Seasoar, satellites and sampling areas…

Advanced Laser Fluorometer (ALF) data of sample area.

We are spending two days deploying Seasoar and doing surveying. Seasoar is towed off of the back of the ship and we do a grid pattern across the survey area. Seasoar measures temperature, salinity and a fluorometer (which measures plankton biomass).  It give a wonderful 3-dimensional picture from the surface to 300m of the water masses. Combined with the satellite images and MVP data, Seasoar gives a very good picture of the "front" between the water masses and a bigger picture of  the environment in the sample area. So, while we are surveying nothing goes into the water.  Dr. Chekalyuk is also

Dr. Ohman explaining MVP data to teacher at sea, Deb Brice.

continuing to collect data from the ALF (Advanced Laser Fluorometer)  from the water flow on the ship, so he can actually correspond his data with the Seasoar data for a deeper picture of the sample site, even though his data is sea surface chlorophyll data.  This little break in the lab gives everyone time to do laundry, clean their rooms, catch up on lab analysis and for many, work on other papers or projects. Several of us, me included have other classes we are taking that we need to study for and having the scientists answer many of my questions. While everyone is working in the different labs it is fun to walk through and see what movies they are watching on their laptops (Last night was Taladega Nights in the analytical lab, and Box in the main lab, followed by episodes of “Six Feet Under” and “Seinfeld”).  Cat and Ellen and I have been playing with the microscope attachment for the camera and filming some of her plankton samples.  Our adorable (yes, that is a scientific term!) little squid has enough footage at this point for his own major motion picture.  I am going to edit that down a bit.  He will be freed this afternoon and I am pretty sure he will grow up to be a big squid who will tell all his offspring and relatives how he was abducted by aliens as a little squirt!  I have been spending time interviewing many of the scientists in the various groups out here and having them explain both their long term research but exactly what they are doing out here, then I film them collecting and processing their samples/data so I have nice comprehensive stories to share.
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History about the R/V Melville

Another busy day on the good ship R/V Melville.  I find it interesting to learn more about the Melville.  The R/V stands for: Research Vessel. R/V Melville is a multipurpose research ship that has served oceanographic scientists for more than 30 years. It has sailed hundreds of thousands of miles in almost every ocean, carrying out scientific missions involving geology, geophysics, physical oceanography, marine biology, and chemical oceanography. Melville is owned by the U.S. Navy and operated by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO), a graduate division of the University of California, San Diego. The ship, which is 278 feet (85 meters) long, is named after Henry Wallace Melville, a pioneer Arctic explorer and an innovative U.S. Navy engineer who served in the early 1900's. R/V Melville was built in 1969 for SIO by the U.S. Navy as part of a focused plan to improve the academic oceanographic fleet. It is the sister ship of the R/V Knorr of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). R/V Melville was overhauled about 15 years ago and lengthened by about 30 feet to add additional laboratory space, berthing, endurance, and a working area to the fantail for large-scale oceanographic sampling expeditions. Three 'Z' drives were added to increase maneuverability and station-keeping ability. A multibeam echo sounding system was also installed to gather high-resolution bathymetry data. Melville carries a crew of 23 people and 38 scientists and has an endurance of about 60 days at sea. It normally cruises at a speed of 12 knots. Our captain for this cruise is Dave Murline and our chief engineer is Paul Buerens. Certainly, without a highly experienced and superbly trained crew science would not be so successful.

R/V Melville galley.

Life onboard is busy, but pleasant.  The pictures I am sending today are the galley/dining area and our cups/glasses rack. To reduce some of the work for the cooks , who not only provide us with a  delicious three meals a day (no one loses weight on a cruise….). We are all assigned a coffee cup and glass. They have our bunk numbers on it and we are responsible for washing them and keeping track of them.  The dishes are washed by hand on the ship, so anything we do helps.  We have a ships laundry where we have access to washing machines and dryers to wash our clothes.  A crew member does wash sheets and towels, but you have to make your own bed and clean your own room ( Well, we are adults and this is not a carnival cruise!) It is nice that all the chores are shared.

Coffee the elixir of life!

We will be up all night tonight taking samples from 7:30pm until about 7am. We will do 10 Bongo net tows, CTD and trace metal casts and tomorrow we will be doing Seasoar surveys again.
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Preliminary questions from teachers…

Ariel Valentino

Ariel Valentino asks:  Since my topic is ocean acidification is it possible to take pH levels in different locations with the MVP? Answer from Dr. Ohman:  Not currently because we don’t have the correct sensors on the MVP. With an instrument development effort it could be done. Also, we now know that ph can be predicted well from temp and dissolved O2, so this would be another approach in the future.

