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Hunting for underwater meteorites

Teens in Chicago are on a quest to find a meteorite in Lake Michigan
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Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa, Mar 1 to May 4 2018

Conservation Music's Expedition #K2K

Recent Observations

Unlike traditional model systems, working with marine invertebrates requires going out and finding them! Chris (my PhD advisor) and I went diving down at the Monterey Breakwater in search of different animals for our class. In particular we focused our collecting efforts on two different echinoderm species, the sea star Patiria miniata and the sea cucumber Parastichopus parvimensis which we can spawn routinely in the lab. Along with both being in the echinoderm "spiny-skin" phyla these animals are also interesting from a developmental biology perspective as larva are bilaterally symmetric but become radially symmetric as adults.

We are getting the first images back from the Deep Sea Coral Expedition in the Santa Barbara Channel Islands. We were able to visit and document never before seen areas of the deep ocean, including the rough and remote portion of western San Miguel Island! The images and data collected on this trip enable us to map and protect sensitive deep-sea coral habitat which is essential for fish populations and ocean health.We observed deep sea corals, rockfish, lingcod, soft corals, California king crab and many more sea creatures.

Great first two days in Greece !We sailed from Lefkada to Fiskardo, where we met the whole team. We spent the last 24 hours testing all the gear that had traveled from far away. The various drones (aerial DJI and underwater Trident) all work perfectly, and we already have stunning footage from secret spots. More to come in the next few days. One of the highlight is that our autonomous camera system is fully functional. Now, we need to select the best spot to deploy it and test it during the next 10 days. Stay tuned !

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 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 now and then—just as important—update my documents with lessons learned.

First underwater adventures (and misadventures) with the Trident in open water! Author: Tomasz Pedlow (Field Specialist, Oceans Research) Most of the time living in a small town can be somewhat quiet. This weekend however was eventful as me and two other field specialists from Oceans decided to go and start getting some ROV piloting practice for our fish population project we hope to be starting soon. The goal is to see how an ROV compares to other methods of data collection for similar projects. The first step was getting good at piloting… Saturday adventures So on Saturday afternoon, Jesse, Mitch and I gathered up our equipment. Everything a team of amateur ROV pilots need We headed down to a commercial slipway near the main harbour in Mossel Bay and got to diving. Now I figured, being so close to a heavily used slipway we wouldn’t see much. We’d genuinely planned it as a chance to get more piloting practice. Boy were we wrong! We found a small reef and schools of fish all around! Some members of the general public came by curious about what we were doing so we enjoyed a bit of impromptu science communication about the reefs in the area. The kids especially were really fascinated. There were heaps of fish for us to see and it proved to be a really fun first dive. I’d done some practice dives back home in a harbour in Perth. There it was a sandy area with little to see. This dive really opened my eyes to what’s possible with this technology. I was really excited! Mitch, the ROV, Jesse and Mossel Bay at Sunset Sunday misadventures Feeling confident after yesterdays successes we decided to test out a few new toys for the ROV on Sunday. The first thing we tested was a special type of GoPro mount. The mount attached to the bottom of the ROV and allowed the GoPro to face straight down. This would allow us to shoot detailed footage of the seafloor which could in theory be turned into a 3D map. We deployed the ROV and headed out. We started okay, but the water was choppy and we banged into a few rocks. When we got further out, we charged out into calmer water but we struggled to find the reef. So we figured we’d cut our losses, detach the GoPro attachment and just practice piloting a bit more. I piloted the ROV back into the shore, Jesse picked it up and I immediately said some profanities when I saw that the GoPro was gone!  The GoPro mount I’d 3D printed had snapped during one of those collisions with the rocks. Jesse was about to go jump in to try find it but I had a better idea… I quickly pointed out that the second ROV attachment I’d prepared to test was a grabber claw. Out of that, a rescue plan was born. Admittedly, it was a wildly optimistic plan: Use an untested grabber claw to search somewhat choppy water for a small camera we hope to grab in rapidly fading sunlight with an ROV we just barely knew how to pilot… But we’re an optimistic bunch and much to our surprise we found the camera! And were we successful? Sadly no, while we were able to find the GoPro (much to our surprise). The water was too choppy for the ROV to make an approach and grab it. It is close to shore so it is retrievable. A rescue attempt will happen soon, cross your fingers for me! *This post was originally published on Toms blog

After losing our solar regulator the day before in a brutal capsize, we spent the morning trying to juice up our solar panels wringing the most of the morning sun. On days like today, we luxuriate in the extra time this gives us for personal indulgences - like washing clothing smudged and smashed with days’ worth of river dirt, taking an extra long wash by an aqua-hued inlet and reveling in having the sun dry us off in just the short stroll back to our tents. Even spending a few minutes longer by the breakfast fire nursing our tin mugs of steaming coffee in the quiet company of our fellow team mates. Back on the water, after just a few hours on the river ploughing through more waterberry trees, we came to an impasse. Drone footage revealed our worst nightmare - an underwater forest so thick and entangled, the river is all but invisible from the sky. Our only option is to portage - no easy decision, but we have to proceed in the face of this seemingly insurmountable challenge. Tomorrow we will start hauling each of our six mokoros over land until we hit an open flood plain, which might take days. To do this the team will burn more calories and need considerable more food - a concern for our camp managers who must calculate rations to last us till we reach the confluence almost 200kms away. The tightrope between exhaustion and energy is a wobbly one: eat too much and we’ll run through our food supplies before we reach the confluence. Ration the food too much however and we won’t have enough energy to drag 300kg mokoros through swamp-like grass that gives with every step and catches at our feet like quicksand.

Our expedition highlights the significance and vulnerability of limestone sinkholes in the Yucatán peninsula. Deploying an innovative program that links Yucatec college students with secondary school teachers and their pupils, this initiative provides interactive education about the geomorphology, history, and heritage of Yucatec cenotes, alongside participatory events that emphasize conservation and feature oral histories. Part of a vast, underground river system, cenotes played a significant role in the natural and cultural history of the peninsula and were the primary source of water for many communities until well into the 20th century. The cultural significance and history of cenote utilization is a focus of archaeological explorations and research on prehispanic books that were painted in Yucatán. Today, this unique landscape invites recreational uses, which mirror, in some ways, the past importance of cenotes as pilgrimage sites. Unfortunately, conserving the natural beauty, archaeological heritage, and water purity of cenotes (and the vast aquifer to which they are connected) is one of the greatest challenges that the children of Yucatán face as they mature and confront the specific ways that global climate change impacts this habitat. Education is key to meeting this challenge and effecting a balance between conservation and secure livelihoods that are increasingly linked with tourism. The educational plan highlighted in our exhibition enhances understanding of the vulnerability of Yucatán's integrated system of cenotes and augments the already considerable cultural appreciation for the singularity of the Yucatec landscape and for the ancestral cultures that so highly valued cenotes. The ultimate goal of this project is to develop sustainable local and regional educational programs and community activities that highlight cenotes and promote deeper understanding of this critical and fragile resource. Our team will train local university students in Yucatan to become ambassadors for cenotes. Together with other expedition team members, our ambassadors will reach out to local teachers and students in Yucatan. By focusing on students and young adults we will reach a cohort that is beginning to develop critical thinking skills and a social consciousness. To date, our team has successfully obtained National Geographic funding to undertake the exhibition. Currently, we are busy planning teaching modules centered around the oral history and folklore, science and safety, archaeology and heritage of cenotes. We have selected our advisory board composed of K-12 teachers, archaeologists, engineers, art historians, professors and governments officials and are in the process of selecting university students from Valladolid, Mexico to serve as our Yucatan student ambassadors. Our ambassadors, along with members of our advisory board will begin leading our teaching modules with local Yucatan teachers and students next month!

Our new beachfront home is the ultimate home base for our research on the coral reefs around this remote Thai island. Let the science begin!!!

Today marks the first day of the #K2K Expedition, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to begin in the Mother City of Cape Town! We have been blessed to have these two talented and altruistic men, Jack Mantis Band & Gershan Lombard: KhoisanBoy.Man, on the bill for this month’s eco-song collaboration about climate change, unity, and water scarcity. The focus of this song draws from the pressing issue of Cape Town’s water crisis and the impending #dayzero. As this day looms over the city, this song will encourage not only the awareness and preparation for #dayzero, but long term conservation as well, so that this can’t happen again. The process was initiated by an inspiring brainstorm leading to an uplifting melody upon which to build. The grassroots movement is where it starts! We’re so excited to continue expanding the voice of environmental conservation through song, and are eager to keep you all informed on the process! 🎵🌍❤️ #conservationmusic #k2k

As the school year comes to an end, the viking explorers are ready to share their adventures! First, we had set sail to Eisenhower aquatic center, testing out our robots that we built from scratch. With PVC pipes, motors, and wires, we forged our own robots. Our tests went well, we drove our robots around, and even tried out some obstacle courses. The viking explorers had a fun time testing our robots for the first time.

