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The Mediterranean monk seal is on the “endangered species” section of the IUCN’s red list since 1986. Its population is down to only a few hundred individuals, mainly concentrated in Greece and Turkey.
This marine mammal has occupied Mare Nostrum since the Antiquity. Yet, it’s still one of the least known and studied seals in the world. The Octopus Foundation joins a program aimed at better understanding this key species.
Purpose In less than 3 months, Stacy and I will be embarking on our voyage to the Galapagos Islands. This is the first time I've traveled through the lens of an educator formally; although, I suppose I've carried students in my thoughts on all my trips since I became a teacher. But, now I have time to research and gather student input. I'm preparing to make thoughtful curricular connections during the expedition. I grew up as an American expat in Southeast Asia, so I'm very fortunate that travel has always been a big part of my life. I quickly learned that when you step into new cultures and environments, you're challenged; the more you travel, the more you grow. It's one thing to tell my first graders to be brave, curious, and global-minded; it's another to model this myself. I hope my expedition encourages students to lean into, not away from, the discomfort of novel places, practices, problems, and perspectives... both in and out of the classroom. Preparation Already done: Connected with National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions staff, naturalists, and other Grosvenor Teacher Fellows in Washington DC. I also received an overwhelming amount of background information, advice, and media training. Developed an action plan and outreach plan to help me get the most out of my expedition before, during, and in the year after. Read every travel blog I could find by people who have gone to the Galapagos Watched the BBC docu-series on Galapagos that's on Netflix... twice Still to do this summer: Finish getting all my gear. To get ready for all the snorkeling we'll do, I bought a GoPro for underwater footage and my own wetsuit. I've also picked up a light rain jacket and some sport sandals for Zodiac rides and wet landings. I'm still testing out reef-safe mineral sunscreens and I need to look into seasick pills and probiotics. I'm adamant that not my skin nor my stomach will slow me down! Do a lot more research on Galapagos. I'm beginning to work my way through some books from my recommended reading list. To do once the school year starts in August: Introduce my new class to the expedition via my kid-friendly blog written at a K-5 reading level. Ask students what they want to learn and see. I plan to film their questions so I can collect and film answers in the field. I'd also like to bring some artifacts with me from school to deepen the personal connection. Collaborate with colleagues across my K-12 school to help leverage my time in the field and make this a valuable experience for students at all levels.
The logistics and preparations continue! I have received one of two permits I will need to do field studies within the National Park. The first is for water quality testing. We are collecting water out of Sage Creek to test it. The video below has one of our testing sites. The second, submitted last week, was to collect (and release) arthropods through sweep netting and black light trapping. We will be working with our state urban entomologist so no bugs will be harmed during this activity. I also have updated our expedition website with a packing list for the educators. This was a wee bit challenging because packing lists are so individual. One person's necessity is another person's luxury. I finally gave up trying to create the perfect-for-everyone list and just shared a modified version of the list I use for the Badlands. Everyone will have the basics, at least, and we will review the gear requirements the night before we head out. If someone realizes that an essential item was not on the list it can be easily acquired before we go. One of my to dos is I need to create a list of supplies we will need as an expedition; things like field guides, monitoring equipment, tools and Gorilla tape. I am working with an outfitter to provide the meals so I will defer all things food related to her. (Note to self: apply for funding to assist with food costs.) In the equipment department, I am looking at acquiring wireless probes from Vernier for pH, dissolved oxygen, temperature and conductivity. The models I am interested in are due to be released in June. Fingers crossed that they will be available in time. If not, I have some older probes I can use. National Geographic, being National Geographic, has an extended lesson plan on exploration including planning a micro-expedition. Some of the resources provided for the lessons are quite useful, a way to document and communicate the expedition. I know from experience that this will be much easier to do next year if I document my efforts and—just as important—update my documents with lessons learned post expedition.
How do we catch black fish? Three members of the team (Sonke Johnsen, Katie Thomas, and Karen Osborn) are working on figuring out how deep-sea fish make themselves super black to disappear into their dark surroundings. While many deep-sea animals can be collected in beautifully pristine condition with ROVs, fish are fast swimming and generally avoid the ROV altogether. If we even see them during a dive, they can easily escape when we try to capture them. Instead, we turn to a method that has been used since the first deep-sea expeditions: trawling. This involves dragging a net deep in the water behind the ship and pulling up everything that gets caught in it. The net we are using is small compared to some, but still is too heavy to lift without a winch and takes a team of people to deploy and recover. Black fish are frequent components of our hauls from 1000 m to 600 m depth, along with crustaceans, juvenile cephalopods, ostracods, pteropods, jellies, siphonophores, and many other spectacular creatures. We can target certain species by trawling at the depths they normally occupy, but we never know what we will catch in the net until it comes up, which makes every trawl an adventure!
For our second location shoot this month, the collective ventured into Johannesburg to film Xolani Petrus Mhlanga rap verse. The set lies within a major intersection in front of a Greenpeace Africa mural raising awareness about water as a human right. For how chaotic this shoot could have been during rush hour traffic, we couldn't be happier with the results! 🎵🌍❤ #defendwater #conservationmusic #K2K
Bula from Nadi, Fiji! After 20 hours in the air, Brian and I have both arrived, complete with all of our gear. We have one day to decompress, try to get over jetlag (neither of us sleep on planes), and finish preparing for an exciting week in Tarawa, which starts tomorrow. Needless to say, the jetlag is outrageous, but at least for me, a solid cup of coffee will go a long way. Our Dropcam testing on the Charles already seems like (and is!) a world away, but we are thinking of the whole team and looking forward to a great week. Posting a partial team photo below. Vinaka, Randi & Brian
Big News! The Exploration Vessel Nautilus will conduct sonar surveys and ROV dives in the vicinity of the meteorite fall in early July! Even better, E/V Nautilus live streams all of their offshore operations - check it out at https://www.nautiluslive.org/! The bolide (the name for an extremely bright meteor) broke up and fell into Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary (https://olympiccoast.noaa.gov/), a 3,188 square mile marine sanctuary established off of the Washington coast nearly 25 years ago. The sanctuary helps to preserve the habitats of many amazing species, from coral and sponges to fish and Orca.
