Things that go “bump” in the ocean

December 17, 2014 by

Jackie Lindsey

by Jackie Lindsey, Vertebrate Ecology Lab

When Jacques-Yves Cousteau gave the world its first video footage of the ocean in color, he named this documentary The Silent World.  Perhaps as a result, most of us think of the ocean as a quiet refuge, punctuated by occasional humpback whale songs or clicks from a passing pod of dolphins.  In recent years, scientists have dipped microphones into the water and discovered that this could not be further from the truth. Read the rest of this entry »

Take a deep breath, and dive in with our new Vertebrate Ecologist!

September 15, 2014 by
Dr. Gitte McDonald

Dr. Gitte McDonald

Next semester, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories will welcome a new faculty member: Dr. Birgitte I. McDonald.  She is replacing Director Jim Harvey as the new head of the Vertebrate Ecology Lab.  Gitte agreed to answer a few questions about herself in advance of her much-anticipated arrival! Read the rest of this entry »

Projects in Baja – Parrotfish Behavior

September 7, 2014 by

Some of you may have been following the blog way back in March, when the “Baja class” traveled to the Gulf of California for two weeks in the field (as a refresher, you can check out the previous posts here and here). Jackie promised some photos and stories from the trip, so I’m going to highlight my particular research project down there and toss in a few of my own photos (better late than never, right?)!

 

SeaLife DC1400

Panoramic view from our campsite on the beach at Bahia de Concepcion, our second of three overnight stops in Mexico on the way down to El Pardito.

  Read the rest of this entry »

Invertebrate Spotlight: Protulophila Hydroids

August 6, 2014 by

It was just announced a couple months ago that researchers in New Zealand found a specimen of the hydroid Protulophila that was previously believed to be extinct for 4 million years.  Before this discovery, these organisms had only been found in fossil records in the Middle East and Europe, some of which dated back 170 million years.

Awesome discovery, right? But to take a step back now, what exactly is a hydroid?

Read the rest of this entry »

MPAs we’re diving today!

July 21, 2014 by

One of the great things about being a student at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories is going diving with your fellow students.  You get to see what they are studying and hopefully get some good karma or pay them back for helping you out.  I was able to get back in the water after a couple months of drying up on land and dive with Devona Yates.

DCIM101GOPRO

Devona Yates with a kelp headband that is becoming all the rage now.

She is interested in predator-prey relationships and how predatory fishes can have cascading effects on lower trophic levels as they consume invertebrate prey.  This cascading effect may differ inside and outside Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), as it appears MPAs may have different, larger, and more abundant predatory fish.  Devona is using tethering and survey methods to quantify mortality of these invertebrates and how that may vary as a function of MPA status.  It will be interesting and exciting to look at these MPA effects on the survival of these important prey sources for fishes.  We use MPAs as a way to protect and increase important ecosystem members we depend on for food and are necessary for maintaining ecosystem function.  Predator depletion and recovery may cause changes that were much more complex than we had thought.

DCIM101GOPRO

David sampling to estimate the number of small invertebrate prey in different habitat types.

(LOOK) Here is a link to a short video clip of the dive, even harbor seals are interested in science.

The Ballast Team Goes to Sea

July 17, 2014 by

Those of us working on the ballast project in the Biological Oceanography lab are closely tied with the Cal Maritime Academy and their training ship, the Golden Bear. So, wherever the ship goes, we go! This summer’s training cruise for the cadets took the Golden Bear across the Pacific from San Francisco, California to Busan, South Korea, then throughout the South Pacific and eventually to the island of Saipan. One of our team members, Marilyn Cruickshank, volunteered on the trans-Pacific crossing, gathering surface water samples along the way and conducting a variety of assays to get an idea of the biomass out in the open ocean.

Read the rest of this entry »

Fog Blog: the June Edition

June 20, 2014 by

By Alex Olson & Holly Chiswell, Chemical Oceanography

1

Fog Tower deployed, the crew of the R/V Point Sur spotlights night waters to avoid crab pots during fog collection operations off the California Coast (Photo by Alex Olson)

On June 5th, members of the Marine Pollutions Studies and Chemical Oceanography Labs under the direction of Dr. Kenneth Coale, began a week-long journey on the R/V Point Sur to investigate the recent findings of mercury in coastal marine fog. Dubbed “The Fog Cruise”, the crew and science party aboard sampled near and offshore waters using oceanographic tools for signs of methylmercury (MeHg), from deep sea sediments to fog above the sea surface. Read the rest of this entry »

10 days at sea: Research Edition

June 11, 2014 by

Like the previous post mentioned, I went on a 10 day sea voyage with NOAA’s FRAMD (Fishery Resource Analysis and Monitoring Division) survey. This is annual survey that NOAA conducts during the summer to look at the fish community, by taking measurements of weights, lengths, sex of the fish, as well as selecting individuals to extract their otoliths. Otoliths are used to determine the age of bony fish. In many species rings are formed in the ear bones of the fishes. Biologists extract the ear bones from these fish and read them. There are three sets of ear bones, we use the largest set the sagittae. The information then will be used for fish stock assessments.

Read the rest of this entry »

Survivor: Ocean edition

May 30, 2014 by

Two weeks ago, my fellow labmate Jessica Jang and I headed to Newport, Oregon to learn how to survive the high seas in preparation for some trawls in which we will be participating later on this year. The FRAMD trawls (Fishery Resource Analysis and Monitoring Divison), associated with NOAA Fisheries, survey groundfish along the Western US coast, collecting age (using otoliths), sex, and length information on 90 groundfish species, as well as more limited information on other species collected in trawls, and more detailed information for scientists conducting special projects. Students in our lab (Pacific Shark Research Center) have, in the past, gathered specimens and data from these trawls for their thesis projects, and both Jessica and I are hoping to collect specimens for our own theses.

