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In Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique, there are stories of hope and revival after ecological devastation. After 20 years of poaching during and after the Mozambican Civil War, the Gorongosa Restoration Project is bringing wildlife back. Resource hotspots, like watering holes, fruiting trees, and even piles of dung play a critical role in the restoration of this ecosystem. However, since the wildlife remains shy in the wake of the war, the park’s recovery isn’t always obvious to a casual observer sitting at a watering hole. So, I'll tell this story by photographing resource ‘oases’ using a novel way of visualizing ecosystems and their biomass: by stacking individual frames of animals that visit each hotspot over the course of one day into a single image, I'll show the hidden diversity of wildlife that relies on these critical habitats. I plan to publish the resulting composites digitally and in print, and to create an online educational platform to teach adults and children about species interactions.
Our 24 tags have arrived! They are Wildlife Computers MK9 tags and we have programmed them to record: *Diving depth every 4 seconds *Ocean temperature every 4 seconds *Light level every 4 seconds The diving capabilities of these elephant seal pups are a mystery, but we hope they don't dive deeper than the tag limitation of 1,000 meters!
Introducing (w)undergrad Mikalyn: organizational and visual mastermind with priceless underwater facial expressions We’ve told you a little about the animals we’re studying, our experiments and research sites, now we reveal the team making all of this possible. First up is one of our undergraduate research assistants, Mikalyn! Exaggerated facial expressions are key to storytelling in synchronized swimming, a skill that translates well in SCUBA diving. One glance at synchronized swimmer Mikalyn’s face reveals all about the status of her squat lobster/shrimp-host experiments. Mikalyn is delving into the world of community relationships by looking at infestor fidelity, to keep track of who is where in her cages she must carefully memorize the distinguishing features of each individual she works with. Outstanding organizational skills and visual memory allow her to seamlessly plow through a large number of replicates (she already has 120) in just a few weeks!
Update #4 Media are covering our work! I'm really excited to see that there is a lot of interest in what we do. Today my team and I have been interviewed by both Ici-Radio Candada Cote-Nord and TVA. Really interesting and fun experience. Here some link to the ICI Radio-Canada coverage: https://ici.radio-canada.ca/premiere/emissions/bonjour-la-cote/segments/entrevue/80470/fonds-marins-baie-sept-iles-national-geographic https://ici.radio-canada.ca/nouvelle/1113901/baie-sept-iles-magazine More to come?
As day five sets in here at CCMI, the interns are brought along on a guided tour of Little Cayman by Gil and Greg. Dripping in sweat, we were led through the rich history of the island and gained a bit of insight into the culture that gives this island its own charm. Greg showed us just a few of the National Sites donated to Little Cayman by some of its generous residents to preserve the natural habitats that a lot of local wildlife call home. One such spot was an area of a mangrove forest, where iguanas were known to live and breed, that was open to the public to encourage better understanding of their niche in the island’s diverse ecosystem. After a long and sweaty excursion, we stopped at Salt Rock, an area for all of us to jump off of the dock into the ocean to cool down and relax for a bit. When we returned back to the station, Miss Em, CCMI’s world-renowned chef, surprised us with some delicious lionfish for lunch. Shortly after lunch, we were given presentations on the lives of Maisy and Ashly, staff working here at CCMI, who showed their tortuous paths towards getting a job here at CCMI. Personally, I thought it was interesting how they both led different lives and, somehow, ended up in the same place, committing their time and their passion to CCMI. They have both led amazing lives already and are still planning on doing so much else for the world. They left all of us interns in awe and gave us a bit of extra hope and advice to follow if we want to grow into the great scientists that they are today. I’m Ryan Minor from Edison, New Jersey, currently studying Biochemistry and Marine Science at Rutgers University. I’m interested in studying all of the different diseases that affect coral reefs and I can’t wait to get in the water to conduct my own research on assessing where these diseases are most common and for what reasons. -Ryan