Here's the sidescan sonar that we'll be using to locate the sunken plane, if we're not successful in locating it in the public multibeam data. This is a DeepVision DE680. Made in Sweden, it's a pretty capable unit that sells at a reasonable price. It operates at 680 kHz, which is a good frequency for finding things like cars and airplanes underwater- that is, the tradeoff between range and beamwidth (resolution) is appropriate. As long as the airplane isn't in a crazy field of boulders, this sidescan should have enough resolution to pick it out. Set up with a tow speed of 3 knots, and using a 50% overlap, we can cover about a square mile per day of searching. So, unless we want to spend weeks covering the site, we'll need to make some pretty good guesses as to where the plane came to rest. There are better sidescans out there- Klein and EdgeTech make really excellent units- but they come with pricetags of $40,000 and up, which I can't afford.

The R2H2O Expeditions will include visits to numerous natural springs and underground cavern systems within the Floridan Aquifer geographical area and the Flint River Basin located in Southwest Georgia. The Floridan Aquifer is the largest, deepest, and oldest aquifer in the southeastern United States, and is one of the world's most productive aquifers. The Flint River Basin is located in the state of Georgia and encompasses the area from the Piedmont region of North Georgia to the Chattahoochee River in Southwest Georgia, and is one of only 42 rivers in the contiguous U.S. that flows unimpeded for over 200 miles.The mission of the Expeditions is to use underwater cinematography and photography to document the Expeditions sites, collect water samples for the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) Volunteer Water Monitoring Program for Region 4, engage the public through educational outreach, and promote environmental stewardship and conservation. The R2H2O Team will visit the following major sites within the Floridan Aquifer System and Flint River Basin: Flint River Basin Sites: Lake Blackshear Blue Spring Radium Springs Spring Creek Wilson Blue Spring Floridan Aquifer System Sites: Florida Caverns Jackson Blue Springs Vortex Springs Wakulla Spring Suwanee Springs Ichetucknee Springs Ginnie Springs Manatee Springs

PRESERVING THE PAST Rocks. Lake sediments. Tree-rings. Ice-sheets. Corals. Shells. Microfossils. What the paleoclimatologist (paleowhat?!) finds today paints a picture of the past and, perhaps, offers clues for how climate may shape life in the future. “What’s unique about this place, this discovery” Dan says of the La Perouse forest, “is that we have a chance to look at two systems—both the forest dynamics and the glacial dynamics.” Typically, paleoclimatologists, like Ben, are looking to reconstruct past climate from proxies, such as rocks or tree-rings. But this project is about more than past climate. It’s also about how life responded. “There’s a bunch of different ways for recording when glaciers got bigger,” Ben told me. Radiocarbon dating allows scientists to determine the age of an object containing organic matter based on its chemical properties. “You could date boulders, for example, to see when they were unearthed by the ice and started receiving direct sun,” Ben says. But tree ring dates are more precise. Each line in a core documents a year of growth. Wider rings mark the years with conditions for better growth; narrow rings distinguish the times of stress and hardship. Take one tree and match the rings up with the next tree—maybe an older one—and you start building a chronology of events back in time. Finding young trees that are growing near the face of a glacier can indicate retreat. Abrupt changes in the symmetry of the cores in a forest can indicate tilting caused by advance, ice-contact, or even death. So Ben and the team are after slabs—not just simple cores—for the more complete records at La Perouse. “It’s a bit circular,” Ben admitted to me about his thoughts on the study during recent preparations. “We’re looking for what the trees can tell us about the timing of glacial advance and retreat and advance and retreat again,” but also “for how the trees themselves responded to changing climate conditions.” The ice and trees—the forest still standing and the ancient layer below—hold the same climate history. Preliminary data suggests the ancient forest below dates back to 600 A.D., not long after the end of the Roman Era. Then there are the dead trees above, crushed and tilted and scarred by the ice that came with the Little Ice Age just over a century and half ago. What’s in between lies the Medieval Warm Period, or what scientists call the MWP for short. “Today’s warming is different,” Greg Wiles told me in conversation about the MWP. “The rates are quite a bit different. But the medieval warm period was a natural warm period relative to today.” Some scientists consider it the closest analog we have for considering the consequences of future warming. Ben and the team’s field technician, Phillip, are in Fairbanks getting ready to head south the archipelago. Yesterday, they packed food and shipped saws to Yakutat. Today, they’re packing in fresh greens while they can. Weather permitting, they’ll load up Wednesday for the flight to La Perouse. UP NEXT: More on the medieval warm period and the many confusing aspects of historical climate. And the gear? What’s on the list for La Perouse?

