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…)
Posts Tagged ‘Monterey Bay Aquarium’
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 Brynn Hooton-Kaufman, Phycology Lab
So far, this event has been the highlight of my graduate school career. I got to dive in the kelp forest tank at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The same tank that I stared into for hours as a kid visiting Monterey on summer vacation, thinking, “How amazing are the people who get to dive in this tank? They must have qualifications that I couldn’t even think of getting.”
Well, I guess I was wrong! I have earned those qualifications while in grad school at MLML. I’ve earned my open water diver, rescue diver, master diver, scientific diver, and Reef Check ecodiver certifications, all in the short three years that I’ve been a student. And, the Aquarium even asked me (okay, asked the MLML Phycology Lab, which I’m a part of) to help them by surveying the algae in their kelp forest tank!
You see, some of the seaweed in the kelp forest tank is “planted” there by aquarium staff, but some of it shows up on its own. These “volunteer” seaweeds come through the aquarium’s seawater system as spores that settle and grow in the tank. The aquarium staff like to know who all of the critters inhabiting their tanks are, and that’s where the Phycology Lab comes in. Since we spend much of our graduate career studying and identifying seaweeds, we can survey the algae in the kelp forest tank pretty quickly and easily. And every few years, we get to!
I couldn’t help but chronicle this event on the GoPro underwater video camera that I got for Christmas. Why don’t you follow along with our dive, and I’ll explain what we’re doing. Jump on in:
In this first video we’re gearing up. Paul gets help putting on his dive gear from Mike- there’s no reason to risk pulling something with all of that weight before you even get in the water! Sonya takes the first steps into the tank, and Arley helps her out with her mask and passes her fins. And during the time that the camera is pointed down, I’m checking my gear, making sure my regulator and back-up works. Every good dive starts with good planning and safety checks!
Finally, it’s my turn to get in the water! Speedy Paul climbs into the tank, gears up, and eases in before me. I make my way down the steps and take a seat, where I can comfortably and securely put on my fins. Then my mask goes on, and Arley hands me the RPC – random point contact – bar and makes some final adjustments. Into the tank I go!
I submerge, and take my first look around the tank. It might be hard to believe, but diving in the aquarium was a little stressful at first. We had to stay far away from the glass because our tanks could chip or crack it, we needed to avoid making big fin strokes because we could tear out or damage the kelp, and with seven people and all of those fishes in an enclosed space, we had to keep from kicking each other!
You’ll see the white vertical line – this is our transect line that we sampled along. I waited for my partner Sonya, and she found the place along the line where we were to take our first sample. My job was to place the RPC bar on this spot, then hold the marks on the line up to the place on the rock where Sonya identified the algae growing there. That way, we sampled a random place each time.
Sampling went smoothly and I got some great video, up until the point where the camera decided to make a break for it! Here you can see that it falls off of my head, and spirals toward the kelp forest tank floor. Thankfully we were in an enclosed space, and Paul rescued the camera later on. I’ll be securing it to my buoyancy compensator next time I take it for a dive!
So, that concludes this adventure. Thanks for joining me on my dive in the Monterey Bay Aquarium kelp forest tank! I’ll be taking the GoPro with me on future dives, so stay tuned for more videos of my adventures as an MLML grad student.
That’s no sheephead! It’s phycology student Paul Tompkins diving in the Monterey Bay Aquarium kelp forest tank. Paul is keeping an eye on his lab-mates, who are surveying the algae in the tank for the Aquarium. Stayed tuned in for an upcoming post by Brynn Hooton that will include a video from this dive.
by Brynn Hooton-Kaufman, Phycology Lab
I think it’s about time that I tell you about my adventures at Moss Landing Marine Labs. I’m deep into my third year of grad school here, and I have yet to write a blog. Well, things are about to change. I want to share with you what it’s like to SCUBA dive in the Monterey Bay Aquarium, chase down an invasive seaweed in the harbor, and hike through ink-black caves for class.
Lots of experiences got me excited about science and ecology, and helped prepare me for graduate school. You can read about the path I took to get to graduate school and all of its amazing opportunities in my student profile. There I share my experiences working for the California Department of Fish and Game, and as a lab tech in the Wetland Ecology Lab at UC Davis.