Denise Lit

Denise Lit asks : Are there any scientists on board studying erosion patterns on the beaches and cliffs and or on the depositions of silts from coastal erosion on the ocean floor? I am writing a lab activity on mean sea level rising and would love real data from the boat! Answer: Presently no one on this cruise is studying either of those things.  Most of the scientists onboard are biologists, chemists and a physicist.  However I will see if I can email Dr. Wolf Berger, he is an emeritus professor at SIO and that is his area of expertise.  Also I might suggest that when I get back if you would like I can arrange to meet you at SIO and we could tour the Core repositories and you can meet and talk to Warren Smith, the curator…you will have more sediment and information than you want, plus it’s a really cool tour. Denise Lit asks:What do you mean when you say you are looking at both sides of the upwelling front? Also have you seen a correlation between water temperature, conductivity and chlorophyll? In other words if you were to graph your data would you see that when water temp. is higher so is the chlorophyll concentrations? Sounds like an amazing adventure! Thanks for your updates. Answer: Ok, the upwelling front, it’s a little more complicated than that ( as was pointed

The 'Front'

out to me) but I will send you a whole page with pictures of what a front is.  But in general its where two different water masses meet, along the area when they meet is a gradient  going from one water mass to the mixing area and then into the other water mass.  That’s where we are sampling.  It turns out that fronts are areas of high productivity as well as upwelling areas.  We are near the upwelling coastal area, but the front we are sampling from  is where the California current meets one of the coastal current meanders.  So we are sampling across where these two different water masses meet. They create a unique and unusual environment and the scientists are trying to understand the properties of these features.

Ariel Valentino

Ariel Valentino asks: In my articles, it says that benthic organisms, such as oysters and clams, are quick to show adverse effects due to changing pH levels. Is it possible to gather samples of these types of organisms at some point on the boat trip? Or is it possible to test dissolved carbon in different locations during the trip? Answer: No one out here is taking bottom samples, there is no dredging.  We are only sampling water column animals, so we aren’t getting any clams or bivalves, other than planktonic larval forms.  That being said, I will pass on your question to Dr. Jeff Krause who is out here doing water analysis for silica.  Basically he is looking at particulate and dissolved silica in the water as an indicator of both the water chemistry and nutrient levels in the environment.  Some plankton use silica in their body structures, lots of particulate matter means (well, lots of skeletons of little critters), dissolved silica means there is a lot of material for them to use and the levels can indicate more or less of particular species. That is kind of a broad description, but I am going to have Jeff give me a clearer and more detailed description.  Also I will send you his email so you could ask him directly.  He is a wonderful guy, and said although he doesn’t have any great plankton pictures with him, he will send us some later. About dissolved Carbon, no one out here is taking measurements from that although they can indirectly infer it from other data.  Dr. Ohman said that clams and oysters do not show quick adverse effects to changing ph.  Even though we are doing some water chemistry out here, this is predominately a bio cruise and the chemistry, such as trace metals, is only in order to understand the processes in this particular area.  They are looking at nutrient levels and things like chlorophyll as an indicator of productivity and biomass.  They are looking at temp and salinity (determining salinity from the conductivity of the water.)  On a water chemistry cruise such as CLIVAR ( I will send you their website) they do everything from dissolved O2, helium, tritium, Carbon and so on.   I may be able to get you some preserved samples of clams or oysters from another cruise to show your kids however. Note to all teachers: Although the particular topics that we are working on may not be specific to this cruise, such as erosion patterns and pH, this is still a great cruise to show our kids the lab skills inherent in scientific data collection.  We can speak to them about how we can use known data such as temp and salinity to determine dissolved O2.  So that means we can use real data from here about temp and salinity to have them determine the O2 and see if that correlates with the productivity that we DO find out here.  We can also use data from other water chem. Cruises that DO have O2 levels and temp and salinity to verify their predictions of the O2 levels out here ( just a thought).   Much of the data that we are collecting out here will not be analyzed until we get back to SIO.   We can talk more on this, and if you have more questions, please send them my way, I am printing them and passing them out to scientists to get their opinions and answers.
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Updates on Several Fronts…

