News archive – 2014

Images of the new Alviconcha species: 1) A. hessleri, 2) A. kojimai, 3) A. boucheti, 4) A. marisindica, 5) A. strummeri, 6) A. adamantis.

Unusual snails found thriving at hydrothermal vents

MBARI Senior Research Technician Shannon Johnson Williams described five new species of Alviniconcha snails using DNA sequences. These snails live in the hottest and most acidic waters near hydrothermal vents. Because they live in these extreme conditions, Alviniconcha snails have severely degraded shells covered in spikes or they have no shells at all.
images of wrecked barge Umpqua II

Researchers find wreck of sunken barge in Monterey Canyon

During a recent expedition to map earthquake faults in Monterey Bay, MBARI researchers discovered the wreck of a barge on the muddy seafloor. The barge Umpqua II was about 1,700 meters (one mile) below the ocean surface.

Amazing "black sea devil" anglerfish observed in Monterey Bay

On Monday, November 17, MBARI Senior Scientist Bruce Robison was leading a dive using the remotely operated vehicle Doc Ricketts in Monterey Bay when he came across this amazing deep-sea anglerfish about 580 meters (1,900 feet) below the ocean surface.

Jet engine discovered in Monterey Bay

MBARI researchers aboard the R/V Rachel Carson discovered an apparently old, large jet engine in Monterey Bay while conducting a seafloor survey 17 miles from Moss Landing, California. During the survey, remotely operated vehicle (ROV) pilot Mike Burczynski observed a large sonar signal.
This morning, the R/V Western Flyer was spotted by researchers aboard another MBARI vessel, the R/V Rachel Carson.

CANON research continues on the R/V Western Flyer

MBARI's CANON research team is on the Flyer deploying many oceanographic instruments to study the interplay between physics, chemistry, and biology, and represent the core of the oceanic food web.
Small rafts of Sargassum seaweed are a common sight in the Sargasso Sea.

Big changes in the Sargasso Sea

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.
Members of Team HpHS (Japan) for XPRIZE competition

MBARI hosts Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE competition

Carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by humans is causing the oceans to become more acidic. Unfortunately, oceanographers lack instruments can measure the acidity (pH) of the ocean precisely and continuously for long periods of time.
A.J. Wright (far right) brought his family to visit MBARI.

MBARI hosts teen through Make-A-Wish Foundation

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute was thrilled to host 17-year-old A.J. Wright as he fulfilled his wish to meet marine scientists at the institute. The Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants the wishes of children diagnosed with life-threatening medical conditions, arranged yesterday’s visit for A.J. and his family, who toured the campus and met Scientist Bruce Robison.

Jelly eating siphonophore

During a recent remotely operated vehicle (ROV) dive, MBARI researcher Rob Sherlock observed an ambitious Solmissus jelly eating a siphonophore, Praya dubia. Last week, MBARI’s midwater ecology group conducted research from the R/V Western Flyer using ROV Doc Ricketts in Monterey Bay.
The Gulper AUV (left) and the mapping AUV (right) are secured aboard the Rachel Carson. This is the first time the Carson has had both AUVs and the ROV Ventana on the back deck.

R/V Rachel Carson departs for the Pacific Northwest

On Monday, the R/V Rachel Carson departed for a 32-day expedition in the Pacific Northwest. The trip is comprised of four legs with two port stops based out of Newport, Oregon. During the first leg, water samples will be collected for Senior Scientist Bob Vrijenhoek near Bodega Head, off the coast of northern California.
A large mound of sponges, anemones, and tunicates provides habitat for mobile animals like crabs and shrimp.

Mapping debris on the deep seafloor, part two

Using maps produced by the AUV, MBARI researchers on the Western Flyer have identified hundreds of hard surfaces on the seafloor south of Santa Cruz Island. With the ROV Doc Ricketts, researchers can visually confirm and identify these objects, many of them man-made.
Photo by Dave Caress.

