Archive for the ‘What’s Happening at MLML’ Category

Small Boats, Great Resource: Student Small Boats Course

November 13, 2013

By: Scott Miller, Ichthyology Lab

One of the perks of being an MLML student is that we get to utilize the lab’s fantastic diving and boating resources – provided we get proper training first.  While “training” sounds like a drag, it can actually be quite a lot of fun!  For example, the lab recently offered a course to get checked out on the small boats.  Getting checked out on the small boats allows us to take the boats out for thesis-related work and other lab-approved reasons, so a number of students met up at the harbor to get certified.  After confirming that we had previously taken our online boating safety course, we began learning about nautical navigation and the basics of an outboard motor.

Nautical charts and tools to plan a route.  We'll be navigating the high seas in no time!

Nautical charts and tools to plan a route. We’ll be navigating the high seas in no time!

After learning all about the boats and procedures in the morning, after lunch it was time to take to the sea.  We separated into two smaller groups and went out on our Boston whalers.  The helpful staff at Marine Ops guided us as we practiced maneuvering in the bay.  Although I have boating experience on lakes, driving in-and-out of ocean swells was quite different and I had a blast learning the techniques.  After braving the ocean, we headed back into the harbor to practice docking.  While there wasn’t too much boat traffic inside the harbor, we still had to drive carefully to avoid the otters and seals that are abundant in the area.  We each took turns docking into different spots and under different conditions, then we took the boats back to the dock and cleaned everything up.  Spending a beautiful afternoon on the water got at least one student excited about having the opportunity to use the boats more frequently to help with his future research!

Heading home to the Moss Landing harbor.  While we technically could have asked for better weather, it really just would have been greedy.

Heading home to the Moss Landing harbor. While we technically could have asked for better weather, it really just would have been greedy.

Diving the MLML Seawater Intakes

October 25, 2013

By Diane Wyse, Physical Oceanography Lab

Earlier this week I volunteered to dive on the MLML seawater intakes, located about 200 m due west of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) and 17 m below the surface.  The intakes supply seawater to multiple sites around Moss Landing, including the aquarium room at MLML, the Test Tank at MBARI, and the live tanks at Phil’s Fish Market.

Location of the intake pipes offshore.  Image: MLML/Google Earth (2013)

Location of the intake pipes offshore. Image: MLML/Google Earth (2013)

The purpose of the dive was to attach a surface float to a subsurface float located at a depth of about 15 feet.  A secondary objective was to visually inspect the intakes, which can be viewed in the video below.

The view from approximately above the intakes. Photo: Diane Wyse (2013)

The view of Moss Landing from approximately above the intakes. Photo: Diane Wyse (2013)

So how do you find an intake system 50 ft below the water?

To execute the operation, Assistant Dive Safety Officer Scott Gabara and I took a whaler from the MLML Small Boats with the assistance of boat driver Catherine Drake.  We used the best GPS coordinates previously called upon to locate the intakes, then threw a spotter surface float attached to a line and weight that unraveled to the seafloor.  We followed that line to the bottom and practiced our circle search skills until we found the first of the two intakes.  While anchoring the search line I saw a pipefish, a couple flatfish, and not much else.  During our descent and ascent we spotted half a dozen sea nettles, but on the sandy bottom it appeared pretty desolate.  The intakes, on the other hand, provide a hard substrate for sessile invertebrates and their predators to form a lively little oasis in the sand.  The first thing you notice when you come upon the intakes are the large white Metridium anemones.  If you take a closer look at the video, around 15 seconds in, you can spot a little octopus scurrying for cover.  After inspecting the first intake we moved to the second, that’s right, completely submerged by sand, with the line extending up to the subsurface float.  Though the video is short you can see some of the organisms residing on the line include seastars, Metridium, caprellids or “skeleton shrimp”, and my favorite marine invertebrate: nudibranchs.  Hermissenda (opalescent) nudibranchs, to be exact.  I wish I had a chance to take still photos while I was out there, but we had a job to do.  We successfully tied the surface float to the line and removed old line, thus making it much easier for future divers to study sediment movement and perform maintenance on the intake pipes.

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A Sandy Situation

October 20, 2013

Diana Steller (left) and Angela Zepp (right) warm up in the sun after a dive at the intakes.

