Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Midwater Biology Logbook
Day 9: Behind the scenes

February 25, 2012

There are 26 people onboard the R/V Western Flyer. Ten of us are on the science team, but there are many others who help to make things run around here. With that many people working in tight quarters, it is important that everybody works together and this cruise has been a good example of just that. We have been fortunate to have very successful and smooth operations (ROV dives, blue-water diving, trawling, camera deployments) thanks to a strong and hard-working crew.

Resomia dunni

Crew members Cole Davis and Jason Jordan hoist up the tether during an ROV recovery as the pilots watch the vehicle come up through the moon pool.

From ROV pilot Ben Erwin: Gathering samples for the scientists can be a very daunting and stressful task for an ROV pilot, but it can also be very fun. Catching a critter in these samplers can be tricky. The pilots must consider the ROV heading in relation to any currents, the position of the umbilical tether, any terrain or other physical obstacles, even the wash from their own thrusters, all of these things, while also tracking and lining up the target with the sampler.

Pulling in the ROV tether
ROV pilot Mark Talkovic makes adjustments to the forward tray that holds eight detritus samplers.

During midwater and benthic biological expeditions, ROV Doc Ricketts has a number of tools with which the ROV pilots can collect samples intact, and bring them safely back to the surface. The twelve “D-samplers” (or detritus samplers) are acrylic tubes with moveable lids, which can be hydraulically actuated to close by the pilot.

Doc Rickett’s suction sampler can be extended out in front of the ROV, and used to catch some of the more difficult targets, like squid, that sometimes swim away or even attack the samplers. Target animals get sucked through a long tube to the sample carousel, where they are stored in containers that can be indexed forwards and backwards to accept new samples. Doc Ricketts has two hydraulic manipulator arms. These arms are incredibly powerful tools for an ROV pilot. They can be precisely controlled via the control room through devices called masters. These masters are basically small representations of the manipulators on the ROV and proportionally control each of the corresponding joints. When catching animals, these arms are far too powerful to safely collect the target intact, so the pilots use “The Spatulator.” This incredibly expensive and technologically advanced kitchen spatula with a short bit of rope on the end is used to scrape or lift animal samples up off the seafloor so that “the Schnozz” can suck them up.

Resomia dunni

The red part on the siphonophore Resomia dunni is a gastrozooid or stomach. This siphonophore has just one gastrozooid for the entire animal.

Steve Haddock was excited today to collect a beautiful siphonophore called Resomia dunni that he has only sampled three times before. This animal was collected with the ROV at 1,035 meters deep (3,415 feet) using a D-sampler. Steve and Phil Pugh first described this animal and they named it for a colleague, Casey Dunn.

Nausithoe carrying two hyperiid amphipod hitchhikers. Pelagic amphipods are known to lay their eggs on or inside a jelly. They may even eat their medusa host.

We also caught a medusa for Rebeca because we observed two amphipods attached to it. After the dive when we emptied the sampler we only found one of the amphipods, but it turned out to be Hyperoche shihi, a species that Rebeca described in 2003, based on samples from her participation in MBARI’s previous expedition to Mexico, and named after one of her mentors, Chang-tai Shih. The specimen we caught today was a male and the one she found in 2003 was a gravid female.

Karen saw three different species of enteropneusts on the seafloor today and Erik collected many interesting chaetognaths in the benthic boundary layer, so they were very busy after the dive. Unfortunately we did not see many squids today, but we did collect another small Planctoteuthis, and tomorrow is another day.

Image of MBARI’s Video Annotation and Reference System (VARS) software. VARS allows the scientists to easily access information about the animals observed and collected during the research expedition.

—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