We arrived in Portland, and first made a pitstop to obtain some good food and the famed Voodoo Donuts. At the time, I didn’t realize I would be eating donuts nonstop for the next 4 days. We then drove to Newport, only getting lost a few times…

Voodoo Donuts!

Voodoo Donuts!

The next day, we started off the day with some extreme videos of ships crashing and sinking, then had some lectures about safety, which emphasized the main objective of the course: develop the will to survive! Being prepared for the situation, being able to stay calm and respond efficiently to any circumstances that might arise, and knowing when to abandon ship would strongly enhance our chance of survival.

Next, we went outside, where the Coast Guard taught us about the balance and period of a ship’s roll, and then showed us how to pump water out of a boat in the case of a flood. We took turns in their special training trailer, which was filled with leaky pipes and crevices that would begin spouting water at any given moment. I was Captain of my boat, and gave the Mayday! call to the Coast Guard while communicating with my crew members, whose job it was to plug the leaks with rubber wrapping, pieces of neoprene, and variably-shaped wooden wedges.

US Coast Guard setting up the pump

US Coast Guard setting up the pump

Using wedges to fill a pump

Using wedges to fill a pump

Water!!

Water!!

Later that day, we took our only test – unwrap and don our immersion (or survival, or gumby) suits within 60-seconds, which required multiple rounds of practice. The hardest part was doing anything that required fine motor skills (like zipping up the suit) with your fingers in a giant inflexible glove/ mitten. Some of us also tried the 60-s test in darkness, which was a whole other challenge. Although I wasn’t the suit’s biggest fan during the training, I came to appreciate it when we entered the water in our suits the next day (really toasty and kept me dry!), and understood how important it would be in the case of an actual sea emergency.

Me in my immersion suit

Donning my trendy suit

Later in the day we put out some fires (set on a grill), learning to work in a team and stay low to the ground, and tested some expired signal flares, one of which lit up the sky with orange smoke.

Jessica and I putting out a dangerous fire

Jessica and I putting out a dangerous fire

Handheld flares

Handheld flares

Orange smoke flare

Effective orange smoke flare

The following day, we had some role-playing drills, one person in each group being selected to fall overboard, while the other teammates worked on communicating with the Captain, Coast Guard, and each other to make sure the person was safely rescued. A second drill started out with a fire (which was hidden somewhere, represented by a glowstick, and simulated with a smoke machine), and quickly escalated into an abandon ship procedure. We had to grab the EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, which is one of the most important pieces of equipment during an emergency, sending a signal to the Coast Guard alerting them of its position), a box of signal flares, and deploy the life raft, then hop into a demonstration raft.

The gap between the ship and water was substantial – but somehow everyone succeeded! Unfortunately, I lost both my team’s EPIRB and flares when I turned my back on them to get into my survival suit and a “rogue wave” (aka Dan, one of our instructors) swept them away. Both our teams got Bs for the day, but we did successfully get off the ship and “survive”!

FIRE!

FIRE!

Graceful leap into the life raft

Jessica’s graceful leap into the life raft

Dan, the rogue wave, holding the EPIRB and flares

Dan, the rogue wave, holding the EPIRB and flares

After the demo, we went into the water in our suits, and practiced our safety positions (in case we were being located by helicopter or other boats), and each practiced overturning the life raft in case it deployed incorrectly.

On the final day, we had biological training. We learned about the high-tech equipment we would use out at sea (magnetic strips would send the lengths of the fish to a computer, instead of us having to read and manually record each measurement), the giant multi-ton hauls we would potentially recover (which could supposedly include anything from military and medical waste to fully packed suitcases to sheep and cats), the species we would likely observe (rockfish, chimaeras, skates, urchins, flatfish, sea stars, squid), and then practiced sorting, sexing, and taking otoliths out of a sample of a discarded haul.

Special scale

High-tech fish scale

Fish about to be sorted

Fish about to be sorted

After a long 3 days, we enjoyed some fresh seafood with some fellow scientist-survivors and said goodbye to the beach, knowing that this was only a gentle preview for what was to come in the open ocean. Jessica is currently at sea, traveling in Washington and Oregon, and I won’t be deploying until October – hopefully these survival skills will stick until then!

 

The Success of Open House 2014

May 10, 2014 by

By Melissa Nehmens PSRC

This past weekend, Moss Landing Marine Labs opened our doors and welcomed everyone to our annual Open House event. For those of you new to Moss Landing traditions (as I am as a first year student), it is an event we hold every year in the Spring that is organized by the student body and hosted by the students, faculty, and staff.

We take Open House as an opportunity to share our research in a fun, yet educational way. Just to name a few exciting activities:  the Invertebrate Zoology and Molecular Ecology lab had an invertebrate touch tank where you could see, touch, and learn about all of our interesting local invertebrates.

 

Graduate students Melinda Wheelock and Emily Schmeltzer, educate visitors about the wonderful world of invertebrates! Photo Credit: Heather Kramp

Graduate students Melinda Wheelock and Emily Schmeltzer, educate visitors about the wonderful world of invertebrates! Photo Credit: Diane Wyse

Read the rest of this entry »


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