DAY 3: “Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children's children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.” ~ (attributed to Teddy Roosevelt) Location: Longbranch Shelter to Wine Spring Camp & Spring Date: Monday, 11 June 2018 Distance traveled today: 15.4 Miles Current weather: 71F, Thunderstorms on every side of us; we’re on a mountaintop, but not a bald. Camping: Hammocks Current Elevation: 5274’ Water: Good/Excellent 100 yards ahead on trail. Weather prohibitive. AT mile marker: 117.4 iNat Project Link Open Explorer: Appalachian Trail from Dick’s Creek to Nantahala Senses: Tired this evening. In our third day, our shoulders are a little spent, and we’re pretty bummed that the weather cut us short by 3 miles, making completion tomorrow a little less certain. I like our time in the Green Tunnel (i.e. - where we don’t have broad vistas), in part because of what some landscape architects deem “the great reveal” that happens when you come around a corner to an unexpected scene. That happened for us as we crossed through two “balds” today, which are essentially big, open, treeless and grassy, mountain top meadows. They are lovely, and a distinct curiosity in an otherwise endless sea of trees. And, given some of the theme in today’s journal entry, I think a little landscape architecture is quite appropriate... We had hopes that we’d make it over the top of Wayah Bald to a shelter, but late in the day storms started to form just as we were heading over Siler Bald Summit. We pressed on, seeing clouds darken and sometimes hearing thunder as we made it through the gap and towards Wayah Bald. Wayah is sort-of two summits over 5,000’, separated by about 2 miles. As we got to the first summit, the thunder really kicked in and we stopped to evaluate our options when a very nice woman in a trucker hat and bubble jacket called out that she was building a fire and we should probably call it a night. We then realized we were at the Wine Spring Camp and Spring (which is really only a small, flat clearing), and that it was probably safest to take her up on that offer to enjoy the fire for a few minutes before the storms hit. The woman and her husband were out on a section hike and had their camp set up for the evening, so we strapped up our hammocks, got our gear off the ground (i.e. - out of the water that runs below your hammock in a storm) and enjoyed their fire for a few minutes. The husband’s “trail name” was “Ranger,” because he had been a U.S. Army Ranger for over a decade. U.S. Army Ranger Mountain Training School is essentially on the AT near Dahloneega, Georgia, and it isn’t uncommon to hear and/or see soldiers in that area as you hike (note: don’t be freaked out if they don’t acknowledge you if you pass them on the trail, they may be ordered to not speak to anyone; just let them do their job). Ranger, obviously familiar with the training, said that earlier in the week he was awakened by quiet footsteps right outside their tent that he recognized as current ranger-trainees out on a night-time training mission. I imagine Ranger was just fine with it, but I have to think that having soldiers unintentionally wake you while out on a training mission might freak some “normal hikers” out just a little bit! Trail Stuff: Names and White Blazes Oh! I should probably explain “Ranger” and “Trail Names.” People do not use their real-names on the AT, they use “Trail Names,” which are earned or assigned based on something you do, or a trait, or characteristic. They range wildly from simple stuff like “Sarge,” “Early Riser,” or “Red Beard,” to more intense stuff like “bloody cactus,” “Cosmic KeyAnn,” or “DADventure” (that’s me!) If you hike the AT, don’t rush to get your Trail Name, it will find you... I should also mention one other trail trait pertaining to knowing where you are heading… The trail is marked by “white blazes,” a small white vertical rectangle painted on trees and rocks along the trail to help you stay on trail. I don’t know if there is an expected spatial separation between blazes, but, it seems like you see (at least) a few every mile. There are many different signals associated with white blazes (i.e. - double blazes, blue blazes, etc.) and if you tackle the trail, you’ll want to do some research and understand what they mean. My kid and I use them as a repeater/echo, where the first of us to see one says “White Blaze!” and the other repeates it as an affirmation that we’re on the same team and we’re heading the right direction. Okay, back to my history related ramblings... Appalachia: The Cradle of the American Perception of “Nature”? As shown by the great dinosaur extinction about 66 million years ago, nature will succeed the anthropocene and reconstitute itself, likely as something very different, but equally impressive. For now, we (i.e. - humans) are rather spastically trying to determine how/whether we should conserve and preserve to see how long we can hold on, or burn, slash and pave for profit. By the mid-to-late 1800s most of the native peoples from the southeastern United States had been forcibly removed and/or (somewhat-ish) assimilated (note: about 1,000 Cherokee remained in North Carolina after the Trail of Tears, which is the reason for the Oklahoma-based Cherokee tribes and Eastern Band of Cherokee we see today). With advances in technology, readily available natural resources, and large numbers of immigrants looking to seize and maximize opportunities, the American economy was starting to really boom. Some of the strain associated with that boom and the obvious disconnect with the nation's founding documents that "all men are created equal" while endorsing slavery lead to what President Lincoln called in the Gettysburg Address our “new birth of freedom"; a reckoning of sorts we know as The Civil War. After The War came “The Gilded Age,” led by industrialists like Andrew Carnagie’s steel-based interests, the Rockefellers’ oil, the Vanderbilts’ rail and shipping, and JP Morgan, the banker who financed the machine. Most European migrants continued to pour into the expanding country along the east coast, while a large wave of Germans came into Texas through Galveston, and later, immigrants from the east came in through Angel Island in California -- all looking for opportunity in the land of the free. Also in the late 1800s and specific to Appalachia, the value of coal as an economic driver was coming into focus and the Broad Form Deed separated subsistence farmers from their land by splitting surface and mineral rights. Dividing the land set up what has been referred to as a sort of inland colonial-economic system where external industries (i.e. - mostly coal companies) owned the rights to all the land, as well as the schools, stores, and “scales.” Workers in mining communities were sometimes paid in “company scrip” that could only be redeemed at the company store, and the geography of the area and overall lack of independent mobility most people had made it rather prohibitive to participate in integrated competitive markets and/or simply move away in hopes for a better deal. Coal was not as common farther south in Appalachia, but timber was plentiful. Over time, old-growth and new trees were stripped and clear cut from these mountains to build the houses and buildings for new cities popping up across America. The history of the chestnut tree in Appalachia is an interesting side-study when you consider changes to the land over time. As wealth and excess created massive wealth gaps, a philanthropic ethos seemed to emerge among the uber-wealthy. Carnagie gave away nearly 90% of his fortune at the end of his life, the Rockefellers are responsible for The Tetons, the National Geographic Society was founded, and here in North Carolina, The Biltmore happened… In the 1880s the Vanderbilts started construction on The Biltmore Estate, just outside of Asheville, North Carolina. At nearly 180,000 square feet, the Biltmore is (even today) the largest private home in America (note: the estate was at one point over 125,000 acres). Construction of the estate drove the economy of a small city, and Vanderbilt wanted the best, so he retained Frederick Law Olmstead, known as “the father of American landscape architecture” to design the grounds, and Gifford Pinchot, “the father of American Forestry” (and first Chief of the United States Forest Service) to handle the forests on the property (note: this science-based forest management started here is actually “the Cradle of Forestry”). Olmstead was the genius behind New York’s Central Park, Stanford University, and the grounds surrounding the U.S. Capitol in D.C., and Pinchot is credited with the term “conservation ethic,” meaning that resources would be used in a “wise manner” that keeps them healthy, providing maximum benefit for the greatest number of people for the longest period of time. The history of the Biltmore post-construction is also worth a quick mention... First, as was happening with many large estates around the world, maintenance costs became too great to maintain by a single family (yes, the Granthams would have lost Downton if not for Lady Mary...), and in 1914, 87,000 Biltmore-estate acres were sold to the U.S. government for less than $5/acre and later converted into the Pisgah National Forest. And, during World War II in the 1940s, as a remote, rural fortress, the