The Teens of the Aquarius Project This spring Chicago students as a part of the Adler Youth Voice Project, worked with professional writers, editors, and museum staff to create articles documenting the narrative of the Aquarius Project. Read the work of these young science communicators in our last few Open Explorer posts! by Isabelle Crownhart - Junior at Aurora Central Catholic High School Hello there! I’m Isabelle Crownhart, a teen currently working on the Adler Youth Voice Project in Spring 2018. I’m part of a small team focused on profiling the teens and scientists involved in the Aquarius Project. The Aquarius Project is a collaboration between the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, and Adler Planetarium to retrieve a meteor that landed in Lake Michigan in 2017. It is helmed by scientists and Chicago-area teens alike, and aims to create a device fit to scour the depths of Lake Michigan for pieces of the fallen meteor. I am primarily focused on profiling the teens involved in this project, so without further adieu… On April 28th, 2018, our group met at the Adler to interview some of the teens and scientists involved in the Aquarius Project. It was a lovely day, though a little on the chilly side for the end of April. Behind the STAFF ONLY doors of the museum, we found ourselves in an open room surrounded by the Adler’s usual Saturday volunteers who were grabbing some lunch. That’s where we started our conversation with some of the Adler’s 2017 Summer Interns, who were intimately involved in the primary stages of the teen-led side of the Aquarius Project. MARY CLARE GREENLEES Summer Intern (seen above)/ Far Horizons Riverside Brookfield, Senior, 18 First involved in October 2016 Lives in Brookfield in the Western Suburbs *How would you describe the Aquarius Project? * It’s a collaboration between museum entities in order to find meteorites in Lake Michigan. When did you start working with the Adler on this project? I was an intern in the summer and I participated in Far Horizons [, Adler’s near-space exploration laboratory]. What was your role in this project? My role in this project was as a designer, in particular designing the aspects of the sled with magnets. We had to design and test magnets to find which would work. My role was to improve on the design of the prototype, and to do magnate research with the other summer interns. What were the stages of this project? The stages of this project were deciding to do it in the first place, and then designing and creating the sled and the best way to rig the magnets. We started out working on the very first prototype created by the Shedd, which was called MUMS JR. What would you want to find? I would love to find some meteorites, to prove that these endeavors are worthwhile. Most meteors fall into lakes and ocean, owing to the fact that most of the earth’s surface is water, and nobody has ever really attempted to retrieve those that have landed in water before. Also, not a lot is known about the bottom of lake michigan, none at all actually. So anything from shipwrecked freighters and iron deposits, things are certainly sunk down there. So finding out more about the bottom of the lake would be hugely helpful to marine biologists. May 11th is the first test of the Aquarius Project sled in Wisconsin. What was your favorite part about working on this project? Getting to work with the scientists, the interns, and the volunteers was my favorite part. The failures too, because they only served to tell us more about what it was we needed to accomplish. **How many interns have been involved? Currently 5 spring interns, 4 summer interns last year, and at least 4 summer interns this year. The 16 Stratonauts have also been involved, as well as other volunteers. What would be some of the things they want to test? We would have to test the chemical composition of the of the pieces to see if it was indeed a meteor. The pieces can range from 10 gram to 1 kilogram chunks, so it varies greatly. We have a projected field in which it likely landed, but with water it is hard to tell where in the lake it wound up. What are some of the things you’ve learned from participating in this project? This project has shown me how scientists collaborate. I’ve learned a lot… with the other interns. This summer I’m interning with a grad student at the Field Museum. I’ve really grown in… collaboration and public speaking. What are you going to pursue in college? I’m going to Barnard College in New York CIty, which is a women’s college that’s a part of Columbia. I would like to major in Astrophysics, and I find dark matter particularly interesting. It was found because scientists were studying how it is that the milky way spins, and noticed that the universe should be falling apart, so why isn’t it? The galaxy is now said to be made up of dark matter, which keeps the galaxy together. What’s your dream job? I would want to be a working astrophysicist in a research lab or as a professor. What are some of your hobbies? I play the cello, I participate in Model UN at my school, Robotics team, Math Team, and painting for fun. What is your favorite class? I would have to say AP Calc BC because I love math, and I have had the same math classes with the same people since freshman year, so we have all become very close. Has anything funny happened to you while working on this project? Oh yes, working with magnets can lead to interesting results. So the magnets we were using once were categorized with a pull force of 200 pounds. Which is a pretty strong magnet. Anyway, we weren’t very careful and we ended up putting two of the magnets right next to each other. And they got really stuck. We ended up needing a bunch of people to pull them apart and afterward left the magnets covered in bubble wrap so it wouldn’t happen again. So we learned the hard way to be careful with the magnets. DAVID TORREJON Summer Intern / Far Horizons Jones College Prep, Senior First involved in the end of August 2016. Worked with Mary and Jennifer. In his own words: So, a meteor the size of a car came streaking through the sky around a year ago, which broke up into lake michigan. Our goal is to design retrieval equipment to collect those bits hiding under 200 ft of water. I worked with the magnets in particular, we designed a wheel of magnets to pick up the meteorites, so that we can then pull it out and send the findings to researchers at the Field Museum. I started working on the Aquarius project in the summer of 2017. What was your role in this project? My role was designing the overall structure of the magnet wheel component. We had to experiment with what did and didn’t work. We tried a different prototype of a magnet bar, which just didn’t end up working out, which led us in a different direction. After the internship others are currently still working on testing and improving upon the design. What is one of the things you would want to discover? I would want to determine the chemical composition [of the meteorite(s)] in order to better understand the part of the asteroid belt that the meteor came from. What is something you’ve learned from being a part of this project? I experienced how the scientific process can be very challenging, but it can be an incredibly rewarding experience when you finally figure something out. For example, the magnet bar was a very frustrating challenge, we spent nearly 4 to 5 weeks of our 8 week internship trying to get that idea to work, but eventually we persevered and moved on to the idea of a magnet wheel. How did you get involved with this? Through working with Far Horizons. What career would you like to go into? I’m not sure yet, but I’m attending the University of Michigan next year. What would be your dream job? My career interests range from economics to public policy, to astronomy. Aquarius opened more possible doors for me. What are your hobbies? My hobbies include watching Netflix, and I especially enjoy Marvel/ DC movies. I would say that I’m a big nerd. I also like to play baseball and swim. What were your favorite classes? Science and Social Science *Do you have any funny stories from your work with Far Horizons? * As an intern last year, I was a telescope intern with 3 other people, and we facilitate[d] the viewing of the sun from the [Doane] Observatory. Anyway, it’s a complicated process to open and close the door to the observatory. When closing the door, you put in a code and then you have 10 seconds to close it. There was this other intern who was acting very nonchalant about the whole thing, and so while he was closing the door, he didn’t close it in time, and this alarm went off through the whole planetarium. It just happened to happen that a police helicopter flew over the planetarium at that exact moment and we just are never gonna let him off the hook for that scare. Then there was another time with the same guy, we… went over to the Shedd [Aquarium] to go touch the stingrays, and so when he went over to touch them the stingray like lunged at him and freaked him out. Ever since then he’s said he’s gonna file a lawsuit against the Shedd, it was like a betrayal since he had actually been going on and on about the stingrays before we got there. After lunch with the Summer interns, we met up with Ken Walczak, the Far Horizons Program Manager and an Adler scientist involved with the Aquarius Project, along with some of his 2018 Spring Interns. They were very open and friendly, and we learned even more about the teen involvement in the project. The three of them are profiled below… SPRING INTERNS: MEGHAN MCCABE is a sophomore who wants to go into electrical/biomedical engineering. Working on this project helped her to narrow down the type of work that she wants to do. She cites coding for the project as particularly beneficial. Outside of school, she is a runner and she plays violin. Some of the things she has learned include coding and communication skills. For example, she had the responsibility of contacting geologists to find a lab location where they could possibly test a prototype sled under extreme water pressure to mimic the conditions of the bottom of the lake. KAROLINA GUERRERO is a senior who will attend The University of Illinois in the fall. She is majoring in computer science. She found out about the Spring internship by searching for things to do online, and she was also exposed to the Aquarius project when she was a Strautonaut at the Adler. Her dream job is starting her own software company and creating coding education programs for girls. She likes doing art, photography, tennis, and coding for fun. GRETA OLSON is a junior at Jones College Prep who found out about the program through summer camps as well as the planetarium’s Strautonauts program. She wants to major in either math or astrophysics. Her dream job is to be an astrophysicist at NASA, or a researcher. Her hobbies include art, reading, science, and baking. Our talk with the Spring Interns concluded our time getting to know the teens involved in the project. I had a wonderful time interviewing them in April and I feel like it has been incredibly helpful in shedding light on my understanding of the Aquarius Project. Learning about the trials and tribulations of the Summer Interns’ magnet bar and the lake-bed mysteries still being solved by the Spring Interns brought to the forefront the reality of the scientific process as one of unending curiosity. It’s not always simple or easy, but it can bear some worthwhile results. It also shows that teens, when given the opportunity, can accomplish amazing things. ISABELLE CROWNHART is a junior at Aurora Central Catholic High School. She lives in DeKalb, Illinois and has been involved in many different programs with Chicago Museums. Isabelle has been a Science Minor at the Museum of Science and Industry, and a member of the Field Museum’s Youth Council for the 2017/2018 school year. She is currently engaged as an intern at the Field for this summer. She discovered the Adler Youth Voice Project by simply looking around for things to do. Outside of museum activities, Isabelle plays tennis, participates in school drama productions, and does scholastic bowl. She enjoys drawing, writing, traveling, and taking pictures for fun. She has college plans, but other than that, isn’t quite sure where she wants to go or what she wants to be.

In Morogoro and getting started Updates have been challenging because getting sustained internet has been hard. I have to pay for devices and my Ki-Swahili is too weak to navigate alone. But I am in Morogoro - my expedition home base and I have gotten settled personally. Accomodations. check Hair braided. check Connected with friends and Tanzanian family. check Connected with Tanzanian colleagues and outlined next steps of research. check. In fact I'll be going out later today to investigate potentional nest sites of panyabukuu (giant pouched rats). It's coming along well.

Notes From the Field Adrianna VanDerGeest: In summer we usually only think of getting a tan and swimming with friends, but the reality is that warmer weather can have a negative impact on some species. As the water gets warmer, less and less oxygen gets to the bottom of a lake and some of the fish that like cooler water have a difficult time. Sam Johns: Today we were part of the Beta-test group for the Trident ROV (remotely operated vehicle). While the Trident was fun and easy to drive, we did discover some glitches with it: the Trident floated up towards the surface even though it was supposed to have neutral buoyancy, which means it should float where you stop it. Because of this, we had to put the salt water weights on it even though we were in a freshwater lake. When we finally figured out which weights to attach, we deployed the ROV but struggled to find the Habitat because of poor visibility. Eventually, we deployed it in a shallower part of the water where we saw different plants, fish and an invasive species called zebra mussels. Liz Schmidt: The last time we saw Tori, a marine archaeologist who usually drives to study shipwrecks on the Great Lakes, was in the middle of winter. It was nice seeing her again to learn more from her experience with underwater research and ROVs. Tori selected the place to deploy the Trident and shared information about the Habitat. Unfortunately, we had difficulty finding the Habitat because of wind, waves and visibility problems. Olivia Troyer: Lake Mendota is a beautiful and popular body of water located in Madison, WI. Not only does the beauty of the lake draw the attention of those who live near it, the lake’s amazing water quality history draws the attention of people who want to learn more about the lake. Mendota is a Eutrophic lake, meaning that when more nutrients enter the lake, more algae grows and dies. When the algae dies it sinks and causes sediment to build up on the bottom of the lake. Because Madison and other towns surrounding the lake are very agricultural, pesticides and fertilizers flow into the lake and speed up this process.Of course Eutrophication takes many decades, but we can still help the lake by reducing the amount of chemicals that farmers use on their fields. Another interesting fact about the lake is that the deeper you go, the colder it gets because of a lack of sunlight. Although cold water can hold more oxygen, the oxygen levels also decrease because there is less sunlight due to algae that has died at the top (using the sunlight) and drops to the bottom of the lake to decompose.

