Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
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Behind the scenes - 2013

Links to past and present "Behind-the-scenes" stories:     2014    2013    2012


Rescue with ParagonKayaker rescued by MBARI engineers

MBARI engineers Brian Kieft and Thomas Hoover were two miles offshore on the R/V Paragon launching a long-range autonomous underwater vehicle when they received an emergency call from the Coast Guard Thursday afternoon.  A kayaker had fallen out of his boat, and since his boat was flooded and awash, time was of the essence. As the R/V Paragon established contact with the kayaker, a Coast Guard helicopter arrived overhead, prepared to descend a rescuer in the water. Quick action by Brian and Thomas brought both the shivering kayaker and his kayak aboard and back safely to the harbor.

Image: The R/V Paragon is seen approaching the victim in the water. The photo was taken through binoculars in MBARI’s Pacific Forum meeting room.

—December 20, 2013


Second Mate Miriam AnthonyMiriam Anthony, second mate, R/V Western Flyer

Miriam Anthony loves her role as second mate of R/V Western Flyer. As a key player on MBARI’s largest research vessel, she has a vast range of responsibilities that include standing watch, planning voyages, and various ship operations such as conducting safety inspections or operating the crane. On top of all that, she is the medical officer and the vessel security officer, so, in her words, “If a pirate boards and gets a stomach ache, I can patch him up and handcuff him to the bilge!” Miriam enjoys exploring and learning about the research conducted by the science party onboard. She commented, “Every trip is different and every science group brings something fascinating to the surface.” Although being away from her family and friends is the most challenging aspect of her job, she receives positive support from the crew on the Flyer. Miriam said “it’s so very refreshing” to be surrounded by people who want to be there and also enjoy their jobs. Read a full interview with Miriam.

—December 17, 2013


Mooring buoy covered in barnacles

Monitoring the sea

MBARI has collected seawater data using monitoring buoys, called moorings, in the outer waters of Monterey Bay for over 20 years. Two moorings, M1 and M2H, are currently in operation and equipped with many instruments that analyze over a dozen properties of its surroundings. M1 is located within Monterey Bay, whereas M2H is positioned 56 kilometers (35 miles) offshore in the California Current. The data are sent back via radio to scientists eager to find out about winds, water temperature, currents, carbon dioxide and chlorophyll levels, nutrients (such as nitrate, silicate, and iron), and more. The buoys require regular maintenance and are replaced annually with new buoys that take several months to assemble.  In the image, the M2 buoy was covered in barnacles when it was recovered from the now decommissioned vessel, R/V Point Lobos. Read more about the mooring program.

—December 6, 2013


Tanner crabs and control room

Tanner crabs

Marine scientists want to know what the increasing levels of human-generated carbon dioxide in the ocean mean for the ocean’s ecosystems and inhabitants. Last week, Jim Barry’s research group collected 12 tanner crabs from the seafloor to get a better understanding of how ocean acidification affects the behavior of sea animals. The crabs were collected in Monterey Bay with ROV Ventana, almost 1,000 meters below the ocean’s surface. The vehicle is equipped with a suction sampler used to suck up animals and place them into a sample compartment to bring them back to the surface. What will Barry’s research group do next with the tanner crabs? They will expose the crabs to varying pH levels—the increased carbon dioxide in the ocean results in lower pH levels, meaning the water is more acidic. They will observe the crabs’ behavior as they walk on a treadmill built specifically for this study. They expect that the behavior of crabs exposed to higher acidity will deviate from that of crabs in “normal” levels of acidity.

Top Image: This image was captured inside the control room of the R/V Rachel Carson. On the right side, you can see the suction sampler tucking away a tanner crab into the vehicle’s sample compartment.

Bottom Image: 12 tanner crabs were captured from the seafloor with the ROV Ventana.

—November 18, 2013


Chris Scholin with Distinguished Lecturer James R. McFarlane

Distinguished Lecturer James R. McFarlane

MBARI was honored to host this year's David Packard Distinguished Lecturer, James R. McFarlane, the founder and president of International Submarine Engineering, Ltd (ISE). McFarlane contributed to MBARI's formative years as a critical advisor to David Packard and as a participant in several engineering reviews. Research Chair Bruce Robison remarked, "Jim McFarlane is a gifted, innovative engineer with an outstanding track record of designing and building undersea vehicles." McFarlane delivered a lecture at MBARI November 6th titled "Genesis and metamorphosis of underwater work capability", reviewing different submersible vehicle designs and components that make them operate optimally. Doug Au, MBARI's director of engineering development commented, "I am very pleased that we can have someone who was so involved with MBARI in the early days come back and provide a distinguished lecture. I hope we can use his insight as MBARI looks to the future and conceives our technical roadmap." Read more about the lecture here.

