Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
2012 bioluminescence and biodiversity expedition


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

When I graduated college I had no idea that you could study something like bioluminescence, but one of my professors arranged an introduction to Jim Case, who studied marine bioluminescence at the University of California, Santa Barbara. I applied to his lab and, within weeks of arriving, I was sent on a cruise to the Bahamas with a submarine and scuba dives, and a bevy of world experts on various marine topics. It was an education by immersion that continued throughout grad school, and involved an approach to research and exploration that MBARI supports to this very day.

I think about my first research cruise often, and it weighed on my mind yesterday when I got a message from Case’s daughter that my mentor and academic parent had passed away. It was somewhat fitting to get this news while out at sea, studying diversity and bioluminescence, because those were subjects that sparked his intellectual fires. Two nights ago we all enjoyed a spectacular show of luminescence off the bow of the R/V Western Flyer under the moonless sky, and even before I had heard the news, it reminded me of cruising with Jim in the Mediterranean 20 years ago, when we watched dolphins dart about leaving illuminated trails in the waves behind them.

Case’s lab developed “bathyphotometers”—instruments that can quantify this type of oceanic bioluminescence and give a unique method to measure the organisms living in the water. MBARI still deploys one of these instruments on an autonomous underwater vehicle (the Dorado AUV), generating maps of luminescence across the bay that Jim could only have dreamed of when he started these efforts. Our last paper together was a review of bioluminescence that exceeded the recommended page limit three-fold (inducing a bout of carpal tunnel syndrome) and gave him a chance to air his thoughts on the evolution of bioluminescence and its place in the context of oceanography.

It is amazing to think about the methods at our disposal today to study the same phenomena that have fascinated people for centuries. High-pressure liquid chromatography lets us isolate and purify bio-active molecules, transcriptome sequences provide the genes involved in luminescence, and mass spectrometry links the two data sets together to identify which genes go with which molecules. It is a different world from when Jim Case was performing his research, but his spirit of curiosity and respect for the natural world live on in the kinds of research that we are fortunate to conduct.

Even the most business-like e-mail from Jim could make me laugh, and I wish I had a tenth of his wit to send him off with a bon mot. But lacking that, I’ll use his favorite phrase: FIAT LUX.

Steve Haddock, former MBARI postdoctoral fellow Christy Herren, and their graduate advisor and bioluminescence pioneer Jim Case.

—Steve Haddock

Previous log Next log

 Logbook

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


 Equipment

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
MBARI

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
MBARI

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
MBARI

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
MBARI

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
MBARI

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
MBARI

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 http://dunnlab.org 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.