Ruth Meadows, June 26, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Ruth S. Meadows
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow 
June 12 – July 18, 2009 

Mission: Census of Marine Life (MAR-Eco)
Geographical Area: Mid- Atlantic Ridge; Charlie- Gibbs Fracture Zone
Date: June 26, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Temperature: 10.8oC
Humidity: 83%
Wind: 20.11 kts

Science and Technology Log 

We are collecting lots of specimens for the scientists to take back with them and study further.  Some of the animals are very abundant, showing up in every trawl, and others are rarer.  The most common fish collected is the Cyclothone.  This small fish (1 – 2 inches in length) is the most abundant vertebrate (has a backbone) in the world. We have caught them by the hundreds at all depths. It has a large mouth for such a small fish.

A Cyclothone, commonly known as a bristlemouth or anglemouth

A Cyclothone, commonly known as a bristlemouth or anglemouth 

Chauliodus sloani, commonly known as a viperfish, is larger than the Cyclothone.  It normally lives in deep water from 1000 to 2000 meters but it can migrate to shallower water during the night. We try to collect samples both at night and in the daytime so we can compare the depths the organisms are found.  As you can see these fish have very large teeth.  This one had a copper color to most of its body.  My finger is at the bottom of the jaw so you can have an idea of the size of the teeth.

Chauliodus sloani, commonly known as a viperfish

Chauliodus sloani, commonly known as a viperfish

One of the most interesting fish caught so far is an anglerfish. We have only caught three since they are not as abundant as many of the other types of fish. When the first one was brought out of the net, Dr. Mike Vecchione immediately knew it was a female.  I asked how he knew so quickly because the sex of the other types of fish we previously caught could not be identified by just looking at it. The male angler fish is very small when it is young.  When he finds a female, he attaches to her side and most of his organs disintegrate so he is totally dependent on the female for food.  When the female is ready to lay her eggs, the male is right there ready to fertilize them.

An anglerfish—see the bioluminescent tip of the lure located at the top of the head? (photo by David Shale)

An anglerfish—see the bioluminescent tip of the lure located at the top of the head? (photo by David Shale)

She has her own “fishing pole” and lure located at the top of her head.  The tip of the lure has a bioluminescent organ that glows with a blue- green light. The fish uses this like a fishing lure, waving it back and forth to attract its next meal.  The jaw can be extended to an incredible size and the fish can swallow prey twice as large as it is.  Food in this area of the ocean can be scarce at times, so the anglerfish can stock up on food when she finds it.

Dr. John Galbraith looks for animals.

Dr. John Galbraith looks for animals.

Personal Log 

It took five days of travel to arrive at our first sampling location.  During this time we had a chance to get to know each other and to rest up for the work to come. Everybody enjoys the outdoors and when the sun is shining there are usually at least some people on deck looking for animals or just enjoying the day.

A nap in a hammock is just what Zach Baldwin needs

A nap in a hammock is just what Zach Baldwin needs

Reading and enjoying the fresh air at sea on the flying bridge

Reading and enjoying the fresh air at sea on the flying bridge

Ruth Meadows, June 14, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Ruth S. Meadows
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow 
June 12 – July 18, 2009 

Mission: Census of Marine Life (MAR-Eco)
Geographical Area: Mid- Atlantic Ridge; Charlie- Gibbs Fracture Zone
Date: June 14, 2009

A viperfish—see its huge teeth?

A viperfish—see its huge teeth?

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Temperature 7.6o C
Humidity  94%
Wind  17.3 kts

Science and Technology Log 

We are about half way to our location on the Mid-Atlantic ridge.  Before we get there, we will do a comparative sampling over practice catch on the abyssal plain (a vast flat area on the bottom of the ocean). This will give us an idea of what lives in the deep open ocean away from the mid-ocean ridge for comparison with what we catch in our main study area. There has been very little sampling of the deep open ocean with large nets and not much is known about the animals that swim high above the bottom in such areas, even though they make up the largest living space on earth.

Various species that will have data recorded about them

Various species that will have data recorded about them

All the scientists were divided into two groups.  Each group will work a 12 hour shift. I will be working the 12 noon to 12 midnight shift.  We met with our work group today to learn how to use some of the scientific equipment on board.  The lead scientist for my group is Shannon DeVaney from Los Angeles, California.  Her area of expertise is in mid-water fishes.  We will be using a specialized computer program to record the data from the organisms that are caught in the nets. All the organisms will be at the end of the net in a special removable container called a cod-end.  

This mid-water fish, a viperfish (Chauliodus sloani ), was 225 cm in length and had a mass 0.0230 kg. It was caught in an earlier tow test. Until today, I had only seen this fish in books. The teeth are really sharp and large for such a small fish. To learn more about the viperfish. Once the organism is measured and the information is recorded in the computer.  A label can be printed and the animal will be either frozen or preserved for further investigation.  Then it will be on to the next one.   

Here I am chucking my potato!

Here I am chucking my potato!

Personal Log 

Everyone is participating in the “Bigelow Olympics”.  This is a fun competition for both the scientists on board as well as the crew. Today was the first event, a potato chucking competition.  We each had 5 potatoes that we loaded one at a time to in a large slingshot to shoot at a target off the back of the boat. Each “hit” earned you 20 points for a possible total of 100 points – I only hit the target twice so I got 40 points.  The event is open for 24 hours since some people will be working nights and some are working days.  This is one of my attempts.  Some people hit the target 5/5. There will be several more competitions, so maybe I will do better on the next one. If you look carefully, you can see my potato as it sails out to sea. 

 Here’s my potato as it flies toward the target!

Here’s my potato as it flies toward the target!

The temperature has dropped some since yesterday, so it is difficult to stay outside for any length of time.  Of course the wind is always blowing but sometimes you can find a place that is protected from the wind to enjoy some outdoor time.  We all want to see icebergs and we may be in the area by Monday or Tuesday.

Did you know? 

Did you know that icebergs are composed of fresh water?  The density of fresh water is less than the density of seawater which is why the iceberg floats.