Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
2012 bioluminescence and biodiversity expedition

Day 1 – First day of diving
September 28, 2012
Close up of Apolemia

It was a chilly, grey morning as we left Moss Landing Harbor for six days on the R/V Western Flyer investigating deep-sea gelatinous animals out in Monterey Bay with Steven Haddock. A two-hour steam took us out 20.5 nautical miles to our first dive site of 2,100 meters depth.

Early in the dive we thought we saw a fangtooth, Anoplogaster! Unfortunately, it swam away as soon as the ROV slowed down to take a closer look. But fortunately, we record video of our entire dive mission, so I will be able to go back and review it later to see if it really was this rarely seen deep-sea fish.

It takes the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Doc Ricketts about an hour to descend 1,000 meters, so in just over two hours we reached the seafloor. Due to schedule restraints we only had time for a very brief look around the bottom and one benthic animal collection. Then we began to slowly ascend back up to the surface, collecting on the way, over the next seven hours. Steve and his research collaborators are primarily interested in animals that live in the midwater, so this is when the dive really started getting interesting for them.

Several of the animals we saw during today’s dive:

Vogtia (siphonophore)
Bathylagus (owlfish)
Aeginura (jelly)

One of the scientists onboard, Stefan Siebert a postdoctoral fellow working with Casey Dunn at Brown University, was very excited at the number and variety of siphonophores we encountered today. This is a group of very poorly known colonial jellies that Steve and the Dunn lab are currently collaborating on, along with Philip R. Pugh at the National Oceanography Center (United Kingdom). Pooling resources with MBARI enables Stefan to collect these fragile gelatinous animals alive and relatively unharmed using our advanced ROV technology. In the past, deep-sea organisms were typically brought up in net trawls and these fragile animals did not fare well. The scientists are trying to understand how these creatures are organized by looking at colony formation on the morphological and the molecular level. These details are difficult or impossible to get from trawl-caught animals that have been preserved in jars.

During this cruise Stefan is looking at Apolemiid siphonophores which have been reported to grow more then 20 meters in length and happen to be quite common in Monterey Bay. Currently, there are only three species described in this group worldwide, but data from the team’s recent research efforts estimate there are at least eight undescribed species in Monterey Bay alone! Stefan’s preliminary data indicate a deep evolutionary split within the group and two distinct types of colony organization.

There is a lot more work to be done in officially describing and naming new Apolemia species, so for now we call these two “Spotty” and “the white one”.

Today’s dive went smoothly and we collected many interesting animals for the scientists to observe in the lab back up on the ship, in an effort to further understand the amazing biodiversity in the deep ocean.

— Kyra Schlining

Next log


Day 6 Day 6
October 3, 2012
Light's out, it's a wrap

Day 5 Day 5
October 2, 2012
Best laid plans

Day 4 Day 4
October 1, 2012
Nocturnal nature

Day 3 Day 3
September 30, 2012
So many mysteries in the deep

Day 2 Day 2
September 29, 2012
National Geographic crew records the expedition

Day 1 Day 1
September 28, 2012
First day of diving


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, 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.

Detritus sampler

Detritus samplers are large plexiglass containers with lids that can be controlled by the pilot of the ROV and gently closed once an organism is trapped inside.

High frequency suction sampler

This sampler acts like a vacuum cleaner sucking up samples and depositing them into one of the 12 buckets.

Blue-water scuba rig

Blue-water diving is a highly specialized mode of scientific diving that lets researchers observe, experiment, and collect delicate midwater organisms in situ. A weighted line is suspended from the surface for the divers to attach the "trapeze" to which they attach their individual safety lines. Divers are attached to their safety lines by quick releases and a safety diver watches over all of them from near the trapeze throughout the dive.

Two-meter midwater trawl

A midwater trawl collects specimens while being towed behind the Western Flyer. Researchers have the option of trawling with the net open (as seen in this photo) or keeping the net closed until a particular depth is reached and then opening the net. The net can then be closed prior to recovery. This provides scientists with a discrete sample from a particular depth.

 Research Team

Steve Haddock
Chief Scientist

Steve Haddock studies the biodiversity and bio-optical properties of gelatinous zooplankton (various types of jelly-like animals). He uses molecular methods along with morphological traits to examine the relationships of rarely-studied, deep-sea comb jellies and other open-ocean drifters, many of which are new to science. These animals also are able to make their own light (bioluminescence), and Steve is interested in the genes involved in light-production.

Lynne Christianson
Senior Research Technician

Lynne works in Steve Haddock's laboratory. Her research focuses on exploring the biodiversity of marine zooplankton, especially cnidarians and ctenophores (jellies) and phaeodarians (radiolarians). She uses the tools of molecular biology to aid in the identification of these animals, to study their evolutionary relationships, and to investigate the origin and function of bioluminescence and fluorescence. In addition to assisting in the collection and examination of animals from ROV dives, trawls, and blue-water scuba dives, her main job will be cruise logistics. Her goal is to make this cruise as successful as possible for all the scientists on board!

Danielle Haddock
Senior Grants & Accounting Specialist

Danielle has a background in biology and grant writing and handles all external funding at MBARI which includes managing grants, negotiating contracts, monitoring subawards, making people talk to each other... awake still? When she is not enforcing sponsor and MBARI policy, she likes to cook, climb mountains, travel, and hang out with her nephew. She is still floored by the seafaring life.

Kyra Schlining
Senior Research Technician

Kyra is a senior research technician in the video lab at MBARI. Her main responsibility, both on shore and at sea, is to manage and annotate the video footage recorded during MBARI ROV missions. Kyra specializes in identifying deep-sea organisms and describing their behaviors as well as recording observations on habitat and equipment. On the ship she will also assist with processing biological samples and writing up the cruise logs. Kyra's duties in the video lab also include assisting scientists with accessing the data from the video database for publications, editing video from our archives using Final Cut Pro, and presenting current MBARI research to the public, mainly through our sister organization, the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Meghan Powers
Graduate Research Assistant

Meghan is a doctoral candidate at the University of California, Santa Cruz, working in Steve Haddock's lab. Her research is focused on understanding the molecular biology and evolution of bioluminescence in a variety of deep-sea zooplankton including cephalopods, chaetognaths, and jellyfish.

Warren Francis
Graduate Research Assistant

Warren Francis is a Ph.D. student at the University of California, Santa Cruz, working in Steve Haddock's lab. His work focuses on understanding the molecular biology and chemistry of polychaetes and other luminous animals, as well as general computational approaches to annotating functions of proteins for non-model organisms.

Freya Goetz
Research Assistant
Brown University

Freya Goetz is the research assistant to Casey Dunn at Brown University. Her interests are very broad and include phylogenetics, invertebrate symbioses, bioluminescence, chaetognath morphology, intertidal ecology, and scientific illustration of marine invertebrates (especially gelatinous zooplankton). She is currently working with Stefan Siebert to characterize gene expression spatially within a siphonophore colony, Nanomia bijuga. She is crossing her fingers for calm seas and quiet wind to maximize blue-water diving possibilities!

Stefan Siebert
Postdoctoral Fellow
Brown University

Stefan Siebert is a postdoctoral fellow in the Dunn lab at Brown University and is interested in the developmental complexity of siphonophores, a group of colonial animals belonging to the Cnidaria. He is looking forward to collecting specimens for descriptive work and for the molecular characterization of colony formation.