Mapping debris on the deep seafloor

On Monday, a group of MBARI scientists led by Peter Brewer headed south along the California coast on the Western Flyer. They are revisiting an area south of Santa Cruz Island that was previously used as a disposal site for both civilian and military debris.
MBARI Research Chair Bruce Robison gave a presentation to the Board called "Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) in MBARI's past, present, and future: Connecting the water column to the benthos."

Day of Engineering, Science, and Technology

MBARI’s Board of Directors visited the institute last month for our annual Day of Engineering, Science, and Technology (DOEST) to hear presentations from scientists and engineers about current research projects at the institute.
In front of MBARI’s research vessel Rachel Carson, this year’s interns are (from top left, clockwise) Jennifer Durden, Nathan Reed, William Symons, Corinna Breusing, Cordelia Sanborn-Marsh, Ben Yair Raanan, Laughlin Barker, Jon Steck, Kate Thomas, Lisa Ziccarelli, Ashley Maitland, Katherine Willis, Zena Jensvold, William Truong, Ben Burford, Vanessa Izquierdo Pena, and Jesse Lafian.

MBARI's 2014 summer internships begin

MBARI’s summer internship program began earlier this month, with 18 students arriving from across the United States, the United Kingdom, Mexico, and Germany. The summer internship is an opportunity for college students to work alongside MBARI staff on a project for ten weeks.
montage of cephalopods

Celebrating cephalopods

Cephalopods—squids, octopuses, and their relatives—are some of the most beautiful and intriguing animals in the ocean. During the week of June 23-27, 2014, MBARI, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and Science Friday teamed up to present a wonderful array of videos and still images of these creatures.
Ray Thompson, the machine shop supervisor at MBARI, in front of a 3D printer.

3D printing at MBARI

Inside the machine shop at MBARI is a rectangular metal box that looks like it could be a large refrigerator with a built-in microwave. In actuality, this enormous container is a three-dimensional (3D) printer, one of two professional 3D production systems at MBARI.
The ctenophore Bolinopsis infundibulum.

Bolinopsis infundibulum, a well-adapted ctenophore

The ocean’s surface waters and the deep sea provide contrasting living conditions for marine animals. The deep sea is cold with high pressure and limited food and oxygen. The surface is warm with low pressure and more food and oxygen. The ctenophore Bolinopsis infundibulum has evolved to survive in both habitats.

Colors in the deep sea

Far below the ocean’s surface, sunlight does not reach the deep sea. But many deep-sea animals display an astonishing array of vibrant colors when they are illuminated by the bright lights on MBARI’s remotely operated vehicles.
An environmental sample processor (ESP) on display at the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Celebration.

MBARI at Monterey Bay Sanctuary Celebration

Last Saturday, MBARI participated in the first annual Monterey Bay Sanctuary Celebration at the Santa Cruz Wharf. In association with the wharf’s 100th anniversary, the event showcased marine recreation and research in the Monterey Bay area.
satellite image shows temperature of the ocean in and around San Pedro Bay on April 2, 2014

ECOHAB Spring 2014—Preliminary Observations

It’s now late May and the spring 2014 ECOHAB field experiment is winding down. Researchers from the University of Southern California (USC) are still conducting occasional surveys of the San Pedro Bay, but the rest of the instruments have been recovered.

Collecting benthic ctenophores

Ctenophores, or comb jellies, are typically found in the water column, far above the seafloor. Yet a few species manage to live on the bottom of the ocean. MBARI Scientist Steven Haddock and his colleagues are currently at sea on MBARI’s research vessel Western Flyer, studying ctenophores and other deep-sea animals with ROV Doc Ricketts.
Collaborators from the virus-nutrients project returning from a five-day expedition to the Sargasso Sea on the R/V Atlantic Explorer, which is stationed at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences. (left to right) Amy Zimmerman (MBARI), Magdalena Gutowska (MBARI), Hugo Dore (University of Arizona), Brady Cunningham (University of South Carolina), and Jacob Waldbauer (University of Chicago).

