Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
2012 bioluminescence and biodiversity expedition

Day 4 – Nocturnal nature
October 1, 2012

Day Four is all sunshine. A morning blue-water dive was cancelled due to wind, but today's remotely operated vehicle (ROV) dive made up for it. When the ROV was brought up from the ocean floor at 7:00 p.m., we retrieved our collections for the day. They included several species of radiolarians, deep ctenophores, luminous polychaetes, bright yellow Aegina medusae, and a variety of siphonophores, including a very large "pine tree"-shaped species that glowed with a royal blue light.

Some of the bioluminescent animals observed during today's dive. Clockwise from upper left: Atolla, Bathocyroe, Chaetopterus pugaporcinus, Tuscaretta globosa (radiolarian), and Caecosagitta macrocephala.

Shortly thereafter the night activities began. The Haddock lab took advantage of their nocturnal nature. Meghan Powers and Warren Francis deployed the trawl (also called net tow, or tucker trawl). As a grants and accounting specialist, I only hear about trawls when say, the net or cable breaks and funds have to be rebudgeted to replace it and then people go back and forth about who actually pays the bill, so it was great to actually see how they use it—and nothing broke!

Before ROVs, trawling is how animals were collected (in little bits and pieces). Hoorah for ROVs. Apparently, if you collect larger creatures like squid, you use a larger three-by-three-meter net with thicker mesh and trawl at a faster rate. One such net was developed by Jim Childress and Bruce Robison.

Most trawling is done at night because we have a better chance at enticing into the net those animals known as vertical migrators: animals that surface at night to feed and hunt, then hide down deeper during the day. A large, fine-mesh net with a 1.5-by-1.5-meter opening is dragged behind the ship as it steams at about one knot (1.15 mph). The tucker trawl catches the slow swimmers, or creatures that can't jump far enough out of the way. The water flows through the net and creatures are collected at the "cod-end" (a big jar), which is closed with a tripping mechanism. Meghan and Warren have a long-awaited shiny new instrument that measures depth and temperature, giving a detailed record of the trawl's journey below the surface. We found that although we put out 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) of wire, targeting a depth of 600 meters (2,000 feet), the net actually only got down to 500 meters (1,641 feet).

Who were the slow swimmers of the evening? We caught a pyrosome ("fire body")—one of the classic bioluminescent creatures reported centuries ago. We also got many interesting luminous crustaceans (shrimps, krill, and amphipods) that are usually too squirrely to catch with the ROV. The jelly bits, as usual, were a bit too chewed up by the net to be useful for bioluminescence studies.

Meghan Powers prepares the trawl equipment.

Zach Kobrinsky sorts through a bucket of animals brought up in the trawl, looking for bioluminescent animals to photograph.

One of the creatures that we are collecting with the ROV and scuba dives is Nanomia bijuga. Freya Goetz—a former student of MBARI collaborator Erik Thuesen at Evergreen College and former intern of Steve Haddock—now works in Casey Dunn's lab at Brown University. She is in charge of relaxing Nanomia bijuga. Yoga and dark chocolate aren't going to do it. Nanomia is a multi-part animal called a siphonophore, which contracts its long stem at the slightest provocation. A magnesium chloride bath causes it to relax to a more undisturbed configuration. She preserves them this way for use in in situ hybridization, which is a way to map where various stem-cell genes are being "switched on," or expressed in each individual polyp.

The ROV captures a Nanomia bijuga using the suction sampler.

Freya Goetz observes Nanomia bijuga under the microscope.

So why come all the way out to Moss Landing for this? Freya says Monterey Bay has numerous Nanomia, and it's the only place we know that you can reliably collect them via blue-water dives and ROV dives, otherwise their forms are crushed in the nets.

We leave you with one of Freya's illustrations of one of her study animals.

Freya Goetz created this amazing scientific illustration showing the morphology of the siphonophore, Nanomia bijuga. The full animal is down the left side. The right side shows close up detail for different functional parts of the animal.

—Danielle Haddock

Previous log 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.