Animal of the Week: Seahorse

 

This Wednesday, I had to pick a marine animal that mates for life, it Valentine’s Day. Most seahorses do mate for life but not all. The reason that they become life mates is that they can produce more offspring per brood. Seahorses may court for several days. They can change color, and swim side to side for 6 hours to attract a mate. The male seahorse is the one that carries the offspring. The female deposits up to 1,500 eggs. The male will then carry the eggs for 9 to 45 days. Scientists believe that it takes so much energy for the female to produce the eggs, that she has low energy after and will not be able to hold the eggs as well as the male.

The Seahorse is a marine fish. Yes, really a marine fish. There are 54 species of seahorses. They are mainly found in shallow tropical and temperate waters around the world, in seagrass, coral reefs, and mangroves.

They swim upright which is unique to seahorses. They swim really poorly, so they usually stay stationary and use their long snouts to suck up food.

They are at risk of extinction, their habitat is at risk as coral reefs, and seagrass beds are deteriorating. They are also collected for aquariums where they susceptible for diseases. Seahorse are also targeted for the medicine. But their has been efforts to stop the import and export of seahorses.

I hope you learned a little something about the seahorse.

Happy Valentine’s Day

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Animal of the Week: Brittle Star

SO… I was thinking of doing a post every Wednesday to talk about a marine animal. If you have any ideas for what I should call that day. Let me know.

First up, is the Brittle Star. The scientific name is Ophiuroidea; they are closely related to the starfish. They live in at all depths in the ocean from the surface to 6000 meters. There are over 2,000 species of Brittle Stars, and most species live in waters deeper than 200 meters.

Their mouth is rimmed with five jaws and serves as an anus as well. Pretty cool. Most Brittle Stars live up to 5 years old; they sexually mature around 2 to 3 years.

One thing that Sea Stars and Brittle Stars are famous for is the regeneration. They can regenerate their arms unless they loose their whole arm. The discarded arm can not regenerate though. But fission can happen with six armed Brittle Stars. It takes 89 days to have a successful division, so in a year they can reproduce from fission 15 new individuals.

Last fun fact, over 60 species have been known to be bioluminescent! Basically, glow in the dark!! I will do a post on bioluminescence.

I found this guy on a large piece of trash in the middle of the ocean. My team and I decided to grab the large rope ball, and with it came some of these Brittle Stars!

 

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Tis the Season for Giving

It is always hard to figure out what organizations to donate to every year. I focused on ocean-based organizations that I believe in; some are regional and some national and international. It is so important that we support organizations that rely on community support to survive and do well. These are some of my favorites, but there are so many more. I think it is important to do research and make sure that your money gets used for the most effective way to cause change. Some of these places love volunteers, so you don’t have to donate money but volunteer’s time makes some of these places run. So check them out.

International: 

  • If you have a passion for marine mammals, this is a great organization to donate to. They focus on marine mammals, but the health of our oceans as a whole. Marine Conservation Institute is dedicated to securing permanent, strong protection for the oceans’ most important places – for us and future generations. They work with scientist, politicians, government officials, and other organizations to identify key threats and build towards workable solutions.

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   Here is a link to Donate: Marine Conservation Institue

  • This a big organization that addresses a huge variety of environments and programs; from ocean acidification, sustainable fisheries, ocean climate, restore gulf Mexico, trash free seas, protecting the artic, and smart ocean planning. Together, they create science-based solutions for a healthy ocean and the wildlife and communities that depend on it. With the help of donors like you, Ocean Conservancy is developing innovative solutions to save our ocean.

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Here is a link to Donate: Ocean Conservancy

  • Oceana is another large organization that focuses all over the world. Oceana is dedicated to protecting and restoring the world’s oceans on a global scale. Oceana’s on-the-water expeditions have resulted in multiple campaign victories. These expeditions allow Oceana to photograph, film and research seamounts and other unique marine ecosystems and to bring them to life for policymakers and the public. This enables Oceana to win policy victories that protect these special places.

