2010 Expedition to the Sea
  • August 26 - September 2, 2010

Midwater Ecology 2010
Chief Scientist - Bruce Robison
August 26 - September 2, 2010

The midwater ecology group is documenting the effects of declining oxygen concentrations on midwater communities, and has spent thousands of hours surveying and describing the deep waters of the ocean. These surveys, comprised of approximately one remotely operated vehicle (ROV) dive per month, constitute a time series which measures the identity, abundance, and vertical distribution of the constituents of the midwater fauna at specific sites. The results of the time series demonstrate that several species have already been displaced by the expanding oxygen minimum zone (OMZ). OMZs are depths, typically 300 to 1,000 meters below the surface, where oxygen concentrations are already quite low in many parts of the world's oceans.

The midwater team will be examining the physiological characteristics of midwater animals relative to the expanding OMZ. This research utilizes the midwater respirometry system (MRS), an instrument which gathers oxygen consumption measurements in situ, to gauge the metabolism of animals without subjecting them to the stresses of decompression during transport to the surface. Data provided by the MRS helps to determine the oxygen level at which each species switches from “regulation” to “compensation.” Once these oxygen levels are known for a number of species, the future of how expansion of the OMZ will change the spatial composition of the midwater community can be predicted, as well as the ecological implications of such changes.

Another focus on this expedition will be age determination of squid and other deep-sea invertebrates. Despite their great importance in oceanic ecosystems, the life spans of deep-sea squids are simply not known. If they are like their shallow-water relatives, chances are their lives are quite short—perhaps a year or two years at the most. If they are like some other deep-living animals, their lives may be quite long. Henk-Jan Hoving, a post-doctoral fellow in the midwater ecology group has developed an experimental program of both laboratory and in situ research that will chemically “mark” increments in the deposition of squid statoliths (like the ear-bones of fish). Using the marks as temporal reference points, the pattern of deposition should allow him to determine the age of any squid, based on the number of increments (like tree rings). There will probably be differences between species, between sexes, between habitat depths, and between good years and bad years; but this technique, once developed, promises to be a powerful new diagnostic tool for deep-sea ecology.

Examining poeobius meseresDay 7 — Heading home
September 1, 2010

On our last day, we successfully recovered the MRS from the mooring and then continued the dive to collect more samples (this was our last chance, after all!).

Day 6 — A growing collection
August 31, 2010

We decided to wait until tomorrow to recover the MRS, so today we had 2 shorter dives and collected lots of animals.

GaliteuthisDay 5 — Studying deep-sea squid
August 30, 2010

One aim in Henk-Jan Hoving's research on the age and growth of midwater animals is to validate increment deposition in squid statoliths.

Day 4 — Squids and ancient relatives
August 29, 2010

We began the day by recovering the MRS and bringing it back on deck.

Day 3 — Transects and collections
August 28, 2010

Today we stayed at the MidWater 1 (MW1) site because the winds further offshore were predicted to be too high for us to deploy the ROV.

Day 2 — A blustery day
August 27, 2010

Our planned dive for today, at the MRS station offshore, had to be postponed because of rough weather that arrived last night. 

Day 1 — Transit and Jellies
August 26, 2010

Today we left the dock at 10:00 a.m. and transited for about four and a half hours to the deep MRS site at 3000 meters in Monterey Canyon.

 Daily Expedition Logs

Heading home
September 1, 2010

Read the log

A growing collection
August 31, 2010

Read the log

Studying deep-sea squid
August 30, 2010

Read the log

Squids and ancient relatives
August 29, 2010

Read the log

Transects and collections
August 28, 2010

Read the log

A blustery day
August 27, 2010

Read the log

Transit and Jellies
August 26, 2010

Read the log


R/V Western Flyer

The R/V Western Flyer is a small water-plane area twin hull (SWATH) oceanographic research vessel measuring 35.6 meters long and 16.2 meters wide. It was designed and constructed for MBARI to serve as the support vessel for ROV operations. Her missions include the Monterey Bay as well as extended cruises to Hawaii, Gulf of California, and the Pacific Northwest.

ROV Doc Ricketts

ROV Doc Ricketts is MBARI's next generation ROV. The system breaks new ground in providing an integrated unmanned submersible research platform, with many powerful features providing efficient, reliable and precise sampling and data collection in a wide range of missions.