Biltmore was the secret storage shed for much of the artwork from the National Gallery of Art in D.C. Changes during the “Progressive Era” started around 1890 and lasted until about 1920ish in response to rapid industrialization and monopolization of many of America’s industries, as well as a realization of the ability to make changes in the human-rights arena (i.e. - women’s rights, worker’s rights, and child labor). In a sense, we start to see the start of an evolution of the American mindset from “expand, extract, and exploit," to “conserve, preserve, and protect for human enjoyment” (note: the Roosevelt Arch above the northern entrance to Yellowstone states: “For the Benefit and Enjoyment of The People”.) Several decades later, in 1962, Silent Spring would be published (note: recently called "underrated poetry" not scientific-writing), the Civil Rights Movement would be in full-swing, and Richard Nixon would be forced to play politics with pollution and establish the Environmental Protection Agency to "transform our land into what we want it to become" (huh?). I am always amazed that Olmstead and Pinchot both worked on the same property near here given their work on larger projects across the country and the scope of their work as it relates to what we consider "nature" and "wild." Olmstead’s work planning municipalities and parks defined our experiences-in and perception-of “urban nature” (i.e. - most Americans live in urban areas today), and the legacy of Pinchot’s conservation-management strategy continues to influence much of the law pertaining to our more remote public lands; defining the framework for our perception of “wilder nature.” While you could/should add a lot of names to the discussion (e.g. - John Muir’s focus on preservation (which is different than conservation, read McPhee's Encounters with the Archdruid)and Aldo Leopold’s “land ethic”), I tend to think that combined with Thoreau’s epiphany at Katahdin, Appalachia plays a major role in America’s definition of “nature”, and how we should “engage” it (and in turn, "manage" it), which is a large part of why I am so drawn to this long walk in the woods. Okay, yeah, maybe I need some sleep… We have a huge 20-mile day if we’ll meet the kid’s deadline to get off trail tomorrow, but the good news is that the thunderstorms were more thunder than rain, so we dodged what could have been a soggy morning… High-5, Trevor
And that's all for this year folks! Thanks for following along with the adventures of these intrepid explorers. Hopefully you're had the chance to both learn a little bit marine invertebrate embryology but also a glimpse in the lives of people who are interested in these sorts of things! Also, if you want to stay in touch with what happens at the marine station throughout the year you can find us here Until the next expedition! -Paul
As I look through my expedition itinerary and really plan what to bring along, I would be remiss if I did not mention those who have chosen to sponsor me along the way. These people are incredibly special, all for unique reasons. Follow me on this journey through memory lane, as I acknowledge each of these special people! Today is all about Pat Mulloy. Pat and I met and became fast friends at Longwood University in 2006. I was finishing my Masters, he was finishing his senior year; preparing to enter the Army as an officer at the conclusion of his time at Longwood. Pat is one of those people that genuinely cares about others. I have so many fond memories of and with him that I cannot begin to articulate just one that stands out most. What I can tell you is how he made me feel, which I think is why he was and is so important to me. Any time I was with Pat, he made me feel important and that whatever I was up to that day was the most interesting thing he had ever heard. He always made time to support my endeavors; one that sticks out most was when I had a huge event for Residential and Commuter Life. It was the day of the event and Pat rushed me to campus so I could get all of the details of the day put together; I was a frantic mess. Pat reassured me that everything was going to be great and that I had meticulously planned this event; there was no way it would go off without a hitch! In that moment, it was exactly what I needed to hear and he sent me off with a hug. One of those hugs that permeates long after it is over. He was right, the event was a hit. It's moments like those that Pat's support and positive influence is most evident. Even thinking back on it now, I can feel his undying support of me. Fast forward to the announcement of this expedition. When Pat heard about what I was up to, it should come as no surprise that he jumped at the opportunity to talk to me about it. Question after question, he wanted to learn more about what I would be doing, what motivated me to do it, and most importantly, he wanted to support me. Many miles separate this incredible friend from me, but through facebook messenger, I felt his hug of support. I am incredibly grateful that Pat is a part of my life and one of my main supporters on this expedition in particular. In January, he sent a donation to http://www.boilingriver.org/ The Boiling River Project, the nonprofit for which the thermal river system data will be collected.
Where am I in the world? June 20 Yes, it has been a whirlwind of a few days. I am not getting to writing as much as I wish due to some motion sickness I am battling with. My fellow teachers have been looking out for me, so I am thankful when they check in on me. The first night was rolling bad – a tall wall of water out the porthole is something to behold for the eyes, not so much for the stomach. But, as much as I can fill this up with my motion woes, I am going to stick to the fun stuff. The first day on the ice we saw a total of 13 polar bears. The first one was quite the showman. He is the one you see a photo of. We got to the edge of the ice, and he kept moving away from us. But he decided that darn ship was going to keep following, and since there are no seals, I may as well greet them. He came back and put on a show for us, rolling around, pawing at the sky, dipping in the water. I have a lot of awesome shots, but I want to watermark them before getting them out there. After that particular bear, the next adventure was by zodiac to a walrus hang out. They are such playful, shy creatures. They would come a bit close, pop out of the water, and swim away. Their eyesight is terrible, so they take baby steps investigating the scene. In the zodiac we stayed still, and the walrus would keep getting closer and closer…One kept coming right at me, I got afraid and backed up a bit, which scared him off. They have stinky breath! Later that evening, at least I think it was on the same day, we got to a large ice shelf and parked the ship. There were 12 bears out there wandering around. They didn’t get as close as the first one, but many were mother bears and either 1 or 2 cubs. I was tracking a mother and 2 cubs for a bit, then I noticed they were suddenly going very fast. At the time I thought there might’ve been a crack in the ice they were swimming in and got caught in a current. Later that evening, a naturalist told us there was a male bear she caught wind of and started running with her cubs. You see, male bears will kill the cubs in order to mate with the adult female cub. Momma bears have no interest in mating while being a mom. Then about midnight we got to a cliff of birds, thousands and thousands of birds. It was very noisy! That is what one of the photos is showing. I have also seen reindeer and walked on squishy tundra, learned some tricks with my camera and I now know what ice scraping alongside a ship sounds like…a bit eerie until you get used to it. Yesterday and today are days at sea, traveling along the Greenland ice, there is a map up in the Chart room I will try to take a photo of. So much more to write about, but I am going to try to get some soup for lunch. Later!
This project is driven by the power of personal stories to build cultural understanding. The islands of the South Pacific may be known to the outside world for their spectacular beauty, and I'm interested in modern tales from the people who live there. My commitment is simple: be curious & listen. My work relies on meeting one person at a time and asking that person to introduce me to someone new. By following this trail, I will welcome the unexpected and share it with you. After three years of following these threads throughout the global Arctic, it's time to go somewhere new. Most importantly, I have found my first connection, that single person who can welcome me and get me started along a trail of stories. I got a message from D.! “I am very honored to find your message. I am looking forward to have a cup of tea and talk story with you. Aroh ia rahi.” – D It’s that simple. A cup of tea to begin the story that will range across the ocean. (I’ll tell you more about D. when I meet her in Tahiti.) I’m very happy that my three-years-and-counting collaboration with photographer Eric Guth will continue, and I’m thrilled to welcome filmmaker Matt Mastrantuono to the team. My sponsorship from the Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic Alliance enters a new phase in a landscape of palm trees, sharks, coral … and more stories you will only find by following us!