A Surprise return to the western edge of the Chesapeake watershed. Back in beautiful Appalachia.In a prior post we wrote about the Blue Hole Spring in Forbes state forest. Well, we found ourselves on an unplanned visit back to the area and able to explore the local famed swimming hole. And what a time we had. Crystal clear water. Crawfish, brook trout, and enticing rocky overhangs. Check out the videos! We thought there might have been a cave opening but, alas, none was found. Total depth was about 2 meters. We also had a chance to return to Indian lake, but alas we were driven out by a thunderstorm and could return. But we learned some more about the quarry that we started to dive and we were told about interesting things at about 80 ft. That the locals believes to be there. We will return to confirm! More on that later. Take a look at the short video that we captured. Not much to see but rock, but the dark depths we weren't able to get to are incredibly inviting. I would like to mention that twice during this short dive, the ROV was hit by something...twice. couldn't capture what it was. No idea. You can see when in the video as the ROV suddenly pivots. We definitely need to return! So, what does this have to do with the project? As stated before, the watershed is vast, and logging the tributaries is important in understanding what is happening, downstream, in the bay today.

The goal of this project is to track the change in sea star and bull kelp abundance over time from the pier at Trinidad, California. This is important because both are ecologically important but have recently declined in abundance. The populations of many sea star species (which are important predators on rocky reefs) have plummeted along much of the West Coast as a result of Sea Star Wasting Syndrome (SSWS). Trinidad was one of the first places where SSWS was seen. Bull kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana) has recently declined in abundance along much of California's North Coast, particularly along Mendocino County. Kelp provides habitat and food for a broad range of species including fish, abalone, and urchins. The kelp around Trinidad has not declined as much as the Mendocino area, but monitoring its abundance will be valuable. We will use the Trident mini-ROV to repeatedly collect video along an underwater transect. Data on sea star and kelp abundance will be collected by carefully reviewing each video. This project will provide a hands-on learning experience for high school and college students who will get to pilot the Trident and then review the video they've taken to gather data from it. The initial steps in this project will be: 1) Receive the Trident mini-ROV and then project leaders practicing and getting used to running it. 2) Refine sampling plan based on experience with ROV and its capabilities. 3) Research divers set up an underwater transect for the ROV to follow. 4) Start working with students to conduct research with the ROV!

So how did this all come about? We're still in the preparation stage for our humpback whale research expedition but in the meantime I thought I'd explain a bit about how this all came about and why it's so important! I've been obsessed with the marine world since I was 8 years old. My Mum took me to the London Aquarium for my 8th birthday and had to peel me off the shark tank - I was totally captivated. I then devoured Jacques Cousteau and David Attenborough (absolute heroes!) documentaries and learnt to dive when I was 13. I took to it like a duck to water and did my first professional diving qualification when I was 18 so I could share my passion with others. When it came to choosing what to do at University for me it was a total no-brainer. I wanted to do marine biology to learn more about the oceans and went to University of Southampton (UK) because they're one of the best for it. When I was in my second year I went on holiday to Mozambique and saw my first shark killing. Now, having been obsessed with the marine world from a very young age this was very upsetting. I spent about 2 days super angry at the guys that had killed the shark before I realised my anger was directed at the wrong people. I realised these shark fishermen are just trying to make ends meet, I needed to be angry at the fin industry as a whole. So, I went back to university and found a supervisor who would supervise me for my Master's dissertation. Ken Collins one of the whale and shark leading experts in England stepped up and helped me recruit 3 research assistants from the year below me. We then spent 4 months working with the local fishermen recording data on the catches and the state of the fin industry in Mozambique. Back in England I was writing up my Masters and was getting the exact results you would think with the shark fin trade - it's unsustainable. But I didn't have enough data to get my stats significant which meant I couldn't publish the paper. I needed to find a way to collect more data and that is how I founded Love The Oceans, initially to try and protect the sharks in the area. However, the more I read into successful NGO strategies the more it became apparent that we needed a multi-pronged approach to tackle the conservation issues of Mozambique. So, I developed other areas of research and an outreach program also. We now have continued to collect my initial fisheries research to prove the fishing is unsustainable but we also now collect data on coral reefs to prove that what we have is worth protecting and humpback whale data to prove the high frequency of sightings. Our mission has changed to establishing a Marine Protected Area in our location and the surrounding bays which is an umbrella aim which many other conservation goals - including stopping shark finning - fall under. Our humpback whale research is the point of this particular mission we've set out to do and it is arguably one of the most important areas of research we're doing, its absolutely key to our success. We have so many humpback whales in our bay we can guarantee a tourist a sighting. That means if the government were to offer protection for the area and these animals, we already have a very feasible ecotourism species which would fuel a very successful ecotourism industry - the humpbacks are the financial incentive for establishing an MPA and a financial incentive is imperative to successful conservation strategies in poverty stricken areas of the world. As well as general sightings data we're also collecting vocalisation and behavioural data. This involves taking a hydrophone out with us and dropping it in the water when we see humpbacks to record what we're seeing. Combining this with the behavioural data that we can collect using an underwater drone (if we're sponsored one!) we can work out why the humpback whales are vocalising and what they're saying. We already know it's just the males that sing and the females grunt and drum to their calves but we're yet to discover exactly why. It's a massive question, debated worldwide by the scientific community. Is it courtship? Competition? Socialisation? This data collection will put Mozambique on the map both scientifically and, as a result, in the tourism industry. This tourism generates an alternative source of income for the fishermen which in turn reduces the shark fishing in the area, which increases tourism again - you see it's a positive spiral and it's all interlinked with humpbacks as the key! We're SO looking forward to getting this project underway and we welcome any help! You can donate to our projects here >>> Or give us a shout if you think you can help with our equipment!

Check out this short article about our robotics workshop in the Saipan Tribune: NMTI hosts underwater robotics building workshop.

A history of clowning in Bhutan through the Atsara: A Sacred-Profane Character The Atsara figure is an integral part of many Bhutanese festivals. Being a primary agent of mirth and merriment, the red face comical character holding a phallus is generally thought of as a clown at the tshechu festivals. The Atsara character, however, is more than just a clown for entertainment. The Atsara combines the spirit of the sacred and profane, wit and wisdom, humour and responsibility. He helps his audience not only to forget their worries and problems with his jokes but also to occasionally drop their normal sense of self-importance, hypocrisy and false propriety through his pranks. The name, Atsara, is said to have come from the Sanskrit term acārya, which is transcribed in Tshuyig as ཨ་ཙརྱ་. Acārya refers to a teacher or scholar and was a title used to refer to the Indian masters. For instance, the three famous Indian acāryas who have shown great kindness to Tibet are said to be 1) Atiśa Dīpaṅkara, the white acārya, Dampa Sangye, the black acārya and Padmasambhava, the variegated acārya. There was also a red acārya from India who came to Tibet in the 11th century and is sadly remembered for his licentious behaviour, which is said to have corrupted Buddhism in the name of tantric practice. It is difficult to say, without any evidence, on which group of personalities Bhutan’s Atsara character is based and how it has evolved. Many traditional scholars claim that Atsara is a parody of Indian mahāsiddhas, some of whom were enlightened mavericks living unconventional lives while being highly realized Buddhist saints. These enlightened saints, who were renegades on the fringes of society, practiced crazy wisdom as did the divine madmen of Tibet such as Drukpa Kunley. Whether the Atsara figure is a caricatural reminder of unorthodox saints of crazy wisdom or remnants of loose lustful behaviour of some priests who abused tantric Buddhism, it is today one of Bhutan’s unique and exotic cultural institution. With a red face to symbolize burning passion and a large thunderbolt or phallus to signify masculine power and fertility, the Atsara plays a very important role in Bhutan’s major festivals. Curiously, it is also a Bhutanese cultural character, who is dressed in trousers and a jacket with fanciful patches. Unless he is replaced by other comical figures such as the Gathpo, as is the case during some festivals in central Bhutan, the Atsara is the chief clown to entertain the crowd and the master of ceremony to help the festival run smoothly. The Atsara guides the mask dancers if they forget their steps, tie the masks and silk robes if they fall loose, and provide any support the dancers may need once in the public arena. Often, there are more than one Atsara but only a master mask dancer, who is sharp and witty, dexterous and sensitive to the crowd normally qualify to be the lead Atsara. The junior Atsaras in various masks and costumes merely accompany him. The chief Atsara must know the jokes he should crack and the antics he has to play in the course of specific dances and performances. Towards the end of the festival, the Atsaras are also allowed to collect money from the people as tips and offerings, which in some cases are later shared with all dancers and performers. The Atsara character represents the traditional Bhutanese personality of being open, liberal, jovial and spontaneous. On the festival ground where people come to immerse in sacred enjoyment and forget the woes and worries of everyday life, the Atsara is a reminder for people to drop unnecessary hang-ups and taboos, inhibitions and obsessions and to unleash their free spirit of ease, joy and laughter. His character remotely reflects the liberated spirit of the Buddha, which has transcended the dualistic apprehension of likes and dislikes, pain and pleasure and such other prejudices, biases and fixations. In an age when people are becoming increasingly neurotic, complex, susceptible and stressed, the Atsara is a true teacher to help us let go of our mental and emotional constriction and seek the inner state of openness and ease. Dr Karma Phuntsho is the President of the Loden Foundation, director of Shejun Agency for Bhutan’ Cultural Documentation and author The History of Bhutan.

