Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
2012 midwater ecology cruise

Day 1 – Our first dive
July 13, 2012

I am one of MBARI's summer interns and I got the opportunity to join the Midwater Ecology cruise on board the R/V Western Flyer. This is my first cruise and I am in charge of reporting the research team's activities.

We left the dock at 8:00 a.m. and headed to the Midwater Respirometry System (MRS) mooring site in Monterey Canyon. The remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Doc Ricketts is launched through the moon pool, a door that opens up in the center of the ship's twin hulls. The science team and the ROV pilots watch the launch on monitors in the ROV control room.

In the control room, there are two ROV pilots, one flying the ROV and the other in charge of managing the tether and controlling the vehicle's manipulator arms. Next to the pilot, there is a chief scientist's chair, where a member of the science team controls the main high-definition video camera and looks for our target animals. There are five pilots on board and each pilot spends an hour at the co-pilot seat then an hour as pilot, and then gets a break from the control room. Dives generally last 12 hours each day.

The shrimp, Sergistes similis swimming in front of our camera.

Our first mission was to deploy the MRS at 320 meters (1,050 feet) depth. The MRS is composed of eight chambers where oxygen consumption is measured; other gases, such as carbon dioxide, can also be manipulated and the results recorded. We collected one Sergestes similis (a shrimp living in the upper water column) in each of six chambers. Two chambers hold only water to provide controls for the experiment. Doing this type of experiment in the water column instead of in the lab assures us that the measured respiration rates are the same as these animals normally respire. Once we filled all of the chambers, the MRS is "hung" on a mooring and it will stay there for 48 hours. In two days, we will return to recover the MRS and download the data.

We then dove down to 800 meters (2,600 feet) looking for the vampire squid. Unfortunately, we didn't find one today, but perhaps another day! We did, however, see many other types of squid, including this Cockeyed squid (Histioteuthis heteropsis).

Cockeyed squid (Histioteuthis heteropsis

To collect these animals we have two types of samplers available. The suction sampler sucks water to bring the animal into a bucket. The detritus sampler is basically a bucket opened on both ends. The pilots fly the vehicle so the animal is within the bucket and then they close the top and bottom to keep the animal and its surrounding water within the sampler. This allows us to collect the animals with relatively little disturbance.

Two of the detritus samplers on the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Doc Ricketts

Tonight we will deploy a camera system over the side of the ship to observe the behavior of deep-sea animals, especially squid. We'll let you know how that goes tomorrow!

—Geraldine Fauville

Next log


Day 6 Day 6
July 18, 2012
Seeing in the dark

Day 5 Day 5
July 17, 2012
Important observations

Day 4 Day 4
July 16, 2012
A squid's diet

Day 3 Day 3
July 15, 2012
Science never sleeps

Day 2 Day 2
July 14, 2012
Searching the deep sea

day one Day 1
July 13, 2012
Our first dive


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.

Midwater respirometry system (MRS)

The MRS conducts oxygen consumption rate measurements in situ gauging the metabolism of animals without subjecting them to the stresses of transport to the surface. MRS has been modified to operate in deeper water with an expanded capacity, enabling respiration studies on animals that live deeper than 1,250 meters.

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.


The CTDO is mounted on the ROV and takes in situ measurements of environmental parameters such as conductivity, temperature, depth, and oxygen concentration.

High frequency suction sampler

This sampler acts like a vacuum cleaner sucking up samples and depositing them into one of the 12 buckets.

 Research Team

bruce robison Bruce Robison
Senior Scientist, MBARI

Bruce Robison's research is focused on the biology and ecology of deep-sea animals, particularly those that inhabit the oceanic water column. He pioneered the use of undersea vehicles for these studies and he led the first team of scientists trained as research submersible pilots. At MBARI, his research group has focused on the development of remotely operated vehicles as platforms for deep-sea science.

kim reisenbichler Kim Reisenbichler
Senior Research Technician, MBARI

Kim's general area of interest is the study of midwater and deep sea animals. He has developed many tools and techniques to observe, manipulate, and collect these organisms, and to maintain the animals in the lab.

rob sherlock Rob Sherlock
Senior Research Technician, MBARI

Rob is interested in the ecology of midwater invertebrates. He has worked in the Robison lab and been involved with the Midwater Time Series since he came to MBARI in 1996, identifying and quantifying mesopelagic animals and the changes in that community over time, depth and relative to other physical factors. He is looking forward to more sea-time this year than last!

kris walz Kris Walz
Research Assistant, MBARI

Kris works with the Midwater Ecology group, analyzing ROV video transects between 50 and 1,000 meters in depth to identify biological organisms from all taxonomic levels, most of which spend their entire lives in the oceanic water column. Kris started working at MBARI in 1996 after finishing her Master's at UC Santa Cruz. She's looking forward to returning to sea this month to collect video transects and search for deep-sea lobster larvae from the family Polychelidae.

susan von thun Susan von Thun
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 works closely with the midwater ecology group and the bioluminescence lab to expand her knowledge of the fish, jellies, cephalopods, and other groups in the midwater.

henk-jan hoving Henk-Jan Hoving
Postdoctoral Fellow, MBARI

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.

Karen Osborn Karen Osborn
Smithsonian Institution

After completing her Ph.D. at University of California, 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.

Bret Grasse
Monterey Bay Aquarium

Bret is an aquarist at Monterey Bay Aquarium where his job is to highlight and display a wide variety of marine organisms by providing the best possible conditions for each individual in captivity. Bret specializes in tropical systems and cephalopods.

Geraldine Fauville Geraldine Fauville
Summer Intern, MBARI

Geraldine has a master's degree in marine biology and is currently working toward a master's in education, communication and new technologies at the University of Gothenburg. She is a summer intern with MBARI's ITD division, investigating the potential for outreach and communication that social media holds.