean observers Mike Kelley and Jared Figurski downloaded the ADCP data, I climbed to the upper level to investigate the meteorological instruments. With my finely tuned CSI skills, I observed the evidence of seabird visitors on the solar panels and offered to clean off the droppings, you know, in the name of science. Surprisingly, they were more than happy to oblige that request, and I grabbed a cloth with seawater and scrubbed those panels squeaky clean.
By Diane Wyse, Physical Oceanography Lab
In the spirit of sharing exciting new student research during Shark Week, we caught up with MLML and Pacific Shark Research Center graduate student Paul Clerkin. During the spring semester of his first year at MLML he took a two-month cruise aboard a commercial fishing vessel in the Indian Ocean for his thesis research. During that time, Paul collected sharks that came in as bycatch of the planned fishing activities – sharks that would otherwise have been thrown back overboard because they are not among the targeted species of commercial value. Clerkin explains that the sharks that he collected were all DOA, that very few survive under the weight of fifty tons of fish. As part of his bycatch-only collection practices, any sharks that were still alive when the fish and sharks were sorted were promptly sent back overboard to increase their chances of survival. Below are highlights from our interview with Paul on his latest fieldwork expedition.
How long was the cruise?
I spent two months at sea, and then five weeks at Mauritius. During that time I processed and prepared samples to ship back to MLML. Overall I spent about 100 days out of the US. I remember because I had to get my visa renewed while I was there.
How many specimens did you bring back?
We brought in around 400 to the island, and around 350 made the trip back to MLML. It was just about a ton. On top of that I have hundreds of vertebrae and spines and around 800 tissue samples.
When you collected, was it usually a consistent number per day or catch, or did the numbers vary with time and location?
The catch amounts varied greatly, some mornings I’d wake up and have no sharks to work with, during which time I’d work on data processing, and other days I’d wake up and have 16+ hours of work sitting for me on the deck. Using bottom roller gear brought in many more sharks.
What will you do with the specimens? Are they all to be used on your thesis project, or are some saved for other projects?
The specimens will be used both for my thesis research and will be available for future research projects. We’re looking to get a lot of use out of the data. The list of possible projects and papers is pretty long.
Was this your longest cruise to date?
Yes, my longest cruise before this was out of AK for 90 days, but halfway through we came back to land for one day, then went back out again. After the first two weeks all the days blend together anyway.