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Here is a link to Donate: Oceana

San Fransisco Bay Area: 

  • If you love seals, this is an awesome place for you. They rescue seals! It is amazing, and so much fun. I volunteered my time there in college. At the Marine Mammal Center, they are guided and inspired by a shared vision of a healthy ocean for marine mammals and humans alike. Thier mission is to advance global ocean conservation through marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation, scientific research, and education.

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Here is a link to Donate: Marine Mammal Insitute

  • The California Academy of Sciences is based in San Francisco. They have an exhibit that explores the rainforest, swamps, the universe, the oceans, and evolution. Their main mission is to explore, explain and sustain. They have a wonderful research team that explores the work around us. One of the most important things is to explain, educate teachers and students on new research and about the environment around the world. The next step to advancing our world is sustaining our environment.  Through research and education can start working towards preserving and protecting our earth. With your donation can help support Academy research and programs, including school field trips for 130,000+ students annually.

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Here is a link to Donate: California Academy of Sciences 

Happy changing the world and Happy Holidays.

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Sawfish Research Trip Part 2

All research activities conducted under guidelines listed in permits ESA 17787 and EVER-2017-SCI-0022

Day 3

I went with a different research team today. On the team, we had 2 NOAA scientists and NOAA policy manager. I had to get up at 5 am! It was so early. We had to get on the water by 7 am. It was about an hour drive to the boat ramp. The sun still was up when we were loading into the truck, trailering the boat behind. On the drive, we had to call the park rangers of the Everglades with information of our permit and when we were sampling. We finally got to the boat ramp; we prepared to go outside, we could see the bugs swarming. The mosquitos are known for being bad in this area. It was like I couldn’t breathe without a bug getting into my mouth. Once we got on the water, and the wind picked up the bugs were gone. We were pulling out of the marina and saw a crocodile swim across the mouth of the channel. It was so calm; that you could see the ripples from the crocodile swimming through the water.

Then we were off. The first thing we had to do is set up a VR2. A VR2 is a receiver for tagging fish. Every time a fish swims by that we have tagged, it will ping. Having a series of these receivers will help us figure out where the fish/ sharks are going.

We then set up some gill nets; they are about 2 in by 2 in mesh that extends 200 yards. We stretch the line to the shore to see if we catch any Sawfish. We set a total of 7 nets throughout the day. On the second set, we caught a juvenile Sawfish!!!! It was so exciting!

It wasn’t more than 2ft long. It had 26 teeth on one side and 28 on the other side. They are born with their a set number of teeth. In the womb, they have a gel that covers the teeth. This gel falls off after a few months. But as they grow there teeth stay the same number just get bigger and further apart as the rostrum grows.

About the Sawfish

Sawfish has been heavily hunted for thousands of years for their rostrum. They are critically endangered by the IUCN. The only strongholds are in northern Australia and Southern Florida. There are three different types of Sawfish; Green, Largetooth, and Narrow. The only ones found in Florida are the Narrowtooth Sawfish. The juveniles live in the estuaries, and near shore. The adults move a little further offshore to feed.

I’m wearing Patagonia hat (similar here), Patagonia shorts, Maui Jim Sunnies, Patagonia fishing shirt (similar here), and Chacos sandals.

They are pretty amazing fish. It is really important to make sure we save these animals. If you want to help researchers, do more to study and preserve these animals. Please donate: http://www.sawfishconservationsociety.org

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Sawfish Research Trip Day 1-3

Sorry, this past week I was on a research trip in the keys. Looking for sawfish! All research activities conducted under guidelines listed in permits ESA 17787 and EVER-2017-SCI-0022.