You might be wondering why I’m chasing down an invasive seaweed in the harbor. For my thesis I am investigating how native fishes and other organisms use the invasive Asian kelp Undaria pinnatifida for habitat in central California. In my profile I explain why this topic is important to me, and in future posts I will tell you all about what it’s like to dive in Monterey Harbor to collect Undaria and other critters.
That’s all for now, but check back often for new posts, and thanks for letting me share my adventures with you!
Juan Manuel (Manny) Ezcurra has a job many would give their right pectoral fin for – he works with elasmobranchs (read: sharks!) at the Monterey Bay Aquarium!
Manny acknowledges that the getting a job at an aquarium can be tough (lots of competition for few resources) – but it helps if you can find a specialized niche. For Manny, that niche is diet. He helps decide what type of food, and how much of it, to feed the sharks on display – which is important to keep them from eating their tank-mates!
Manny shares: “At times you need to take opportunities that aren’t quite what you had in mind: the first job I had at the Monterey Bay Aquarium was dressing up as marine creatures for the outreach education programs. But I was able to get a commercial license to drive to the schools in our Aquarivan, and the driving lessons still help me today while I’m driving on the freeways with a tank of water weighing over 3,000 lbs. in the back of our trucks after a collection trip.” Read more of his interveiw by clicking here!
Grad students at MLML work with adjunct professor Dr. Simona Bartl through the Teacher Enhancement Program to help teachers incorporate the resources of a marine lab into their classrooms. This June, 20 teachers from around California participated in the week-long Lab and Field Explorations summer workshop, learning activities ranging from water quality and invasive species to sand crabs and sharks. Kathy Diver, a teacher at Los Osos High School in Rancho Cucamonga, CA, contributed the following account of her experiences with the Lab and Field Workshop.
I am writing from home a day after my week at the Teacher Enhancement Program in Monterey Bay at the Moss Landing Marine Labs (part of the Cal State University system). I had a very good time, but I am pretty tired after all that work and fun. Simona Bartl, the Project Director is a serious scientist with a great sense of humor. She seems to understand the need to bridge the gap between research science in the laboratory and students’ understanding when we are in the classroom.
We had a variety of presenters from various levels of education and research in the Monterey area. What an honor! Some were MLML teaching assistants (aka graduate students), others were instructors from the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Hopkins Marine Station and the Elkhorn Slough Estuarine Research Reserve. All presenters led activities both in the field and in the lab that let us see first hand how we can participate in scientific research with our own students.
Monday (6-23-08) we were at the Moss Landing Marine Laboratories all day. We toured the facility with Elsie and learned what the week was going to look like. We did an activity with Sacha (from MERITO) in which we modeled the shape of the Monterey Canyon in clay, and another in which we pretended to discover a deep sea organism. We had to list the adaptations to the environment and give it a scientific name according to normal naming conventions. This curriculum focuses on multi lingual learners who live near the oceans, but since I have used similar activities in my class, I think it’s just good teaching.
Tuesday (6-24-08) we went to the Elkhorn Slough with Kenton, Danielle and Elsie to study, count and collect an imported (invasive) species of snails. We later compared our numbers to last year’s research data. The original native species in the area has not been seen in over 35 years. The invader was brought in during the 30′s with the oyster cultures that were brought to the area for pearls and oyster meat. We also used microscopes to observe the parasites that are infecting this snail. We spent some time with Simona in the afternoon discussing and sharing lesson plans, activities and resources we use in our own practices. Since the 20 participating teachers cover a variety of curricula we got to discuss marine science with respect to our own classes and get some idea on how to enhance what we already do.
Wednesday (6-25-08) we went with Lisa and Erin to the Salinas River Beach to do a population study on the sand crabs there. It was cold and wet, but I loved being on the shore and in the water. We caught, measured, and recorded data on sand crabs. Later, we put in our numbers to an online sand crab-monitoring site (LiMPETS). We also checked some sand crabs for parasites while in the lab. These parasites actually harmfully infect shore birds and otters, so the scientists and agencies are keeping a close watch on the number of parasites found in a given area. I loved this day!!!