Image: President/CEO Chris Scholin (left) presents James R. McFarlane (right) with the 2013 David Packard Distingushed Lecturer award in front of ROV Ventana, which was originally manufactured by ISE.

—November 6, 2013


MBARI receives Employment of People with Disabilities Award

MBARI to receive Employment of People with Disabilities Award

This month, the Monterey County Committee for the Employment of People with Disabilities will honor MBARI for the institution's work with people having disabilities. Our Director of Human Resources Norm Steinberg commented, “From the employer side, we are hiring individuals who want to do a good job, and can consistently be counted on. It’s always easier to work with people who enjoy being here. This positive energy has a contagious effect on others.” MBARI’s daytime cleanup crew is a wonderful and hard-working group of individuals employed through HOPE Services, an organization that provides services to people with developmental disabilities. Office Assistant Virginia Rodriguez, hired through the Gateway Program, has been a valuable asset to MBARI for the past 16 years. Rodriguez expressed how happy she is to work here by saying, “The reasons I like working here are that a lot of people are nice to me, good benefits, and I get to say hello to everyone. I feel safe here.” Steinberg will accept the award this week at the Hyatt Regency Monterey.

Top Image: Office Assistant Virginia Rodriguez

Bottom Image: Hope Crew includes (from left to right) Davena, Mandy (supervisor), Napoleon, Tony, and Leigh

—October 22, 2013


Expedition in Canadian Arctic

Expedition in the Canadian Arctic

Scientists are extremely interested in the Arctic seafloor because it has undergone very dramatic changes due to climate change. In collaboration with Canadian colleagues, MBARI researchers led by Charles Paull embarked on a Canadian icebreaker, the CCGS Sir Wilfred Laurier, to explore the unique undersea geology of the area. On previous trips, Paull and his team discovered methane gas vigorously escaping the seafloor. Gas venting at these sites is associated with either the decomposition of frozen sediments called permafrost, or of gas hydrates, a solid ice-like form of water containing gas molecules. The primary objective of this recent expedition is to document these gas-venting structures, as well as areas of unstable seafloor and other features that appear to be unique to the margins of the Arctic Ocean. The team brought aboard MBARI-developed technology including an autonomous underwater vehicle to conduct seafloor mapping and a mini remotely operated vehicle to collect samples of the escaping gas. The team just returned from their adventure last week. You can read more about Paull’s previous expedition.

—October 17, 2013


Long-range AUV and shark's tooth

Shark bites robot

MBARI's underwater robot, Tethys, just came back from two continuous weeks at sea, where MBARI scientists used it to study harmful algal blooms as part of the Fall 2013 CANON experiment. When the researchers pulled the long-range autonomous underwater vehicle (LR-AUV) from the water, they discovered large scrapes on its sides. At first they thought it had been damaged by a boat propeller, but when they looked closer, they discovered several large teeth embedded in the sides of the vehicle. In the top photo (by Jim Bellingham), instrumentation technician Thomas Hoover shows the width of the bite marks on the vehicle, which were probably created by a 12- to 15-foot-long white shark. The lower photo (by Todd Walsh) shows Jim Bellingham holding one of the shark's teeth that was embedded in the LR-AUV. The aluminum shell and carbon-fiber fairing of the vehicle were badly scratched, but held up to the crushing bite—a testament to the design skills of MBARI's engineers.

—October 8, 2013


Ship's engineer Lance Wardle

Keeping the ship in top shape

At least one engineer is on duty around the clock whenever the research vessel Western Flyer is underway, ready to spring into action if an alarm sounds or any equipment malfunctions. Under the direction of Chief Engineer Matt Noyes, the engineering crew is responsible for the maintenance and safe operation of all mechanical systems onboard, from the ship’s engines to the winches and cranes, and even the plumbing system. Here, First Engineer Lance Wardle works on a hydraulic pump motor for the crane that is used for the launch and recovery of remotely operated vehicle Doc Ricketts.

—October 1, 2013


Dorado AUV for CANON Initiative

Dorado AUV targets chlorophyll layers to study plankton

The Sampling and Identifying Marine Zooplankton (SIMZ) project of Senior Scientist Robert Vrijenhoek's laboratory aims to further understand the ecology and genetic diversity of marine zooplankton. MBARI team members and outside collaborators sampled from the R/V Rachel Carson to target subsurface chlorophyll layers in northern Monterey Bay. Chlorophyll layers contain high densities of phytoplankton, organisms essential to the maintenance of the marine food web. The researchers used multiple sampling methods that week. One method involved deploying our Dorado autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) using an algorithm (developed by Senior Research Specialist Yanwu Zhang and colleagues) to detect peaks in chlorophyll fluorescence and trigger water sampling from the layers of phytoplankton where grazing zooplankton also aggregate. Vrijenhoek's team needed water samples to test the hypothesis that the plankton converge into patches that may be pushed shoreward. Samples were successfully collected by syringe-like water samplers in the AUV and are currently being processed. A second week of sampling is planned for October.