We want to go with the flow when it comes to supplying seawater to Moss Landing Marine Labs.  The incoming water is used for research and husbandry so we keep a close eye on and maintain our seawater intake system.  In efforts to better understand why sand has been building up around our intakes over the years our diving safety officer, Diana Steller, and a new student, Angela Zepp, have started to take cores of the sediment in that area.  We hope to learn more about the sand movement and/or retention from cores by continually taking them and comparing the sediment size over time.  Sand seasonally moves onshore and offshore during the summer and winter seasons, respectively.  We hope to learn why this buildup is occurring over time.

Ballast Water Creature Counting

October 7, 2013
The Golden Bear Facility at the Cal Maritime Academy is the site of all our ballast treatment testing

The Golden Bear Facility at the Cal Maritime Academy is the site of all our ballast treatment testing. Photo: CMA

Although I’m only a first-year graduate student here at Moss Landing, I’ve had the pleasure of working on the ballast water testing team with the Biological Oceanography lab for over a year now.  Aquatic invasive species have become an increasingly large problem across the globe and one of the ways organisms make their way to non-native waters is through the ballast tanks of ships.  The IMO (International Maritime Organization) is now requiring all ships to reduce the number of live zooplankters in their ballast tanks to only 10 in every 1000 liters.  Since most zooplankton are microscopic, you can imagine that this is an incredibly challenging thing to accomplish!

Samples are carefully collected so we can compare the treated water with the control

Samples are carefully collected so we can compare the treated water with the control. Photo: GBF Staff

But another huge challenge that our team directly faces is determining whether certain treatment methods have worked.  How do we do this?  With some good old fashioned counting!  First, samples are filtered through a net that catches only organisms that are greater than 50 um in size (which is the size class we count by eye).  Then, 5 mL of that sample are pipetted into a serpentine tray, which allows us to count what is in the sample row by row.  We can then look under a microscope and manually count every single living zooplankton found in that 5 mL sample.  This is sometimes known as the “poke and prod” method, since we may not even be sure if a zooplankter is alive or dead until after we’ve poked them with a small poker stick.  Afterwards, we can use our 5 mL sample counts to extrapolate how many total organisms were found in 1000 liters of the treated water and determine whether the treatment method passed.

Counters use microscopes and serpentine trays to count every zooplankter in a 5mL sample

Counters use microscopes and serpentine trays to count every zooplankter in a 5mL sample. Photo: Kevin Reynolds

In order to make sure our zooplankton counts are as reliable as possible, we have to count samples multiple times.  Although the work is time consuming and sometimes back-straining, it’s fun and fascinating to discover all of the tiny, microscopic organisms found in just a few drops of water.  Everytime I count a new sample, I wonder what kind of alien-like creatures I’ll find swimming around!

Sea otters participate in coastal restoration

September 16, 2013

by Jackie Lindsey, Vertebrate Ecology Lab

There’s a new reason to love the world’s smallest marine mammal species – so let’s talk sea otters!

These voracious predators are again making headlines in the science world as a new paper comes hot off the (virtual) presses.  Hughes et al. (2013) published an article in PNAS entitled “Recovery of a top predator mediates negative eutrophic effects on seagrass”.  This paper is truly a local collaboration, with scientists from UCSC’s Long Marine Lab, the Elkhorn Slough reserve, USGS, CSU Monterey Bay, and MBARI.

The headline? Sea otters may have saved the Elkhorn Slough seagrass habitat by doing what they do so well: eating crabs.

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New Recruits to Moss Landing

September 7, 2013

HFB

by Heather Fulton-Bennett, Phycology Lab

The fall semester has brought the return to classes, gorgeous weather, and most excitingly, a new crop of students to Moss Landing Marine Labs. This year we welcomed 15 new marine scientists to 8 of the labs, and their past adventures and new ideas for theses are inspiring already. Potential thesis projects range from molecular ecology of invertebrates in Indonesia to sediment movement at the head of the Monterey Submarine Canyon to the life history strategies of deep sea sharks.

New students meet for orientation with staff and student body officers

New students meet for orientation with staff and student body officers

Check out the Meet the Students page to see how they came to Moss Landing Marine Labs, and check back as several of the new students will be writing for the Drop-In in the future!

smallboats

MLML’s small boats coordinator explains the program to the new students during a facilities tour

“Tails” from The Field

August 7, 2013

Angieby Angela Szesciorka, Vertebrate Ecology Lab

Since May, the mammal lab has been as quiet as a post-apocalyptic library (yep, that quiet).

For the marine mammologist (and birder), summer time is all about fieldwork — followed by lots and lots of data crunching and thesis writing. So with fall drawing ever closer (noooooo!), I wanted to check in with my labmates to see what they have been up to.