Hi! My name is Rachel Bujalski and I am a documentary photographer. Over the past decade I've been documenting different stories around alternative living. My next long term project “We All Live Here” will be a dynamic representation of the affordable housing crisis focusing in Los Angeles County, the Bay Area, and the San Joaquin Valley. I'll be sharing photos, insights, and field notes here as I dig into these stories! You can follow along on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rachelbujalski/ And my website for past work: https://www.rachelbujalski.com/
Baited Remote Underwater Video Systems (BRUVS) are one of our primary methods we use to assess population abundances of nautiluses. Each BRUVS consists of a steel frame, video camera in underwater housing, LED light in underwater housing, a bait stick, and fishing rope leading up to a surface buoy. We deploy them overnight and record the number of nautiluses, and other species, attracted to the bait source over 12 hours. In addition to population information, the video records new behaviors, reproduction, predation, species composition, habitat information, sedimentation rates, and so on... There is always something new to see with each deployment and in about 4 weeks, we'll see what comes up on the video in Fiji! #SaveTheNautilus #NautilusStrong
Although we do not have our ROV, we have created some steps to get us ready towards our first expedition. We want to survey the amount of marine debris in the water by using transects. We will visit 5 beaches where we will launch our ROV. The best time to gather data will be after a busy summer weekend, holidays, and when the tide is low. These are the next steps towards our expedition: Get the ROV Learn how to use it Come up with a plan and a testable question Visit 5 beaches with piers that can be easily accessible to launch ROV Collect information Review data/ videos Analyze the results Inform results Possible next steps would be: Modify the ROV to collect debris Work with local volunters divers to collect trash
Team leader Alexis Will is originally from Fairbanks, Alaska (the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks), but is currently working with the National Institute of Polar Research in Japan. The group itself is quite diverse with members of the team hailing from Japan, Russia, France, and Alaska. These teams have collaborated on several previous studies investigating the responses of seabirds to environmental changes in the Bering Sea. Wendi Pillars is an educator selected to team with the researchers in order to help communicate science in the classroom, connect her students to the community in which the research takes place, and whose students would benefit from the opportunity to connect with an Arctic community. Wendi is one of 12 educators selected by PolarTREC this year to help expand scientific thinking in new ways in various areas of the polar regions. The PolarTREC program is managed by the Arctic Research Consortium of the United States (ARCUS), a non profit based in Alaska with an office in Washington D.C. ARCUS is a consortium of educational and scientific members committed to arctic research and has received funding over the years from the National Science Foundation Office of Polar Programs for PolarTREC. We will be researching impacts of climate change and sea ice on Arctic Seabirds. Estimates are that 80 or 85 percent of the United States’ seabirds nest in Alaskan waters, and most of those are in the Bering Sea. St. Lawrence Island is considered to be the "gateway to the Arctic" and is rich with sea life for feeding birds, but as with the canary in the coalmine, birds are considered sentinels of change here, too. Climate change impacts the marine food web in myriad ways, we will be analyzing seabird vomit, blood, and feathers (!) to understand their diets, and nutritional status (whether they are able to meet their energetic needs). We will also be collecting small tracking devices the birds have carried during the past year to gain insight into where they have traveled throughout the winter. This information will help my research team to understand what the future seabird community and marine food web may look like as sea ice continues to retreat from this region of the world. Will the retreat of sea ice make it more challenging for seabirds to find food? Will it open up new habitat for birds to use in the winter? These are the kinds of questions the research is designed to answer. (Photo was taken by Lisa Sheffield Guy, and is housed in the PolarTREC archives)
Class has begin! Prior to sailing, there is a 2-week shore component. The students have arrived, including an i-Kiribati student and Observer, Moamoa. She is hard at work learning navigational charts and the science of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA), but she is up to the task. My favorite part of the shore component is meeting all the students, telling them the story and history of PIPA, and watching the whole room get goosebumps at the same time. Me too! The story is really that good. After all, when a least developed nation makes a marine protected are the size of California... BEFORE everyone else did.... that was a giant act of conservation. I should tell you the story in more detail, and I will, I promise, when I'm in a goosebump-y mood and I'm not crazy busy packing. But until then.... I promise, it will be worth the wait. :-)
Eelgrass is an important foundation species found in the shallow waters of bays and estuaries. Like other seagrass species, eelgrass can form large meadows that provide habitat for hundreds of associated species. Eelgrass also provides a number of ecosystem services, including nursery habitat for commercially and recreationally valued fishery species, erosion prevention, wave and storm protection, oxygen production, and carbon sequestration. Unfortunately, seagrasses are in global decline in large part due to human disturbances like physical destruction of habitat, excessive input of nutrients and resulting consequences (macro- and micro-algal blooms), and changes to the coastal food web due to overfishing. In order to protect this important resource, we need to know the current extent of eelgrass and determine whether it is changing over time. We seek to establish an ongoing monitoring program that uses a Trident ROV to quantitatively track significant changes in eelgrass habitat over space and time in Bodega Bay Harbor, California. We propose a program that includes researchers and students at Bodega Marine Reserve and Laboratory and citizen scientists, and employs vetted monitoring techniques for detecting changes in seagrass occurrence and cover using remote underwater video.
It’s been a longtime coming, but we’re incredibly excited to report on our debut dive day with ARREE. In collaboration with OpenROV, our team was able to conduct dive operations concurrent with a Trident test flight in Stillwater Cove, Carmel, California. Stillwater Cove (SWC) sits within the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is one of the best places to study kelp forest ecology. In conjunction with the Edwards Lab’s focus on kelp forests community dynamics, we have been exploring the formation of sea urchin barrens, and the differences between these two systems. In order to aid in our understanding of the differences in processes between a community dominated by photosynthetic kelps, and those dominated by voraciously herbivorous sea urchins, we have been deploying experiments from Baja California to the Aleutian Archipelago in Alaska. Our experimental set up in SWC provided the perfect opportunity to collaborate with OpenROV and their Trident Drones. We were thrilled to have OpenROV employees Zack, Mike, and Nicole join us as we explored the vibrant kelp forests and adjacent sea urchin barren grounds in SWC. With the help of our newest lab mate, ARREE the Trident, we will continue exploring and document the changes kelp forest communities are experiencing in an age of unprecedented social and ecological change. Join us as we continue to explore autotrophic communities (those dominated by photosynthetic organisms likes sea grasses and algae) along the Eastern Pacific. We’ll be taking ARREE to Catalina Island this summer to explore fascinating algal communities called Rhodolith beds, and the human impacts to this fragile yet vital ecosystem.
Every year marine life are entangled in fishing gear that is left in the ocean. Fisherman, Dick Ogg from Bodega Bay has been involved in searching for abandoned fishing gear and crab pots in order to reduce the number of entanglements in the Sonoma Coast area. We are excited to have the use of an Mini-Rov (water drone) to help with this effort. Our expedition will start as soon as we receive our first ROV.
As if this opportunity were not AMAZING enough already--I want to share with you two MORE reasons I am looking forward to this expedition! Reason 1 (for today): Samra Zeweldi, my roommate! I met Samra one amazing day in Washington DC in March of this year. This year's class of Grosvenor Teacher Fellows were all notified in February 2017, of selection. At the same time, however, we were instructed that we could not notify the public until a later date. This was an incredible secret to keep. In March, all 40 of us would be in Washington DC to meet in person for the first time and be able to freely talk about our selection. This, of course, was only with one another, again, we had to keep this secret under wraps a little while longer. Not only would we meet our fellow . . . Fellows, we would meet our roommate(s). This was it! I was going to meet Samra, and I have to tell you I was incredibly excited and nervous at the same time. I can be a lot to handle, I talk a lot, I am rather loud to boot, and I have a lot of energy. Oh yeah, I am also THAT morning person--so meeting Samra was filled with energy and I could only hope she would embrace me for me, and we would be on a magical journey together. As fate would have it--we were instant friends! Samra is a cool, calmer than me type--so we balance each other out well. We hold the same values as educators and human beings which was also amazing to learn! I could not be more happy or excited to be on expedition with her! Reason 2 (for today): Sylvia Earle. Yep, I said THAT name. Sylvia "Her Deepness" Earle will be on our expedition to Galapagos and I still cannot believe this. I read the announcement near daily. If you are unfamiliar with Sylvia, please do yourself a HUGE FAVOR and visit this site: https://mission-blue.org/about/ and follow her on twitter @sylviaearle You will NOT be disappointed!