Paul and I are on the ground and well underway in Taiwan. The captain of our fishing vessel promises that we will indeed find a Megamouth. Fisherman here primarily target sunfish. These gentle giants can weigh over a ton and typically make their way around slowly and awkwardly in search of jellyfish. Their size, and the fact that they can lay up to 300 million eggs at a time, make them a very sustainable food option here and in Japan. In the recent past, these boats have also been landing megamouths as well - and there is indeed a market for them. In the coming weeks, we hope to not only tag these sharks, but we also want to explore the culture and commerce surrounding them. Science, conservation, and fishing are uneasy bedfellows. We are lucky enough to have connected with a captain who is interested in our work. We hope to find out a little more about the demand for Megamouths in the fish markets along the coast. Tagging these giants will hopefully provide a wellspring of data to get a preliminary picture of their numbers and movement. Science knows almost nothing about these animals. The only way we can begin to formulate a conservation plan is with the data from Paul's tags....

Southeastern Bangladesh is defined by water: ancient rivers built and carved its lush hills, a dense network of rivers ebb and flow with seasonal rains, and the Indian Ocean laps at the sandy shore. And yet, most young people in the area - particularly girls in rural communities whose education is often compromised by financial challenges - lack the tools or background to appreciate the natural processes at work and fully recognize how they may influence daily life. As a team of scientists and educators, we're working in partnership with the Osel Foundation and National Geographic Education with a class of girls at a school near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. Over the course of several months (2017-2018), the Ad Astra Academy curriculum shares the excitement of scientific discovery and provides the tools for a future of intellectual independence and educational advancement. It starts with the fundamental human need to explore, a drive we often don't realize we possess. We will take the students on field trips to take advantage of this instinct and understand the natural phenomena behind the regional landscape. Equipped with the power of the scientific method, the girls will then translate their knowledge to Mars and request never-before-seen, high-resolution images of the Red Planet from a NASA spacecraft. In the process, we hope to empower our students with the confidence to create new knowledge and provide a spark of inspiration to light a fire of curiosity. What will the girls discover, from the waters of local rivers to the ice caps of Mars? What will they teach us? And how will we all grow in the process? Follow along for updates to find out!

All it took was a few pictures of former students building ROVs to get my current class hooked on ROVs. “Do they really work?” “Are we really going to build these?” Questions of excitement and joy filled the room as we discussed our upcoming project of designing and building our own underwater ROVs. Little did they know the learning that was about to take place. We started the students off with learning about underwater technology, and students conducted some of their own research in order to learn what new underwater technology was being used in marine research, and how ROVs have been used. Not only have they been used for quite some time in taking footage, collecting specimen, sediment, and water samples, but they are also used in monitoring fish farms and oil rigs. Students were surprised that a robot could do so many things! After learning about what ROVs can do, we began to look at ROV design. How were the ROVs built? What did the frames look like? What components and features did they have? What and how many motors do they have? Our student “makers” began creating their own sketches of ROV designs, trying out a variety of different designs and giving each other feedback. After students had a design they were satisfied with, our first task was to have them build their ROV frame out of pipe cleaners. This allowed them to see their design in a 3D model. They were able to take photographs of their models and analyze each others’ designs. They learned about the various perspectives,using their iPads to document the design with photos of the top, side, and front view of the ROV models. Next step: Students will decide on the materials for our frames and what they will need to build.

About us:Our team, Placenta Bay Ocean Debris Survey (PODS) is located in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and based out of the Geography Department at Memorial University. Lead by Dr. Charles Mather, our group consists of Jessica Melvin, Justine Ammendolia, France Liboiron and Alex Hayward. Field sites: Newfoundland is an island the size of California with a population of about half a million people. The productive sub-arctic waters that surround the province of Newfoundland and Labrador have given rise to a strong reliance on the ocean for food, and a rich culture of fishing and aquaculture. Our field sites are located in Placentia Bay (on the southern shore of the island), a region of intense industrial activity. Currently, under development is a new $250 million Atlantic salmon aquaculture instalment, slated to be the largest in Eastern Canada. In addition to conducting a comprehensive long-term survey of marine plastic on shorelines, in surface waters, on the seafloor, and in a local fish species, we will also be the first study in the world to monitor plastic pollution both before and after the establishment of a salmon aquaculture facility. About our expedition: Plastic pollution is a major global concern, as plastic is present in every ocean on the planet and devastates all levels of the marine ecosystem. Marine plastics can adsorb harmful industrial chemicals, which can enter the food web via consumption by marine life and can eventually reach humans. Despite the widespread harm, Canada does not have a national monitoring program and our knowledge about where plastic pollution comes from is lacking. As a result, there are limited regulations for the prevention of plastic pollution. To date, researchers have rarely examined landscapes thoroughly for plastics, despite the fact that plastics are present in all areas of the marine environment (i.e. seawater, benthic and intertidal sediments, and in marine animals). Our research will take place through a series of expeditions that aim to monitor plastic pollution in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland to better understand how marine plastic pollution is influenced by different types and levels of human activity. We will be the first to conduct a long-term monitoring program for marine plastics that encompasses the total marine environment; including shorelines, the sea surface, the sea floor, and in marine fauna Our expeditions will start in May of 2018 and tentatively continue for several years. We aim to do fieldwork at 7 different sites around Placentia Bay and use a variety of different methods to monitor both micro- and macro-plastics across several different mediums. Since plastics typically pollute multiple areas of the environment like water, beach sediments and fish, our research will use multiple survey methods to collect data from these various mediums to build a robust dataset of the regional plastic landscape. We will be working at-sea with local fishers and collaborating with communities through participatory beach surveys and community consultations. Our fieldwork will occur at least one week per month for as long as funding permits. We hope to include Trident Underwater Drone on our expedition team to look for plastics in areas where no one has looked before! Some of the questions we aim to ask are: A. What are the general sizes/types of the plastics in water, on the beach, eaten by fish and on the ocean floor? B. Does plastic abundance and type change over time? Months? Seasons? Years? C. Where does plastic debris come from, is it local? D. Does the presence of a fish farm influence the types of plastics we will find? We really look forward to sharing our field adventures with you through video and blog posts! Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI) and EcoCanada sponsor our work.

2018 Conclusion : The Caretta caretta called "Hope" has been released with an Argos tracker on her back. We all hope that the battery will last as long as possible. For now a couple of days it is possible for everyone to follow this amazing although very mysterious marine reptile along her epic journey. We all hope that she will travel safely and, as Deniela Freggi (the biologist who leads the Lampedusa center) put it when she was released, let's hope she encounters as few humans as possible. Enjoy ! Direct link :

Plopped in the middle of the Salish Sea, San Juan Island is an explorer's dream with a highly varied coastline. Within a quarter mile of shore are cliffs, sholes, and banks rich in marine life. Let's go exploring!