Top Image (from left to right): Bill Peterson (visiting scientist), Bob Vrijenhoek, John Ryan, Yanwu Zhang, Haibin Zhang
Bottom Image: Julio Harvey (left) and Hans Thomas (right)

—September 23, 2013


Larry Bird with LST

A sediment sampling system to be deployed this month

MBARI Mechanical Engineering Technician Larry Bird has built a sampling system that is an essential component of an instrument called the Lagrangian Sediment Trap (LST) that collects particulate organic matter sinking in the ocean. The instrument is comprised of a sediment collection system mounted onto the SOLO1, a “drifter“ float designed and built at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The LST gets its name from Italian mathematician Joseph-Louis Lagrange, who made notable contributions to both mathematics and astronomy. LSTs were originally designed to sample beneath icebergs; however, these next-generation LSTs will first be used as part of the CANON Initiative to collect sinking matter associated with surface ocean processes such as algal blooms in Monterey Bay. Located in the center of the LST is a “variable-buoyancy engine,” allowing it to stay afloat consistently at a set depth, and resurface on preset time intervals. The sampling mechanism is operated with springs that make use of corrosion wires to rotate small collection jars beneath large funnels to collect samples. Two LSTs will be deployed in Monterey Bay on September 16.

—September 5, 2013


A high seas visit with friends

During the R/V Western Flyer's ongoing expedition off the coast of Northern California, a brief visit was arranged with the Schmidt Ocean Institute's (SOI) research vessel Falkor, which was passing through the same area. MBARI has collaborated with SOI on several missions in the past. These photos were taken by Nathan Cunningham of SOI. Click on the images for larger versions.

—August 5, 2013


Larry Bird setting up monitors

Preparing for open house

MBARI Mechanical Engineering Technician Larry Bird sets up video monitors for MBARI's once-a-year open house. The event will take place tomorrow, July 20, from noon to 5 p.m. The institute is a hive of activity today as tents are set up and researchers, engineers, and marine operations staff prepare for the annual event, which draws several thousand people to the institute.

—July 19, 2013


Kyra Schlining editing a video

MBARI's Video Lab staff keep busy

MBARI's video lab staff review and annotate all of MBARI's deep-sea mission video recordings. They also publish their own research in science journals, and produce all of MBARI's YouTube videos, among many other things. In this photo, research technician Kyra Schlining is editing a "ship's tour" video which will describe the research vessels and technology that MBARI uses to conduct at-sea research. A sampling of science, engineering, and marine life videos are available on MBARI's web site.

—July 10, 2013


Frad Bahr at the Monterey Bay Aquarium on World Ocean Day

Sharing MBARI science for World Oceans Day

On June 8 and 9, MBARI researchers, including Fred Bahr (at left in photo), shared their enthusiasm for ocean research with visitors to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, as part of the aquarium's celebration of "World Oceans Day." Adults and children enjoyed browsing a selection of MBARI's amazing videos of deep-sea animals and robotic submersibles. A few lucky visitors to the MBARI table also received MBARI posters and other souvenirs.

—June 20, 2013


MBARI's 2013 interns

MBARI's 2013 intern program begins

MBARI welcomes our 2013 interns. The intern program is designed to provide professional development opportunities to college students and educators. From over 200 applications, 18 undergraduate and graduate students were selected.  They come from around the United States, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Colombia. The interns are highly motivated, curious, and ready to work on projects in areas such as science illustration, ocean chemistry, chemical sensors, and geospatial database administration. Diane Wyse, a student at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, is returning for a second year internship. She will be using chemical sensors to characterize plankton community dynamics. Diane says, “Being an intern at MBARI is an incredible experience. The resources, people, and opportunities to learn about research within my field of oceanography and beyond are unparalleled.”

