Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Representing the conventional 'top predators', Mitch Rider from the UM Shark Lab joins the #NF1802 blog

One of our graduate students, Mitch Rider, joins us for another post #ontheblog!

Mitch, John and Chief Survey Tech deploy the CTD  rosette
"My name is Mitchell Rider and I am currently a Master’s Student at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science in Miami, FL. I work as a Laboratory Technician in the FORCES Lab tracking eddies using satellite imagery supporting the MBON project, while my graduate research investigates shark movement ecology in relation to urbanization. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to join the lab on this cruise.
Mitch discovers plankton!
My goals were to gain experience working in the open sea (since shark tagging trips last up to six hours) and to participate in the process of taking plankton samples. One of the most significant things I experienced was sorting through plankton samples collected from bongo and neuston nets. I was fascinated to find a plethora of organisms I have never seen before in addition to the larval forms of fish that I am very familiar with such as mahi-mahi, pufferfish, and lionfish. I was most excited in my newfound ability to identify larval bluefin tuna since that was one of the target species of this cruise. I would like to thank the FORCES Lab and the crew of the Nancy Foster for this opportunity to participate in the RESTORE NF1802 Cruise. This experience opened my eyes to a different field of study that is both fascinating and worth looking into for a future career as a marine scientist.
Zooplankton typically encountered in the Gulf of Mexico in May! Magnification is 10x
Sarah, Raul and Mitch with the plankton net

Survey track for leg 2 aboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster #NF1802

Mitch in his Shark-Life. Image by M. Bernanke
"As I mentioned before, my work as a lab technician for the FORCES Lab consists of tracking and measuring the sizes of mesoscale and submesoscale eddies along the Florida Channel. This entails running through daily chlorophyll and sea surface temperature satellite imagery and identifying potential eddies. In addition, I am also pursuing my Master of Science degree at RSMAS where my research is investigating the relationship between shark movement and boat traffic. This is achieved
through analyzing the residency patterns of sharks detected on our acoustic receiver array in relation to boat passages that are recorded using passive acoustic hydrophones or ‘underwater listening stations'".

If you are interested in more shark-y research, check out the UM Shark Lab on FB!

"The National Marine Sanctuaries serve as sentinel sites for monitoring marine biodiversity of the nation’s coastal, shelf and deep-sea ecosystems. The Sanctuaries MBON project includes Monterey Bay, Flower Garden Banks and Florida Keys ecosystems to assess: 1) the deep sea (pelagic realm and seabed); 2) continental shelves; 3) estuaries and nearshore regions; and 4) coral reefs." (source: MBON website)

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

A better late than never post for #NF1802, Dr. Stukel #ontheblog

Stukel sets up the satellite-tracker inside the buoys
Although NF1802 has come to an end, we will continue to post for the rest of the summer! Stay tuned!

Today, Dr. Mike Stukel joins us once again on the blog! Mike is an Assistant Professor at Florida State University and one of the PIs on our joint NOAA RESTORE Science project. His PhD students, Tom and Taylor joined him in this survey.

“I study the intersection of plankton ecology and biogeochemistry.  I have a fascination for all of the microscopic critters (plankton) that drift constantly with the currents of the open ocean.  Much of my research focuses on either the role of plankton in converting carbon dioxide to organic matter and then storing that organic matter in the deep ocean (a process referred to as the biological pump) or determining how changes in the planktonic ecosystem affect the availability of prey for fish and other large organisms. During this project, my research goal is to understand how biogeochemical and ecological interactions at the base of the food web affect the survival of larval tuna.
The golden tufts in the bottom left are Trichodesmium, the long organism in the middle is a chaetognath, and many of the out-of-focus blobs are copepods
Specifically, I'm interested in two questions:

  1. What processes supply nutrients to the algae at the base of the food web (upwelling that introduces deep nutrients to the surface ocean or nitrogen fixation that converts abundant nitrogen gas into plankton fuel)?  
  2. How does the structure of the planktonic food web affect the efficiency with which primary production is converted to zooplankton biomass (i.e. fish food)?  
Illustration by Sabine and Baxter

On this cruise, one of my lab’s goals is to make simultaneous measurements of nitrate uptake and nitrogen fixation in tuna spawning habitat."

Mike looks for microscopic organisms in between stations
Stukel and the team during sediment trap operations on the back-deck
If you are a teacher or student and want to learn more about plankton, check out Mike's lab's website and this link and has lesson plan too!) developed by Ms. Colleen Miks.