Nutrient-virus interactions in picophytoplankton

Amy Zimmerman, a postdoctoral fellow at MBARI, recently conducted field experiments to study the interactions between viruses and nutrients in the ocean. She traveled to the Sargasso Sea (in the North Atlantic Ocean) to investigate how these interactions impact picophytoplankton, the smallest community of phytoplankton.
ROV pilots in front of Doc Ricketts, from left, Randy Prickett, Mark Talkovic, Ben Erwin, Knute Brekke, Bryan Schaefer.

ROV Doc Ricketts completes 600th dive

Remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Doc Ricketts successfully completed its 600th dive yesterday. Since February 2009, Doc Ricketts has explored the deep sea as far north as the Juan de Fuca Ridge off the Pacific northwest coast and as south as Baja California, Mexico.

Fangtooth fish observed in Monterey Bay

Aboard the Western Flyer, MBARI’s Midwater Ecology Group is halfway through an eight-day expedition in Monterey Bay. Yesterday morning, the team and crew members excitedly observed a fangtooth fish using the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Doc Ricketts.

Midwater ecology lab at sea in Monterey Bay

Last week, MBARI’s Midwater Ecology Group, led by Bruce Robison, embarked on an eight-day expedition aboard the R/V Western Flyer to conduct research in Monterey Bay. The lab will use a midwater toolsled, equipped with sampling chambers and an underwater “vacuum cleaner,” to collect animals in the deep sea.
Mechanical Technician John Ferreira helped build the Benthic Rover, seen here in the MBARI Machine Shop.

Benthic Rover recovered after three years in the deep sea

The Benthic Rover slowly creeps along the seafloor, settles at a random study site for two to three days, and then moves along to the next site approximately ten meters away. The Rover was built to measure oxygen consumption of benthic, or seafloor, organisms as a way to understand the supply and demand of carbon in the ocean’s deepest waters.
Katie Coble from the US Geological Survey controls the science camera on ROV Doc Ricketts from the Western Flyer control room. The video screens show the ROV manipulator collecting a "push core" to from layers of sediment in Monterey Canyon, 1,600 meters below the ocean surface.

Studying underwater faults

A group of researchers led by MBARI geologist Charlie Paull are conducting an expedition this week on R/V Western Flyer. Among other research techniques, they are using the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Doc Ricketts to collect samples of sediment that will help them identify the location of the San Gregorio Fault Zone where it crosses the northern flank of the Monterey Canyon.
A large group of Asbestopluma monticola sponges grow on top of a dead sponge on Davidson Seamount, off the Central California coast. Image: © 2006 MBARI

Researchers describe four new species of “killer sponges” from the deep sea

Killer sponges sound like creatures from a B-grade horror movie. In fact, they thrive in the lightless depths of the deep sea. Scientists first discovered that some sponges are carnivorous about 20 years ago. Since then only seven carnivorous species have been found in all of the northeastern Pacific.
These images show two views of data collected by an underwater glider during late March, 2014. The zig-zag line shows the path of the glider as it traveled across San Pedro Bay and over deeper water offshore (to the left); the vertical scale is enlarged in the lower image. The colors of the line represent different concentrations of chlorophyll. The deep-red patch near shore (upper right) indicates high chlorophyll concentrations associated with an algal bloom. Image: © 2014 MBARI

Study of harmful algal blooms builds on year-to-year experience

In late March 2014, like stealthy electronic sharks, two underwater gliders began cruising the ocean in and around San Pedro Bay, off Southern California. But instead of looking for a meal of fish or sea lions, these robotic vehicles were looking for signs of microscopic algae.
This photo shows one of 36 bundles of acacia wood that sat on the deep seafloor for five years as part of Craig McClain's wood-fall experiment. The bundle is held together by a mesh bag that allows the tiny larvae of deep-sea clams and other animals to colonize the wood. Galatheid crabs crawl around the outside of the mesh while brisingid sea stars attach to the yellow rope that allows MBARI's submersibles to lift the wood without damaging it. Image: © 2012 MBARI

Sunken logs create new worlds for seafloor animals

When it comes to food, most of the deep sea is a desert. Many seafloor animals feed on marine snow—the organic remnants of algae and animals that live in the sunlit surface waters, far above. However, marine snow only falls as a light dusting and doesn’t have much nutritional value.
Brian Kieft (left) and Liam Chaffey (right) positioned the Wave Glider hotspot before it was hoisted aboard the R/V Paragon with the help of Thom Maughan and Mark Chaffey (not shown).

