Last year, we brought a CTD with us to Catalina Island for our culture work. It was the first year (that I'm aware of) that a CTD has been used for culture work at Catalina. In the past, a CTD (which stands for conductivity, temperature, depth) wasn't necessary because divers collected the shallow dwelling spinose forams within the mixed layer and at shallow depths (usually less than 6m). I study forams that live MUCH deeper in the water column, far too deep for divers to collect the specimens by hand (25-55+ m). While we still have divers in the water collecting the spinose specimens (we have many collaborators interested in the spinose forams) we are also doing plankton tows to collect deeper dwelling species. The CTD has been very useful in helping us determine the depth at which we should target our tows. Studies have suggested that the depth habitat of N. dutertrei, the species we are culturing, is associated with the depth of the chlorophyll maximum. This year, Ann (Co-PI-Dr. Ann Russell) had a fluormeter added to the CTD so that we could also locate the chlorophyll maximum and target our plankton tow depths. We typically bring the CTD out with us, do a CTD cast, put out two nets (one shallow and one deeper). We then download the data back in the lab and we can compare the abundances of forams collected with the depth of the Chl-Max AND (importantly) use that data to target the depth of our next tow. We typically don't download the data on board because divers are usually on the boat at the same time - which makes for a REALLY wet boat - not a great place for a computer. But, we've found that often the water masses change so quickly here that by the time we go out on another collection, the chlorophyll max may be a bit deeper (or shallower).
What have we learned so far about the deep dwellers and their abundances? Well... sometimes we don't find ANY N. dutertrei in the Chl-max. Abundances are quite low this year and juvenile specimens (those that are ideal for culture) peaked just after the full moon. Two weeks after the full moon, abundances were still high, but the specimens are HUGE. So big, in fact, that they will do nothing in culture except die (too big add chambers). We have a hunch that the next round of very small specimens will peak after the next full moon. O. universa abundances typically track the lunar cycle and this year, that has been the case. Perhaps this will hold true for N. dutertrei. We have found that 'typically' N. dutertrei abundances are correlated with the Chl-Max (though those specimen are fully calcified and at the end of their life cycle) and abundances of juveniles (depth of which varies) may be correlated with a periodic reproductive cycle that may be correlated with the lunar cycle. Sure is a lot of correlated correlations!
Coming up in the next post... new chambers vs. pre-gametogenesis... pictures and more!
Another field season on the lovely Catalina Island has officially begun. Actually, it began over a week ago... and I'm just now getting to my first blog. More will come as we settle into a routine, but it has been SO busy that it has been difficult to find the time to write.
This year, I brought a GoPro... I will eventually rig it up to take fun field pictures like attach it to the plankton net and have the divers take movies of our collection process. Yes, this has been done before, but it's a new season and it's fun do document every year we are out here. This is my first time using a GoPro... it did give a great (and kind of weird) view of us on the boat today. We went out for a plankton tow only - no diving today. We don't dive on the weekends because of the boat traffic due to the mass exodus of weekenders leaving the island and the increased boat traffic. Doing a plankton tow is o.k. though. Today we were attempting to see if we could find more forams by doing multiple discrete tows. We only have one open/close net so we spent a few hours on the water. And had a bit of down time as you can see... It was a great day. I also took a few pics of the lab we work in. Here are a few of my favorites.
“hark, now hear the sailors cry,
smell the sea, and feel the sky,
let your sold and spirits fly, into the mystic..."
- Van Morrison
I love being out on the water. Van Morrison summed it up in those lyrics... smell the sea and feel the sky, let your soul and spirits fly... I. Love. It.
I am so very lucky to be involved in a research project that involves boating and being out on the water. When we take divers out to collect samples, the divers get into the water and I stay top side to take care of collecting samples using plankton nets. The species I'm most interested in live far deeper in the water column, much too deep for divers to see and collect by hand. During the 2011 season, there were days I was the only person topside. And I kind of loved it. It was quiet. I'd put the nets in the water and bask in the (usually) calm and nearly always quiet time I had on the boat. Last summer, we typically had two researchers topside doing sample collecting and being lookouts. I like that too. We are adding more and more research tasks to our time on the boat and it truly pays to have a second person on deck. We have too much to do and someone also needs to be lookout. I have spent many many mornings out on the water during our summer field season and, less often, out at BML. Through all of those days on the boat, rarely have I ever thought about how I'd handle an emergency... What if something goes wrong? A diver gets sick? Someone falls overboard? We run out of gas (oh wait, that happened last year!). You get the picture.
Up until a few weeks ago, I had zero training on how to handle a boating emergency. And even though I was 'trained' last year to drive the boat we use at the Wrigley Marine Science Center, I wasn't ready to handle an emergency. While a hurt diver is unlikely given the way the researchers dive - blue water diving, tethered to trapeze - an emergency can happen. Something as simple as a diver losing a fin can be a hassle yes (ever try to pull yourself into a boat soaking wet without fins on? Fins help - a lot.), but what if something serious happens. Could I pull a male colleague (a foot taller and 60+ lbs heavier than me) back into the boat. Um, I think I might have a hard time with that. So this year, my colleague Ann Russell thought it would be a good idea to complete a boat safety course. Ann took the class earlier this year and I recently completed the class at the Bodega Marine Lab with some really great instructors. The training starts in the classroom, but we also got to do some pool exercises where we learned to do rescues, pull boaters back into the boat, try on different PFDs - pulling yourself onto a boat isn't easy, add a water logged integrated PFD and it becomes WAY harder. We also did boating exercises learning how to dock the boat, we did man-over-board rescues, and some tricky boat maneuvering that was WAY harder once the winds pick up to 20-30 knots. And, importantly, I now know how to make a bunch of sailor knots. I've used a few already. O.k., so they were for tethering my dogs leashes together, but still, they are some handy knots.
This summer I will head out to sea feeling much more prepared to drive the boat and handle an emergency and will not forget the wise words of our instructor James Fitzgerald... Helm before Throttle - know where you are going before you try to get there, and most importantly recognize when not to go at all!
A special thanks to all of the instructors - James, Jason, David, Matt, and Alex - for your time and effort with the training.