Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

California Current Logbook
Day 1: Port of origin
February 4, 2012

Steaming out of the Moss Landing harbor on a ship called the Western Flyer with ROV Doc Ricketts on board and a course set for the Sea of Cortez, as an avid fan of John Steinbeck’s work, it’s fairly humbling, a good deal intimidating, and a whole lot exciting to write those words. And while I’d love to (and intended to—and can’t promise I won’t still at some point soon) muse on the historical significance, both scientific and literary, of this contemporary return of Ricketts and the Flyer to the Gulf of California, that wasn’t how this day went. Instead of gazing at the seas, laptop on knees, sifting through lazy nautical metaphors, today I learned in a hurry how to work on a research cruise.

This was the first day of the first leg of MBARI’s 12-week expedition to the Gulf of California. The science being conducted on this leg seems a fitting way to begin this cruise. It is in some ways foundational oceanography; before the whales, before the fish, before the squids, before the jellies, comes the water, and we’re looking at the water. And when you look closely (and I mean really closely) at the water, it’s amazing how much is going on in there, and how much we can learn about this planet from studying it.

This first leg of this cruise is the transit from Moss Landing to La Paz, Mexico; along the way we’ll be stopping at roughly 25 “stations”—sampling sites—to conduct conductivity, temperature, and density (CTD) casts. If you look to the right of this page, you’ll see an equipment list. On that list, just below the Western Flyer (our most important piece of equipment, for obvious reason) is the CTD rosette, our second most important piece of equipment.

Erich Rienecker and Chris Wahl lower the CTD rosette into Monterey Bay for our first cast of the cruise.

Using the CTD rosette (whose operation I’m sure I can safely assume you understand since surely you read the equipment description I just directed you to) we’re bringing water up from a range of depths. Starting at a depth of 1,000 meters (around 3,200 feet), the Niskin bottles affixed to the rosette take samples at 100 meter intervals as the rosette is pulled back up towards the surface. When the rosette reaches 250 meters depth, the interval shortens to 50 meters. The final sample is taken just below the surface.

Things are pretty straightforward up to this point, but once Erich Rienecker and Chris Wahl fasten the rosette to the rear deck, things quickly get a lot more complicated. Boxes of bottles, vials, flasks, and ampules show up, and the rosette is swarmed by scientists eager to draw the water from the Niskin bottles for their experiments. The water in the Niskins will be analyzed for nutrients, chlorophyll, carbon, oxygen, ammonia, and carbon dioxide levels; its alkalinity and salinity will be measured; it will be strained for phytoplankton DNA.

A jelly floats by near the surface of the water as the Flyer sits on station during a CTD cast.

From all these disparate tests and measurements, we can then reconstruct the whole. The result is a fairly robust profile of this area of ocean. This is the nuts and bolts of oceanography: the chemical composition and processes of the ocean. This is the stuff we need to know if we’re going to really understand anything else about the ocean.

It’s 10:30 p.m., we’ve hit three stations and made four casts already today, and we’ll be arriving at the next station in about a half hour for another 1,000 meter sampling cast. And I’m told this is actually a slow day for this research group.

I know, another expedition sunset picture. Sorry, but it was my first sunset at sea!

—Dana Lacono

 

Next log

 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.

CTD Rosette

The CTD measures conductivity (which helps determine salinity), temperature, and depth. This particular CTD runs profiles of the water column (surface to bottom) and along the way, collects discrete water samples (at specific predetermined depths) using the rosette of niskin bottles. Each bottle can collect a water sample. The transmissometer measures the number of particles in the water and the oxygen sensors tell us how much dissolved oxygen is present. Both of these instruments go onto the CTD rosette and give us a profile of the water column.

Optical Profiler (PRR)

The optical profiler is equipped with an hyperspectral radiometer which measures downwelling irradiance and upwelling radiance, a CTD, and two AC9's which measure absorption and beam attenuation over nine wavelengths (1 uses filtered seawater while the other uses raw seawater). It also measures backscatter at six wavelengths and fluorescence at two wavelengths.