Yesterday we had our second photovoice session. We were able to have a great discussion about the pictures that the school kids took during the first session. Some interesting themes that came up were the legends and culture surrounding the cenotes in the town; the natural history, such as rock formations; and contamination. The students taught us a lot about how the cenotes are part of their ancestors and are a central part of their culture and community. There are many interesting stories surrounding the cenotes as well, such as the serpent that protects the gold inside or the sacrifices that happened there. The students were also very concerned about the contamination--for example, they told us that people should appreciate and conserve the water inside the cenotes. After our discussion we handed out surveys to the school kids to take another look at the general thoughts about the cenotes in their town, which also resulted in great answers such as the one pictured below. Along with the global investigators and UNO students, the school kids then went back to the cenote to take more pictures--this time focusing on one of the major themes. Translation: "For me the cenotes are life and joy" C: know them E: Explore them N: it's never too late O: never forget them T: we should always take care of them E: Instead of contaminating them
Saying Goodbye A dramatic retelling of our first and final voyage with the Trident ROV by Greta Olson - Junior at Jones College Prep - Spring Intern On June 9th, the Aquarius Project Team rode up to Sheboygan, WI, where we had been invited to ride out on the NOAA research vessel, Storm. We had a full itinerary including testing a magnetometer, our temperature and RGB light sensors, and passing over the shipwreck of the Selah Chamberlain. ) After a day of successful tests, we planned to finish off with our first deep water test run of our ROV, the Trident. For this test, we used a controller to make the ROV easier to navigate. After some initial difficulty setting up, we launched it into Lake Michigan to test maneuverability in deep water and to get footage of the shipwreck. I was lucky enough to have the privilege of being the first pilot of the Trident for our test. Controller in hand, I watched as Jack (a teen participant on the Aquarius Project) threw the ROV into the lake. Tumbling through the air, it hit the water in a dizzying roll. At first, it was challenging to get my bearings, as, until the lake bottom becomes visible, there are no points of reference to indicate the movement of the ROV. As this was the first real test of the Trident and only my second time operating it, it took a minute or so to understand the information display. The current was gripping, and combined with the persistent pull of the boat, the ROV was incredibly difficult to maneuver, resisting all attempts to turn it and move up or down as it was dragged backwards. Eventually, I was able to gain some control of the Trident and got it to turn around. Suddenly, the ghostly shadow of the wreck was visible. Everyone on the ship gasped with a mixture of shock and delight, the boat appearing from the green depths making some people, myself included, jump. I steered towards it, and was able to get close to some broken beams of the ship. Pillars of wood, coated in mussels loomed in front of the camera. Sadly, our triumph was short-lived and the alien landscape turned treacherous. The current pushed the shipwreck out of view and only a spectral shadow could be seen through the green water. As I attempted to move the Trident around and steer it back, algae and mussels were kicked up into the camera, and the shadow continued to loom from a distance. After a brief moment, a horrific disbelief fell upon everyone on the boat: the ROV was stuck. We tried everything: letting out more line, gunning the engine, pulling up the line, but nothing worked. A few times, the Trident lost its connection with the controls, and we could only wait and hope that it would be restored so we could try again. As the minutes ticked by though, our hope rapidly faded away. We began to suspect that the weight we had attached to the line must have gotten caught and wrapped the whole line around something. The R/V Storm was anchored to the wreck, the ROV line keeping us from going anywhere. Ultimately, the decision was made to cut the line. We had done everything we could, the fog was rolling in, and we had to go back to shore. One of the crew, NOAA archeologist John C. Bright, volunteered to do the mournful job of cutting the line. And, with a final snap, our ROV was left there, off the coast of Sheboygan. With glum faces, we turned back towards land. Our day had been so successful up to that point, and it seemed a shame to end on such a bleak note. Even though we had resolved that we would never see the Trident again, the crew was able to give us some hope: in August, NOAA is sending a dive team to the site of the Selah Chamberlain. If the divers are able to retrieve our ROV on their dive mission, they will send it back to us. Until then, we can only wait and hope the Trident withstands its summer in the lake.
World Oceans Day! At Point Lobos SNR, we celebrated with a couple of long-distance learning programs live from the Whalers Cove giant kelp forest. In all, about 100 students from San Diego County and New York got an opportunity to spend part of their day on a virtual mellow kayak adventure at Point Lobos. Check out this collage of some of the protected life found right here in the Point Lobos kelp forest.
Tomorrow morning, I will meet up with Guam Department of Fish and Wildlife for a kids' fishing derby. They asked me to bring the ROV (STILL unnamed) in a pool as a demo. The ocean is extremely shallow near shore, and there is no place to launch without banging up the coral and/or the ROV. Last week, I did a similar event at the mall and ran the poor robot in a cooler. People still loved it. Stepping it up this week with an inflatable 8' pool from KMart. Every time I run an operation like this, I learn another thing about these cool machines. This time, I am trying to integrate a game controller, and I have it working well enough to pilot the ROV. Still no lights or lasers, looks like some coding is required for that. Check out this test from tonight! My four year old son was able to pilot it no problem, so, I can officially declare this kid-tested for tomorrow.
Update : hunt for the missing gopro So in a previous post I talked about how in the process of testing a method for 3D mapping the underwater environment, we lost my GoPro. In the days following that little misadventure, there were two attempts to find it. Both trips came up empty. We assumed the current or a lucky Scuba diver had taken my camera and I’d even started researching the cost of a replacement. Fast forward to today. We decided to go back to the same site. We were there because my ROV is going to be used in a study of fish abundance on a reef accessible from that site. We’d been having a slight problem though, we couldn’t find the reef we wanted … We’d planned to do a more thorough search for the reef today. In addition to the ROV, I was going to go snorkel the area and search for the reef. I also wanted to make one final attempt at finding my lost GoPro. So while Mitch and Jesse got more practice on the ROV, I started my search. I found the area where we’d spotted the GoPro the previous weekend and I searched high and low, in among rocks, all over the place and drew the obvious conclusion that it was gone. I then turned to helping the ROV find this disappearing reef. I swam out in the direction I’d been described, and while I saw some beautiful fish in among the Dolos wall, I didn’t find a reef. I decided the last part of the attempt would be to swim the ROV out as far as it could go in the direction I’d just been swimming so see how far it could search. So I swam back to the entry point where Mitch was sitting. Now there was a bit of surge today and the entry point is a bit rocky, so I was cautious about getting tossed on something sharp. Close to shore now and I suddenly found the water pushing me forward and I almost went face first into some rocks on the seafloor ahead of me. I put my hands out to steady myself, and as my face came close to these rocks, I saw into a gap between them and thought, “you gotta be kidding me”, sure enough nestled down in between these two rocks sat my GoPro! I quickly reached in and grabbed it before making my way up to the steps. After a whole week, The GoPro had survived intact and still working. I’m yet to analyse the video but excited to see what adventures my little GoPro went on. Below is the photographic proof
FIELD NOTES FROM THE ANCIENT FOREST, PART I Ben said the weather on the outer coast was a constant source of entertainment. Some form of rain—whether it was a sprinkle, a steady downpour, or an intermittent burst—persisted for the first six days. “At one point late in this soggy episode,” he wrote me, “my mind was operating with the assumption that it wasn’t raining anymore, but that was only because the rain was rather light. I guess the mind works on relative terms. It was raining, just not that hard.” A storm ripped through the camp, which was exposed on open outwash gravel, and belted the team with raindrops the size of marbles. The deluge split one of the cook tents in two. The next day, Ben, Dan, and Phillip, an undergraduate student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks helping with the field work, moved their base to a more protected spot. It never blew like that again, however, and the spells of blue sky began to persist for longer. Spring came over the course of days. “The 4am bird chorus at the end of the trip was only a series of tentative solos at the beginning,” Ben recalled—Swainson’s and Varied Thrushes, Yellow Warblers, Tree Sparrows, and Winter Wrens in concert with one another. Spruce tips broke free from what were initially tight buds. And the glacier crossing? Well, that part wasn’t necessary. "After passing over the proposed glacier route, it was apparent that the ice was riddled with too many crevasses to pass safely," Ben wrote in his field notes. "Fortunately, the creek draining the glacier, normally a raging torrent, had now transformed into a sleepy brook, allowing us to pass to the study area with relative ease…. When we arrived at the glacier it was apparent what had happened. House-sized icebergs that had once floated in the lake stood grounded. The lake, which normally fed the creek, was dry, having finally tapped into the inner plumbing of the glacier that dammed its southern side. It was now draining below the ice. This product of glacier retreat graced us with the ability to stroll from the forest to the beach, a route we needed to use for hauling wood samples to where the plane could land on the beach. Without this auspicious lake-draining, we would have spent days bushwhacking through the old-growth forest with heavy packs where our land speed usually averages 0.3 miles an hour."
