Recently in Cruise July 2009 Category

Fishermen's Forum

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Greetings!  If you've visited this site before, you're probably aware that our lab has spent the past three July/Augusts cruising up and down the scenic coast of Maine, visiting coastal towns, gawking at amazing sealife, and gathering information on the zooplankton community under the speckled starlight of the summer sky.  Truly the good life.

It's one thing to spend your summers enjoying the Gulf of Maine, bobbing up and down, ogling skeleton shrimp under a microscope.  At the end of the day, however, we need to have something to show for our work.  There are many reasons to improve our understanding of the zooplankton community.  One such reason is so that we have better information on the migration patterns of planktivorous whales.  One of our main objectives has been to describe the feeding habitat of right whales, whose diet consists primary of the copepod Calanus finmarchicus.

This past weekend our lab and the biological oceanography lab presented some of the results of our cruises from 2008, 2009, and 2010 at the Maine Fishermen's Forum.  The forum is teeming with energy and activity, from seafood sampling to trade shows.  Thus I wondered to myself, as I found my way down a long, lonely hallway and up a grated stairway that led to our remote presentation room, How many people here will be interested in a talk with "Calanus finmarchicus" in the title?

After all, our time slot was competing with scallop farming, shrimp fishing, and "The Food Guys".

Not only was our talk well attended by an assortment of fishermen, managers, scientists, reporters, and others, but the array of questions that we received showed an impressive amount of interest, knowledge, and understanding of copepods and their ecological importance.  I doubt that there are many venues where a group of geeky scientists could talk about Calanus finmarchicus to such an eclectic audience, and receive such an enthusiastic response.

Nick Record, signing off.

hello there

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This greater shearwater (Puffinus gravis) was rather curious about our work off the back of the boat. While the CTD was making it's roundtrip voyage to the bottom, I got down on the deck and shot this with my lense sticking out through the scupper (on a boat a scupper is a hole in the hull at deck level for water to drain).
Shearwaters are pelagic seabirds that are seen regularly offshore, but only seen on land when they're nesting. Even then, since they nest on remote islands, they are rarely seen from (any populated) shore.

Cruise fauna: a whale's breakfast

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Much of our sampling was directed toward characterizing the abundance and distribution of whale food.  This image shows a sample containing a few of the delicacies enjoyed by whales in the Gulf of Maine.  The large shrimp-looking animals are krill, enjoyed by minke, fin, and humpback whales, all of which we observed during our cruise (stay tuned for photos).  Among the smaller animals in the sample are copepods: the breakfast cereal of right whales.  If you've swum in Maine waters, you've probably swallowed many mouthfuls of them.

The favorite variety, Calanus finmarchicus (Finnmark copepods) occur in very high abundance in the deeper waters of the gulf.  We generally find them in waters deeper than 100 m.  This year, there seemed to be strangely low numbers of them in the waters south of the Penobscot, where we also saw a lot of bioluminescence.  Of course, we'll have to do the full analysis before we can be sure about these results.

Keep checking back for more wildlife photos from the cruise.

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Copepods and krill from a net sample.

Cruise Day 7: VOLT

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Day 7.  Wrapping up the "VOLT" cruise.  We've been calling it the Volt cruise, because the track roughly spells out the word "volt".  (See image.)  We didn't hit every station, due to some weather limitations, but we crammed in as many as possible when the weather allowed.

Some notes ... an extraordinary amount of bioluminescence on the "O" transects, south of Penobscot Bay.  Also, it appears that there are fewer copepods (right whale food) here than one might expect, based on the patterns we see elsewhere and in the past.  This is preliminary at this point, until we count the samples.

Stay tuned for some of our analysis of the cruise, as well as some whale photos and other highlights that Pete has saved up.

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Cruise plan, marking the stations we have hit so far.

Cruise Day 6: Nick gets deployed

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These photos came without comment.  I'm guessing that they decided that Nick was better at sampling plankton than the LOPC.

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"Safety first."

Cruise Day 5: Nick's view

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From Nick:
Day 5. We're going through stations like they're chocolate-covered espresso beans.  With the ideal weather and the almost gratuitous wildlife, it sometimes feels more like a Gulf of Maine vacation cruise.  I'm telling you, it's non-stop action.  Alas, I fear our poor young grad students may be getting spoiled.  Yet there are likely many more Maine cruises in their futures to set them straight...

I'd like to take a quick interlude to make a mention of our vessel, the R/V Stellwagen.  She's a 70ft converted shrimp trawler, 20ft wide, 50 tons.  The engine is a truck engine, manufactured to move tractor trailers.  This is uncommon, but works well and is really neat.  I've included a picture, so you aren't forced to imagine a tractor in a hamster-wheel powering the boat.

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Cruise Day 5: Night sampling

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Pete again:
It's 12:40 AM. We just finished our last station of the day. Pictured is us geting the LOPC ready. We also put the Tucker in. During which a minke whale came to play. Literally. Phoebe and I got distracted putting the net in as a minke whale surfaced not 5 feet off the starboard stern. It was glowing as it agitated the bioluminescence. Alex, the captain, quickly got us back on task with a quick shout. It's important to stay focused when putting things over the stern when you're miles from shore. Way too easy to get pulled in. The whale hung around while we were towing the Tucker and as we put it away. Wicked cool. Quite a day. Up at 6 for the next station. Night.

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Cruise Day 5: Pete eats krill

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From Pete:
Today was great. Sunny, calm, and beautiful. Right now we're steaming to our last station of the day, the moon is rising (pic below) and the bioluminescence is awesome. Our bow wave is glowing brilliant green and you can see schools of fish swimming by like shooting stars under the wAter. Too low light for good pictures, sorry. Today we saw (to name a few):  several fin whales, a minke, a basking shark right off the stern, lots of shearwaters, blackbacks, and storm petrels, a few gannetts and a northern fulmar.

Becoming one with my thesis project I covered my head with water at Platts bank and ate a euphausiid alive. I swear, I can still feel it squirming in my belly.

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Northern krill Meganyctiphanes norvegica
from wikipedia.org

Cruise Day 4: Finally! Sun!

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From Pete
Today is our first day on the boat with sun! We've got a 4 or 5 hr steam out to Platts Bank. Last night, we stayed in the Isles of Shoals harbor to wait out the weather. If the wind comes around like we're expecting the swell should lay down and we can start plugging away at our stations.
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Cruise Day 2: LOPC test

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From Nick:
Here's our first LOPC cast, by the side of the dock.  Splice held.  Phoebe is here safely, after rowing this morning from Witch Island.  Plan is to test the weather tomorrow at 6 am, and hopefully begin sampling, though it could be rough.  If things go as planned, I won't be in internet contact after tomorrow morning.  Maybe next time we dock, I can get a signal and do another post.
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The figure is the output from the LOPC test cast.  Each bar on the left indicates the number of particles passing through the unit that had a particular "equivalent spherical diameter".  As you can see, not a lot of big stuff. 

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the Cruise July 2009 category.

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