Day 1  

I woke up early around 5:45 got in the car to the FSU Marine Lab. Finally, we arrived there about a 7:30ish. We had to start loading the car and boat with the gear for the trip. We had to trailer the boat down to the keys.  Started our journey around 9:30 am. all five of us piled into the truck and headed south. Through the small towns in north Florida to the turnpike. Only made stops to get gas and pee. It is about a 10-hour drive to Key Largo. We got there right when it was getting dark. We still had to unload the equipment and get ready for the next day of fishing.

Day 2

I woke up early around 6 am to get on the boat at 7 am. I got up, ate breakfast, and started to load the boat with bait and gear. I love of the smell of the sea. It was so nice to get back on the water. We headed out to our first location. It was about an hour and a half drive through mangroves and turbid water. We then set 2 longlines. Each longline consist of 50 baited hooks two buoys and two anchors. After an hour soak we caught 3 Bull sharks and one lemon shark, but no sawfish but it was great to get some sharks. Usually set 6 longlines in a day. In a very similar location, we set 2 more lines. We only caught one more lemon shark.

 

Two more lines were set; we drove out to the next stop. It was about a 15-minute drive. We set again but didn’t catch anything. The sun was setting, and we started to head back. It was starting to get cold if you can believe it gets cold in the keys! We got to the dock as the sun went over the horizon. all of us had to scrub down the boat, cleaning off the scales and blood from the bait. We smelled of dead fish and covered in salt from the ocean. Once we finally unloaded the boat and scrubbed it down, we headed to the showers. It is one of the best things is to have a hot shower and scrub off the scales and blood off. Finally got into bed to get up even earlier.

Gear

My field gear is usually a pair of polarized sunglasses.  Love Maui Jims, this is the one I’m wearing. I wear a fishing shirt or a shirt I don’t care about. Here are some that are great cause they have SPF. Because we are in and out of the water it is important to have quick drying shorts. I like to have loss fitting so I’m comfortable. My favorites are linked here. And to save your face from the sun it is so important to have an awesome hat.

  

   

  

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Research Journal… September 2013

Friday, September 6th, 2013

Today was the first day of class; I taught a research class on Deepwater sharks. We use The Medusa as the camera to survey the ocean’s abundance. It was a really fun class. I think they are excited about the research.

Right after I went to Cat Island to get a satellite tag. We took a boat!! It was a 3-hour drive to Cat Island, with Edd my advisor and Carl an intern. Once we found a spot for the boat to anchor, we had to swim ashore to this beat up beach with a few local boats, mostly small dingies and run-down houses on the edge of the water. There was a little beach with a short wall that stopped at the side of the road. We were there for a hours and only saw 5 cars drive by the entire time. There was an old church across the road that was worn out; its skeleton stood with peaked windows and no roof. We passed the church and came upon two houses that were well lived in with a dog out front. We wandered down this road for twenty minutes just seeing shrubs and smaller trees and bushes, every once in a while we would see something that would remind me of that we are still in the Bahamas. We came around one corner and saw the Atlantic; it always takes my breath away how big it is and the idea that this is something that can connect all these continents around the world. The water on the Atlantic side is darker and has a completely different species than the Caribbean side of the island. We walked along cliffs on the Atlantic side until we heard the tag from the satellite antenna. When Edd carries this antenna, it looks like we are looking for something from space, or we are a bunch of weirdoes wondering these beaches in the middle of nowhere. We finally heard a bing in this small alcove along the cliffs full of seaweed. As we looked out there was a huge mound of seaweed, the water in the cove was thick and orange. We dug for 4 hours in Seaweed as the tide was coming in, we ended up building a wall of seaweed to help protect us as we are digging deeper in the cave. Edd and Carl and I have seaweed in our hair, our shorts, and everywhere you can imagine. We determined, but we had to stop before the sun came down. The boat was left in this little alcove of beach right of this beat up road. We came walking back covered in seaweed and wet from the water, to see the sunset over the water.

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What I find on the deep-sea video!

So the last couple of months, I have been watching a lot of videos. I have 17 drops of 12 hours, that is over 200 hours of video. I only have 24 more hours to go.