Our pilot project is designed to provide ocean access and increased technological capacity in Trinidad and Tobago, a small island developing state. This approach will have three aims:1) Access to emerging ocean technology that can be used from any platform 2) Training for an in-country scientist, student, and communicator to enable use and dissemination of findings from that technology 3) Provision of a MSc scholarship for a student This three-pronged approach will build long-term in-country capacity for ocean exploration, detailed below: Aim 1: Technology: We will utilize innovative technology developed by OpenROV, National Geographic, and others. The tech can be used in a multitude of ways, including to determine species presence, check bathymetry accuracy, revisit sites over time, explore new locales, or image sites of interest (e.g. shipwrecks). Data collected may necessitate knowledge of species, habitats, image analysis and statistics. Aim 2: (a) In-country technology training: An engineer and another team member will travel to Trinidad to deliver the National Geographic Drop Cameras, and other technology to train a group of scientists, engineers, students, and communicators in their use. The OpenROV Trident will be delivered before so that exploration and training can start as soon as possible. Technology will then be left in-country with plans to deploy them at least ten times before (b). (b) In-USA analysis and media-products training: Following (a), we propose that three representatives from Trinidad and Tobago (a scientist, a student, and a communicator to be identified during (a)) travel to the USA for further training in data analysis and creating outreach materials. We envision that the scientist and student will collaborate to analyse the captured imagery, whereas the communicator will generate media products to disseminate information in-country, in whatever format they deem culturally-appropriate. Outreach and artistic materials will be created at the MIT Media Lab. This trip will coincide with the National Ocean Exploration Forum, so it is expected that partners will share their experiences and results there. Aim 3: Masters-level training: The OpenROV Trident will remain in Trinidad and Tobago, so that local scientists and students can continue to explore their own backyards, however, the interpretation and use of data will require higher capacity. For example, how will a country know if a new species has been discovered without taxonomic or ecological expertise? To enable lasting scientific capacity, we propose to have a student matriculate in a masters program at Boston University, which will enable students to engage more fully in the global community of benthic marine experts. MSc-level training is part of our program to ensure that Trinidad and Tobago has the necessary tools to put their exploratory findings into the relevant scientific context. The appropriate student will be identified during Aim 2 via a scholarship RFP in-country. Applicants will be evaluated by the team and asked to apply to the appropriate graduate program; if accepted, the scholarship will be applied towards their degree. We plan to visit Trinidad in early August 2018 to start the deep-sea journey with the Drop Cameras, but exploration and outreach using the OpenROV Trident will begin in July 2018. Project collaborators: Randi Rotjan, Diva Amon, Brennan Phillips, Alan Turchik, Katy Croff Bell, Rafael Anta, Gerard Alleng, Kristina Gjerde, Gil Montague, Kate Furby, Miriam Simun Trinidad and Tobago collaborators: Judith Gobin (University of the West Indies, St. Augustine), SpeSeas and others - coming soon! This project will have a twin pilot in Kiribati, which you can read here: Kiribati Ocean Exploration Stay tuned for updates coming soon!

Our pilot project is designed to provide ocean access and increased technological capacity in Kiribati, a least developed nation. This approach will have three aims: 1) Access to emerging ocean technology that can be used from any platform 2) Training for an in-country scientist, student, and communicator to enable use and dissemination of findings from that technology 3) Provision of a MSc scholarship for a student This three-pronged approach will build long-term in-country capacity for ocean exploration, detailed below: Aim 1: Technology: We will utilize innovative technology developed by OpenROV, National Geographic, and others. The tech can be used in a multitude of ways, including to determine species presence, check bathymetry accuracy, revisit sites over time, explore new locales, or image sites of interest (e.g. shipwrecks). Data collected may necessitate knowledge of species, habitats, image analysis and statistics. Aim 2: (a) In-country technology training: We propose that an engineer and another team member travel to Tarawa (in Kiribati) to deliver the OpenROV Tridents, National Geographic Drop Cameras, and other technology to train a group of scientists, engineers, students, and communicators in their use. Technology will then be left in-country with plans to deploy them at least ten times before (b).   (b) In-USA analysis and media-products training: Following (a), we propose that three representatives from Kiribati (a scientist, a student, and a communicator to be identified during (a)) travel to the USA for further training in data analysis and creating outreach materials. We envision that the scientist and student will collaborate to analyse the captured imagery, whereas the communicator will generate media products to disseminate information in-country, in whatever format they deem culturally-appropriate. Outreach and artistic materials will be created at the MIT Media Lab. This trip will coincide with the National Ocean Exploration Forum, so it is expected that partners will share their experiences and results there. Aim 3: Masters-level training: The OpenROV Trident will remain in Kiribati, so that local scientists and students can continue to explore their own backyards, however, the interpretation and use of data will require higher capacity. For example, how will a country know if a new species has been discovered without taxonomic or ecological expertise? To enable lasting scientific capacity, we propose to have a student matriculate in a masters program at Boston University, which will enable students to engage more fully in the global community of benthic marine experts. MSc-level training is part of our program to ensure that Kiribati has the necessary tools to put their exploratory findings into the relevant scientific context. The appropriate student will be identified during Aim 2 via a scholarship RFP in-country. Applicants will be evaluated by the team and asked to apply to the appropriate graduate program; if accepted, the scholarship will be applied towards their degree.   We plan to visit Tarawa in late June 2018 to start this journey. Project collaborators: Randi Rotjan, Diva Amon, Miriam Simun, Brennan Phillips, Alan Turchik, Katy Croff Bell, Rafael Anta, Kristina Gjerde, Gil Montague, Kate Furby Kiribati collaborators: Betarim Rimon, Tooreka Teemari, Tekateteke Mettai, and others - coming soon! This project has a twin pilot in Trinidad & Tobago - you can follow along here: Trinidad & Tobago Ocean Exploration

Project Pegasus Part 12: Reloaded and Ready for Action! May 7th, 2018 San Diego, CA From its inception, Project Pegasus has been ambitious, to say the least. However, I’m always exceedingly impressed by the commitment and dedication displayed by Project Pegasus team members. Last month we rewired Pegasus, but still couldn’t figure out why our little ROV wouldn’t power on. After a lengthy back and forth, the good folks at OpenROV® offered to take a look at Pegasus to see if they could figure out a solution. The plot thickened once Pegasus made it to OpenROV®’s headquarters. Here’s what Jordan had to say once we got Pegasus back: “It was great to see Pegasus all wired up and put together today. OpenROV® couldn’t figure out what was wrong with our ROV when we sent it in. They said that all of our soldered joints looked good (which is nice to hear from experts) but they ended up having to rewire it themselves. I am still glad however that we put in the time and rewired it ourselves because that was the best part of building Pegasus! Today (4/30) we attached the IMU sensor which gives us information about the orientation of the ROV as well as the depth. We didn’t have extra wire to work with after we got Pegasus back from OpenROV®, so we had to “measure twice and cut once” when it came to re-soldering these joints. Once we finished this we turned on the ROV and it beeped its victorious sound of functionality! It was a gratifying sight to see it actually work for once after all of our hard work; the process of trying to fix our problems is a big part of this project. Our mistakes are where we learn the most. Nevertheless, the day was a success.” Well, once Pegasus was put back together, there was only one thing left to do; put our ROV back in the water and watch it fly. The team and I met at the Coastal and Marine Institute Laboratory on a bright Sunday morning, performed a quick water test using a freshwater bucket, and then headed over to Mission Bay for a more immersive experience. We decided to test Pegasus in the shallow, confined waters of Mission Bay just to make sure things went swimmingly. With bated breath, we deployed Pegasus off the side of one of CMIL’s motorboats. For the next 20 minutes team members took turns “flying” Pegasus around in the murky waters; taking it from the surface, down the seagrass, and back up again. To everyone’s delight all systems were a go. That is, until we noticed a little bit of water in the electronics tube. We cut power and brought Pegasus back to the surface. Thankfully there wasn’t much damaged to the electronics. But now we’ve got to figure out where that water came in from! Project Pegasus has had its fair share of excitement, but as Jordan said, “we learn the most from our mistakes”. And I couldn’t agree more. I’d like to give a big shoutout to Zack Johnson from OpenROV® for taking a lot of time to help us with Pegasus over these last couple of months. Stay tuned, we’ll have Pegasus back in action in no time! Cheers, -Baron von Urchin

Hi, I'm Jack. Yesterday was my third training session with Mike, and the best so far. We started around 4:45 with kiting at the Mussel Rock kiting gravel patch. The first few attempts to get the wing in the air were unsuccessful, however, a couple launches in and we got it overhead. After flipping around to face into the wind, I began to rise off the ground. This was due to the fairly strong winds and me being a little light on the wing (Mikes comment: When pushed from behind angle of attack increases, if there is sufficient velocity over the wing it will allow the student to momentarily take off). I got up in the air maybe 5 feet off the ground with Mike anchoring me. We were able to keep this up for maybe 45 seconds before Mike said he was letting go. I panicked a bit at the rate I was rising and pulled both brake lines, ending with me on the ground and the wing settling behind me. This was the first time that my feet had left the ground while in an aircraft alone. It was exhilarating. We continued with our practice and a few launches later I got dragged by the wing straight into a scrawny twisted old pine tree that borders the gravel patch. This was followed by much clambering and tugging to get the wing out of the tree. It took a time, a small finger cut and three people but we eventually got it out and continued. By the end of our session I had three good launches including forward kiting of the wing, one of these managed without help. We decided to pack up and after a quick survey of the conditions we decided to take a tandem flight. After a short walk to the launch during which we had a short coyote encounter, we set up. Once the big tandem wing was in the air we spun around and ran into nothingness. Having flown twice this is easily one of my favorite parts, those couple of running steps and then suddenly the ground falls away gently beneath your feet and you sink into the harness. After launch we banked and headed north to gain altitude over the sea cliffs. We flew for a short while with four cormorants, while marveling at the beauty of the late afternoon sun shining through the thick grey clouds that blanketed the sky. We could see all the way out to the Farallons, and as far north as the highest points in the city skyline. We banked south-west away from the cliffs and over the ocean. We flew out for a bit, then turned sharply spiraling down around our wingtip. We levelled out and flew in, landing in the same gravel patch where we were kiting. It was a great way to end the day, and I am ever more thrilled to be learning this craft.

