Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
2013 seafloor ecology expedition

Day 4—Collecting corn-bale animals and the last logs
October 27, 2013

Our day started a little later this morning, since we didn’t need to deploy any elevators over the side of the ship. The remotely operated vehicle (ROV) launch proceeded as scheduled at 6:30 a.m., and we were viewing the bottom at 3,200 meters just before 8:30 a.m..

We immediately began collecting the remaining 17 logs that Jenna Judge had placed on the seafloor two years ago. These included wood from several different species of trees and shrubs. Some of the wood appeared to have been colonized by many deep-sea animals, while others had very few. It will take some time for Jenna to analyze these samples before we’ll have the final word on whether limpets and deep-sea animals favor certain types of wood over others.

Once we had completed the log collections, we headed south about 900 meters to return to the corn bale to collect more samples of seafloor animals. We stopped about 500 meters from the bale to collect squat lobsters in a ‘control’ area assumed to be unaffected by the bale. Using the suction sampler, the pilots were able to quickly capture about 10 of these small crabs.

We continued toward the bale, running a benthic video transect for the last 250 meters. We’ll use this video to measure the abundance of all identifiable benthic organisms in relation to distance from the bale. During this cruise, we have run several such transects near and far from the bale, and radiating outward from it. After compiling the data from these videos, we’ll be able to find out if there were any changes in the abundance of seafloor animals near the bale.

After we arrived at the corn bale, we parked the ROV directly in front of the bale and used the suction sampler to capture many small animals on and at the base of the bale. These included squat lobsters, polychaete worms, snails, and limpets.

Jenna Judge and Craig McClain

On board the Western Flyer, Jenna Judge and Craig McClain pick apart some of the logs that Jenna placed on the seafloor two years ago. They found a variety of small animals, including clams, limpets, worms, and snails.

We want all of these specimens for a few purposes. First, we cannot identify all of these species from video alone, particularly for deep-sea animals—species unknown to science are commonly discovered on these dives. So, we need specimens for morphological and molecular analyses to determine the actual identities of the species we are viewing. Second, we are keenly interested in just how much energy these animals may be getting from the corn bale, compared to the normal deep-sea food sources. We’ll analyze stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes in muscle tissue from the animals to help understand that, and may use other methods, such as fatty acid analyses.

After we finished collecting animals near the corn bale, we began another video transect moving away from the bale toward the northeast. This continued only for about 60 meters and the video monitors suddenly went black! We waited for a few minutes while the pilots tried to troubleshoot the problem. Fortunately they still had control of the ROV and some other cameras worked, even though the main cameras had failed. In the end, we decided to abort the dive, and the ROV started to ascend toward the surface.

We also sent acoustic commands to release the benthic elevator, which was full of Jenna’s logs. The elevator worked perfectly and sent a signal to us indicating that it had released its extra weights. We tracked the elevator for several minutes and determined that it was indeed rising toward the surface. By measuring the rate of ascent, we estimated it would hit the surface at about 4:15 this afternoon.

Jim Barry in the Western Flyer control rooom

During this cruise, we spend seven to nine hours of each day in the ROV control room, collecting animals, performing experiments, and watching these large video screens. In this photo, Jim Barry sits in the scientist’s chair and uses the ROV’s video camera to zoom in on animals living on the corn bale. Sitting to his left are ROV Pilot Knute Brekke, and copilot Bryan Schaefer..

Once the ROV arrived at the surface, we gathered our samples and began to sort them. All of the squat lobsters that we captured on the bottom are closely related and look very similar on the video monitors. But upon inspection under a microscope, we estimated that there were at least four species and probably five or six present. It will take more careful analysis to be certain. However, we know for sure that the crabs we captured at the control site away from the bale were all the same species, and were different from any species found on the bale.

Chris Lovera and Jim Barry

Chris Lovera and Jim Barry sort animals from the corn bale. On the sieve you can see some of the different types of galatheid crabs that were living on and around the bale.

Kurt Buck and Jim Barry

Kurt Buck and Jim Barry use a microscope on board the ship to examine the galatheid crabs. Although we have not identified them all, it appears that we collected between four and six different species of crabs

The Western Flyer is now heading back to the urchin-caging study sites closer to Moss Landing, where we dove on the first day of the cruise. Tomorrow morning we will dive again at this site during our last dive of the cruise. The winds are picking up and are supposed to increase to 20-30 knots overnight. We hope conditions are good enough for a dive in the morning.

