Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
2012 midwater ecology cruise

Day 2 – Searching the deep sea
July 14, 2012

This morning at 6:30 a.m. the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) started its dive all the way down to the seafloor at a depth of 2,850 meters (9,350 feet). The ROV reached the bottom at 10:00 a.m. and spent an hour flying about a meter above the bottom searching for animals that live in the benthic boundary layer. These are animals that live in the water column just above the bottom, but not on the seafloor.

The ROV is connected to the ship with a tether, and the pilots need to manage the tether, which becomes even more difficult the deeper the vehicle goes. There are currents that can affect the ROV, the tether, and the ship, so the pilots and crew on the bridge must communicate constantly in order to make sure that the ROV can move around as freely as possible without getting tugged up by the tether. To do so the ROV pilot communicates with the bridge and indicates the heading and speed they want the ship to be moving. Moreover, the ROV can rotate horizontally by 360 degrees, but if it rotates always in the same direction, the tether will get twisted and possibly damaged. One of the roles of the co-pilot is to make sure that the ROV rotates as much in one direction as in the other.

During the dive we collected many different animals such as ctenophores, amphipods, squids, and worms. We spent a couple of hours slowly flying up and down between 530 and 800 meters (1,700 and 2,600 feet) looking for vampire squids, but, again, we didn't find one. We did however find the squid, Chiroteuthis calyx and collected it. Our postdoc, Henk-Jan Hoving, and Monterey Bay Aquarium aquarist, Bret Grasse, are working to keep deep-sea squids alive in the lab, which has not been done before for most deep-sea species.

We also observed a variety of interesting deep-sea animals, such as this beautiful ctenophore, Aulacoctena, which was about 30 centimeters (one foot) long!

The ROV was on deck by 6:30 p.m., and much of the science team then spent hours processing the samples. Also, the pilots spent time getting the ROV ready for tomorrow's dive. We also launched a trawl net that will be pulled through the water from a depth of 500 meters (1,640 feet) up to 100 meters (325 feet). At 100 meters, we send a messenger which goes down the line to trigger the net's closing mechanism. Our target animals for the trawl are amphipods, pteropods, and fishes. By 9:30 p.m. the trawl will be recovered. Tomorrow we will let you know what we collected!

—Geraldine Fauville

Previous log 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.