Fast Repetition Rate Fluorometer

This unique instrument measures the photosynthetic properties of phytoplankton continuously while the ship is in motion. This greatly increases the amount of data as well as the area that can be surveyed.

Underway CTD

An underway CTD is used to map several physical parameters of the ocean's surface. As the ship travels, this instrument takes one sample every 20 seconds. The data recorded includes the ship's location, the ocean's salinity, temperature, and water clarity, and the amount of fluorescence produced by phytoplankton. By continually taking measurements, a line of values along the ship's course is created, illustrating when the ship crosses from one water type to another. The underway CTD is an important complement to the CTD rosette; because each CTD rosette deployment is miles away from the last, the data from the underway CTD measurements help to will indicate whether the rosette CTD sampling spot is representative of the area.

Underway pCO2

Like the underway CTD, the underway pCO2 continually measures the partial pressure of CO2 in the ocean along the course of the Western Flyer. "Partial pressure" is a way in which to measure the amount of CO2 in the seawater. Increasing levels of CO2 in the ocean increase the water's acidity.


 Crew

R/V Western Flyer

Ian Young
Master


 

George Gunther
Relief Captain, Legs 1 & 2


 

Matt Noyes
Chief Engineer


 

Andrew McKee
First Mate, Legs 1 & 2


 

Shaun Summer
Relief First Engineer


 

Paul Ban
Second Mate, Legs 1 & 2


 

Olin Jordan
Oiler


 

Craig Heihn
Relief Deckhand


 

Jason Jordan
Relief Deckhand


 

Dan Chamberlain
Electronics Officer


 

Patrick Mitts
Steward


 

 Research Team

Francisco Chavez
Chief Scientist
MBARI

Francisco Chavez has been managing an ocean observing program at MBARI for more than two decades, gathering a time-series of ocean parameters that have provided insight to how the ocean responds to large-scale climate variability. His work focuses on interpreting observations made locally in terms of processes that are happening globally, and he has performed comparative studies in other ocean basins.

Tim Pennington
Research Specialist
MBARI

Tim works in MBARI's Biological Oceanography Group running their local shipboard programs, all of which are directed at understanding interplay between the physics, chemistry, and biology in the ocean off California. Their Monterey Bay Time Series (MBTS) cruises have been conducted in and offshore of Monterey Bay every two to three weeks since 1989. The Studies of Ecological and Chemical Responses to Environmental Trends (SECRET) cruise series extended the MBTS work 320 kilometers offshore into the California Current along CalCOFI Line 67, with more than 39 quarterly cruises since 1997. This cruise work and complimentary mooring, satellite, ROV, AUV and modelling data have enabled the development of a rich view of the biogeochemical dynamics of the coastal ocean on several spatial (Monterey Bay, upwelling system, California Current) and temporal (weather event, seasonal, interannual, even decadal) scales.

Gernot Friederich
Research Specialist
MBARI

Gernot has been involved in the study of nutrient and carbon fluxes in highly productive regions of the oceans. Most of this work has been conducted in coastal upwelling regions, and he has participated in some high latitude studies. He is also interested in the chemical transformations that occur at the boundaries of oxygenated and sub-oxic or anoxic waters. To aid the study of these highly variable oceanic systems, he has developed and automated chemical methods and water sampling equipment. He has recently worked on the design and implementation of autonomous shipboard seasurface chemistry mapping systems and buoy mounted instrumentation for the measurement of the partial pressure of carbon dioxide.

Erich Rienecker
Instrumentation/Marine Operations Technician
MBARI

An alum of the Biological Ocean Group, Erich now is the instrumentation technician at MBARI and will be responsible for the operation and maintenance of the scientific sampling equipment used on this cruise.

Marguerite Blum
Collaborator
MBARI

Marguerite Blum is a collaborator from University of California, Santa Cruz. She is assisting Gernot Friederich and Tim Pennington with biogeochemical samples to search for differences in the pCO2, DIC, alkalinity, and macronutrients from the previous Gulf of California cruise. This will be her 41st cruise with the Chavez group.

