Sunday, May 31, 2015

Cozumel Open House

R/V Nancy Foster @ Pier
Welcome to day # 51 of NF1502! As we approach the end of the cruise, I wanted to do share with the blog-o-sphere about our latest open house held on May 20, 2015. We had over 45 people from multiple institutions that came on board the Nancy Foster that was docked at Langosta Pier in gorgeous Cozumel, Mexico. It was a diverse crowd made up of college and graduate students, marine science professionals, professors, researchers and members of the community. Everyone took a tour of the vessel and got to learn a little about larval fishes and why we are studying them! It was a fun event!
Some of the Open House guests

John, Eloy and the Cozumel Fishing Cooperative

Some of the institutions that joined us included the Quintana Roo Social Communication System, El Colegio de la Frontera Sur (ECOSUR), University of Quintana Roo (UQROO), staff from Cozumel’s Marine Park CONANP, ITCH-Chetumal, as well as fishermen from the Cozumel Fishing Cooperative. The Coperativa Cozumel (Fishing Cooperative) took notice of the ship and was eager to visit the ship and learn more about the lobster research that takes place in the region.

This Cooperative not only holds the MSC certification for lobster fishery, they actively pursue sustainable fishing practices. They are currently collaborating with Dr. Eloy Sosa Cordero and his students to capture historical data collected by the Cooperative regarding the lobster fishery (catch and effort) for the last 10 years. This data sharing effort will improve local lobster fishery management and facilitate the MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) certification. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Leg 4 scientist spotlight on Leif Rasmuson

Welcome back to the blog! We are well into leg 4 (the last leg of our research cruise!) and we have some ‘fresh blood’ that joined us in Cozumel.
Aras and Lief rinse down the Neuston
Today, we meet Leif Rasmuson who joins our survey from the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology  at the University of Oregon Lief is a Doctoral candidate who will soon take a postdoc position at our lab! Leif shared with the blog: “As a doctoral candidate I study the dispersal of larval Dungeness crabs, Cancer magister.
I use a combination of [literally] “swimming after larvae” to observe their behavior, traditional oceanographic sampling, and individual based models (IBM).
Crab larvae
We have shown that the fishery is highly dependent on the recruitment of larvae. Further, recruitment is influenced by the day of the year of the spring transition, the phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the internal waves. Soon I will be joining the ELH lab and will be working on habitat modeling for Bluefin tuna as well as other aspects of larval transport relating to tunas. Although Leif joined our survey right before he will 'defend' his dissertation, he is “enjoying getting to understand the sampling protocols that are used for this work and to start getting myself oriented to my new job at ELH.
Aras, Sam and Leif deploying the CTD near Santa Fe
I am very excited to be joining the ELH lab and to start learn more about fishes! This is a great opportunity for our lab to gain some larger insights into the community-level interactions of fishes and other zooplankton.
If you want to learn more about the life & fisheries of the Dungeness crab, click here .. for cooking the Dungeness crab: (YUM!)
crab deliciousnesss

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Today's blog features our youngest scientist, Justin Suca

Justin Suca is a rising senior attending the University of Miami and majoring in Marine Science. He works in our lab (the Early Life History Lab of SEFSC) as a Lab Assistant supporting multiple projects that include identifying fishes and curating our multifaceted datasets. 
noaa ctd research oceanography
Justin collecting H20 from the DCM for pCO2
Justin has been on this cruise for almost 28 days now! In between filtering water, identifying fishes, taking optic measurements and deploying gear, Justin shared with the blog: “I want to gain more experience with field work at sea and I am interested in stable isotope applications for pelagic fishes [especially mahi mahi] for spatio-temporal comparisons and variation with depth. I would like to see if the samples collected in this cruise display 15δN enrichment at increasing depths. The application of physical ocean features to patterns in plankton distribution is another area which this cruise gives me an opportunity to expand my knowledge." 
Justin and Raul looking for tuna and mahi mahi 
"When I began at the lab, I knew very little about larval fish. However, as my knowledge and experience with them has increased over the past two years, it has become a field that I would like to continue to work in, perhaps through a doctorate." 
Mahi Mahi juveniles collected in plankton tows
"I was on last year’s cruise but my overall understanding of the science and reasoning behind the procedures and station plotting is much greater now, making this cruise a valuable experience." 
We will miss Justin as he leaves the cruise to pursue his next science-adventure at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI)! We thank Justin for supporting the cruise with his enthusiasm and intoxicating fish-energy!! 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Today one of our own, Aras Zygas!

