Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
2013 midwater ecology cruise

Day 4 – On the hunt for deep-living animals
November 10, 2013

Left, Ben Burford, former summer intern, helps Kris Walz, Stephanie Bush, and Freya Goetz sort through the trawl collection. Right, Ben jigging for Humboldt squid.

I am very excited to be out to sea on the Western Flyer for the second time in only five months. What a blast! Mostly I have been working, with help from members of the Midwater Ecology Lab, to prepare my intern project on the behavior of the mesopelagic squid, Chiroteuthis calyx, for publication. This mostly involves writing and other computer-based activities, but I am also taking additional observational data when we come across C. calyx with the ROV. When I take breaks from the editing process, I can usually be found in the control room watching the live ROV footage, operating the annotation station, or at the controls of the ROV camera. We have seen some spectacular animals thus far, including the enormous medusa, Stygiomedusa gigantea (see yesterday’s post for a photo). At night, we usually trawl for midwater organisms. I try my best to help sort through all of the animals we end up collecting and everyone does a great job of helping me learn the names of the organisms we catch.

Left, a juvenile Chiroteuthis calyx. Right, Dosidicus gigas.

While onboard I, along with members of the science party and crew, have been jigging for Humboldt squid, Doscidicus gigas, at night. Jigging is a fishing practice where we jiggle the lure up and down to attract the squid instead of casting the line far out and reeling in. Populations of this large and aggressive squid have been making unpredictable appearances in the waters off Monterey Bay for some time now. I am collecting these squid for William Gilly of Hopkins Marine Station of Stanford University. His team will be using them as part of their studies documenting the physiology, biology, and ecology of D. gigas. They are particularly concerned with the characteristics of this population such as range, diet, age, sex, sexual maturity status, size at sexual maturity, etc. Some of the squid we collect might also end up at outreach events like Gilly’s "Squids for Kids." Tonight was an excellent night of squid fishing. With two glow-in-the-dark jigs in the water, we caught 29 D. gigas in about an hour. Their mantle lengths ranged from 30 centimeters (approximately one foot) to 52 centimeters (one and one-half feet), with the larger ones weighing in around four kilograms (almost nine pounds). Fishing is definitely my favorite method of collecting data!

— Ben Burford

Today we had another deep dive, reaching 2,000 meters (6,561 feet), searching for deep-living animals that we rarely get a chance to see. We also had the chance to collect some of our target animals, like Octopoteuthis deletron. Stephanie Bush is working with the Monterey Bay Aquarium to try to display these strange squid in a future exhibit there.

Upper left: Bruce Robison is working on describing the "Mystery Mollusc", which earned that name the first time the midwater lab observed it. They had no idea what kind of invertebrate it was. As it turns out, it’s closely related to sea slugs. Upper right: Octopoteuthis deletron is a squid, but has only eight arms. The arms also have glowing tips. Lower left: The hatchetfish, Sternoptyx obscura has light organs that produce light to help it blend into the ambient light that a predator below might see when looking up. Lower right: Halitrephes maasi is an uncommon jelly, seen less than a dozen times by MBARI ROVs in 25 years of operations.

— Susan von Thun

Previous log Next log


Day 7 Day 7
November 13, 2013
Last day

Day 6 Day 6
November 12, 2013
Stayin' alive!

Day 5 Day 5
November 11, 2013
What's for dinner?

Day 4 Day 4
November 10, 2013
On the hunt for deep-living animals

Day 3 Day 3
November 9, 2013
Deep midwater respirometry system (MRS) deployment

Day 2 Day 2
November 8, 2013
Expansion of the oxygen minimum zone

whale's fluke Day 1
November 7, 2013
Why study the midwater and what the heck is OMZ?


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
Research Specialist, 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 and depth and relative to other physical factors.

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. Kris started working at MBARI in 1996 after finishing her master's degree at University of California, Santa Cruz. She's looking forward to going to sea this month to collect video transects and to search for deep-sea lobster larvae from the family Polychelidae.

susan von thun Susan von Thun
Senior 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.

Stephanie Bush
Postdoctoral Fellow, MBARI

Stephanie will be collecting squids and octopuses for the Monterey Bay Aquarium's upcoming cephalopod exhibit "Tentacles". She will also continue her research on deep-sea cephalopod behavior and population connectivity in planktonic animals.

goetz Freya Goetz
Museum Technician, Smithsonian Institution

Freya is collecting hyperiid amphipods, polychaetes and sampling of other animals for Karen Osborn at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History. The animals collected will be for a variety of projects including the study of amphipod eye structure, animal microbiomes and population genetics.

burford Ben Burford
Research Assistant

Ben's undergraduate degree encompassed terrestrial and aquatic zoology, ecology, and botany. He has become fascinated with and engrossed in the study of deep-sea ecology and behavior. This focus comes after recently completing an internship in the Robison Midwater Ecology Lab at MBARI where he examined the behavior of the deep-sea cephalopod, Chiroteuthis calyx.