Dana Lacono
Administrative Assistant
MBARI

Dana works in the Information and Technology Dissemination (ITD) group at MBARI where he performs administrative duties and creates web pages such as the one you are looking at now. On this cruise he will be assisting the science team as needed and writing the cruise logs. This is his first research expedition, and he is as excited as can be.

A.J. Limardo
Research Assistant
MBARI

A.J. Limardo received a B.S. in Biology from the University of Georgia, and is currently applying to the University of California, Santa Cruz Ocean Sciences Department to pursue a Ph.D. In the Worden Laboratory at MBARI, A.J. is currently exploring phytoplankton ecology and phylogenetics. During this cruise, he will be investigating the distribution and abundance of Bathycoccus, a genus of pico-eukaryotic algae.

Monique Messié
Postdoctoral Fellow
MBARI

Monique works on phytoplankton and its links with physics and higher trophic levels, using a combination of satellite data, model outputs and in situ datasets. During the cruise she will be helping with the collection and analysis of water samples, including nutrients and oxygen measurements.

Chris Wahl
Research Technician
MBARI

Chris works in the Chavez lab on moorings, gliders, and instrumentation for various projects and was recruited by MBARI's Marine Operations division to help operate the CTD for the first leg of this expedition. He received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from University of California, Berkeley and later a M.S. in Engineering Science from University of California, San Diego.

Haibin Zhang
Postdoctoral Fellow
MBARI

Haibin works in the molecular ecology group at MBARI. He received his Ph.D. in marine biology from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Institute of Oceanology. Haibin's research interests include ecology, evolution, and genetic conservation of marine invertebrates. He uses molecular tools to examine gene flow of natural populations in order to understand the effect of environment factors (light, pressure, oxygen, salinity, and temperature) on population diversity and genetic structure.

Carmen Castro
Collaborator
Higher Council for Scientific Investigations, Spain

Carmen is a chemical oceanographer from Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas from Vigo,Spain. She studies the environmental control of nutrients and carbon in the upwelling regions of NW Iberian Peninsula and California. In this cruise, she will be collecting water samples for analysing the alongshore distribution of total organic carbon.

Curt Collins
Collaborator
Naval Postgraduate School

Curt Collins is a sea-going descriptive physical oceanographer. Convinced by Nan Bray (now Australia's Chief of Marine Research) to make some measurements of the deep flows at the entrance to the Gulf of California in the early 1990s, Curt has since collaborated a number of times with Mexican colleagues including a Fulbright fellowship at Universidad Autónoma de Baja California in Ensenada in 1994/5. Curt is looking forward to helping to collect and analyze the CTD data during this cruise. In addition, he will conduct laboratory analyses of seawater conductivity to assure the accuracy of the team's salinity observations.

Martín Hernández Ayón
Collaborator
Universidad Autónoma de Baja California

Martín Hernández-Ayón is a chemical oceanographer. His research is focused on the inorganic carbon system, ocean acidification and biogeochemistry in the coastal regions of Baja California, the Sea of Cortez, the subtropical region where the oxygen minimum zone is located and, more recently, the Gulf of Mexico.

Gabriela Y. Cervantes
Graduate Student
Universidad Autónoma de Baja California

Gaby is a graduate student in the coastal oceanography program at the University of Baja California in Ensenada, Mexico. She is doing her graduate studies on the dynamics of CO2 in seawater from a coastal monitoring site known as Ensenada Station.

Jason Smith
Graduate Student
Stanford University

Jason is a fifth-year Ph.D. student at Stanford University. His work focuses on how upwelling and other factors alter the distribution and activity of the microorganisms responsible for nitrification. On this cruise Jason's work will focus on ammonium dynamics; specifically, determining the magnitude of ammonia incorporation and oxidation in the photic zone and how it alters estimates of new and regenerated production.




Last updated: Feb. 27, 2012