In 2016, I was preparing to go to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) for the firsttime – something I have been dreaming about since I was a child, only this time I was going as a researcher. But it was also in 2016 when elevated sea surface temperatures (SST) set in motion the worst coral bleaching event in the recorded history of the GBR. Scientific reports estimated 47-83% coral mortality throughout the GBR’s northern section. This section includes my PhD field study area, 21 reef sites encircling Lizard Island. The coral reefs at Lizard Island were already badly damaged following the almost direct hits by consecutive category 4 cyclones; Ita in 2014 and Nathan in 2015. Against this backdrop, I prepared myself to face a decaying reef instead of the coral reef from my bucket list. Nonetheless, when I first jumped in the water in November that year, I was captivated by beauty. I knew the reef was highly degraded, but I still saw interesting corals, sharks, and many colourful fish. Without a clear idea of the previous state of the reef, this became my baseline. Our team spent three weeks on the Island that month. We gathered a large variety of data for my research project, which is rooted within an ongoing long-term effort led by Joshua Madin and Maria Dornelas since 2012. Back at Macquarie University, I processed the images taken in the field yearly from 2014 to 2017 using photogrammetric techniques to derive scaled photomosaics and 3D reconstructions of the monitored reef sites, each capturing about 130 square metres of reef. These two data products, which we coined “Reef Records” because of the spiral motion the cameras track the reef, let us visualize and quantify change in benthic cover and 3D complexity. Each Record was spatially georeferenced to match the exact field location through time. It was then that I realised the severity of the damage. Some of the reef sites were simply unrecognisable from one year to the next (Fig. 1), and I too cried. In a broad range of terrestrial and marine communities, including coral reefs, geometrically complex habitats contain more species and at higher abundances than simple flat habitats. However, climate change projections forecast an increase in the frequency and intensity of tropical storms and anomalous SST that can trigger mass coral bleaching. These large-scale climate-induced disturbances can quickly destroy vast areas of reef-building corals, rendering these habitats vulnerable to flattening and impaired functioning, lower biodiversity, disrupted recovery and reduced ability to provide ecological goods and services that have been valued in the billions per year. We have yet to learn how coral reef communities will respond to the trends that have been projected by climate scientists. My research aims are twofold: (1) to assess and quantify fine-scale spatial patterns of change in coral reef habitat complexity and composition as derived from the Reef Records and other environmental data, and (2) to determine if local habitat responses can be reliably traced remotely and at larger scales with spaceborne imagery. Ultimately, I hope to produce a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying coral reef habitat complexity response and recovery potential under a novel climate regime. Determining how major disturbances drive ecological change is necessary to identify suitable approaches to managing coral reef ecosystems in the face of climate change. There are plenty of reasons to remain hopeful about the future of coral reefs, but we must reduce CO2 emissions quickly. Not all changes found in the Records are negative, nor do all areas respond similarly. Many corals survived the traumas of the past and are steadily growing (Fig. 2), others show signs of recovery. Thanks to images worth a thousand words, I have learned to put my baselines in historical context. Acknowledgment: I am honoured and grateful to have been awarded the 2017 Ian Potter Doctoral Fellowship at the Australian Museum’s Lizard Island Research Station, which is helping fund fieldwork-related expenses and expand my horizons. I would like to thank all who have contributed to the Reef Records efforts in the past for the valuable dataset and for welcoming me into the team. The Reef Records data collection methods were developed in collaboration with the Australian Centre for Field Robotics, University of Sydney.

Making the Invisible Visible Pt III Pictographs in the northeast are rare. The few I am aware of are from the colonial period of New England. Unlike petroglyph, pictographs are just a surface coating and tend to be far less durable. Pictographs that have survived in America are either in protected areas such as caves and shelters or exist in dryer climates. Though New England’s harsh weather appears to have erased the pictographs, we are hoping that some of the surface coating might still faintly remain on the rocks surface. If so, we might be able to reveal the remaining coating with an image enhancement program called DStretch. This program has been very successful in drawing out details in an image that are invisible to the human eye. This tool applies a decorrelation stretch algorithm that was originally developed by NASA JPL. Simply, an algorithm that will find and extract a weak signal from the noise is applied to the color data. In this application the weak signal is the difference in hue that is too subtle for the human eye to notice. Once this weak signal is detected, the contrast for each color is stretched to equalize the color variances. This tool has buttons for a variety of colorspaces that the decorrelation can be performed in and give different results. The results I’ve seen with pictographs in the western United States is no less than amazing. Though I have not been able to use DStretch on any of the known colonial pictographs, out of curiosity, I applied the tool to photos from known Indian shelters I’ve visited over the years. To my surprised I saw results with one of them. On what appeared to be bare rock, a have hidden text was revealed. At Abrams Bedroom in Swansea MA, the boulder at the entrance to the shelter was shown to previously have the word CAVE painted on it. Since it appears that it had been spray painted onto the rock, it could be from no earlier than the late 40s. Though the find has no historical value, it showed the easy of use of this tool, and its value in the field & to review older images for unknown pictographs. DStretch is also available for free. Below is a video demonstration of DStretch being applied to the rock outside of Abrams Bedroom in Massachusetts.

Mushroom Hunting Foundation To prepare for the coming mushroom season, I thought it was best to consult someone experienced with locating mushrooms in New England. This past weekend I contacted Ryan Bouchard. Ryan Bouchard and Emily Schmid are the creators of the Mushroom Hunting Foundation, a Rhode Island based nonprofit organization. Ryan and Emily educate people about safely hunting for wild mushrooms in New England. They hope that through programs they offer, people will walk away with a better understanding of mushroom hunting. They also would like to see their work help to make mushroom hunting a popular activity in today's culture. I spoke with Ryan at an event for his book/calendar titled Gourmet Mushrooms of the Northeast. We briefly discussed the bioluminescent mushrooms in New England. He was familiar with the three bioluminescent mushrooms that are on my list and had seen the Bitter Oysters mushroom (Panellus stipticus) glow. He explained that finding the mushrooms at the right point in their life cycle would be important, or they might be only glowing faintly, or not at all. Ryan said he was confident he could find Bitter Oysters. As for the other two mushrooms, Honey Mushroom (Armillaria) and Jack o’ Lantern Mushroom (Omphalotus olearius), he felt they might be difficult to locate. We asked Ryan if he could help with our expedition and he said he would be happy to. We will be scheduling a meeting with Ryan where can learn more about mushrooms in the northeast, and discuss our goals.

Our expedition involves making a documentary film that investigates what happens when you inject a remote and abandoned post-Soviet mining town into the heart of the tourism industry. Our story centers on Emil, an ethnic Kyrgyz man who traces his ancestors back to the nomadic tribes that used to surround his village of Jyrgalan. We trace Jyrgalan's history from a pastoral nomadic community, to the coal mining center of Soviet Central Asia, to an abandoned ghost village. We learn about Emil's ancestral connection to the land and customs of Kyrgyz nomadism and how this informed his conviction to return to this village and create something new altogether. We investigate the trials and tribulations of transforming this forgotten place into a world-class tourism destination. Against a backdrop that looks at history and development issues we explore deeply personal themes of legacy and larger themes of globalization.