I loved being outside and in the field, but now I have to spend the time to take that data and make sense of it all.  Here are some cool shots of organisms that I saw on the screen.

This is a rattail fish; the scientific name is Coryphaenoides sp. This is the first time seen in the Bahamas. They live between 200-6,000 meters deep in the ocean! That little beard like thing on his head is a barbel. It can tell the fish what kind of chemicals are surrounding him.

This is a Bluntnose Sixgill is the scientific name is Hexanchus griseus. They can live up to 2500 meters deep, and 22-108 pups! Some individuals can get up to 4.5 meters (over 15 ft) in length. Their teeth are sawlike so they can eat specimens like dead whales that drift to the bottom of the seafloor.

This guy is false catshark, Pseudotriakis microdon. The live in 500-1400 meters deep and reach a length of 9.8 ft. They have a really oil liver that allows them to be neutrally buoyant.

This guy is so cool! It is a Humbolt Squid, Dosidicus gigas.  They live in shoals up to 1,200 meters and swim up to 15 mph.

 

It is fun to watch the video and see what shows up!!!

 

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Research Journal…. The Nautilus

My time on the Nautilus was very brief but wonderful it was a nice change from the island life. I had been on Eleuthera for six months and was ending the semester with a need for a change. When I got on the boat, I was amazed at the wood paneling and the team atmosphere. I was going to be part of this team. I received a t-shirt and my bunk within minutes and got a world wind of a tour from Emily Ballard.  She knew this boat like the back of her hand, the ins and outs of every hallway. I was terrified. How did I get on this boat?

My link to my bio on the website.

Luckily there were a few people that were as new to this world as me.  I later met my bunkmate who had come from Wales in England. She had wonderful red hair, and her skin was so fair that she turned red from the heat. She was delightful. She wanted to tell the world that how important the oceans were. I appreciated that about her and loved how she would take every token of knowledge as a present.

I was originally only supposed to be on the ship for six days but extended my stay to ten. The first dive was the most nervous I had been in a long time.  I was given a watch time, four to eight. There are three watches, so there are always people on watch 24 hours a day. My first watch was four am to eight am. I was sat in front of dozens of the screen. PhDs and experts in their field surrounded me, and here I was sitting in the corner with only my undergrad. I had an undergraduate degree from the University of California Berkeley, but it had no magnitude in comparison. I sat there in the “control van,” the main control center where the pilots, engineers, scientist all sit and watch the dive. I had a back round in biology and had only just learned a few species identifications from the small-scale trapping project I was working on. I explained to the viewer and the rest of the crew as the “biologist from the Bahamas.” At this point I had only seen the creatures that could live in these environments, I was so excited to see them in their natural habitat. I had always pictured that world as black and white, and muddy sediment, not much else. This was like opening my eyes for the first time to the sea world.

I typed everything I saw, from shrimp to coral to boulders. I made notes of every moment of the dive. Trying to capture each second with my fingertips. I was in charge of taking still photos and taking notes. I had to take handwritten sample notes as well as type up notes. Once the dive was done, I had to type up the dive log and exactly what had happened. Recording from the issues with the ROVs to species and rock formations that I saw.  I had none of the correct terms or had learned anything about geology and multi-beam mapping. I not only had just to type what I saw but also talk about it. I had to explain things that I had minimal experience and knowledge to the whole world.

I remember my first dive, was in the Florida Straits. I was so nervous. I thought I had to identify everything, but all they wanted someone there to work hard and listen and be able to communicate. I was paired up with the lead scientist; she told me to focus on pictures. My shift started when at the begging of a dive, they had just reached the bottom. I had no idea what to expect. How the camera quality would be, what creatures that I would be able to see and identify. I took a deep breath and sat down for my first watch. I sat there transfixed on the screen. I was amazed how much geological features made up the seafloor. We were in 700 meters of water the corals were amazing colors, and eels covered the seafloor.

