2009 Pacific Northwest Expedition

Leg 2 Logbook - Midwater Ecology
Day 1 — Setting sail
July 25, 2009

Latitude 45 degrees 45.385 minutes N
Longitude 124 degrees 37.46 minutes W

Here is the mission board listing the departure and arrival time for the Robison Midwater Expedition.

We left the Oregon State University dock at 0700 hours this morning with Director of MBARI Marine Operations Steve Etchemendy there to cast off lines and bid us farewell.

Director of Marine Operations Steve Etchemendy is on hand to help us cast off as we start our week of Midwater Research operations.

Our eventual destination is about 150 kilometers north so we are steaming towards the site expecting to arrive in the late evening. There are gale warnings out here and as we left the harbor, we went by the Yaquina, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineering dredge boat that has been busy all week making the harbor mouth a little deeper.

The Yaquina is a dredging vessel owned and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. They are dredging the Newport Harbor mouth.

There were some large swells passing under us and hitting the breakwater so we turned northwest and started heading into the swells. Now that we are underway, the science crew is settling down and getting ready for our science to begin. We are hoping to do some midwater trawls this evening once we get on station if it isn't too late and then we will start diving with ROV Doc Ricketts tomorrow morning. With the predicted weather being a little choppy, we are also making sure that all of our equipment and computers are well secured. And, of course, we have some wonderful meals from our Chief Steward Patrick Mitts to keep us comforted no matter what the weather is like.

We completed our boat fire and safety drill with three of the science crew climbing into the survival suits (also called Gumby suits). We followed that session with a science meeting to discuss our scientific goals and priorities. We look at a large map of the area to see the sites of our planned dive sites.

Kris Walz looks on as Kim Reisenbichler and Rob Sherlock hold up a map of the planned research sites. Rob is pointing out our first destination.

We only have five dives this week so we are going to have to optimize our time and carefully prioritize our collections. We are also planning some midwater trawling and have setup our trawl net on the back deck.

Kim Reisenbichler, First Mate Brad Martin, and Stephanie Bush work on getting the midwater trawling equipment ready for deployment.

The weather is holding and the high winds must be south of us, but the seas are still a little sloppy which is slowing us down a bit. We hope to be on station by 2300 hours so we may skip the trawling this evening.

—Stephanie Bush

Next log

Leg 2

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.

High-frequency suction sampler

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

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.


Used in combination with the High-Frequency Suction Sampler (HFSS) and Detritus Samplers, the spatulator flips items off the seafloor that are then vacuumed into the High Frequency Suction Sampler or collected with the Detritus Samplers.

Midwater acoustic current meter

The current meter is held by a small standalone fixture and measures the magnitude and direction of the currents about 1 meter above the seafloor.

 Research Team

Senior Scientist, Bruce Robison Bruce Robison
Senior Scientist, MBARI

Bruce Robison's research interests are centered on the biology and ecology of deep-sea animals, particularly those which inhabit the oceanic water column. He has pioneered the use of undersea vehicles for these studies and led the first team of scientists trained as submersible pilots for research in midwater. His midwater research program is presently addressing the ecology of gelatinous animals in the deep sea. This group includes ctenophores, medusae, and siphonophores, animals which cannot be investigated accurately with conventional sampling methods, but which play dominant roles in mesopelagic ecology. Related studies include trophic structure, physiology, and the behavior of midwater animals including fishes and squids. Behavioral studies are also investigating the ways that animals use bioluminescence in the deep sea, with both laboratory and in-situ observations.

Graduate Student, Stephanie Bush Stephanie Bush
Graduate Student, University of California, Berkeley

Stephanie is a doctoral candidate at UC, Berkeley, in the lab of Dr. Roy Caldwell. In collaboration with Bruce Robison and the MBARI Midwater Ecology lab, her dissertation research focuses on deep-sea squid ecology, particularly their defensive behaviors.

Senior Research Technician, Rob Sherlock 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).

Senior Research Technician, Kim Reisenbichler 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.

Senior Education and Research Specialist, George Matsumoto George Matsumoto
Senior Education and Research Specialist, MBARI

George is interested in the open ocean and deep sea communities with particular emphasis on invertebrates. Specific areas of interest include ecology and biogeography of open ocean and deep sea organisms; functional morphology, natural history, and behavior of pelagic and benthic organisms; and systematics and evolution of ctenophores and cnidarians (molecular phylogeny). George also runs a wide variety of education programs at MBARI

Research Technician, Susan von Thun 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.

Reseach Assistant, Kris Walz 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 for the first time since starting a family.