On the evening of March 7, 2018, over 15.5 metric tons of cosmic material landed in the Northeast Pacific Ocean about 25 km off the Oregon/Washington coast. Preliminary analysis indicates that this fall is nearly 21x the total fall mass of the Park Forest, IL, which was previously the largest meteorite fall in the U.S. in the past 21 years. Over 15.5 metric tons of material, initially detected using the NOAA NEXRAD radar system, survived ablation and breakup after entering the earth’s atmosphere at ~14 km/s. In addition, resident accounts and recordings of the visible light plasma that resulted from the falling meteorites, terrestrial and ocean bottom seismometers detected the meteorite impacts over the course of several minutes ( These include the first known detections of meteorite impacts by ocean-based seismometers. The largest meteorite detected is approximately 4.4 kg* in mass and 12 cm* in diameter. In the center of the strewn field, calculations indicate that there should be 2-3 meteorites 10 g or larger over every 10 square meters of the seafloor in the. The fall site of the largest meteorites is known to within a 1km-diameter circle. Recovering and analyzing meteorites provides critical insights into the early processes leading to the formation of the Earth and other terrestrial planets, and in the modern day understanding this fall will provide valuable information on the threat posed by asteroids with Earth-crossing orbits. Meteorites are fragments left over from the formation of our planet and are typically ~4.5 billion years old. While tens of thousands of meteorites are known and recorded in the Meteoritical Society database (,,) each new meteorite is important because it acts like an additional puzzle piece in sorting out the physical and chemical conditions that existed during the early Solar System. This meteorite fall is especially interesting because it is a rare, very massive fall. Understanding the composition, mechanical properties, and orbit of this body will assist NASA in understanding the threat of large meteorite falls to Earth. Timely recovery is key because meteorites typically are composed of mineralogy that has not been exposed to terrestrial water and oxygen, and so they tend to degrade rapidly upon fall to Earth. The oldest terrestrial residence age for a meteorite is on the order of 1 million years, for a meteorite recovered from extended cold storage in Antarctica. For meteorites that land in temperate climes, they can be expected to degrade much faster and are generally destroyed in a matter of thousands of years. Meteorites on the seafloor have never been recovered before, as exposure to salt water will degrade them far faster than any temperature, land-based environment. Recovery of these meteorites should occur as soon as possible to preserve their scientific utility. Local news reporting of the boldie: The images below are of meteorites collected by NASA from past falls (courtesy of Dr. Marc Fries). Now, join us in our quest to find some new ones on the seafloor! *These values have been updated from the previous figures of 98 kg and 40 cm due to recalculations based on further radar analysis.

Gentlemen, start your engines!We are very excited! The new exploration season is getting very close and for the first time we will have the chance to redefine how underwater archaeology is done, making a previously inaccessible world accessible to the general public. Don't forget this: #[in]accessiblle is our motto and mission. A partnership with OpenROV will give an incredible boost to our mission, making people aware of the need to protect their underwater cultural heritage sites and the marine world. In other words: what you cannot see you cannot know, understand, and love. To love something means to protect it. In the last 20 years we collected thousands of photos and videos to tell our story in different ways, we still weren’t able to tell the whole story. OpenROV Trident will let people feel the same emotions we feel when we dive on a 2,000 years old shipwreck. Trident will break the barrier of diving putting everyone in forefront of underwater archaeological exploration. We have a lot we want to learn on our dives but we also want them to be fun. Our program, the ROV Exploration Experience (REE), will be guided by our researchers who will assist general users during exploration dives. This is the first action we are going to organize together with OpenROV and it could be the beginning of a new way to approach the underwater world. The REE will start during the Summer high season to reach as many people as we can. The next activity we want to partner with OpenROV will be the underwater archaeological survey of Aeolian and Egadi shipwrecks. In this scientific field we will test Trident’s capability to collect images and create models of artefacts and the seabed using photogrammetry. The end results will be 3D models of different subjects that are fully measurable. Deep underwater photogrammetry is still a very demanding and challenging survey technique and the use of Trident could allow researchers to extend bottom time operation saving at the same time and money which is critical to all aspects of our survey missions. We are going to test Trident capabilities in different scenarios to define a standard operating protocol which will create a foundation for future missions and extend into new missions beyond our current limits. As you can see, we are very excited. It’s going to be challenging for sure, but we are confident that it will be a great success. Starting today, our voice will no longer be alone. Ad maiora! [in]accessible

Since 2014, Sea Education Association (SEA) has worked in partnership with the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) to bring ~20 undergraduate students from the US and abroad to PIPA as part of their SEA Semester study abroad program. In partnership with collaborators at Boston University and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, this team has committed to 10 years worth of study on the basic physical, chemical, and oceanography of PIPA. In parallel, PIPA scientists have been studying the coral reefs at irregular intervals, due to funding and logistical constraints, but have nonetheless managed to maintain a database of photoquadrats dating back to the year 2000. With almost two decades of data and three bleaching events, this is an incredible natural laboratory to study reef resilience. SEA has the ship. SEA and BU have the students. SEA, BU, Scripps, and WHOI have the collaborative scientific expertise. And now - we have the tech to try to enable students to take the data we need without SCUBA. The Phoenix Islands have been rising from the ashes.... and now we hope to be able to watch the process. This expedition will leave from Honolulu, HI on July 5 and arrive in Pago Pago on August 13. Project collaborators: Jan Witting, SEA; Randi Rotjan, Boston University; Jacob Jaskiel, Boston University; The Republic of Kiribati; Stuart Sandin & Jen Smith, Scripps Institution of Oceanography; Sangeeta Mangubhai, WCS; Simon Thorrold & Anne Cohen, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; The Republic of Kiribati and the Phoenix Islands Protected Area

Unexplored I have recruited several of my photographer/adventure/outdoor friends to follow along in the same steps that my namesake William Robert Wesley Hawkins aka "Billy" covered in the 1,000 mile, 99 day journey with Major Powell and 9 others on May 24th 1869. 149 years ago that on this day they began in 4 rowboats, as we will in our kokopelli pack-rafts from Green River, Wyoming in Expedition Park. Everyone chosen for the journey have their strengths they will be providing the same as when Powell selected his companions who will be helping documenting and filming of our journey, I hope to gain a better understanding of his struggles, experiences, and strengths while exploring the green and Colorado river.

As the world around us changes, we often lose the ability to see how it used to be. This project works to find historic photographs of mountains throughout the americas to document changes to glaciers, snowfields, forests, rivers, and meadows through time. These photos will not only provide a baseline for future understanding of change, but also give participants the ability to see for themselves how the world is changing.

Here's a video from a dive at Bahia Los Frailes. (Warning: it's good but it's quite long.)

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.

In late 2016 we revisited the blocks with David Robinson, marine archeologist at the University of Rhode Island's Graduate School of Oceanography. Together with David and his associates, we did a survey of the area to measure and plot the location of all the block. Using a quadcopter we captured an aerial overview of the blocks, and used the images to build a 3D model. You can find the model at: Over the past few years we have been working with Varoujan, a representative from the Lighthouse Museum, to find a vendor that can transport the Fluer-D-Lis block to the side of the museum. Where the blocks are located is very dangerous for ships, so those vendors that Varoujan has spoken to consider the job as too risky, or the price they have offer is far too high. We’ve had a few nibbles from locals, but each have not panned out. This spring I will be meeting with Varoujan discuss possible alternatives that would not require moving the block but create a living museum people would be safe to visit.

Quick Event Debrief We had a great time diving Trident in the Inner Harbor. All told we did 5 separate dives which allowed about 45 students to try their hand at the sticks. Unfortunately bad weather and low batteries shortened our afternoon operations and one group didn't all get to fly. Not bad for the first time doing a five-hour event like this. What I'd do differently in the future: Have a little explanatory sign up for students and the passing public. Bring a second ROV to ensure that battery life wouldn't cut the program short. Bring an assistant to help with student flow and group management (and take more photos. It's awfully hard to manage a group of excited middle-schoolers and properly document the event). That little velcro strap really makes a difference for dock deployments.

Working hard with the Trident, testing all kinds of different settings.In order to capture 1080p footage, we tried strapping a Paralenz camera to its side. We did several dives, the first one at a depth of 55 meters (see video), and the second we went down to 78 meters ! Both the Trident and the Paralenz responded perfectly to the challenge. More info soon.

We had our first swim yesterday! Success! Our own pequeño post 4th of July pool party... which only means anything to me locally, I guess, with my US roots - Independence Day and my Grandmother Flanigan's Birthday (she was amazing!!!) Only small issues we encountered were with glue not holding tight on a battery tube towards end of trial and the lasers unfocused and shifted spacing. Going to try a bit of stronger plastic glue instead of Super Glue. It was so fun to be swimming with him/her (still need to come up with a name:) and learning to maneuver through the water. Flashbacks to my little remote control Porsche as a kid, but a MILLION times better with the camera and excitement for exploring the ocean!!

It's been a while on my updates, as time haven't been on my side for this project. I have build a mapping drone that will be used together with rest of equipment. Picture is from testfitting before installing Electronics in it. Controller will be Pixhawk

A short update from the folks at REEF (see attached pic).

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