Midwater respirometry system (MRS)

The MRS conducts oxygen consumption rate measurements in situ, gauging the metabolism of animals without subjecting them to the stresses of transport to the surface. MRS has been modified to operate in deeper water with an expanded capacity, enabling respiration studies on animals that live deeper than 1250 meters.

Detritus sampler

Detritus samplers are large Plexiglas containers with lids that can be manipulated by the pilot of the ROV and gently closed once an organism is trapped inside.


The CTDO is mounted on the ROV and takes in situ measurements of environmental parameters such as conductivity, temperature, depth, and oxygen concentration.

High frequency suction sampler

This sampler acts like a vacuum cleaner sucking up samples and depositing them into one of the 12 buckets.

 Research Team

Bruce Robison
Senior Scientist, MBARI

Bruce Robison's research is focused on the biology and ecology of deep-sea animals, particularly those that inhabit the oceanic water column. He pioneered the use of undersea vehicles for these studies and he led the first team of scientists trained as research submersible pilots. At MBARI, his research group has focused on the development of remotely operated vehicles as platforms for deep-sea science. His midwater research program is presently measuring the oxygen consumption rates of deep-living animals, and the ecological impacts of the declining oxygen content of the ocean's midwaters. Instead of bringing animals to the surface for these measurements and subjecting them to decompression, the measurements are made at depth using new instrumentation developed by MBARI's engineers. Related investigations include studies on the ecology, physiology, and behavior of fishes, squid, and a variety of gelatinous animals.

Kim Reisenbichler
Senior Research Technician, MBARI

Kim's general area of interest is the study of midwater and deep sea animals. He has developed many tools and techniques to observe, manipulate, and collect these organisms, and to maintain the animals in the lab.

Rob Sherlock
Senior Research Technician, MBARI

Rob studies the properties and organisms of the ocean's largest habitat, the midwater. His research group is learning more about the ecology of midwater organisms; their abundance and seasonal patterns, depth ranges and who eats whom. Rob enjoys watching mesopelagic animals with the HD (high definition) camera; animals that once would have come up as glop in a net can be seen to have delicate structure and complex behavior (e.g., squid inking or changing color, fish eyes that rotate to keep prey in sight, an amphipod carving up a pyrosome to make a home).

Kris Walz
Research Assistant, MBARI

Kris works with the Midwater Ecology group, analyzing ROV video transects between 50 and 1,000 meters in depth to identify biological organisms from all taxonomic levels, most of which spend their entire lives in the oceanic water column. Kris started working at MBARI in 1996 after finishing her Master's at UC Santa Cruz. She's looking forward to returning to sea this month to collect video transects and search for deep-sea lobster larvae from the family Polychelidae.

Susan von Thun
Research Technician, MBARI

Susan works in the MBARI video lab, where her primary responsibility is to watch video taken with MBARI's remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and make observations about the organisms, behaviors, equipment, and geological features that she sees. While annotating video, she's become adept at identifying numerous deep-sea organisms, specializing in midwater organisms. She works closely with the midwater ecology group and the bioluminescence lab to expand her knowledge of the fish, jellies, cephalopods, and other groups in the midwater.

Henk-Jan Hoving
Postdoctoral Fellow, MBARI

Henk-Jan received his Ph.D in Ocean Ecosystems from the University of Groningen. Henk-Jan has developed an experimental program of both laboratory and in situ research that will chemically mark increments in the deposition of squid statoliths. Using the marks as temporal reference points, the pattern of deposition should allow him to determine the age of any squid.

Karen Osborn
Postdoctoral Fellow,
Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Karen's research interests include evolution of pelagic life, phylogenetics of marine invertebrates, and mechanisms of speciation in the open ocean and the deep sea. Karen is a former MBARI graduate research assistant and is currently a University of California President's Postdoctoral Fellow at Scripps.

Meghan Powers
Graduate Research Assistant, MBARI

Meghan is a doctoral candidate at UC Santa Cruz in Dr. Steve Haddock's lab. Her research is focused on understanding the molecular biology and evolution of bioluminescence in a variety of deep-sea zooplankton including cephalopods, chaetognaths, and jellyfish.

Sam Urmy
University of Washington

Samuel is a graduate student at the University of Washington. His research uses DEIMOS, a deep-water acoustics package at the MARS observatory on the continental slope in Monterey Bay, California to describe the distribution and density of animals such as krill through the entire water column through time. His aim is to describe changing patterns in this density distribution using a variety of metrics and indicators derived from the raw data, with the aim of gaining a clearer picture of how this system behaves.