by Jackie Schwartzstein, Vertebrate Ecology Lab
Happy holidays from MLML!
Ten days of Squidmas, by Jason Robertshaw. (more…)
The Marine Ecology class embarked on a seafaring adventure last Monday on the Moss Landing research vessel the Point Sur to observe the biota of the Monterey Bay. The class was joined by members from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, MBARI and even Professor Emeritus Greg Cailliet who arrived bright and early for a 7am departure time.
After braving choppy water and a bit of rain we began our day with a beam trawl, designed to sample creatures from the ocean floor at 600 meters depth. Unfortunately we were left empty handed when the net returned to the surface with a hole caused from large rocks lodged in the net.
Despite our first strikeout, our second mid-water trawl yielded a wide array of fish, crustaceans, jellyfish, and a plethora of other gelatinous creatures. Once on board the Point Sur, each animal was classified into separate glass dishes and recorded, giving the students a chance to practice their species identification and exercise their Latin nomenclature.
The highlight of the trawl (quite literally) was a group of fish called the Myctophids, or Lanternfish. These fish have light emitting cells called photophores that help camouflage them in the deep ocean waters in which they live. Lanternfish regulate the photophores on their flanks and underside to match the ambient light levels from the surface, rendering them nearly invisible from predators below.
The last tow of the day was called an otter trawl; but don’t worry, we didn’t catch any sea otters. This net is name for the ‘otter’ boards positioned at the mouth of the net designed to keep it open as it travels thought the water. The animals are funneled to the back or ‘cod’ end of the net and are brought to the surface for the class to observe. We saw several species of flatfish including the Sand Dab, Dover and English Sole, several dozen octopuses (or octopodes depending on your dictionary) and even a pacific electric ray.
After a long day of sunshine, high seas and amazing sea creatures the Marine Ecology students were excited with their discoveries, but also ready to be back on solid ground.
The exciting thing about science is we still have so much to learn about the natural world, new discoveries are being made all the time. Rita Mehta at UCSC has been studying eels, specifically their pharyngeal jaws (see a video here), which are a second set of jaws that help the eels eat larger prey. Recently MLML helped UCSC researcher Rita Mehta and others to determine how many California moray eels are in an area of Catalina Island, part of the channel islands archipelago. Further, they are interested in growth of individuals and movement. They had help from people at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) with using Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tags, acoustic tags and acoustic receivers to address eel growth and movement.
Using traps, eels would be raised to the boat then a series of body measurements and total weight were taken, they would be PIT tagged and released in the area of capture. If they caught an individual again who had previously had a PIT tag, they could use the body measurements from before and compare them to the current measurements to learn how much they grew in that time period.
To learn more about eel movement, a subset of eels had an acoustic tag surgically implanted into them. Acoustic receivers were deployed at each cove which would detect the surgically implanted acoustic tags in the eels, if they were nearby. They believe that moray eels may go out to feed during night but not much is known. In two weeks, with over 300 unique eels measured and PIT tagged, you could imagine how dramatic and important an impact they have on the ecosystem!
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!).
In the southern California bight, the channel islands archipeligo sits in warm subtropical waters brought north along the coast from Mexico to the islands. Toward the east, Santa Catalina Island supports many different fishes living in these warm waters. On a recent thesis sampling trip, frenzied fish behavior was observed. Similar to people gathering at a popular eatery, small orange cigar shaped fish called Senorita, and speckled kelp bass, schooled near disturbances created by divers. You may see the small grayish crab in the photo just underneath the fish’s mouth (see below). These fish would say that algae mats provide a home for many tasty invertebrates!
Year old Steelhead (smolts) were seen during Moss Landing’s Scientific Diving class, in August, at Big Creek Reserve. These fish are anadromous, meaning they are born in freshwater and then spend most of their lives at sea before returning to the freshwater to breed. They get to experience both fresh and saltwater worlds!
Checking in with Mr./Mrs. Eel, it appears the eel has been eating some delicious crab. This broken up crab carapace sits in front of the eel den, with some bat stars getting whatever is left over from the meal. The crab carapace is made of chitin, similar to keratin which makes up our nails and hair!