Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

California Current Logbook
Day 9: Motley crew
February 12, 2012

Just after 2:00 this morning, the CTD took a 3,000 meter plunge into the Pacific at “GOC2,”—21°N on line P18 (don’t worry, I’m not going to talk about lines again)—our southernmost station of this cruise. After steaming all day, we passed the Sierra de la Laguna again, however this time it was to our west as we entered the Gulf of California.

Chief scientist Francisco Chavez converses with Marguerite Blum on the well deck during a CTD cast.
Captain George Gunther running the crane.

After a few hours of sleep, this morning I tardily meandered onto the galley 10 minutes too late for breakfast. Fortunately, ship steward Patrick Mitts mercifully consented to “look the other way” while I loaded my plate with modest servings of eggs and potatoes followed by an exorbitant assemblage of breakfast meats. I sat down to eat at a table with Carmen Castro and Martín Hernández Ayón, our collaborators from Spain and Mexico respectively, and Haibin Zhang, an MBARI postdoc from China. Monique Messié, a research assistant from France, came down for breakfast later than I, but Patrick was feeling magnanimous, and she, too, was allowed a late meal. Francisco Chavez, our chief scientist and a native of Peru, came over to the table to discuss packing logistics with Haibin.

The global village. Clockwise from the left: Carmen Castro, Gernot Friederich, Chris Wahl, Haibin Zhang, Erich Rienecker, Jason Smith, Curt Collins, Francisco Chavez, Martín Hernández Ayón, Tim Pennington, Dana Lacono, Monique Messié, Marguerite Blum, and A.J. Limardo.

The point of this vignette is to illustrate is that this research vessel is quite the global village; the researchers on this team originate from seven different countries—the U.S., Peru, Germany, France, Spain, Mexico, and China. And the larger point that this point is meant to illustrate is that oceanography is an international endeavor. Francisco offers up the adage that the ocean’s organisms and processes don’t recognize political boundaries—it doesn’t make sense to study your own part of the ocean. Currents have ambiguous beginnings and flow across borders.

Francisco, whose work has taken him to over 50 countries, observes that having a multi-national research team not only makes the work more interesting, but produces better results. When you assemble folks from different countries, you have the advantage of multiple perspectives informed by diverse educational and cultural backgrounds.

This principle is evident in the team assembled for this cruise. Gernot Friederich, who was born in Germany, has worked at MBARI since it was founded 25 years ago. In that time he’s traveled from the Arctic to South America and points in between. Over the course of his career as an oceanographer he’s been on vessels trapped in the ice north of Greenland to stations off the coast of Tanzania.

Here are a few more of the stories of how this motley crew converged…

Martín Hernández Ayón: My collaboration with Francisco Chavez and Gernot Friederich started six years ago, first related to pCO2 buoys, then a dissolved inorganic carbon instrument development, and now, the biogeochemistry topics related to the California Current System and the oxygen minimum zone along the Mexican Coast. In the summer of 2006 my Ph.D. student Lorena Linacre and I met Francisco at the Centro de Investigación Científica y de Educación Superior de Ensenada (CICESE). That day, we had a very nice academic talk before and after a seafood dinner. Since then, we have remained in touch regarding pCO2 measurements, scientific meetings, workshops, and proposals, and now we are working together in our first oceanographic cruise.

Monique Messié: I met Francisco when he gave a seminar in Toulouse where I was doing my Ph.D. at Laboratoire d'Etudes en Géophysique et Océanographie Spatiales (LEGOS ). Francisco offered me a position working on a project regarding anchovies off Peru (the FAST project). I liked it so much that I am still here almost five years later, working in the Biological Ocean Group as a research associate.

Haibin Zhang: I come from Qingdao, a beautiful city in the east coast of China. I became very interested in marine science when I was very young. All kinds of marine life are so attractive to me. After I got my Ph.D. in marine biology from Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, I came to the U.S. to continue my study, first at Cornell University, then at Louisiana State University. While at Cornell I met Bob Vrijenhoek, a senior scientist at MBARI. I am now working in the molecular ecology and evolution group at MBARI.

Carmen Castro: Dana wants to know how I arrived here from some far away corner of the world that is facing the Atlantic; enduring a 12-hours flight, jumping the Atlantic and arriving at the Pacific. It happened more than nine years ago when Francisco invited me to come along on the Gulf of California 2003 cruise. I immediately grabbed the opportunity of going back to California, where I had enjoyed my postdoc period at MBARI and NPS (Naval Postgraduate School) under the supervision of Francisco and Curt Collins; such a great experience. During the 2003 cruise, we were tracking the California Undercurrent along the coast bound for Cabo San Lucas. I was in charge of collecting samples for total organic carbon (TOC) to have a first picture of its distribution along this eastern boundary. And now here I am, sealing ampule after ampule of TOC at a rosette pace sometimes slow, sometimes rushed. Nine years later, all the data we are collecting is giving us a new picture of the California Undercurrent under these oxygen-declining conditions that we are trying to understand.

Time to start packing up. First mate Andrew McKee and Able bodied seaman Craig Heihn bring our storage bins down from the roof of the Western Flyer.
Our last CTD of the cruise was last night around 1:00 a.m. Their job complete, the CTD and sample bottles can take some time off to relax on the aft deck.

And now we arrived at a foreign port, Puerto de Pichilingue, just outside of La Paz, Mexico. A journey that started with observations made about the ocean in the Monterey Bay, and took us more than 1,500 kilometers to the south following the trail of the California Undercurrent.

—Dana Lacono


Previous log


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.


R/V Western Flyer

Ian Young


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


Craig Heihn
Relief Deckhand


Jason Jordan
Relief Deckhand


Dan Chamberlain
Electronics Officer


Patrick Mitts


 Research Team

Francisco Chavez
Chief Scientist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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
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
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
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