Plankton Soup

Scientists sift through plankton soup, searching for their favorite bits

Scientists sift through plankton soup, searching for their favorite bits (photo: E. Loury)

Erin Loury

Erin Loury

by Erin Loury, Ichthyology Lab

The swell was up and the rain in and out on Tuesday, but our ichthyology class braved it all for our class cruise in Monterey Bay.  The Point Sur, MLML’s largest research  vessel, was loaded with our class, an invertebrate zoology class from San Jose State, and various scientists from the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (incluing Kyra Schlining, featured in our alumni profiles!). We were all on a treasure hunt of sorts – ready to dip our big nets in the water and see what kind of fish and invertebrates would come up.  It was anyone’s guess.

The crew hauls in the net, while a rainbow offsets the less-than-ideal weather (photo: E. Loury)

The crew hauls in the net, while a rainbow offsets the less-than-ideal weather (photo: E. Loury)

Like most cruises, there was a lot of downtime  – waiting to get to our trawl location, waiting for the net to go out (about half an hour to reach our desired depth of 900 m!), waiting while the net dragged along catching things, waiting for it to come back in… But just trying to hold on to your balance (and your lunch) can be keep you plenty occupied on a rolling boat.  It was a rough day for the faint of stomach, which I’m sure left many pondering Amanda’s timeless question: “Can I still become a marine biologist even if I get seasick?” The short answer is yes – but it’s certainly not always fun.  Or pretty, for that matter.

What a find!  Bottling up a squid (photo: E. Loury)

What a find! Bottling up a squid (photo: E. Loury)

Our first trawl came up empty, because the net didn’t make it to the sea floor where it was designed to sample.  But our second trawl of the midwater brought up a whole slurry of things to pick through and distract us from our queasiness.  We huddled around tubs sloshing with a bright red soup of krill, the choice food of many whales, birds and fish.  These little critters like small shrimp and are called euhpausiids.  Lots of other interesting things were floating in the mix – the visiting scientists scooped up some squid, little jellyfish, and other gelatinous blobs.   The fish class picked out the various myctophids, or lanternfish, which are little, black, deepwater fish that have a line of glowing photophores along their sides.

Some shiny myctophids, or lantern fish, from the deep (photo: E. Loury)

Some shiny myctophids, or lantern fish, from the deep (photo: E. Loury)

We sifted though the animals that lived in the water that surrounded us, down at depths we could scarecly comprehend.  It was a rare chance to pluck them from their hard-to-access homes and bring them to our world of the surface, where we could poke, stare, and try to understand.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Erin Loury, Research: Fresh from the Field, teacher feature and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Plankton Soup

  1. Pingback: Best of the Drop-In 2009 « The Drop-In to Moss Landing Marine Labs

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s