Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
2012 midwater ecology cruise

Day 3 – Science never sleeps
July 15, 2012

Yesterday evening was a very busy night for the scientists after recovering the contents of the trawling net. The scientists needed to sort their species of interest out of several liters of water full of all kinds of animals that had been collected in the net. Then they needed to store all their samples either alive, frozen, or after "fixing" them with a preservative such as formalin or ethanol. It takes quite a bit of organization since all the scientists are in the wet lab at the same time trying to process their animals as soon as possible. When taking a sample, they need to make sure they label the specimen properly with date, depth, and other information. We collected a lot of very interesting animals such as squids and amphipods from the trawl. We also got a lot of krill. We put some of them alive with our captive Chiroteuthis calyx squid to see if he could feed on them, and we froze the rest of them for future feeding.

trawling net

This morning, as usual, we started our dive at 6:30 a.m. and began searching for animals and testing some LED lights we plan to use on an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) in the future. While descending, we found several very interesting species such as the Bathophilus fish below which has never before been observed during a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) dive!


The ROV descended to the ocean floor at a depth of 1,411 meters (3,750 feet) and we spent some time observing a rock outcrop. We could see crabs, sea stars, sponges, and much more. We used the ROV's mechanical arm to collect an egg case from the snail, Neptunea. This egg case is like a small tower, and is composed of many small eggs, each of them containing a juvenile.

Neptunea egg case
In the middle of the frame there is a yellowish, sediment-covered tower of eggs made by the snail, Neptunea.

As you may have realized by now, one focus of this cruise is catching squids and cephalopods for our sister institute, the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Here is how Bret Grasse describes his mission during this cruise:

Hello, my name is Bret Grasse. I am an aquarist (aquarium biologist) at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. My job is to highlight and display a wide variety of marine organisms by providing the best possible conditions for each individual in captivity. I specifically specialize in tropical systems and cephalopods.

In 2014, the Monterey Bay Aquarium will be opening the first ever large-scale cephalopod gallery in the U.S. They have asked me to participate on this Western Flyer trip in order to investigate the feasibility of bringing a live deep-sea component to that show. My role aboard this cruise is to investigate and improve capture, transport, and holding techniques of these highly sensitive deep-sea cephalopods. We will be testing stress-reducing capture/transport methods, improved feeding techniques, and investigating long-term holding of these animals. The three target species are Vampyroteuthis, Grimpoteuthis, and Graneledone, although we will opportunistically explore other species.

At 3:00 p.m. the ROV was back on deck. We stored the collected animals while the pilots were preparing the ROV for the next dive. While waiting for the second dive, we saw several humpback whales around the ship.

humpback whale

During the second dive we went down to the mooring where we left the Midwater Respirometry System (MRS) on Day 1, and retrieved it. The data from the respirometer will now be downloaded and processed by Kim Reisenbichler.

As you may recall, we launched a camera on our first night at sea to observe squid behavior. Today, using the ROV, we hung the same system on the mooring at a depth of 236 meters (774 feet). In the photo below, Henk-Jan Hoving places a frozen fish and a blue light as a lure just in front of the camera to attract the animals.

Henk-Jan with camera

—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.