Below is a quick summary from each of us. We’ll see you soon!

Ryan Carle: Ryan continued working on Año Nuevo Island, finishing data collection for his thesis on Rhinoceros Auklet diet and reproduction. He spends most of his waking hours on the Island identifying prey, restoring habitat, counting burrows, collecting boluses — you name it. When he’s not on Año, he’s trekking about California and making apple cider!

Casey Clark: Casey has been fervently writing up his thesis as he prepares to defend in the fall. Draft one? Check! Falling asleep on your keyboard? Check! He has also been helping out with seabird research in Astoria, Oregon. He did save time for fun too — camping, hiking, and kayaking. Jealous!

Marilyn Cruickshank: Marilyn spent the summer analyzing BeachCOMBERS data. She’s looking to see if the residence times of stranded birds on Monterey beaches can help with damage assessments and as a predictor of where most birds will wash ashore in future oil spills. Marilyn continued working for the stranding network and learned how to program in Matlab. She even found time to carve a new banjo. Nice wood-working skills, Marilyn!

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New Mixed Gas System for SCUBA Diving!

June 4, 2013

Our shipping container was delivered, John Douglas and James Cochran worked on placing it in its final resting spot.

We have been working hard on completing the new nitrox compressor system here at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories.  This project is about 5 years in the making.  Our facilities group constructed new tank racks for up to 90 SCUBA cylinders and Nitrox Solutions has created the compressor system housed inside of a shipping container.  This new system will be quieter and have the ability to increase the percent oxygen in air by separating nitrogen out using a membrane.  Our new high pressure tanks can be filled to greater pressures and fit more cubic feet so divers can stay down longer.  These changes will help get students dive for longer periods, dive more in a day, and ideally more safely as we will have less total nitrogen in our tissues over the day compared to air.  Our 100 cubic foot tanks are filled with air that would fit into a box 4.64 feet x 4.64 feet x 4.64 feet, and can now fit into something you put on your back!

Tis the season for MLML Open House

March 19, 2013
The vertebrate ecology lab’s recreation of the inside of a whale. (photo by The Moss Lander).

The vertebrate ecology lab’s recreation of the inside of a whale. (photo by The Moss Lander).

Tis the season for MLML Open House

By Michelle Marraffini

Invertebrate Zoology and Molecular Ecology Lab

The spring semester is buzzing with activity from classes, field trips, and preparing for Open House.

Have you ever walked inside the belly of a whale?  Want to know how long turtles live or what seastars eat?  This year’s Open House will answer these and so many more of your ocean questions.  Be there Saturday April 20th and Sunday April 21st from 9am to 5pm.  As a FREE EVENT we offer a marine adventure puppet show, education presentations by students and faculty, live touch tanks, a sea lion show, raffle and prizes, and so much more.  There is so much to see you will need to come back both days!

Open House!

Entry Way to MLML. Dive into Open House! April 20th and 21st
Photo by: Scott Gabara

Spring Tales and Tides

January 23, 2013

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

Humpback whales.  NMFS Permit #: 15271

Humpback whales. NMFS Permit #: 15271

Subtidal Ecology – one of our triennial field course offerings is back!

Recent Phycology Lab graduate and Friends of MLML Director Brynn Hooton-Kaufman manipulating Undaria for an NSF grant experiment. Photo: S. Jeffries

Recent Phycology Lab graduate and Friends of MLML Director Brynn Hooton-Kaufman manipulates Undaria for an NSF grant experiment. Photo: S. Jeffries

Algae pressing and herbaria  - Biology of Seaweeds

Recent Phycology Lab graduate Sara Tappan-Hutto shows visitors an algae pressing.  Photo: E. Loury

Recent Phycology Lab graduate Sara Tappan-Hutto shows visitors an algae press. Photo: E. Loury

Nutrient analyses and profiles of Monterey Bay, nearshore to offshore – Chemical Oceanography

CTD aboard the R/V Pt. Sur. Photo: A. Woods

Sampling, shipboard techniques, and plankton identification – Biological Oceanography

Julie Kuo, a graduate student in the Biological Oceanography lab at MLML, counts the number of zooplankton in a sample of pre-treated ballast water.

Julie Kuo, a graduate student in the Biological Oceanography lab at MLML, counts the number of zooplankton in a sample of pre-treated ballast water. Photo: C. Drake

…and much more!


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