Thursday, October 23, 2014

Deep-C Fish Ecology Cruise Possibly Finds A New Species

Unknown skate - ventral (underside)
Reprinted from October 22, 2014 article on the FSU Coastal and Marine Lab website -- Dr. Dean Grubbs, Dr. Chip Cotton, and crew recently returned from a 10-day (October 1-10, 2014) Deep-C fish ecology cruise in the Gulf of Mexico, where they caught their third specimen (since 2012) of a skate believed to be a new species. Multiple taxonomic experts have examined this skate (or pictures of it) and determined that it is likely new to science! If this is confirmed, the team will write a description of the new species and give it a Latin name. Alternatively the skate might simply be a species that was not previously known to inhabit the Gulf of Mexico. With nearly 300 described skate species globally, this will require some time to rule out that possibility.

Unknown skate - dorsal (upper side)
They did not stop there. Drs. Grubbs and Cotton and their crew also caught two six-gill sharks at deeper depths than they have ever caught them before (one caught at 1,100 meters (3,600 feet), and the other caught at 1,300 meters (4,300 feet) deep). They attached an archival satellite tag to one of the sharks (approximately 15.5 feet long). This tag will record depth, temperature, and light levels for 3 months and then will pop off of the shark and transmit data to a satellite that will forward the data along to Dr. Grubbs and Dr. Cotton. Although the crew has tagged several other sixgills in the Gulf of Mexico, they are particularly interested in the movement patterns of this shark because it was caught much deeper than the others they have previously tagged.

King snake eel (Ophichthus rex)
Participants on the cruise included the two ship’s captains, Robby Shakespeare and Bobby Francis, and seven science crew on each “leg” of the trip (before and after their port call in Panama City). The science crew was led by Drs. Grubbs and Cotton, and included seven students from Florida State University (Jo Imhoff and Bianca Prohaska), University of North Florida (Arianne Leary, John Whalen, and Hannah Hart), and University of West Florida (Beverly McAcy and Mariah Pfleger). These students were there to collect samples for their respective projects and to generally assist with the work on the cruise.

Red deep-sea crabs (Chaceon quinquedens) and giant isopods (Bathynomus giganteus)
During the cruise, the team fished 38 “stations,” which is a demersal (bottom) longline with two fish traps attached. The depths for these stations ranged from 173 to 1860 meters (560-6100 feet) deep. The overall catch from these stations yielded a total of 343 fishes from 35 different species: 15 species of elasmobranchs (sharks, skates), 17 species of bony fishes, and 3 species of hagfish. They also caught 181 invertebrate specimens from 8 different species, mostly deep-sea isopods and various species of crabs and shrimp. Approximately 3000 samples were collected for studies of oil and mercury contamination, life histories (age, growth, reproduction), phylogenetics (relationships among groups of organisms) taxonomy (classifications), diet, and food webs. Most of these samples support several ongoing graduate student research projects.

Stay tuned to find out whether their “new” skate is indeed a new species and we will report more about that DEEP sixgill shark after the tag pops off in three months!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Interns Gain Real-World Research Experience With Deep-C Scientists

This summer, nine students were paired with leading scientists and experts in their fields to work on Deep-C research projects at the University of West Florida, the Naval Research Laboratory at Stennis Space Center, Florida State University, and Valdosta State University. From isolating microorganisms and extracting DNA to building an ROV, developing marine data apps to measuring nitrogen concentrations, enhancing a GIS Map Viewer to assisting in aquaculture projects and cataloging marine collections into a database, these interns received on-the-job learning experiences that enabled them to explore potential career opportunities. Even after their internships were completed, some of them plan on continuing to work with their Deep-C mentors on projects. Some interns even said the internship helped them to decide what they want to do as a career.

“Experiences such as these -- internships and other opportunities within the field you want to work in -- are what help you narrow down what you want to do for the rest of your life. At the same time that you are developing skills and getting exposed to how things work in the scientific community, you are also developing interests in various areas that will help you figure out what path to choose later on.” – Meaghan Faletti, Spring 2014 Intern

Katherine Vaccaro – Molecular Microbial Oceanography
Interned with Dr. Richard Snyder at the University of West Florida. Katie collected and analyzed samples of microorganisms using microscopes and a FlowCam, and then extracted samples of DNA to better understand their distribution and ecology. She had the opportunity to join Dr. Snyder on a Deep-C research cruise to collect samples in the Gulf of Mexico. “Fun people, awesome crew, great food and lots of science!” Read Katie’s blog.

Rachel Holladay – Adaptive Ecosystem Climatology
Interned with Sergio deRada at the Naval Research Laboratory at the Stennis Space Center. Rachel built an ROV (remotely operated vehicle) equipped with a GoPro camera system, Arduino powered temperature and depth logging system, active and passive water collector systems, and a carefully designed buoyancy system designed to allow the ROV to sink and float as needed. High school students will use the ROV to collect marine data in the Gulf. “My mentor’s extreme enthusiasm and dedicated work ethic always inspire me.” Read Rachel’s blog.

Sam Holladay – Adaptive Ecosystem Climatology
Interned with Sergio deRada at the Naval Research Laboratory at the Stennis Space Center. Sam worked on developing an iPhone app for water-testing kit users to send in water collection data, for use in their adaptive climatology model. “Working on this iPhone app has given me my first experience with graphic design. I'm not exactly an artist, but seeing the app screen finally look presentable feels very good.” Read Sam’s blog.

