If you have been holding off on going to the Monterey Bay Aquarium until the sea otter exhibit re-opens…Now is the time! On Saturday, March 23rd the exhibit was once again opened for the public. I was there – and the crowd went wild! Actually, there might not have been a crowd…I was too happy to notice! (more…)
Archive for the ‘Why Science Generally Rocks’ Category
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 Angela Szesciorka, Vertebrate Ecology Lab
A few Sundays ago — Super Bowl Sunday, in fact — I took a three-hour walk along the beach at Fort Ord in Monterey, CA with Don Glasco, a systems engineer and former cartographer.
This wasn’t a leisurely pursuit, but my volunteer service to the Sanctuary Integrated Monitoring Network’s (SIMoN) Coastal Ocean Mammal and Bird Education and Research Surveys, also known as Beach COMBERS.
I meet Don at Fort Ord Dunes State Park in Marina around 9 a.m. After downing the last of my coffee, we head out into the foggy morning.
by Angela Szesciorka, Vertebrate Ecology Lab
Most of my posts tend to reflect my love of marine mammals, specifically the large, “charismatic whales” as they are oft referred to.
But I wanted to tell you about one of my day jobs. [As if grad students have all this time in-between taking classes and working on their thesis. But I digress … ]
I work for a marine engineering company in Santa Cruz, doing coastal engineering. Or, what we tell the general public: we play with mud.
Coastal engineering is a sector within civil engineering. This means companies hire us to help them with harbor design and construction; beach nourishment and erosion studies; wave modeling and forecasting, sediment transport modeling; and dredging and pile driving monitoring; among many others.
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.
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 Alex Neu, CSUMB/UROC research assistant
Like most kids growing up, I envisioned a scientist as someone sitting behind a microscope or pouring colorful liquids into a flask to make some kind of potion. During my internship I have seen a variety of work researchers do every day and that stereotype certainly does not do them justice. An average day might include sitting behind a computer doing a literature review, taking water samples in the lab, extracting enzymes from specimens and going to a meeting based entirely on statistical analyses. These tasks have all been incredible learning experiences, but recently I got a taste of my new favorite activity in research: going into the field.
Our first day of collecting crustose coralline algae (CCA) began promptly at 6 am at Sunset Cliffs in San Diego. Since CCA are common in the intertidal pools at Sunset Cliffs, we had to be sure to collect on a lower low tide, and it just so happens that this week those low tides were much earlier than would have been preferred. Caffeinated beverages in hand, our small team trekked to the shore and discussed distinctive features of the species we were looking for. Many species of CCA look similar and multiple species can inhabit the same small cobble. We split up and waded through the low tide, searching beds of sea grass and small rock crevices for any stones with a distinctive layer of calcified red algae. After about an hour we had found enough samples to run our experiment and we headed back to the lab to take a closer look at the CCA.
The following day found us out in the brisk morning air of Sunset Cliffs once again, this time searching for an articulated species of coralline algae .We found ourselves once again searching the warm water of the seagrass beds to collect healthy samples with a delicate touch. As the sun rose over the cliffs we started on our way back to the lab with the treasures of the day to begin our experiment. Being a part of an experiment from the very beginning and knowing exactly where each of your samples comes from makes a project just a little more special and is something you can be a little more proud of when it’s run its course.
By Catherine Drake and Michelle Marraffini, Invertebrate Zoology and Molecular Ecology Lab
Photos by: Diane Wyse, Physical Oceanography Lab
Summer is here on the Central Coast and MLML students as well as a few MBARI interns took some time off to play hooky for a cause. We volunteered with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Young Women in Science (YWS) program to help middle school girls in this summer camp monitor the beach for sand crabs and learn how to boogie board. The camp’s aim is help empower young girls interested in science to be guardians of the ocean. Many of these girls have never been swimming in the ocean before and fellow bloggers Diane, Catherine, and myself showed the girls the joys of splashing in the surf.
We spent half of the day using the scientific method and sampling along a transect to look for sand crabs. The campers were encouraged to form hypotheses about where the crabs were living and use results to think about larger food webs and ecosystem processes. After lunch and a safety lesson on currents and waves from the lifeguards, girls rushed towards the ocean with boogie boards in tow ready to conquer this new frontier. We ran in after them and helped them learn to catch a wave and dive under ones that were too big. This was the first time being in the ocean for many of these young ladies, and they were so brave as they dominated the large waves. When it was time to go, many of the girls had enjoyed their time in the water so much that they insisted on catching one final wave. It was inspirational to see the girls having so much fun making observations about sand crabs and trying to catch every wave they could. We had a great time volunteering for this essential program, and can’t wait to help out again!
By Diane Wyse, Physical Oceanography Lab
This summer I am working as an intern at MLML’s neighboring marine science and engineering institution, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. Through generous support of the Friends of Moss Landing and the Gashler family, I am working on the Drew Gashler Internship with Dr Jim Bellingham in the Long-Range Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (LRAUV) lab.
The primary focus for my internship project is analyzing data from a laser sensor (the Laser In Situ Scattering and Transmissometry, or LISST) that detects the particle sizes of plankton via forward scattering on 32 channels. The objective is to test whether differing combinations of the 32 channels can be used as surrogates for chlorophyll and fluorescence, as it relates to my interests in phytoplankton bloom dynamics. Additionally, Dr Bellingham and I are investigating whether we can identify species of zooplankton the AUV encounters in Monterey Bay based on specific combinations of the LISST channel particle size distributions.
Though I am working in the LRAUV lab, the LISST sensor is actually mounted on the Dorado upper-water-column autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), which is larger and performs shorter missions than the LRAUVs. The Dorado AUVs perform missions over a couple days, while the LRAUVs can be deployed to collect data for nearly a month! The missions vary in duration and purpose, and it is really exciting to have both of these types of AUVs available for data collection and processing. One of the cool features of the Dorado vehicle is the gulper sampling system, which through a sampling algorithm designed by MBARI Senior Research Specialist Dr Yanwu Zhang, samples 1.8L of water autonomously when the desired combination of oceanographic conditions are detected by the vehicle. Imagine being able to fill ten 2L soda bottles with water samples for lab analysis without donning pounds of neoprene! Ok, as a research diver who appreciates the importance and value of blue-water sampling, I would jump at that opportunity, however the Dorado’s sampling technique is also very exciting. The sensor suite and algorithm for gulper sampling on the Dorado vehicle allows us to combine continuously recorded oceanographic data for temperature, salinity, depth, nitrate, LISST, and more with the water samples that are then analyzed for plankton species identification and abundances in the lab at MBARI.
The internship has been, and continues to be a fantastic learning experience and a great opportunity to apply the oceanographic data analysis and research skills I have developed at MLML over the past two semesters. My internship experience at MBARI has been full of amazing marine science, engineering, exploration, and outreach opportunities, which I look forward to sharing in the weeks to come!