Today’s post features LTJG Aras Zygas who works at the Southeast Fisheries Science Center in Miami, FL. He is the Florida Bay Operations Officer working directly with us! (the Early Life History Laboratory in sunny Miami, FL)
noaa core, noaa, outreach, education
LTJG Zygas during Open House in St. Thomas, USVI
When Aras isn't at sea rinsing plankton nets, deploying CTDs, and filtering water he is sitting in his office in Miami wishing that he was back at sea. Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Aras Zygas is an officer in the NOAA Commissioned Corps, a uniformed service of the federal government whose mission is to provide support to NOAA science primarily by operating the vessels and aircraft that collect the data used to inform decision makers and advance our knowledge of the oceans and atmosphere. [see previous blog post]Previous to his current assignment at the SEFSC in Miami, Aras served as Navigation Officer aboard the NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow where he stood bridge watches (i.e. "drove" the ship). As Navigation Officer Aras has conducted hundreds of net tows from Bongos to full-blown bottom trawls for 200+ days out of the year off of the coast of the northeast United States and Canada...all from the comfortable, dry protection of the ‘bridge’. 
plankton, barracuda, sphyraenidae
plankton!!! (find the fish)
Not anymore! His new assignment in Miami has gotten him heavily involved in the process of collecting data, getting up close and personal with his new pal: plankton.Aras shared with the blog that "before I arrived in Miami, I had never looked at plankton under a microscope. I was shocked at this tiny diverse world that exists in every teaspoon of seawater. As I learned more about all of the different projects at the ELH (Early Life History) lab, I started realizing just how much information you can get from this marine microcosm and how this information can lead to big changes in our understanding of certain highly migratory species (among other fishes)." When he is not being utilized for his brute strength on deck deploying gear Aras is a jack of all trades at the ELH Lab working on logistics and cruise
st. thomas, satellite drifters, aoml, noaa
Aras setting up the next Satellite tracked drifter for deployment in the Virgin Islands
planning and assisting with administrative tasks such as budgeting. Furthermore, Aras has recently taken on a project to describe the growth and ageing of larval skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis).” This cruise is a unique opportunity for me since I will be sailing as a member of the scientific party .In addition to honing my plankton sampling skills and meeting some of our international collaborators, I have

enjoyed being on the front line in the collection of these valuable samples. Sailing as a scientist has given me a new perspective that many officers do not get to experience, a perspective that will no doubt help me when I venture back out to sea as a deck officer on my next assignment as a NOAA Corps Officer."

Friday, May 15, 2015

Today, Francisco Alemany from Spain!

Hello internet, greetings from the Caribbean! We had some interesting days sampling in the very very strong currents associated with the Yucatan Current! Today we are in much calmer waters heading south at the moment in a general western direction. 

In this leg, Dr. Francisco Alemany joined us from the Instituto Español de Oceanografía in the Balearic Islands in beautiful Palma de Mallorca.
Francisco deploying plankton gear on the Nancy Foster
Francisco is  Senior Researcher and he shared with the blog that he is the “vice-director of the Balearic Island Oceanographic Center and coordinator of the larval ecology group based in this lab.  Our research team is mainly focused on larval tuna ecology but also works on the whole ichtyoplankton communities and other meroplanktonic groups, as decapod crustaceans and paralarvae. These days I am leading the BLUEFIN project and other related research oceanographic surveys. On the other hand, I'm also involved in the implementation of the European Union’s new Directive on Marine Strategy, as the national responsible of the tasks related to Alien (or invasive) Species and also participating in a couple of international EU projects on this matter. Occasionally, I work as FAO consultant, giving courses on fish ageing through otoliths reading...My day to day work nowadays consist mainly in taking care of administrative matters of ongoing projects, developing research proposals, revising the works of PhD and masters students, correcting papers and so on... therefore, this opportunity to be out “in the field” is very welcome and makes me very happy because I get time to analyze a plankton sample by myself, as occurs here on board NF all day long!

Francisco shared with me that he joined our cruise because “he wanted to get first-hand knowledge of the lab’s working protocols at sea, to see for myself the larvae of the tuna species that I cannot find in the Mediterranean and, this is the most important, ideas to strength the friendly and close collaboration we are maintaining with the NOAA tuna larvae ecology team from 2002, when John Lamkin joined our survey for the first time....[and then, the rest is history!]

As Francisco continues to help us sort and identify larval tunas in the Caribbean, we steam to the next station and will update the blog soon (been busy!)

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Leg 3 in the Mexican Caribbean!