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What it is like to be a scientist…FAEP Conference

I have shared a lot about the fieldwork, but there is a lot more work behind the scenes of the science. The office work to organize the data, to analyze the data, to apply for grants, and to write up the science. Part of that is making these wonderful posters! I went to a conference this past week. Once you collect the data, we have to publish and share the knowledge that we gained. I’m writing my thesis now for my masters. I’m also spending a lot of time watching video from what I collected in the deep-seas of the Bahamas last year. I will hopefully have more papers to be published soon after that.

Once we collect the data, we have to publish and share the knowledge that we gained. I’m writing my thesis now for my masters. I will hopefully have more papers to be published soon after that. I’m also spending a lot of time watching video from what I collected in the deep-seas of the Bahamas last year.

I will keep you updated on cool things that I find!

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Research days… August 2013 continued

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Today was the first-day students arrive there was a buzz of excitement between the teachers as they were gearing up for the students for the last three weeks. Everything seemed to want to welcome them to the Island except the sun. They arrived with rain!! But Monday was a dry day for us we were getting gear ready for the new underwater camera called the “Medusa.” It is coming on tomorrow! It can go down to 2000 meters, which is 6600 feet!! So exciting it is the same camera that saw the giant squid!! There was an episode on national geographic!!

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

Was an early morning, we got out on the boat to set out some lines! Longlines to catch sharks! We caught a little 108.5 cm female Caribbean Reef Shark. The rest of the day we were going over the manual of The Medusa.

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

We built The Medusa. We had to put legs on it, and it is extremely difficult because each piece and size bolt have a specific spot. It took us hours just to put her together. But she is so amazing!!

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

We went longlining in the afternoon and it the morning we were just gearing up to set another line. We ended up not catching anything but its always fun getting in the water.

Friday, August 30th, 2013

We, The shark team, was on the boat again all day this time it was a great day out!! We took the Gap year students on the boat. The Gap year students are students that are here for five weeks, as a section of their gap year. We taught them about long lining and the importance to get this data for conservation. When fishermen go out fishing, it is effortless to use the method called long-lining it is cheap and easy. One main bycatch is Sharks!! so sad, Most of the time they get so tired that they can’t and stressed out they can’t survive. We are trying to take their blood to find the PH, Glucose, dissolved Oxygen. Cool!!!

 

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Research on the Pelican

Day 1: July 14th, 2015

So day one we arrived in New Orleans in the late afternoon and found Edie Widder on the flight from North Carolina to New Orleans. She was in first class, and I was in economy. We arrived and met Heather, who is at FIU as a professor. She is the specialist on shrimp and decapods. We had a 2-hour drive to the small town where all the houses were on stilts. A classic Louisiana shrimping community, in the marshes of the Gulf of Mexico. We got to the 110ft vessel called the pelican, at eight at night and unloaded our gear, until 11. My bunk is so small; I can’t sit up in it! It is so funny how small my little cubby is.

 

Day 2: July 15th, 2015

I woke up early because breakfast was served at 6, I was ready to work. I was in the sun put on the legs to the Medusa from 8-11 it was so hot and humid, but fun. I had an engineer, named Tony help me. We finally got them all on. Then was the satellite beacon, and the bait arm. Then I have to test everything… That is including the CABO, PORT system, Strobe, and CTD. Everything works so far, but the CABO, the website wasn’t working which was so frustrating. But because the site that we picked wasn’t great we, decided not to deploy the Medusa today. So instead we are going to the next place and spend more time there. 12 tomorrow to 6 pm the following day. I hope everything is working great! And I hope that Edie is happy with my work.

