Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
2012 bioluminescence and biodiversity expedition

Day 2— The best bang for the buck!
July 11, 2013

I have had the good fortune to participate in many expeditions with different groups over my 11 plus years at MBARI. I've been to sea with benthic ecologists, molecular biologists, geologists, and chemists, and they have all been amazing experiences that I wouldn't trade for the world. I will say though, that the Haddock lab cruises are really designed for getting the most bang for the buck! It costs many thousands of dollars to operate the Western Flyer each day we are at sea, so the more science we can pack into each day, the better.

To that end, today we started by launching ROV Doc Ricketts at 7:00 a.m., immediately descending to the seafloor at nearly 3,000 meters. Even on or near the seafloor, there are gelatinous animals of interest to the science team. There are small siphonophores that use tentacles to attach to the seafloor so they can float above the bottom and catch tiny plankton as they sweep by with the current. There are also small jellies that sit on the seafloor!

The little white and pink ball that the arrow points to on the left is the siphonophore Stephalia, attached to the seafloor by a tentacle. On the right, you can see a small red jelly, Ptychogastria that sits on the seafloor.
We then spent the rest of the 12-hour dive ascending slowly, searching for interesting animals. Among some of the most striking animals we saw were: (clockwise from upper left): the lobate ctenophore Bathocyroe, the narcomedusa Aegina, a purple narcomedusa Solmissus, and an undescribed mollusc that we call the Mystery Mollusc because it was unknown what group to put it in when it was first discovered.

While the ROV was diving in the afternoon, the blue-water divers went for a SCUBA dive to collect shallow animals.

Engineer Olin Jordan holds a line to the RHIB as the crane lowers it over the side. For more on blue-water diving, see yesterday's log.

Both the SCUBA divers and the ROV's collections went very well. Every sampler from the ROV was full when it came up at 7:00 p.m.

We filled 12 detritus samplers (in foreground) and 12 suction sampler buckets (background). Lynne Christianson checks the sample log as the science team quickly takes the animals out of the samplers to put in the dark cold room.

The day is not over yet! At 7:30 p.m., Meghan Powers and Alexander Jaffe deployed the midwater trawl. This net is sent down closed and a messenger is tripped when it reaches depth to open the net. The net is towed for a few hours and then a second messenger is sent to close the net. Then the net is hauled in. This process will take over three hours, then it typically takes hours to sort the animals in the trawl. There are many animals that can be collected in a trawl that are just too difficult or inefficient to catch with the ROV. Combining use of the ROV with SCUBA divers and the deep midwater trawl ensures that we get a nearly complete view of the diversity in the water column at this site. Today alone, there will probably be over 100 animals preserved or processed for further molecular analysis.

Meghan and Alex deploying the midwater trawl net from the stern of the RV Western Flyer.

If all goes well, we'll be doing all three sampling methods throughout the cruise!

— Susan von Thun

Previous log Next log


Day 6 Day 6
July 15, 2013
The last day (in more ways than one)

Day 5 Day 5
July 14, 2013
Friends and interns

Day 4 Day 4
July 13, 2013
Tribute to an inspiring mentor

Day 3 Day 3
July 12, 2013
The spectacular diversity of siphonophores

Day 2 Day 2
July 11, 2013
The best bang for the buck!

Day 1 Day 1
July 10, 2013
Out to sea


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!

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.

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. She is still floored by the seafaring life.

Susan von Thun
Senior Research Technician

Susan works in the MBARI video lab, where her primary responsibility is to watch video taken with MBARI's remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and make observations about the organisms, behaviors, equipment, and geological features that she sees. While annotating video, she's become adept at identifying numerous deep-sea organisms, specializing in midwater organisms. She also works on MBARI's social media outlets. On this expedition, she will be in charge of the daily reports from this expedition and will assist with other science crew tasks.

Alexander Jaffe
Summer Intern

Alexander is an undergraduate at Harvard College, where he is majoring in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology. This summer, he is working as an intern with Steve Haddock on a project examining the ecology and diversity of midwater organisms, focusing specifically on a set of krill-eating, gelatinous zooplankton and patterns of their spatio-temporal distribution in the Greater Monterey Bay.

Casey Dunn
Assistant Professor
Brown University

Casey is an assistant professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Brown University. His lab studies the evolution and development of siphonophores, a group of colonial jellyfish that include the Portuguese Man of War. Many siphonophores live exclusively in the deep sea, and ROVs are the only way to collect them intact. Casey's lab also studies the evolutionary relationships between animals. See for more.

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.

Jamie Baldwin-Fergus
Postdoctoral Scholar
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Jamie primarily studies topics relating to visual ecology. Currently, Jamie is studying how vision physiology, optical environment, and ecological associations shape visual adaptations in hyperiid amphipods. Hyperiid amphipods are small crustacean invertebrates that are abundant from the surface down to the deepest depths of the oceans, with particular abundance in the twilight zone (200-1000 m). At twilight zone depths, available light is limited to increasingly dim and blue down-welling light and bioluminescence. In this zone, the competition to see and not be seen is a matter of life or death. As a result, hyperiids have huge variation in the shapes and function of their eyes, likely an evolutionary response to the complexities of the midwater optical environment.