—June 11, 2013


Chondrocladia sponge

Learning how to identify different species

MBARI researcher Lonny Lundsten is in British Columbia this week to learn techniques for the scientific description of sponges. Experts from the University of Victoria and the Khoyatan Marine Laboratory are teaching him how to prepare specimens for different types of scanning electron microscopes. Very high resolution images of microscopic skeletal material, or spicules, aid in the identification of new species because spicule types, shapes, and sizes are unique to each species. Pictured here is a carnivorous sponge of the genus Chondrocladia that was found at 2,500 meters depth in the Gulf of California. Click on the image to see one of the world's foremost sponge taxonomists, Henry Reiswig, instructing Lonny (who is just off-camera) in proper scanning electron microscope specimen preparation. Watch this YouTube video to learn more about their recent description of a  carnivorous sponge that looks like a harp.

—June 7, 2013


Nancy Barr and Chris Scholin work on a publication

Profile: Web and Print Project Manager Nancy Barr

Nancy Barr manages MBARI's web and print projects, often working with MBARI President and CEO Chris Scholin, as shown in this photo. Nancy spent much of the last five months writing, editing, and selecting images for MBARI's 2012 Annual Report, copies of which just arrived from the printer this week. In addition to serving as webmaster for MBARI's website, Nancy edits all of MBARI's print documents. She is currently working on a draft of our Technology Roadmap, a document that outlines scientific needs and technological opportunities that will drive MBARI's future engineering activities.

—May 24, 2013


Teresa Cardoza and Chris Grech review navigation maps

Profile: Logistics Support Specialist Teresa Cardoza

Teresa Cardoza describes her job as being "the liaison between marine operations and research and engineering.” Teresa keeps track of every detail to make sure the ships, vehicles, and crew are ready so that each mission will be successful. She arranges for facilities and local services at ports from Canada to Mexico. She visits ports in advance of expeditions to meet with local representatives and to ensure the sites will be suitable for MBARI’s needs. She also considers staff needs at port and lines up transportation and lodging. Teresa determines if tools, equipment, and samples need to be trucked between MBARI and distant ports, and makes those arrangements. She provides a detailed schedule of operations for cruise participants, and notifies government agencies of MBARI’s plans as necessary. “I consider MBARI’s scientists to be my customers, and I strive to provide good customer service to ensure cruises will go smoothly. I find my job rewarding and enjoy the relationships I have established with everyone within MBARI, and with people and institutions up and down the Pacific coastline." In the photo at left, Teresa and Deputy Director of Marine Operations Chris Grech review marine charts for an upcoming expedition.

—May 15, 2013


The longer version of the Tethys AUV is loaded on to a boat for testing.

Stretching the long-range autonomous underwater vehicle

Engineers Brian Kieft, left, and Brett Hobson loaded two long-range autonomous underwater vehicles onto a small boat for testing this week. The newest vehicle is longer to accommodate additional science instruments. This week's tests were aimed at seeing if the controls could properly fly the longer vehicle. Further analysis will continue, but the initial results were positive.

—May 10, 2013


A crowd gathers to welcome back the R/V Point Sur

The research vessel Point Sur returns from Antarctica

On May 2nd the research vessel Point Sur returned to her home port of Moss Landing after a five-month, 19,900-mile trip to Antarctica and back. Operated by Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, the Point Sur shares MBARI's dock with MBARI's research vessels, the Western Flyer and the Rachel Carson. A crowd gathered on the dock to welcome the ship and her crew with cheers and flags. For more information on the research conducted during this cruise, see the Point Sur's expedition blog.

—May 2, 2013


George Matsumoto at Tribal Marine Science Workshop

Alaskan Tribal Marine Science Workshop

MBARI's Senior Education and Research Specialist George Matsumoto participated in this week's Tribal Marine Science Workshop at NOAA/University of Alaska's Kasitsna Bay Laboratory in Alaska. The intensive workshop is designed for natural resource specialists in Alaska Tribes and Native organizations who have an interest in marine sciences. Here Paul Melovidov (left) of Saint Paul Island in the Pribilof Islands joins Matsumoto (right) preparing for a plankton tow in Kachemak Bay.

—April 24, 2013


Testing the Deep-Sea ESP in MBARI's test tank

Testing the Deep ESP

The Deep Environmental Sample Processor (D-ESP) is being tested in MBARI's test tank this week in preparation of a six-month deployment on the Monterey Advanced Research System (MARS) cabled observatory. With funding from NASA's ASTEP program (Astrobiology Science and Technology for Exploring the Planets), the D-ESP will autonomously detect, sample, and process microorganisms on the seafloor and surrounding waters 891 meters (2,923 feet) below the surface of Monterey Bay.

—April 17, 2013


Crane lifts AUV shipping container to load onto flatbed.