We are enjoying sunny weather, and very busy with sampling.  We are well into Cycle 2 sampling and everybody sleeps when they can…sometimes where they can.  A few minutes in a chair helps get you through. We caught another vampire squid today in the Oozeki trawl, it was “cute” (I really like cephalopods, so it was cute.)  Sadly, they are never alive when we get them.  Also in the plankton tow Cat separated out a very small larval squid.  It’s adorable only about 3cm long.  The copepods are bigger than it.  I got some nice pictures of it with

Small squid caught in plankton tow.

the microscope adaptor on my camera.  We couldn’t put anything in the petri dish to show size, but the side of the petri can be seen in the photo. They don’t need it for their sample, so we release it back into the wild. We are sure it will tell horrible stories to its future offspring of how it was “abducted by aliens, the lights were horrible, they poked at me”.  I am sure we will be the stuff of Squid Horror Movies. I am also including a picture of the ship track.  The grid type pattern is the Seasoar data when we surveyed. Then the little back and forth pattern on the bottom is us sampling along the "front".  I'd like to describe what a "front" is where two different water masses meet, and the gradient along a front is the gradual change between the two different masses.  This is very similar to warm and cold air masses that meet and create lots of weather events (think storms!!!).  We also got some more dragon fish last night, they are being preserved and sent to Dr. Jeff Drazen at University of Hawaii, he is an ichthyologist in their Marine Bio Dept.
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A Note to all Research Teachers

Image: California Current meets coastal current

If you are curious as to what a "front" is the best way to explain it is to visualize an area where two different water masses meet.   The gradient along a "front" is the gradual change between the two different masses.  Much like where warm and cold air masses meet.  There is typically lots of activity along a front (think storms!!!).  I've included a photograph of the "Front". Although the particular topics that we are working on may not be specific to this cruise, such as erosion patterns and pH, this is still a great cruise to show our kids the lab skills inherent in scientific data collection.  We can speak to them about how we can use known data such as temp and salinity to determine dissolved O2.  So, that means we can use real data from here about temperature and salinity to have them determine the O2 and see if that correlates with the productivity that we do find out here.  We can also use data from other water chemistry.  Cruises that do have O2 levels and temperature and salinity to verify their predictions of the O2 levels out here (just a thought).   Much of the data that we are collecting out here will not be analyzed until we get back to SIO.  We can talk more on this, and if you have more questions, please send them my way, I am printing them and passing them out to scientists to get their opinions and answers. Hope that helps a bit for now. PS, I have been talking to some of the scientists out here, especially the chief scientists about inviting the teachers to come down to meet the ship when we get in on July 17 for a tour of the ship and to meet everyone.  Let me know if you would be interested.  The ship should arrive around 4pm and she comes in to Nimitz Marine Facilty down off Rosecrans St in Pt. Loma.
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CTD Casts

Dr. Ralf Goericke grabs a cookie before the CTD cast.

Dr. Ralf Goericke’s group did several CTD casts today.  They took salinity, temperature and water samples during day and night.  Water samples were analyzed for different chlorophyll concentrations.  Different types of chlorophyll indicate different phytoplankton groups and amount of chlorophyll give biomass amounts.  The sample sites were surveyed first with the MVP (Moving Vessel Profiler), that looks at temperature differences, salinity, and has a Laser Optical Plankton Counter ( LOPC).


This works by seawater flowing through the counter while a laser passes through it and does a particle count.  By taking vertical samples throughout the water column, scientists can determine where the plankton concentrations are during day and night cycles as well as what environmental indicators are most favorable to high concentrations of phytoplankton.  Some of the samples are filtered and analyzed here on the ship and some are prepared and frozen for analysis back in the lab at SIO.  Weather was sunny and beautiful, lunch was pizza.  Dinner was pork chops, asparagus and cream puffs for dessert.  The cooks are amazing and no one will be losing any weight on this cruise.  I was helping again with the MOCNESS and Bongo tows.
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Second Sampling Cycle

We are in Cycle 2 of sampling.  I helped deploy the Bongo plankton nets and the MOCNESS Plankton sampler during the day and at night. We took micro

MOCNESS (Multiple Opening and Closing Net Environmental Sampling System).

and meso zooplankton samples and then preserved them for analysis later in the lab.  Between MOCNESS and Bongo tows, there were CTD, Trace metals samples, and Oozeki tows. The Oozeki tows are for meso nekton (fish and larger animals than plankton)  They also did several day and night tows. The animals migrate vertically in the water column, most coming up to feed at night and then going back down below the visible light level to hide during the day.  So they want to sample twice a day to get a better idea of the biomass in each strata.  Last night we got some interesting little guys in the MOCNESS and the Oozeki.  The Oozeki caught a viperfish, a black dragon fish and a vampire squid.

