Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Midwater Biology Logbook
Day 7: Calycophoran catch of the day
February 23, 2012

Our ROV dive today took us down to 3,200 meters (10,560 feet). We spent just under an hour collecting on the bottom, then slowly made our way back up, leveling off for a short period of time every 400-500 meters (1,320-1,650 feet) to search for animals. We logged another successful 12-hour dive with all samplers filled.

We saw an unusually large abundance of red siphonophores (many different types) during today’s ROV dive.
The siphonophore Bargmannia lata was one of the larger animals we collected today with the detritus samplers on the ROV. The ROV pilots need to have a lot of skill and patience to maneuver the vehicle into a position where the animal is inside the acrylic container before quickly shutting the doors. With this method very fragile animals are collected with minimal disturbance.

Once more we observed and collected several interesting, deep squids, but the most amazing part of today’s dive was when ROV pilot Eric Martin caught a tiny calycophoran siphonophore in a detritus sampler for our science collaborator, Rebeca Gasca. After the dive the pilots and scientists gathered around to look at the specimen that was only about one centimeter long and completely transparent! Rebeca was excited to get a calycophoran in pristine shape from such a deep depth (over 3,000 meters or 10,000 feet).

From Rebeca Gasca: It has been very exciting being on this cruise, finding, watching, and collecting unfamiliar species with bizarre and sometimes beautiful forms inhabiting the depths of the Gulf of California. When you take a zooplankton net sample you think that is representative of what is there below the surface, but when you dive throughout the sea you can see how different it appears from the image you built in your mind before being right there. I could never imagine the amount and size of siphonophores with their fishing tentacles hanging and covering so much space and fishing so efficiently. Also, to look at the zooplankton in the scattering layer was interesting as we saw many ostracods, appendicularians in their “houses”, medusae, siphonophores, and other drifting animals.

Rebeca Gasca’s target animals today were siphonophores called calycophorans (what makes it a calycophoran?).
Above, Primno (amphipod) and right, Lensia (a calycophoran siphonophore). Photos taken in the lab by Rebeca Gasca.

The specimens collected with the zooplankton net and the ROV will be used to conduct taxonomical studies including comparisons between similar species of the same genus. In addition, we will perform DNA studies to get more information to accompany the morphological data that we already have for some of the groups studied, like siphonophores and amphipod crustaceans among others. At El Colegio de la Frontera Sur (ECOSUR) we have people working with several zooplankton groups that are very interested in the material we can get from this cruise. We usually have access to samples from the surface to 200 meters only, so this cruise is an opportunity to get many different species and most of the deeper specimens collected will become important additions to our collections at the Zooplankton Collection of ECOSUR in Chetumal, Quintana Roo, México.

Rebeca Gasca sorts through a dish of very small animals in the trawl catch using a dissecting microscope, looking for calycophorans and amphipods. She sketches pictures of their morphology (body shape and structure) before preserving samples for DNA analysis.

Rebeca's comments in Spanish:
Ha sido emocionante estar en este crucero, observando y recolectando especies poco familiares para mí. Muchas de las especies que habitan las profundidades de los mares como el Golfo de California tienen formas bizarras y la mayoría son especial y extrañamente hermosas. Cuando uno toma una muestra de zooplancton con una red, piensa que es representativa de lo que uno podría encontrar allá abajo, pero cuando puedes ver exactamente como es, te das cuenta de lo diferente que puede ser de lo que habías pensado. Por ejemplo, aunque sabía que los sifonóforos son muy abundantes y que pueden llegar a medir varios metros, no había imaginado la cantidad de espacio que pueden llegar a ocupar y lo eficientes que lucen sus largos tentáculos que usan como redes para capturar a sus presas. El mirar el zooplancton en la capa de dispersión fue interesante también, al poder ver en su medio natural a los diferentes grupos del zooplancton como los ostrácodos, las medusas, las apendicularias y otros animales.

Los especímenes recolectados con la red de zooplancton y con el submarino serán usados para realizar estudios taxonómicos, incluyendo comparaciones entre especies del mismo género, en algunos grupos que estamos estudiando. Además se realizarán análisis de ADN para tener información adicional a la morfológica con la que ya se cuenta de algunos grupos. En El Colegio de la Frontera Sur (ECOSUR) tenemos un grupo de colaboradores que trabajan con diferentes grupos del zooplancton que están muy interesados en las muestras que podamos obtener en este crucero. Generalmente tenemos acceso a muestras recolectadas a 200 m de profundidad o menos, así que las obtenidas aquí, en zonas más profundas que lo normal, serán una adición importante a para nuestra Coleccion de Zooplancton de ECOSUR en Chetumal, Quintana Roo, México.

Rebeca Gasca empties out a sample bucket. She is preserving many specimens to take back to El Colegio de la Frontera Sur (ECOSUR) for further observations and analyses, and for their long-term collection.
ROV pilot Ben Erwin operates the mechanical arm that is slaved to the manipulator on the submersible from the control room on the ship.
The manipulator arm on the ROV Doc Ricketts gently lifts a benthic ctenophore off the bottom, using a repurposed kitchen spatula dubbed “The Spatulator”.
Today we dove at the location marked with a pink X. Tonight we transit to the green X, which is the same location where we dove on Day 6. The scientists saw so many animals of interest that Steve Haddock decided we needed more time diving there.

