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Tammy Frank

Tammy Frank

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On every cruise, it’s tradition to send decorated Styrofoam cups down on one of the instruments to shrink them.  Styrofoam is mostly air, so when cups made of Styrofoam are sent to the depths, as the pressure increases with depth, the air inside the cups is compressed, and the cups shrink accordingly.  Once they shrink, they stay that way, as Styrofoam isn’t particularly flexible – it doesn’t expand again when it comes to the surface.  This year, we received a set of beautifully decorated cups from Theresa McCaffrey’s Advanced Art Classes at Tualatin High School.  Ruth Musgraves, who developed and runs our Creep into the DEEPEND summer camps ( has a daughter in one of these art classes, and they heard about the shrinking cups through her.  They send out a box of cups, and the artwork is quite amazing, as you can see in the photos below.   The best part is that they made some cups for us as well.

I’m really thrilled about that, because I’m pretty much still at the stick figure level when it comes to my artistic endeavors.


There is a pretty careful protocol that we must follow to package the cups, so that the cups shrink without collapsing inside of each other as they shrink at different rates.  If two cups shrink together, one inside of the other, they’re almost impossible to get apart without breaking one.  They must be loaded in mesh bags with open ends facing each other, with each row separated by tie wraps so they don’t float together and collapse together. 

We can load 14 cups per bag, and two bags per CTD rosette.   The CTD rosette is deployed to collect water samples at various depths, monitoring conductivity (C – as a measurement of salinity) and temperature (T) as a function of depth (D).  We have to be careful that the bags do not interfere with any of the sensors or closing mechanisms on the bottles, so we never load more than two  bags per deployment.

We had just finished shrinking all the cups, and the CTD was down, cupless this time, when a squall came through, and 10 foot swells came along with it.  The CTD had to be brought to the surface immediately, and it was quite a dangerous recovery trying to keep the CTD from swinging like a pendulum with safety lines.  As you can see, the cups are just attached by tie wraps, and in those seas, the bag might have snapped off or cups damaged when the protective frame around the rosette was pulled next to the ship to prevent swinging.   We lucked out on that one!   

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The sunset last night was gorgeous!




Our morning began nice and early at 2 a.m. with the deployment of the MOCNESS! This was our trial run to make sure that the apparatus works correctly. The net was down for about two hours and fished the top 200 meters. When the net surfaced it was safely secured on the vessel, the samples were collected and taken into the wet lab, placed in the sample tray, and the specimens were all processed.  In our trial sample we found several species of fish including dragonfish, lanternfish, eels, over two hundred crustaceans, pteropods, a cephalopod, and many planktonic larvae. The trial run was a great snapshot of what is to come, which is extremely exciting and leaves me just wanting to learn and see more. The diversity that I saw this morning was simply incredible! To be able to see these organisms firsthand and not on a documentary or in pictures is such a rare opportunity and I can’t wait to share more with you over the next two weeks! There will be more cool species to report tomorrow once our sampling continues. We ran into a few technical difficulties that occurred this morning so hopefully we will be up and running tonight!


Emptying the trial sample.                                                                  Pteropods, also known as Sea Butterfly's. 



Over 200 Crustaceans were collected.                                                    Ceratoscopelus warmingii 

After our trial sample and breakfast it was time to deploy the AUV.  Charles Kovach, a research scientist at USF College of Marine Science, successfully deployed the University of South College of Marine Science AUV (Autonomous Underwater Vehicle) Glider into the Gulf of Mexico. Chad Lembke is the leader of the Gulf Glider Task Team at USF College of Marine Science and works collaboratively with GCOOS / GANDALF (Gulf Coast Ocean Observing System) which is based out of Texas A&M but operate regionally.





The Glider will be roaming the waters of the Gulf for the next 14 days and will be retrieved at the last site we sample. You can follow the AUV at The AUV is programmed to surface every three hours and will travel up and down in the water column between 200-1,000 meters in the Loop current. The AUV provides scientists with real time data on key abiotic and biotic factors in the ocean such as chlorophyll, temperature, dissolved oxygen, salinity, conductivity, turbidity, and dissolved organic matter. The overall goal is to show a correlation between the chemical and physical composition of the ocean and how it directly relates to the strength and success of an ecosystem.

Until tomorrow my friends!



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Greetings from the R.V. Point Sur! My name is Alisha Stahl and I’m your teacher at sea from Ellenton, Fl. It is such an honor to be chosen for this position and to be given the opportunity to work with some of the most distinguished scientists from Nova Southeastern University, University of South Florida St. Petersburg, Florida Atlantic University, Texas A&M at Galveston, and Florida International University.  The research we will be focusing on over the next two weeks is developing a quantitative taxonomic assessment of deep sea pelagic species of the northern Gulf of Mexico in the region surrounding the Deepwater Horizons oil spill.



The R.V. Point Sur diligently set sail around midnight on August 8, 2015 with all 15 scientists and a multitude of crew members on board. Prior to our departure everyone spent the first few hours setting up their bunks or state rooms and getting settled in for the next 15 days. The rooms are spacious and comfortable with ample storage to keep all of our items, while the swaying of the Gulf’s waves rocked each of us into a deep slumber.

 The first site is roughly 200 miles offshore resulting in about 20 hours of travel time on this gorgeous Saturday afternoon. The waves are about three feet high, the sun is shining, and the water is gradually taking on a gorgeous deep blue hue with sporadic racks of Saragassum floating by. The day was spent resting, going over protocol, and setting up the MOCNESS (Multiple Opening and Closing Net and Environmental Sampling System) net.

The MOCNESS is a unique apparatus consisting of several nets stacked on top of one another in a single frame which is then towed behind the boat. The scientists can manipulate the nets to open and close based on the depth in which they want to measure. During this research trip the net will be broken up into six different nets labeled 0-5. Net zero will be deployed, remain open, and sample the first 1500 meters, net one 1500-1200 meters, net two 1200-1000 meters, net three 1000-600 meters, net four 600- 200 meters, and net five 200 meters to the surface. Each tow will last six hours and then the samples will be processed according to protocols set by the chief scientist (Tracey Sutton). The benefit of using a net system such as the MOCNESS is that it allows scientists to  study specific depth ecosystems more efficiently especially since the organisms living in the deep move a lot slower, making them a little easier to catch.


Can’t wait to share what we collect tonight during our first tows!!!




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