A new way to retrieve data from AUVs

As their name implies, autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) navigate through the ocean on their own. In situ sensors on the AUVs measure physical characteristics (such as temperature and salinity) that are useful for scientists. But how and when do MBARI scientists access these data from AUVs?
In these 2013 photos, a team of MBARI engineers prepared the power buoy for deployment. The deployment went well overall, but after 25 days, the system failed due to wear. The engineering team is currently working on increasing the power buoy's longevity.

Increasing the longevity of the wave-power buoy

Beginning in 2009, a team of MBARI engineers (led by Andrew Hamilton) designed a wave-power buoy—an instrument that utilizes ocean waves to produce useable electricity (typically 300-400 Watts on average, depending on the weather).

Project Coordination and Compliance Specialist: Mandy Allen

For the past 12 years, Mandy Allen has provided vital support to MBARI by ensuring that the institute continues to operate smoothly. It’s no surprise that Mandy was asked by her supervisor a few years ago to present at a conference in Ireland to discuss her professional experience in obtaining permits for one of MBARI’s biggest accomplishments, the Monterey Accelerated Research System (MARS).

Improving communications at sea

When MBARI researchers deployed an environmental sample processor (ESP) from a ship to collect and analyze water samples about 100 miles off the coast of Hawaii a few years ago, communications between the ship and ESP were very weak.

Cultivating bacteria in the deep sea

Bill Ussler, a senior research specialist at MBARI, is investigating techniques for cultivating bacteria in the deep sea. Attempts to cultivate deep-sea bacteria in the laboratory have generally failed because most the bacteria do not survive the transit to the surface and it is difficult to create incubation systems that mimic the deep sea. Bill designed an in situ microbial incubation system to circumvent these problems.

Science News named comb jellies a top genome of 2013

Comb jellies were included in Science News’ list of top genomes of 2013. Last year, MBARI Scientist Steven Haddock was an author on a paper that highlighted these fascinating and wondrous creatures. In this study, researchers compared the genomes of organisms, including that of Mnemiopsis leidyi, a comb jelly native to the coastal waters of the western Atlantic Ocean.

MBARI staff mentor WATCH students

Students from Pajaro Valley High School participate in Monterey Bay Aquarium’s WATCH (Watsonville Area Teens Conserving Habitat) program. They conduct field experiments alongside scientists on environmental research projects they designed themselves.

Using a scanning electron microscope (SEM)

Seven MBARI geologists and biologists spent the day at nearby Moss Landing Marine Laboratories learning how to use a sophisticated instrument called a scanning electron microscope (SEM, top image). Unlike traditional microscopes that produce images using light, SEMs focus a beam of electrons on a sample.
The Western Flyer was hauled out to dry dock at Bay Ship and Yacht in Alameda, California, for maintenance. In the bottom image, you can see one of the access hatches that were cut in the ship’s hulls to remove the thruster motors and their housings.

Western Flyer in shipyard for maintenance

The R/V Western Flyer, MBARI’s larger research vessel, has started the new year at a shipyard in northern California for maintenance. Among other repairs, the ship’s thruster motors require service and the motors’ housings need to be replaced.

Three MBARI videos make the top ten in NSF-funded video competition

Scientists are increasingly using video to communicate their research to the public. Last fall, the inaugural Ocean 180 Video Challenge highlighted this task by asking scientists to submit 180-second videos to be judged by middle-school students worldwide.

Sea butterflies in Monterey Bay

Stephanie Bush, a postdoctoral fellow at MBARI, is studying the biodiversity of pteropods, also known as sea butterflies because they have wing-shaped membranes located on each side of their heads. The sea butterfly Corolla spectabilis can sometimes be found in large aggregations in Monterey Bay.