The weather was calm enough that our blue-water divers were able to get into the water this afternoon as well. Four divers collected for an hour, and they came back with just one single specimen! They were shocked and disappointed at the lack of animals in the shallow waters. Fortunately, for Meghan Powers and Steve Haddock the animal they collected was one they have been targeting for luminescence research. Read more about this glowing creature tomorrow.

—Kyra Schlining


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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.

Blue-water SCUBA diving 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 down 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.

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.


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


ROV Doc Ricketts

Knute Brekke
Chief ROV Pilot


Mark Talkovic
Senior ROV Pilot


Randy Prickett
Senior ROV Pilot


Bryan Schaefer
ROV Pilot/Technician


Eric Martin
ROV Pilot/Technician


 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 and 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); Steve is interested in the genes involved in light-production.

Lynne Christianson
Senior Research Technician

Lynne works in Steve Haddock's laboratory and 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! She's looking forward to seeing how the diversity of midwater animals in the Gulf of California compares to those in the Monterey Bay.

Henk-Jan Hoving
Postdoctoral Fellow

Henk-Jan is a postdoc in the Midwater Ecology Group of Bruce Robison, Ph.D., investigating the life history strategies of pelagic cephalopods. Cephalopods have one reproductive cycle after which they die. Henk-Jan is interested in how long deep-sea cephalopods live, and how different species shape their reproductive strategies to optimize their single reproductive event. During the expedition in the Gulf of California he hopes to collect various pelagic cephalopod species and determine their age using their statoliths. Statoliths are hard, calcareous masses in the squid's organs of balance in which increments are periodically laid down (similar to rings in a tree). Additionally, a baited camera system will be deployed over the side of the ship to attract and record midwater fish and squid. The species seen by this camera system will be compared with the species encountered using remotely operated vehicles (ROVs).

George Matsumoto
Senior Research Specialist

George works in the fields of research and education. He is interested in a wide variety of gelatinous organisms and is focusing on Bathochordaeus—a large larvacean that has been studied in Monterey Bay using ROVs, but one that we hope to find and work with on scuba while in the Gulf of California. As a senior education and research specialist at MBARI, George's role involves several different projects: seminar coordinator, summer internship coordinator, livelink mentor, distance education, links between the research institute and other partners, and other projects that haven't begun yet. He is interested in the open ocean and deep-sea communities with particular emphasis on invertebrates. Specific areas of interest include: Ecology and biogeography of open ocean and deep sea organisms; Functional morphology, natural history, and behavior of pelagic and benthic organisms; Systematics and evolution of ctenophores and cnidarians (molecular phylogeny).

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 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.

Stephanie Bush
Postdoctoral Fellow
University of Rhode Island

Stephanie joined the Seibel Lab at the University of Rhode Island as a postdoctoral researcher after finishing her graduate work in MBARI's Midwater Ecology Lab and the Caldwell Lab at University of California, Berkeley. She is broadly interested in marine organismal ecology, and her current research explores animal physiological adaptations to living in oxygen minimum zones and how we can predict the response of marine organisms to ocean warming. Additionally, she is part of collaborative effort to study animal camouflage in open water, focusing particularly on the polarization components. She is also interested in the connectivity between populations of planktonic animals and how it relates to speciation and biodiversity in the open ocean.

Rebeca Gasca
El Colegio de la Frontera Sur, Unidad Chetumal, Mexico

Rebeca's research is on the biology and ecology of zooplankton, especially of siphonophores and hyperiid amphipods. She is interested in community changes related with water masses and environmental phenomena like El Niño. Also, the symbiotic associations between gelatinous zooplankton and hyperiids have been among her main interests and this kind of expedition represents an opportunity to observe those behaviors in situ.

Karen Osborn
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

After completing her Ph.D at UC Berkeley and MBARI, then a postdoc at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Karen received a scientist position at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Her research focuses on the evolution of pelagic invertebrates, primarily polychaete worms and isopod crustaceans. During this expedition she will be working on drifting acorn worms, systematics of tomopterid polychaetes, and the feeding and population genetics of munnopsid isopods.

Erik Thuesen
Evergreen State College

Erik Thuesen is a member of the faculty in Zoology at The Evergreen State College. His research focuses on the ecological physiology and biodiversity of marine invertebrates. He has studied many kinds of gelatinous zooplankton, including chaetognaths, ctenophores, and medusae. He is particularly interested in the physiological and biochemical adaptations to life in marine environments, such as the deep sea and estuaries. He received a B.S. from Antioch College, a M.A. from the University of Tokyo and his Ph.D. from the University of California at Santa Barbara. At Evergreen, he teaches invertebrate zoology, symbiosis, biodiversity and marine science.

Last updated: Feb. 27, 2012