Herbert Johnson – Using Nitrogen Isotopes to Characterize Nitrogen Cycling
Interned with Dr. Angela Knapp at Florida State University. Herbert investigated nutrient cycling in the Gulf of Mexico, by measuring nitrogen concentrations in water samples. He utilized Ocean Data View (ODV), a tool used to plot oceanographic data sets, to plot water column profiles of nutrient distributions to gain insight into the location of the sources and sinks of nitrogen to and from the Gulf. “It is an invaluable resource for chemical oceanographers or anyone studying ocean chemistry.” Read Herbert’s blog

Harshul Pandav – Deep-C Web GIS Map Viewer
Interned with Olmo Romero Zavala at FSU’s Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies (COAPS). Harshul was tasked with increasing the efficiency of Deep-C’s Gulf of Mexico Atlas (a GIS Map Viewer) and learning about various web based technologies for interactivity and design. The Atlas now has enhanced tooltip features and can be read in another language. He was also working on designing a mobile device interface for the Atlas. “This internship will definitely broaden the scope of my versatility, knowledge and creativity.” Read Harshul’s blog.

Emily Goetz – Developing an Atlantis Model for the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fisheries
Interned with Dr. Stephen Gosnell at FSU’s Coastal and Marine Laboratory. Emily researched existing models and gained an understanding of Atlantis. She also assisted with oyster aquaculture projects, and created a digital guide of sessile invertebrates of hardbottom reefs in this region. “Simply being at the marine lab fosters relationships with scientists in related fields and provides opportunities to assist with additional field and lab work.” Read Emily’s blog.
Erica Levine – Fish Diversity in the Deep Gulf of Mexico
Interned with Dr. Chip Cotton at the Florida State University’s Coastal and Marine Lab. Erica helped organize the marine collection and create a searchable database for all the specimens in the collection. After some investigating, she identified the correct paper type and best printer for making ethanol resistant labels. The marine lab now has a collection that is phylogenetically organized and cataloged. The jars were all entered into a digital database, along with all the 500+ previously identified items. “The work we have accomplished over the past month will make it much easier for others to continue expanding the collection and find items already stored at the FSU Coastal and Marine Lab.” Read Erica’s blog.

Deep-C sponsored two NOAA-NGI Interns

The Deep-C Consortium supported two students selected for participation with scientists Drs. Richard Snyder (University of West Florida) and James Nienow (Valdosta State University) acting as their mentors and facilitating the interns' research:

Cynthia Kane (to the left) interning at the University of West Florida used several microbiology techniques including polymerase chain reactions (PCR), gel electrophoresis, and clonal library creation to analyze water and sediment samples collected from the Gulf of Mexico to determine the different types of Archaea present. To learn more, read Cynthia's blog.

Chris Horruitiner (to the right) interned at Valdosta State University (GA) to investigate the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon event on the phytoplankton populations in the DeSoto Canyon region of the northern Gulf of Mexico. Chris used a combination of net plankton samples (across the entire water column), pigment samples (for HPLC), and discrete Niskin bottle water samples from several depths across the water column analyzed using SEM and imaging flow cytometry to address how phytoplankton populations change with depth and with season in this area. To learn more, read Chris' blog.

Visit the DISL website for information about future NOAA-NGI internship opportunities.

Advice for Future Deep-C Interns

“Be braver than you feel”. – Rachel Holladay

“If you give something enough time and dedication, you can become great at it.” – Sam Holladay

“Don't take roadblocks and problems you can't solve yet, personally. This is science, it's not going to be like studying for a test. Here no one knows the answers and we get to try to figure them out as we go.” – Benjamin LaBelle

“Absorb the knowledge your mentor has to offer.” – Christopher Horruitiner

“Explore every opportunity that arises. You never know what connections you will create, things you will learn and memories you'll make by trying something new.” – Meaghan Faletti

From Deep-C’s Education and Outreach Staff, 
Thank you mentors and students for all your hard work and dedication this summer. 

Deep-C's internship program matches students majoring in STEM fields to research opportunities proposed by Deep-C scientists at the various Deep-C member institutions. The program offers participants opportunities to conduct research in various fields of science as well as gain real-world experience working with scientists on projects that support the Deep-C mission. For more information, visit our website:

Posted By: 
Brittany Pace
Deep-C Internship Coordinator


Emily Goetz's Internship, Summer 2014 - Part 4

Last week was my final official week of working at the lab. I plan to continue some projects through computer work, but I am done with one of my main commitments for the summer--the oyster aquaculture experiments. The experiment will continue for the next six weeks or so before Erica will take down the experiment and weigh and measure the remaining oysters. In the next couple of weeks, I plan to finish up the sections of the invertebrate digital guide on which I have been working. I also hope to work more on the Atlantis ecosystem modeling project.

Posted By:
Emily Goetz, Florida State University

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Emily Goetz's Internship, Summer 2014 - Part 3

Hello again!

These past few weeks, I have been busy helping with a medley of different projects around the lab. I have been assisting with one of Dr. Gosnell's oyster aquaculture projects, in which he is testing the non-consumptive effects of blue crabs and king conchs on oyster growth with different periods of exposure to the predators. The project has been running for almost a month now, and, last week, we removed the first half of oysters from each of the cages to measure their growth. With 20 oysters removed from each of the 52 cages in the experiment, we have been pretty busy measuring and weighing. In addition to assisting with the oyster projects, I have been working on a digital guide to the sessile invertebrates of the hardbottom reefs in this region. So far I have been assembling a collection of photos and information related to the corals and sponges of the reefs. Next, I plan to start on the tunicates, bryozoans, and mollusks. Although this is the last week I will physically be at the lab, I hope to continue working on some of these projects or to at least keep up with their progress.

Posted By:
Emily Goetz, Florida State University