Welcome back to the blog! Today we are in the Mexican Caribbean! We started sampling late last Saturday along the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System (the 2nd largest reef in the world!). We had some scientists return to their land-duties and some others joined us! These have been busy few days, but finally we return!  We are elated to return to this region and have had very successful days collecting plankton and learning more about the ecology and oceanography of this extremely diverse region. 
noaa ship nancy foster
Leg 3 track in Mexican Caribbean
In this part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, a very strong current comes very close to shore (the Yucatan Current) and it literally rips by transporting larvae among other creatures! This is what it looks like (the arrows show you the strength of the current in m/s) today from the ship's Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler or ADCP 
Surface currents near Cozumel, Mexico

During leg 2 and 3, we have been focusing on larval lobster as well as larval tunas! I hope to have dedicated 'lobster post' soon, but until then, here is a very late stage larval lobster. We have a lobster expert on board and will have another one soon!
larval stage for Lobster (yes seriously, this is a baby lobster!
 And some of the tunas we have been finding as well...
Baby Tunas! (blackfin tuna)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Today...Oceanographer Libby!

Welcome back to the NF1502 blog! Today the NOAA ship Nancy Foster comes into port at San Miguel in Cozumel, Mexico! This marks the end of leg 2 and means more personnel exchanges, sample-fixing, plankton net cleaning and some engine fixing too! It also means reconnecting with small luxuries such as walking for more than a few yards at a time! Woo!

Before the scientists get a break from “life at sea,” let’s get to know one of our scientists who is returning to her land-duties soon: Elizabeth (“Libby”) Johns! 
Libby, in the "dry lab", acquiring data from a conductivity-temperature-depth (“CTD”) instrument. She is also communicating with the winch operator through the ship’s radio system to raise, lower, and halt the vertical motion of the instrument

Libby is an oceanographer at NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) in Miami, FL. She shared with the blog: “I am a physical oceanographer, which means that I study ocean currents and water properties to try to determine where the water is going, where it is coming from, and why?!! (What is forcing this ‘flow’ pattern).  I have concentrated most of my efforts in the past ten years on studying south Florida’s coastal waters, and also on working with scientists from NOAA’s Southeast Fisheries Science Center to figure out how regional oceanographic patterns affect the abundance, variety, and distribution of larval reef fish in the Caribbean Sea (USVI and Mexico ). Our research-group is particularly interested in how much connectivity there is between various fish spawning areas due to their proximity to ocean currents, and also how other oceanographic factors such as eddies (circular current patterns) can increase local larval retention.” 
Libby has been on many research surveys in her career, but she said that “I am especially excited about cruise NF1502 because it will fill a gap in our coverage of the Caribbean.  Previously, we have studied the Meso-AmericanBarrier Reef (off the Mexican and Belizean Yucatan Peninsula) and much of the northeastern Caribbean including the US and British Virgin islands.  But this time we will be able to do our oceanographic and net tow sampling along the south coast of other islands in the northwestern Caribbean, which will add another valuable piece to the “puzzle.”  

We have sailed with Libby in multiple occasions aboard the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster and also aboard the NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter and we hope to continue collaborations between our research groups!

For more on ocean patterns (a.k.a. circulation) and how it affects fishes, check out this free online-book from Dr. A. Bakun

Friday, May 1, 2015

Nasheika Guyah from UWI shares her larval fish expertise with NF1502!

noaa, nancy foster, larval fish, uwi
Sheika joyfully sorts a plankton sample in the wetlab
*, Sheika, Sarah, Alex @ RSMAS in '2012

Nasheika L. Guyah is a PhD candidate at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus in lovely Jamaica! ‘Sheika’ and the ELH lab first met when she came to the ELH Miami Lab to improve her taxonomy skills for a few weeks in 2012! 

some of the stations sampled in the northern part of Jamaica!
Sheika shared with the blog: “There is a paucity of larval fish data for Jamaica and as such the focus of my research is to identify, enumerate and determine the distribution of larval fish in Jamaica which may lead to their integration into Jamaica's fisheries protection and management policies. This could ultimately assist in the replenishment of Jamaica's commercially important species and the recovery of the fisheries. My research focuses on developing fisheries monitoring protocols for Special Fisheries Conservation Areas (SFCAs) (also known as Marine Reserves) in Jamaica and involves a holistic approach to assessing the different life stages of commercial fish species within SFCAs. My project [PhD] involves working with the community stakeholders and fishermen, focusing on bridging the gap between science and the need for monitoring.
Sheika runs the MOCNESS

Aras and Sheika deploy CTD
This cruise has provided a great opportunity to explore the Caribbean. I have gained research experience and met amazing researchers. I now have been trained on how to use/deploy multiple equipment such as the MOCNESS (above) , CTD (right), Nueston net and Bongo net! As well as analyzing plankton data. This cruise presents a tremendous opportunity in sampling Jamaica's offshore and coastal waters using more advanced technology and bigger nets! We now have information on most of the unexplored areas offshore Jamaica's North coast.  The information on the physico-chemical properties as well as the ichthyoplankton data will be useful in getting a better idea of potential recruitment of commercially important fish species on the North Coast of Jamaica and may help to identify critical areas that are worth protecting.”