The Oregon II draws closer to shore

Posted on July 2nd, 2009 by

Here’s another post from biology professor Joel Carlin, aboard the NOAA research vessel Oregon II. He’s there with Kat Coughlin (’09) volunteering to help with a marine species research cruise in the Gulf of Mexico.

7/1/2009:

Hello,

Kat Coughlin and I are still aboard the R/V Oregon II, and slowly making our way back to Galveston.  Weather has been really nice for this whole trip, the ocean swells never topping more than 1.5m, and I only got rained on for ten minutes.  Nice.  And now the Louisiana coast is in sight, and Casey (another volunteer) actually has gotten one bar on his cellphone, so we must be getting close.

Close also means that we are way, way busier.  Our standard 30 min trawls used to pull up only 5kg of fish, now we are routinely pulling up 300kg of seafood, mostly the Atlantic croaker (a five inch shiny golden fish with orange-brown fins…we had over 500 in the last trawl).  The silver scabbardfish, Lepturus trichiurus, are now not only far more plentiful again, but also much much larger.  I wonder if the juveniles hide out in the depths and make their way towards land as they age.  Hmmm.
Basically, the shore’s proximity means greater nutrients, which means higher productivity and no breaks between samplings…it takes all of our effort to sort, count and measure the fish from one sampling run just as the next one comes in.  So very tired.

We have two shifts left, so who knows what we might find.  What will probably not find are the moray eels, which is what I came down here for.  The crew here have noticed problems telling the different morays apart, and thus I was called in to do some molecular systematics.  On the other hand, I did pick up tissue and whole specimens of two other types of eel, enough to begin some population genetics on these species.  And (more importantly) I finally met in person the scientists who will continue to look for morays for me throughout the rest of the year.  The first thing I do when I get back (after my 600min long hot shower) is to send them another tissue kit, as well as perhaps a thank you card.

Joel

 

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