Special cargo

The blue shipping container may not look like much, but it contains MBARI’s D. Allan B. autonomous underwater vehicle. This one-of-a-kind robot is specially equipped to create detailed maps of the deep seafloor. Erich Rienecker, in the distance, Teresa Cardoza, up front, Eric Fitzgerald, in the crane, and Eric Martin (not pictured), carefully guided the container onto a waiting flatbed truck to begin its journey to Taiwan, where scientist Charlie Paull and his team plan to map part of the South China Sea this month.

—April 11, 2013


Mariah Salisbury working on a CTD rosette A wet day at sea

MBARI Administrative Assistant Mariah Salisbury gained a new appreciation for the rigors of ocean research during her last cruise aboard the R/V Rachel Carson with MBARI's Biological Oceanography Group. But she didn't let the cold and wet deter her from preparing the water-sampling bottles on the CTD-rosette. At the bottom of the rosette is the CTD—an instrument for measuring ocean salinity and temperature at various depths. The CTD rosette is lowered on a cable down into the ocean and collects discrete water samples as each bottle is closed at a particular depth. The samples are used to determine the physical and biological properties of the seawater.

—April 2, 2013


Holly Bowers processes samples in the wet lab. ECOHAB experiments

Over the weekend, MBARI researchers conducted Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms (ECOHAB) experiments on the San Pedro Shelf off Southern California. NOAA is funding a collaborative research project to develop a better understanding of the environmental conditions leading to bloom and toxin initiation for Pseudo-nitzschia, a diatom that can form harmful algal blooms, or HABs. The experiment will compare two “hot spots,” Monterey Bay and San Pedro, California. Each will include an observational component (ESP, AUVs, gliders, boats) supported by a modeling component. Participants include MBARI, NOAA, University of California, Santa Cruz, and others. At left, Postdoctoral Fellow Holly Bowers processes samples in the wet lab of the R/V Rachel Carson.

—March 19, 2013


Aaron Gregg and Paul Ban on the bridge of the R/V Rachel Carson Southern California operations

When the research vessel Rachel Carson set sail for Southern California last week, it was equipped with two autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) to perform very different kinds of missions. One AUV is mapping the seafloor to identify areas with interesting chemical features, such as gas venting from the seafloor. The other AUV will work closer to the surface, following harmful algal blooms and collecting water samples and information to allow comparisons of ocean systems in Southern California with those in Monterey Bay. At left, Captain Aaron Gregg and First Mate Paul Ban review the nautical charts before setting sail.

—March 12, 2013


Science meets art

Last weekend, MBARI researchers Judith Connor and Jim Barry talked about changes in ocean chemistry during performances of Ocean—a science-inspired dance program—at San Jose State University. This multimedia production, conceived by choreographer Fran Spector Atkins and performed by her SpectorDance company, is the result of a unique collaboration between SpectorDance and MBARI. Kyra Schlining, a biologist at MBARI, worked with Spector Atkins to provide MBARI images and scientific information. Schlining's husband, Brian, an MBARI engineer, helped with lighting and projection for the weekend performances. Portraying changes in the ocean, the professional dancers gave spectacular performances accompanied by original music, MBARI deep-sea images, and interviews with scientists. After the show, Connor said, "This experience reminded me how fortunate I am to live in this creative community and to work with smart, environmentally conscious people like the Schlinings."

—March 6, 2013


Launching an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) in the surf

Ryan Smith, a researcher visiting MBARI from the Queensland University of Technology, launches his "Ecomapper" AUV from the beach in front of MBARI. The AUV carried instruments to measure water temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, and algae. Smith spent four months at MBARI working with Kanna Rajan's Autonomous Systems Group to add intelligent scheduling and decision-making software to this commercial AUV.

—February 26, 2013


Autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) operations

AUV specialists Eric Martin (left) and Doug Conlin (right) help maintain and operate our AUV fleet. Here, they are standing on the deck of the R/V Rachel Carson as it steams out to sea to deploy the upper-water-column vehicle. The upper-water-column vehicle with "gulper samplers", developed at MBARI, is designed to rapidly acquire multiple large-volume water samples aboard the AUV. This AUV is unique in that it can collect up to ten 1.8-liter water samples while traveling through the water or through a plume. For more information about this AUV, go to our AUV pages.

—January 22, 2013


MARS cabled observatory

This image shows ROV Ventana's manipulator arm unplugging a deep-sea instrument's cable from the science node on the Monterey Advanced Research System (MARS) cabled observatory. MARS was the first cabled oceanographic observatory on the US West Coast. More than eight different science experiments can be attached to this main hub with eight nodes which sits on the seafloor 891 meters (2,923 feet) below the surface of Monterey Bay. More information on MARS.

—January 15, 2013


Last updated: Oct. 28, 2014