Initially, we used satellite data to map the traces of faults. In the field, we planned to document these fault and educate the community about earthquake hazards and how to live with earthquakes and minimize danger. Many people are afraid of earthquakes, but they are the reason we have access to all of our resources: hydrocarbons, minerals, etc. We just need to learn to live in hazard zones safely!
Hi Everyone! Our expedition has passed the vetting process and is now live! Thanks to Madeleine at OpenExplorer for her suggestions to help us get this thing going! Our next step is to get to 50 plus follows as fast as we can! If we're one of the first members of the California MPA Colloborative network to get to 50 follows we'll get a free Trident mini rov for not only our expeditions but the entire Catalina MPA collaborative as well! Please tell your friends and family about our expedition and have them follow us! Thanks for all of your support!
Internet Down The internet is immensely useful while in the field. Accessing email and communicating with family, friends, colleagues and students back home. Communicating with host colleagues. Accessing files on drives or remote access to home or partner institutions. Cataloging my science activities and data. The internet is a work horse. Traveling abroad you should always expect some interruptions. Although Telecommunications infrastructure has been progressively improving in Tanzania since my inaugural visit in 2012, it still is comparatively less reliable than what I am use to back home in the States. Slow networks. Patchy connectivity. Slow wifi. Disconnecting Ethernet network. One second you are online and the next you aren’t or they slow down to pace of a snail stuck in molasses. You would think it would be due to network or service I’m using – I’ve used my data or my internet is being metered by my service plan. I can’t figure out, but I have noticed that when it’s out or patchy in one medium it’s out across the board. This means when I switch devices (and internet access and service plans, I may not find relief. For example, when I was writing this post the Ethernet connection via the university just disappeared. At the same time, my phone service went from 3G service to E. These are different providers and services. Sometimes I can shut my phone off then back on to reconnect to 3G. But it’s so strange to be that lose connection in every way I have to access the Internet. Sometimes, I can’t even use data to overcoming the fade out. It’s like a pulse – it up and down, in and out; and it can last for a few hours or over a couple of days. I was convinced it only happened on cloudy days – as if clouds were blocking the view of the signal waves to my devices. (As I was typing this and after shutting my phone off then on and unplugging the Ethernet, the plugging it up – 3G and connectivity suddenly apparates. So I continue my business online. 10 minutes late- out again.) See the video attached to this post. My transmission pauses several times and cuts me off unexpectedly. This is more than frustrating. It’s a productivity killer. So much work I do depends on internet access. Email. Remote access to work. Communicating. Social Media. Google – Drive, Translate, Scholar, ALL of the things. Every time I come I wish I had a BRCK. I still desperately need one. It offers the promise of stable connectivity while I am in the field. But it doesn’t actually resolve the issue I’m experiencing, it merely makes it better for me. I needed to send an email yesterday and it took over an hour to send a simple 8 word email with an attachment. I’m trying to complete an order online and it’s taking over an hour to do that – because of the internet fade outs. Now, imagine this is your normal, default. This is why collaborators from those regions may take up to a week to respond to emails or why those samples didn’t get processed or shipped. These compounded inconveniences from incomplete infrastructure are why our colleagues in developing nations aren’t top of mind when we’re asked to recommend science experts from the global south or why there’s been no African Scientists on short list for Nobel Prizes. Our STEM capacities are categorically different and we, in the West, are more productive as a result. It’s a disparity that ought not to exist. It’s a disparity I really want to level.
Greetings Enthusiasts!Some updates on our preparation/learning phase. We've done some testing with deployment from a kayak at two sites. The beautiful Ft. Munroe/Comfort Point Mill Creek, and in Poquoson in White House Cove. The Poquoson site had a good amount of trash, old crab pots on the marsh, signs, garbage...sad. Was having dive issues as well, no good video. The shot with the kayak and shallow water shot below are from Fort Munroe, the two garbage pictures are White House Cove. The amount of trash in White House Cove is sad, it's right outside of the Plum Tree island National Wildlife Reserve. The Fort Munroe site was excellent. So much here, and so much history! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FortMonroe Though, we've read that oysters spit...but seeing it is just amazing. Unfortunately, I didn't get any footage of it as the tide was going out and I forgot an anchor for my kayak, so much time was spent station keeping. The raw ROV footage of some oyster reefs and test dives are below. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8zvY62rifS4 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-lcYYxb3M3E https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-lE9nYPtmQ There were some issues. Sunlight was one of them as the kayak set up, well, wasn't really ready. However, this was a learning set of dives. And that we did.
Flying the Trident ROV Just received my new Trident ROV this week. Have been "playing" with it on the floor checking out all the functions. I have never flown one of these before so it will be interesting to see how the learning curve goes. FYI regarding technical issues: the Cockpit software is running on my Samsung S6 phone - seems to be fine. It can be controlled by a Moga Hero Power game controller with the switch in the "B" position. All controls work fine. Controls three motors, forward, reverse, pitch and yaw – Also turns on/off the camera and lights. That is pretty much all it has. The underside has lots of points for attachments – but I don’t really have anything unless we attach the water quality probe there for cave work since at one site we cannot drop the probes straight down. Maybe we can fly the probe into the cave. The Cockpit display shows depth so we should be able to get Temp., dissolved oxygen, pH, salinity and redox potential - IF we can fly the probe into the cave and not get tangled. The Cockpitsoftware is not designed for VR use as yet. BUT it turns out that I was able to clone the app and can run two versions of it side by side on my phone in landscape mode. Then with phone in the VR goggles you get a quasi 3D image and hopefully can fly in the virtual world. Only tried it with the apps search screen but it looks OK – not perfect but the VR goggles are cheap ones. Still in bright sun they should be a help since lack of screen visibility is a major a common complaint.
