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Bioluminescence Expedition – Log 2

Drawings created by Alex Lapides during ROV dives.

Bioluminescence Expedition – Log 2

Everyone says you can’t really understand an ecosystem until you’ve experienced it for yourself, but it’s surprisingly true. As a data technician in Steve Haddock’s lab, I work with the existing data in the Video Annotation and Reference System (VARS) database. Because of this, I don’t work hands-on with the organisms I study, electing instead to discover their secrets by leveraging statistics and large datasets.

Alex Lapides and Mari Figueroa in the control room of the Western Flyer. Photo by Lynne Christianson

However, having the opportunity to be on this cruise shaped my understanding of the midwater column and opened new avenues to explore in my research. Yesterday our nightly trawl returned noticeably fewer organisms than usual. PhD student Darrin Shultz explained to me that the trawl was done in the oxygen minimum zone, an area of the water column where very low oxygen makes life sparse. Similarly, going over the daily ROV dive plans has me wondering about community composition on often-dived sites and how they change over time.

I’ve also been spending a lot of time in the ROV control room, sketching animals and trying to understand how they might interact with the world around them. During my shifts as the dive annotator, I’ve had the chance to add my own records to the VARS database. Being on the data creation side of the process has given me a better understanding of where my data come from, and how to approach possible biases that may be present in the records.

Now I’m more excited than ever to get back to the lab and have some fresh data to work with, as well as fresh ideas about how to approach my projects. Having the opportunity to be out here has been inspiring and invigorating, and I’ve been grateful for every moment of it.

Drawings created by Alex Lapides during ROV dives.

About Biodiversity and Biooptics 2019 Expedition

July 9-17, 2019 – The Bioluminescence Lab will conduct ROV and scuba dives to study the biochemical, physiological, and genetic adaptations that midwater organisms have evolved to survive and diversify in the deep sea.