—Jim Barry

Previous log Next log


Day 5 Day 5
October 28
Squeezing in two dives on our last day

Day 4

Day 4
October 27
Collecting corn-bale animals and more logs

Day 3

Day 3
October 26
Corn stover and respiration experiments

Day 2

Day 2
October 25
Elevator to the seafloor

Day 1

Day 1
October 24
Urchin cages


R/V Western Flyer

The R/V Western Flyer is a small water-plane area twin hull (SWATH) oceanographic research vessel measuring 35.6 meters long and 16.2 meters wide. It was designed and constructed for MBARI to serve as the support vessel for ROV operations. Her missions include the Monterey Bay as well as extended cruises to Hawaii, the Gulf of California, and the Pacific Northwest.

ROV Doc Ricketts

ROV Doc Ricketts is MBARI's next generation ROV. The system breaks new ground in providing an integrated unmanned submersible research platform, with many powerful features providing efficient, reliable, and precise sampling and data collection in a wide range of missions.

Push cores

A push-core looks like a clear plastic tube with a rubber handle on one end. Just as its name implies, the push core is pushed down into loose sediment using the ROV's manipulator arm. As the sediment fills up the core, water exits out the top through one-way valves. When the core is pulled up again, these valves close, which (most of the time) keeps the sediment from sliding out of the core tube. When we bring these cores back to the surface, we typically look for living animals and organic material in the sediments.

Benthic respirometer system

Oxygen consumption (a measure of biological activity) of the organisms living in the sediment is measured using a benthic respirometer system (BRS). This instrument is used in situ (in place on the seafloor).

 Research Team

jim barry

Jim Barry

Senior Scientist

Jim Barry's research program focuses on the effects of climate change on ocean ecosystems. In addition to climate change, his research interests are broad, spanning topics such as the biology and ecology of chemosynthetic biological communities in the deep sea, coupling between upper ocean and seafloor ecosystems in polar and temperate environments, the biology of deep-sea communities, and the biology of submarine canyon communities. Jim has helped inform Congress on ocean acidification, ocean carbon sequestration, and climate change by speaking at congressional hearings, briefings and meetings with congressional members.

kurt buck

Kurt Buck

Senior Research Technician

Kurt Buck specializes in quantitative enumeration, ecology, and imaging of marine protists and bacteria. Upper water-column communities from Antarctic and Arctic sea ice to equatorial regions were his initial focus. He is currently working with deep-sea sediment communities including those from hypoxic zones.

patrick whaling

Patrick Whaling

Senior Research Technician

Patrick has worked at MBARI since its beginning in the fall of 1987. Prior to his move to MBARI, he spent seventeen years at Duke University Marine Lab investigating heavy metals in the marine environment. He currently works with Jim Barry in the design and construction of sampling gear used on the ROV to collect benthic animals, in addition to processing benthic samples and conducting carbon-hydrogen-oxygen (CHN) analyses.

Chris Lovera

Chris Lovera

Senior Research Technician

Chris supports Jim Barry's Benthic Biology and Ecology, and Free-Ocean CO2 Enrichment research projects. On this expedition, Chris's responsibilities are varied, from collection and curation of invertebrates used in Benthic Respiration System metabolic rate and manipulative oxygen and pH studies, to Geographic Information System work, to operation of the dissolved inorganic carbon analyzer. Chris's recent work focuses on the effects of ocean acidification on invertebrate behavior.

kim fulton-bennett

Kim Fulton-Bennett

Public Information Specialist

Kim Fulton-Bennett works as a public information specialist at MBARI, writing articles and news releases for the institution's web site and working with members of the media on MBARI stories. During this cruise, he will be helping take digital notes about each dive, taking photos of the research activities on board, and helping prepare the daily expedition logs.

Craig McClain

Assistant Director of Science
National Evolutionary Synthesis Center

jenna judge

Jenna Judge

Postdoctoral Student
University of California, Berkeley

Jenna Judge is a doctoral student at University of California, Berkeley who is focusing on diversification patterns in chemosynthetic and biogenic habitats. Two years ago, she sank a collection of 10 different kinds of wood in Monterey Bay during a cruise with the Barry lab. On this trip, she hopes to recover all 28 wood bundles to see what animals have colonized them and whether there are differences between animal community richness and abundance for different wood types.

Rosemary Romero

Doctoral Student
University of California, Berkeley

Rosemary Romero is a doctoral student at University of California, Berkeley studying green tides in San Francisco Bay. She will be helping Jenna Judge recover sunken wood with Jim Barry and his lab members. She is excited for the opportunity to go to sea and to discover what animals have colonized the sunken wood since two years ago.