Vampire Squid in the California Current (LTER).

(Vampirotuethis infernalis). Everyone was excited and went out to check the little critters.  The dragon fish was about 20cm long, with big, translucent fangs.  The viper fish was also small, but looked really scary!  The squid was about the size of a baseball and very strange looking.  The ones from the Oozeki were already dead when we brought them up.  The MOCNESS caught a few fish as well tonight, another dragon fish and a smaller fish.  They were both alive and we kept them in containers for awhile.  They will all go back for identification and study to Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO).  It was a wet busy night.

Close up of Vampire Squid

We are going to move to another area tomorrow to start the sampling cycle all over.   Everyone is working hard, some getting more sleep than others, depending on when sampling happens.  Sometimes you get a few hours of sleep then its time to get up and do another sample.  The Oozeki went out last night at about 1am and got in at 3am.  We put the MOCNESS in at 11pm and were done with processing by about 1:30am.  But as tired as we all are, everyone was happy to run over with cameras to look at the strange fish and squid they brought up, from undergrads to postdocs, its still exciting.
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Oozeki nets @ 1000 meters

Amanda Netburn's Birthday: queen for a day.

The sun finally came out, we did another Oozeki sampling. It was Amanda Netburn’s birthday (that means there will be a cake at dinner)!  She is a graduate student at Scripps and part of the group working with Dr. Koslow

Dr. Tony Koslow sorting Oozeki trawl sample

taking midwater animal samples with the Oozeki trawl net.  We are moving tonight to another station and the sampling begins all over again at midnight.  There were lots of krill, some midwater small fish and shrimp in the day sampling taken at around 1000m.  There was quite a bit of lab work today looking at plankton samples from the CTD casts.  Much of the sampling will be analyzed back in the lab and we are just finishing our first station of sampling so we will see what the next station on the other side of the front brings us in comparison.
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Net Samples and Copepods

Ellen preserving MOCNESS tow samples.

The weather report says cloudy, but we had sun off and on all day.  Still a little bouncy out here from time to time, but not too bad.  It was a busy day and a long night for me , we had lots of Bongo tows ( live plankton) and a MOCNESS tow as well.  Then I also helped with the prep and preservation of samples.  We finished the MOCNESS tow last night at 2am.  Some of the samples, probably a large majority are preserved for later study and identification.   Here is a description of what 'Cat' is doing with some of the live Copepods (think plankton from Spongebob) in an experiment onboard. Title: Egg production of copepods (Calanus pacificus and Eucalanus californicus) Process: • Live samples taken from each side of the front  in the vertical chlorophyll maximum layer • Females separated into petri dishes with a little bit of seawater • Females differ from males with two , small, opaque spots on their urosome, these are seminal receptacles where the males attach spermatophores.  They shed their eggs past the seminal receptacles to fertilize them as they are released.  The species 'Cat' is studying are broadcast spawners, meaning they release their eggs freely into the water. • Some species of copepods, like crabs (crustaceans), will keep their fertilized eggs on their bodies. • These were chosen as broadcast shedders because they are among the most abundant species of copepods and are a likely responder to food gradients associated with fronts. • The females will be incubated for a day in the incubator. • The eggs are left in the incubator for an additional 1.5 days to determine how many hatch successfully. Egg production is a surrogate for copepod secondary production and represents one measure of the zooplankton response to food availability in ocean regions of strong spatial gradients.
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MOCNESS and Oozeki Net Tows

Dr. Koslow's group prepares to deploy the Oozeki trawl net.

Happiness is being able to find an empty washing machine in the laundry room when you want one!!  Yes, it’s the little things that count!  On the ship you clean your own room, make your own bed and do your own laundry…..kind of like home.  But they cook and do dishes and the food is amazing!!! Today, we did several CTD casts, Trace metal casts, MOCNESS and Oozeki tows.  The MOCNESS is a large plankton tow net that collects at several different levels.  The Oozeki is a large trawl net that collects larger specimens, krill, fish and squid at greater depths.  This collection they

Gillian and LIsa enjoying the hot tub after a long days work.

decided to collect from beneath the O2 limited depth, several hundred meters below the surface.  They get creatures like hatchet fish, lantern fish, deep water krill.  We did an Oozeki at night and during the day.  Weather is still cloudy today , and we are moving to a new sampling site.
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