Day 3: July 16th, 2015

I woke up early and got the Medusa ready for a noon deployment. Got everything ready, but we couldn’t connect to the new DVR, so I had to change the IP address, once I did it worked. I thought that Edie had connected with the camera before, but I made it work! I’m a little nervous about collecting the data for the video; I hope that it works. I don’t have very much room on my hard drive, so I bought the external. The CTD wasn’t connecting to this computer, so I have to take it off of the Medusa and install a new driver. IT WORKED! So we were ready for the last piece to deploy the Medusa! Which is awesome! We started to deploy the Medusa, and I remembered to turn the e-jelly. We had to bring it back to the ship and turn it on! I’m so glad that I remembered it. I think that Edie has a lot of respect for me because I have been working so hard for her. Everyone else has the notice which has made it easy to get some credit and feel like I belong a little. These scientists are so much smarter than me, or they are just an expert in something, and this might be it. Edie told me some wonderful stories. She was telling me a time when they were collecting the Medusa in Japan, and the crew member that was out on the dingy went into the water too cool off and was thrown back into the dingy by a school of giant manta rays. All they wanted to do it play, so much so that they wouldn’t let the dingy back to the boat. Another story she told me was the two big breaks in her career. She studied the biosciences in diatoms in California, and her professor got a specter array, to measure the light and source of the bioluminescences, she figured out how to use it, became an expert, and was shipped to see to start measuring animals that produce the light. Then once she was out at sea, she was trying to communicate to the WASP pilots of the wasps, what the bioluminescence was, and getting them to turn off the lights. All they would say is that this is amazing, and she would try to get them to describe the bioluminescences. Eventually, she got the offer to train to become a WASP pilot. She had a post-Doc all set up in Madison Wisconsin, and she called them up and said, I’m staying to become a WASP pilot. She has some amazing stories I’m so glad I’m getting close to her.

Day 4: July 17th, 2015

Today I woke up early again to make sure that we hadn’t heard from the Medusa, checking the Satellite. We haven’t heard anything which is a great thing. We will be picking her up late tonight; I hope that she comes up and we find her. She came back; the video was really bad, there was only shrimp cutthroat eels and crabs for the first 3 hours. Then after that, there was very little activity. I watched the video for two days.

Day 6: July 19th, 2015

We dropped the Medusa at 1975m which is the deepest yet, we lost communication with it, which was extremely scary. But we got contact! So tomorrow hopefully will be great! And come up on time.

 

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Research days… August 2013

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Today, we are starting a sting-ray project on little yellow rays. We are doing stress tests and taking their blood. So to get ready for that we set up a stingray tanks, 4 of them, there will be two rays in each tank one boy and one girl. They are so cute!!  In the afternoon it was foundation day!! We had to break up in our advisories, which are advisors to the students when they come, and get to know each other. After that we went to the beach and had beers, played volleyball, the little Bahamian babies were playing in the surf, and their round mothers chasing them! It was a great bonding afternoon. We ate ribs and mac and cheese on the beach until the sun started to go down.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

I came into work; I didn’t want to get into the water at all!! It was cold and murky in the morning because there was a storm that came through. Once we got in the water, it was a little scary because we saw a barracuda that was close to 5 feet long! It was scary because we are holding silver nets, which is known for barracuda to attack. The current was powerful as well. But once I got out there I was able to free dive down and catch two rays! It was awesome! I tend to go through phases when I get bored, and I don’t see anything new in the ocean, but today I got excited again because I saw a huge eagle ray!! about 2 feet from me. It was unbelievable. The sea surprises you at the most unexpected times.

 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Today we got up super early and left for the Exumas, an island south and west from Eleuthera. There is a tag that washed up there. We drove an hour in rough seas, then swam to shore, then walked across death rock for about an hour, then tried to find the tag! It was an adventure. It is a beautiful Island! No one was there except us! It took us an hour and a half to get back. It was so refreshing to go collect the tag. The rest of the day I caught up on readings and office work. I am getting ready for the island school students, they come on Monday. I teach a research class on deep-water shark using the Medusa a deep water camera!! It is the same camera that saw the giant squid for the first time.

The Medusa!

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