The Trident is really portable and can be operated using an Android phone. My set up consist of Galaxy S8 Active to a USB/HDMI adapter then to the Cinemizer VR glasses via HDMI cable. The Trident transmits from the topside adapter, seen in the middle of the tether reel, to any WIFI device(beta versions are only working on Android devices but that will change). An app controls the ROV with touch controls on the phone or with a standard gamepad. The touch controls work well and the phone is waterproof, most game controllers are not. The phone screen works well enough to pilot the ROV but details do get washed out in the sunlight. The VR glasses eliminate the glare problem, give you a second live view to share, and are a totally awesome way to ride along. The other ROV is much bigger and has several steps to operate, both pre-dive and post. The electronics tubes need to be warmed up, seals triple checked, computer connected, and a host of other little things. It uses Blue Robotics thrusters and the 360 cam/light cube housing come from them as well. These thrusters are less likely to get wrapped up, can easily run in murky water, and will be caged to hopefully keep the eel grass out. This ROV will also the the ability to go a little deeper and is wired to accept a payload. Payload could be anything from a gripper claw to a water sampler. There are also two laser 10cm that can help measure things. Electronics and software come from OpenROV. The frame was cold molded from HDPE in my garage. Both ROVs are capable or transmitting via Wifi to multiple devices and we will be experimenting with that in future expeditions. They can record depth and heading, have heading and depth hold, are really not that difficult to pilot. The Garmin 360 camera I choose because it is so flexible. The batteries can be swapped, it can be plugged into a battery pack, lens can be replaced, HDMI out, and takes an micro SD card. No one makes a waterproof housing for it yet, thus the DIY one I pieced together from Blue Robotics. The editing software is super intuitive but i should confess, I have always been a fan of Garmin products. Just keep in mind some of things I mentioned above when searching for a 360 camera. The technology is moving fast so this could be outdated already. The camera, with its housing and light, is too heavy to attach to the trident without also adding buoyancy. While there are mounting holes on the bottom to add future attachments, there is no clean way to add anything to the top. the buoyancy has to be on top and towards the outside edges to maintain a functional center of buoyancy. I may just strap some on with zipties or mold some plastic straps to mount in the bottom and loop around the top. See future posts to follow that progress. I will also experimenting with solutions to keep the props from getting wrapped. I am going to try and mount a worn down cutting disc behind the props. The disc will be big enough to cut grass but too small to go all the way through a finger. Getting the hang of the 360 camera with a pod of Pacific Whitesided Dolphins. Note the video below was shot in 4k to save battery power. Adjust the settings on the player to 4k for better quality video than default and be sure to scroll around.
Upon Dragon Rocks sits the lonely St. George Reef Lighthouse. Built after a wreck of the steamboat Brother Jonathan in 1865, the lighthouse cautioned mariners of the feared Dragon Rocks of St. George Reef for almost a century. Though the lighthouse is now decommissioned as a navigational aid, it still stands as a reminder of a time past when mariners would go to great lengths to ensure they avoided Dragon Rocks. But now, instead of avoiding this Dragon, we would like to get a closer look by shining a light on what’s beneath… The coastal waters along the North Coast of California are cold, murky, and often shrouded in fog, creating less than inviting conditions. However, for those of us that live along this stretch of coast, we know that these waters are home to an amazing host of creatures. We want to head out to the reef because many of the people in our community have yet to see all the life below the ocean’s surface. Some, including commercial and recreational fishermen, may have some ideas especially after a successful haul of Dungeness crab or limiting out on salmon, but many of us rarely get an opportunity to glimpse the ocean habitats in our own backyard. We plan to release the Trident in the areas surrounding Dragon Rocks. Following the reef from surface to depth will allow us to see a range of habitats and species. We anticipate needing a calm summer day in order for best deployment opportunities. The Del Norte Marine Protected Area (MPA) Collaborative is excited to begin expeditions that further our understanding and build awareness of marine protected areas in and along our coast. We draw our membership from the rich scientific and nonprofit community, tribal governments, fishermen, and agencies active on the North Coast.
For the 5th year we are heading back to Pom Pom island in off the coast of the island of Borneo. Pom Pom Island is a small coral islet in the Semporna Islands of Sabah in Malaysian Borneo. From the surface it is paradise: palm trees wave above the blindingly white coral sands edging turquoise waters. Benetah the surface is a different story. Although Borneo hosts to some of the most rich and biodiverse ecosystems in the world, IUU fishing, especially fish bombing is taking its toll. Beneath us is a shallow seascape of complex and colorful corals. Branching Acroporid corals provide refuge for neon blue damsel fish. Large plate-like forms two meters in diameter resemble swirling brown mushrooms, while other corals look like large orange boulders. Soft corals and anemones wave in the gentle current. The bottom is covered with over 100 species of corals painted in purples and neon greens and blues. Numerous species of small fish flit within the branches. As part of an online series called Borneo From Below, we are diving and filming the local reefs and sharks in a small island group off Malaysian Borneo, including this episode called Coral Reef in Crisis. The reef is a colorful complex and other-worldly, until we kick to the edge of an open area of broken and bleached coral. Collecting some of the fresh fragments, we surface. Our research partner, Dr. Steve Oakley of the Malaysian based Tropical Reef Conservation Center (TRACC), hands me a broken piece of coral rock the size of my hand. “Fresh fragments. See this sheared rock?” He points where the tiny cups left behind by the coral polyps line the rounded surface where the last living coral organisms had been. Beneath that layer are hundreds of years of calcium carbonate deposited by overgrown generations of living coral cups. A kind of living fossil, the side of the shorn coral indicates centuries of growth, one layer above the next. “This kind of damage only comes from fish bombing.” At the edge of healthy coral reef we find the source of the scattered fragments. A moonscape of broken rubble centers a circle with a diameter of 5 or 6 meters. We kick over a patch of healthy coral to an area where soft corals edge the margins indicating an older bomb site. Not a single living coral has recolonized the blast zone. No sharks or large fish are visible, and even the small reef fish are being extracted using this destructive practice. This is the devastation left by blast fishing also called fish bombing, an illegal but rampant form of fishing here in the Coral Triangle. In the practice, a fisherman tosses dynamite, or homemade bombs made from a bottle filled with fertilizer and kerosene lit by a short fuse into the water. The blast kills or stuns all fish within the vicinity, which are easily collected for market. Dangerous to the reef, this method also maims and kills fishermen, and it is not uncommon to see men with fingers or hands missing. What is left behind is a wasteland of flattened coral rubble that can take centuries or more to recover. Across the shallow lagoon lives a community of approximately 300 people. Many are of the Sama-Bajou, a tribe of sea gypsies who live on the island’s edge or on houses above the lagoon. Near the village is a resort where visitors stroll along the perfect white sand and palm lined beaches. While the affluent enjoy the resorts, the villagers live a hand to mouth existence and fishing pressure on the reef is heavy, added by supplying fresh fish to the resort guests. Most of the local people rely on the sea to survive and many ply their lines and nets from small open boats. Some local fishermen resort to fish bombing, a short term practice with long term consequences. This dangerous and destructive practice is rampant and virtually unenforced here and in other countries nearby like the Philippines and Indonesia. As we dive we feel the double percussive shock of a destructive fish bomb. The source of the explosion is difficult to determine, but a group called Project Stop Fish Bombing is applying detection technology to triangulate the location of the underwater blast. This tool when deployed can immediately identify the source and help increase enforcement of this illegal practice. The Hong Kong non profit Tenghoi (Cantonese for ‘Listen to the Sea’) and Malaysian media producer ScubaZoo are partnering on this project in Malaysia to implement the program and increase awareness on the issue in Malaysia. Besides thousands of species of invertebrates, the Coral Triangle hosts over 2000 species of fish and 500 species of corals, with many species endemic to the region. The coral reefs of south-east Asia currently provide food for over half a billion people, provides coastal protection, and attracts millions of tourists each year. Recent estimates place the value of goods and services provided by coral reefs worldwide between US$172–375 billion annually. Malaysia has few marine protected areas, and most of these do not have resources to enforce them. Besides combatting fish bombing, promoting community engagement and management through traditionally managed marine protected areas (MPAS) can be more effective solutions for local reef protection than government sanctified MPAs that receive no enforcement. On Kalapuan, TRACC is helping support a locally managed marine protected area called a Tagal. This will legally allow villagers to keep fisherman – especially blast fishers- out of the area, and allow locals to charge tourists a small fee to dive one of the few healthy reefs remaining in the immediate region. Economic support for local enforcement and technology through the Stop Fish Bombing Project combined with dive tourism are solutions that will, with hope, protect the reef we are diving. Local’s harvesting in a sustainable manner and self-enforcing their own interests may be the only long term solution for protecting coral reefs in developing and remote regions of the world like Malaysia. This year we will be using the Trident ROV to monitor reefs and help map areas under recovery, in addition to defining areas that have been fish bombed. Learn more about the efforts supported by Shark Stewards and partner organizations in Malaysia at www.sharkstewards.org.
