News archive – 2013

R/V Paragon

Kayaker 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.
This map shows the Gulf of Mexico and the locations of the Campeche Escarpment and the buried impact crater that caused a global extinction event about 65 million years ago. Base image: Google Earth

Mapping the demise of the dinosaurs

About 65 million years ago, an asteroid or comet crashed into a shallow sea near what is now the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico. The resulting firestorm and global dust cloud caused the extinction of many land plants and large animals, including most of the dinosaurs.

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.
tanner crabs

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 dead salps MBARI researchers observed on the sea floor were a result of increased life in the surface waters, NOT a sign that the ocean is dying.

Feast and famine on the abyssal plain

Over one thousand miles wide and three thousand miles long, the Sargasso Sea occupies almost two thirds of the North Atlantic Ocean. Within the sea, circling ocean currents accumulate mats of Sargassum seaweed that shelter a surprising variety of fishes, snails, crabs, and other small animals.
Distinguished Lecturer Jim 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.

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.”

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.

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 (LRAUV) from the water, they discovered large scrapes on its sides.

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.
Dorado AUV Canon

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.

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.
A Grimalditeuthis bonplandi squid with one of its tentacles extended. The arrow points to a small "club" at the end of the tentacle that wiggles and appears to swim independently of the rest of the animal. Image: © 2005 MBARI

A deep-sea squid with tentacle tips that "swim" on their own

Many deep-sea animals such as anglerfish use parts of their body as lures to attract prey. Some deep-sea squids may use this strategy as well. In a recent paper, researchers associated with MBARI describe a deep-sea squid that appears to use a different method to lure prey—its tentacle tips flap and flutter as if swimming on their own.

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.
This map shows the locations of the two aquaculture facilities in the Pacific Northwest where Environmental Sample Processors are being deployed during the summer of 2013. Base map: Google Earth.

Environmental Sample Processors help prevent seafood poisoning

Washington state is one of the nation's most prolific areas for shellfish harvesting and aquaculture. Yet, as in many other areas, Washington's shellfish may cause seafood poisoning when certain types of harmful algae or bacteria become abundant in local waters.

Photos from MBARI's 2013 Open House

On July 20, MBARI opened its doors to the public, providing visitors with a once-a-year opportunity to talk with scientists, engineers, and marine operations crews about their work.
A Mola mola (ocean sunfish) with a GPS tag attached. Over a dozen of these fish are being tracked during the REP-13 experiment. Image: Marina Oliveira.

Fish-tracking robots take to the seas and skies off Portugal

A unique field experiment being conducted off the coast of Portugal this week combines ocean robotics and marine biology in a complex aquatic dance. Researchers are using a fleet of robotic vehicles to track over a dozen Mola mola (ocean sunfish) as they forage across the coastal ocean.

Preparing for open house

MBARI Mechanical Engineering Technician Larry Bird sets up video monitors for MBARI's once-a-year open house.

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.

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."

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.

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.

MBARI research shows where trash accumulates in the deep sea

Surprisingly large amounts of discarded trash end up in the ocean. Plastic bags, aluminum cans, and fishing debris not only clutter our beaches, but accumulate in open-ocean areas such as the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch." Now, a paper by researchers at MBARI shows that trash is also accumulating in the deep sea, particularly in Monterey Canyon.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.
Giant tubeworms such these as have evolved to live at the boundary between oxygen-poor vent fluids and oxygen-rich seawater. If past catastrophic global environmental changes caused the deep seawater to become oxygen-poor, these worms would have had to adapt, evolve, or die off and be replaced by other animals. Image: ©2003 MBARI

Deep-sea vent animals not as isolated as they seem

Miles below the ocean surface, diverse ecosystems flourish at hydrothermal vents. Without sunlight, animals live off of bacteria that thrive on chemicals billowing out of the Earth's crust. These strange communities appear entirely detached from life on land.
This image shows a forecast of the temperature of surface waters (blue and yellow shading) and currents (black arrows) made by the Regional Ocean Modeling System (ROMS) computer model during the ECOHAB experiment. Similar models may eventually be able to forecast the locations of harmful algal blooms. Base image: Google Maps

The ECOHAB experiment—A first step toward predicting harmful algal blooms

Killing wildlife and occasionally sickening people, harmful algal blooms can be more than just a nuisance. But predicting these blooms is difficult—even more difficult than predicting the weather—because blooms result from a dynamic interaction between both physical and biological processes.

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.

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.

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.

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.
A swarm of Chrysaora jellies swims near the surface of Monterey Bay. These jellies bloom periodically along the California coast. This image was taken by a video camera mounted on MBARI's long-range autonomous underwater vehicle. Image © 2010 MBARI.

Jellyfish blooms pulse cyclically through time

A surge in jellyfish blooms over the past decade has spawned similar blooms of public fascination with these sea drifters and their apparent saturation of our oceans. Images of fish nets and nuclear-plant intake pipes clogged with gelatinous sacks of tentacles have flared concerns for fisheries and public safety.
A portion of the San Diego Trough Fault Zone that bisects an ancient seafloor channel called the San Gabriel Channel. The inset shows a close-up of the channel wall that has been offset by the fault, with white arrows indicating the direction of slip between the two plates. Image © 2013 MBARI.

Underwater robots help discover hidden faults

Hidden beneath ocean waves and masked by sand and mud on the seafloor, underwater faults are notoriously difficult to see and even more difficult to study. As a result, geologists struggle to evaluate the risks associated with these faults and often can’t include them in seismic hazard assessments.

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.
Video frame grab

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.