Midwater Ecology 2014 Expedition

Chief Scientist Bruce Robison
November 12-18, 2014

On November 12, the R/V Western Flyer headed to sea for an eight-day expedition with the Midwater Ecology research group, led by Bruce Robison. During this expedition, they plan to deploy the Midwater Respirometry System, conduct midwater transects, collect specimens for lab studies and for exhibit at Monterey Bay Aquarium, make in situ observations, and jig or trawl for squid at night. They also plan to deploy the mini remotely operated vehicle (ROV) for the first time from the Western Flyer.

Logbook

Vision of deep-sea squids
November 18, 2014

MBARI researchers often invite collaborators on their research expeditions. Kat Bolstad, from Auckland University of Technology, has joined us on this expedition.

Kat writes:
During this cruise, I’m collecting observations for several projects. One examines the eye’s response to light in deep-sea squids—the reliance these animals seem to have on visual cues within such a dark environment is intriguing, and there appear to be several mechanisms by which deep-sea squid maintain good vision.

Kat Bolstad dissects the eye of a deep-sea squid.

Kat Bolstad dissects the eye of a deep-sea squid.

Galiteuthis (left) is often seen hanging motionless, upside down. Gonatus (right) is one of the most common squids we sea in the deep midwater.

Galiteuthis (left) is often seen hanging motionless, upside down. Gonatus (right) is one of the most common squids we sea in the deep midwater.

Bathylagids in food webs
November 17, 2014

Bathylagids are deep-sea fish living in the mesopelagic zone, or twilight zone, most commonly found between 450 and 1,000 meters deep. Some species of bathylagids, like the ones pictured here, have very large eyes, earning them the common name owlfish. Dr. Robison and his lab members are interested in the role these fish play in the mesopelagic food webs.

The ROV pilots have a tough job by many standards, but catching a deep-sea fish like this bathylagid in the detritus samplers is no small feat. The pilot must fly the vehicle so that the fish is in the sampler, then close the sampler to capture it.

The ROV pilots have a tough job by many standards, but catching a deep-sea fish like this bathylagid in the detritus samplers is no small feat. The pilot must fly the vehicle so that the fish is in the sampler, then close the sampler to capture it.


Senior Scientist Bruce Robison examines bathylagid fish in the dry lab after the day's ROV dive.

Senior Scientist Bruce Robison examines bathylagid fish in the dry lab after the day’s ROV dive.

Senior Research Technician Rob Sherlock photographs specimens for future reference. They will run a stable isotope analysis on these fish to try to understand what they eat and where they fit into the deep midwater food web.

Senior Research Technician Rob Sherlock photographs specimens for future reference. They will run a stable isotope analysis on these fish to try to understand what they eat and where they fit into the deep midwater food web.

Western Flyer Crew
November 16, 2014

The crew of the Western Flyer are a critical part of the team making our science expeditions a success. Our researchers work closely with them to make sure that they have a safe, productive cruise. Thanks to all of them!

Second Mate Trevor Daviscourt at the helm, on the Western Flyer's bridge.

Second Mate Trevor Daviscourt at the helm, on the Western Flyer‘s bridge.

The ship's engineers keep everything on the ship in working order. Here, Olin Jordan checks on the air conditioning in one of the labs on board.

The ship’s engineers keep everything on the ship in working order. Here, Olin Jordan checks on the air conditioning in one of the labs on board.

Studying pteropods
November 15, 2014

Postdoctoral Fellow Stephanie Bush places sample vials into liquid nitrogen to flash-freeze them for later DNA sequencing. Stephanie is studying a symbiosis between a pteropod, a type of midwater snail, and hydroids, the attached life-stage of medusae, that can be found on a pteropod’s shell. She will sequence tissue taken from hydroids on the pteropod shell and different jellies to determine which species of jelly attaches to these pteropod shells.

Postdoctoral Fellow Stephanie Bush flash freezes samples with liquid nitrogen.

Postdoctoral Fellow Stephanie Bush flash freezes samples with liquid nitrogen.

The pteropod, Clio recurva.

The pteropod, Clio recurva.

Successful MiniROV deployment
November 13, 2014

This week, the Midwater Ecology group is using two ROVs to study the animals living in the mesopelagic zone. As you can see from the images, ROV Doc Ricketts dwarfs the MiniROV. ROV Doc Ricketts has more capabilities by design, including a four kilometer depth range and a payload of 275 kilograms (in water weight). On the other hand, the MiniROV has a one kilometer depth range, but can be shipped for use on other ships, far from Monterey County.

On this expedition, they are testing the MiniROV’s capabilities and dialing in lighting, camera, and operational techniques for the upcoming midwater research on the Gulf of California expedition in 2015. They are also developing and practicing safe efficient launch and recovery procedures with the ship’s crew on the Western Flyer. The Doc Ricketts pilots are also getting the chance to fly the mini ROV, as every ROV feels different in the control room. The first dive off the Western Flyer was a great success!

Research Assistant Kristine Walz stands next to ROV Doc Ricketts, which reaches well above 10 feet tall on top of the midwater tool sled.

Research Assistant Kristine Walz stands next to ROV Doc Ricketts, which reaches well above 10 feet tall on top of the midwater tool sled.

Kristine Walz next to the MiniROV, which stands just a few feet tall, but can be used as a fly-away vehicle in remote locations.

Kristine Walz next to the MiniROV, which stands just a few feet tall, but can be used as a fly-away vehicle in remote locations.

Introducing the MiniROV
November 12, 2014

One of the goals of this expedition is to deploy the mini ROV to conduct shallow water transects and to practice operating this vehicle from the deck of the Western Flyer for the first time. Its small size allows us to ship it to far off locations for use on other ships. The vehicle is electrically powered, so it is much quieter. The science and engineering teams will work together with the crew and ROV pilots to devise the best procedures for use of the mini ROV on the Western Flyer in anticipation of the 2015 Gulf of California expedition during which the Midwater Ecology group plans to use it extensively.

Dale Graves, the lead engineer of the MiniROV project, prepares for the first dive of the expedition.

Dale Graves, the lead engineer of the MiniROV project, prepares for the first dive of the expedition.

The MiniROV was deployed from the well deck on the Western Flyer. The Doc Ricketts ROV pilots and crew all worked with the mini ROV team to make it a successful deployment.

The MiniROV was deployed from the well deck on the Western Flyer. The Doc Ricketts ROV pilots and crew all worked with the MiniROV team to make it a successful deployment.