The MPA Collaborative in San Luis Obispo County, CA is looking forward to using the Trident ROV add scientific and educational value by employing an underwater drone for real-time, live observations to ongoing and planned projects. It is the intention of the San Luis Obispo MPA Collaborative to make the Trident ROV available for use through a “Lending Library” format. Approved and trained users would be able to check out the equipment for deployment in a variety of underwater exploration. Working with interns from California Polytechnic State University, Collaborator San Luis Obispo Coastkeeper teams have previously conducted eel grass studies; invasive species research; storm water discharge and trash/plastics investigations in Morro Bay. SLO Coastkeeper intends to use the Trident ROV to update these studies to add scientific and to these investigations as soon as they become available through the Collaborative. In addition, the Morro Bay estuary is home to three species of smaller sharks; the horn shark, leopard shark, and the swell shark. These are slower-swimming sharks that prefer shallower waters that often let their food come to them. SLO Coastkeeper has considered studies of these species but has not had the ability to adequately pursue surveys. The use of a Trident ROV would make expeditions to gather data on habitat use and behavioral observations related to breeding in the shallow back-bay areas of Morro Bay and estuary practical.
Our expedition involves making a doc short about Emil and his creation of fusion sports in Kyrgyzstan as a means for preserving and sharing his culture. Backcountry-horse-skiing uses unique mountaineering Kyrgyz horses to trek on snow and climb into the fresh powder of the Central Asian backcountry, a cultural spin on chasing pristine turns in untracked places. Emil is taking a risk, as he tries to fuse nomadic traditions with the world of adventure tourism, hoping to create new economic systems for Kyrgyz nomads without losing their culture. Focusing on Emil’s perspective as an entrepreneur in his community, we will get an intimate look into what drove him to take on this new adventure and how it can ensure nomadic traditions become part of the modern age.
Over the last few years we have seen drastic changes along our coasts, from new species in the intertidal zone-never before seen along our shores to vast urchin barrens and the mass starvation and die-off of our abalone. We hope to be able to monitor these changes more closely with the Trident, relaying any and all data that could potentially help this delicate ecosystem to the appropriate agencies. We plan to incorporate all the data and footage gathered by the Trident into our youth education experience - FRC's Marine Ecology Program.
A group of researchers from different institutions have joint efforts to study the collapse of the underwater macroalgal forests and the expansion of barrens. In particular, we are interested in understanding what characterises these new barrens in order to isolate the factors that determine their creation. We also believe that monitoring already existing deserts is essential to prevent and predict the creation of new barrens along the coastline and will help us evaluate the possibilities of recovering lost underwater forests. We have launched a citizen science project to spot barrens worldwide. We combine different technologies to detect, measure and monitor the hidden deserts from flying and underwater drones to snorkel and SCUBA diving.
Our research, in the Great Bear Rainforest of British Columbia, Canada seeks to aid in uniting ecological science and Indigenous knowledge towards achieving conservation goals and national recognition of Indigenous management rights. As part of the Central Coast Rockfish project, I partnered with Dr. Natalie Ban at the University of Victoria, Dr. Alejandro Frid, and the combined force of the Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance (CCIRA), alongside the Kitasoo/Xai’Xais, Heiltsuk, Nuxalk and Wuikinuxv Nations, to explore the traditional ecological knowledge of First Nation fishers and knowledge-holders, and assisted in on-going ecological surveys. Together, we showcased the power of Indigenous knowledge to fill gaps in scientific data which limited conservation of the species, and learned about historical changes to populations of important marine resources. Together, we also worked to inform management of Yelloweye rockfish (Sebastes ruberrimus) and Dungeness crab (Metacarcinus magister) in BC. In 2017, I continued my research, partnerships, and adventure in the Great Bear Rainforest when I joined Dr. Chris Darimont’s Applied Conservation Science Lab. While in its preliminary stages, our new project seeks to better understand the way humans make decisions about the environment, inform conservation of endangered species and ecosystems of the Great Bear Rainforest, and uphold Indigenous knowledge and proprietary management rights. My work is supported first and foremost by Central Coast First Nations and empowered by their knowledge, vision, and collaboration. It is additionally sustained by funding through the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, the National Geographic Society, and (formerly) The Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response Network (MEOPAR) of Canada. I am of course supported by the tireless work of my many academic collaborators, friends, family, and colleagues. My research is reinvigorated daily by my experiences in the beautiful world that is BC’s Central Coast and Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest.
Before coming to Greece, our two main goals were set: 1) install independent and autonomous camera systems in two different caves, to monitor the comings and goings of monk seals. They are both up and running, and have been fully autonomous for the past 4 days. We are now monitoring their evolution, along with our scientific partners: MOm, Archipelagos and Fiskardo Divers 2) actually find specimens of monk seals (the most endangered species of marine mammals !), filming and photographing them from the land, the water and the air. Over the past 48 hours, we were able to photograph 3 if not 4 different seals while testing new ways of using the aerial drone for that matter. The results are absolutely stunning (here are a few examples), and these images will help to raise awareness on the Mediterranean monk seal's dire situation.
An international, multidisciplinary group of scientists, photographers, film makers, divers, and ROV operators will meet in Lima, Peru, in late August 2018. The main goals are to highlight the area as a potential site for marine research and future expeditions, and promote collaborations between international and Peruvian scientists. On this trip we will dive in designated spots and will explore different marine communities to obtain a broad view of the biodiversity and uniqueness of the area. We will explore the Tropical-Cold Transition Zone, an area within the Hope Spot, where warm and cold water currents collide and mix with one of the largest up welling systems in the world. The general area is a largely unexplored tropical sea rich in nutrients, endemic species, and biodiversity. August-September have some of the most favourable water conditions and offer high probability of spotting the largest number of species in the area including sharks, manta rays, tuna, marlin, Humboldt penguin, whales, dolphins, sea lions, sea turtles, and many marine bird species. The Tropical Pacific Sea of Peru Hope Spot is comprised of four distinct areas. On this trip we plan on visiting at least three of them, El Ńuro, Punta Sal Reefs, and either Foca Island or Mancora's Bank, which is the farthest point of the four. Currently we plan to meet on August 28 in Lima before flying to northern Peru the following day and stay until the 2nd of September. Stay tuned for more updates. Dominik images by Yuri Hooker