BULA!!!!It isn't the nautilus egg, but it is the animal that lays the nautilus egg... the NAUTILUS!!! This is from the 1st night of BRUVS ever set in Savusavu, Fiji and we recorded 1, maybe 2, nautiluses along with a large snapper (Etelis) and a large, deep-water "eel-like" fish (it has fins, so not a true eel) that might be one of the primary predators of nautiluses with its large jaws... Back to sea! Moce
My home away from homeLucas Asher, University of Chicago We continue to draw nearer and nearer to the equator-news that Sadie mentioned yesterday and will probably continue to be repeated until we actually cross (estimated to be sometime on Tuesday). We aboard are all preparing our "rituals" for the crossing: in some sailing traditions you shave your head when you cross the equator and in others a musical "offering to Neptune" is given by those who have not sailed across the equator before (the students and not a small number of the staff!) We've been making pretty good time, but it is incredible what the difference between making 6 knots (~8 land miles per hour) and making the slower, 2 knots speed required for our science deployments. By now, you've heard a lot about what life at sea is like; from the science to the activities to the sail handling. What you haven't heard as much about is what life is like belowdeck. You may think that "going below" would be cooler-the sun isn't blasting you, you're safe from sunburn, and all of the work is happening over your head. On deck, however, has the beauty of a breeze, while belowdeck can feel a bit stifling. We fortunately all have fans in our bunks to keep us cool(ish) at night, but the heat below makes on deck truly the preferred place to hang out when you aren't sleeping or eating. Speaking of sleeping, I think we've all found a new preferred way to wake up in the morning. To avoid alarms going off at all hours of the night and day, as one watch is getting up to take the deck and another is comfortably in the middle of their time to sleep, twenty minutes before each meal / an hour before you are due on watch, the current watch sends someone to gently awaken you by calling your name. These gentle wakeups are accompanied by a reminder of what time it is, when the next thing you should be doing is (the next meal or the start of your watch), and usually a weather report. Way better than an alarm clock. (Now. to my friends at college reading this. who wants to come wake me up before class every morning next year?) I was on dawn watch this morning, so my eyes are starting to glaze over as I type this; I'm going to go collapse into my bunk until gently awoken for class.
Letter to the Pirate Editor Aggravated by their Trident being held ransom by Lake Pirates, the crew of the Aquarius Project decided to voice their frustrations to the culprits themselves By Jack Morgan - Far Horizons Summer Teen Intern Now, as some of you may know, our ROV was recently “rescued” by a mysterious salvage crew, who then contacted the NOAA crew announcing the ROV’s recovery and demanding money for it’s return. I’ve been thinking about this incident, and I’ve realized something. Out of all of the shipwrecks in Lake Michigan, the salvagers happened to dive on this wreck promptly after our ROV was lost. On top of that, these divers saw the ROV, knew exactly what it was AND knew who to contact once they had brought it up to the surface. I’ve realized that this mysterious crew must have been following the Aquarius Project. It’s the only way they would know who the ROV belonged to and who they should contact. This does beg another question: What on Earth made them think they would get anything out of this ransom attempt? We’re a teen program at a non-profit organization. Who in their right mind sees this and thinks “Ooh, I bet they have lots of money I could extort out of them”? It’s just ridiculous. And to this mysterious crew, I have one question: Why? I’m genuinely curious as to why you would do this. What motivated you to do this? You’re not going to get anything out of this, we won’t pay your ransom. So what do (or did) you think you’d get out of this? You obviously follow this blog if you knew where to look and who to call, so please leave a comment on this post because I want to know the answer.
Islands are biodiversity and extinction hotspots. The largest causes of contemporary extinctions are invasive mammals on islands and most of the world's endangered plants and animals are island species. The good news is that invasive mammals have been removed from hundreds of islands worldwide. Our research team studies what happens after mammals are removed. Do species recover? Do seabirds come back? Do islands function like they did before they were invaded? These are the questions that drive our research. We're addressing these questions in New Zealand and Australia - places with the longest history of mammal removals. Our team has decades of experience documenting how species and ecosystems respond to invasive mammal removal. Most islands have evolved without mammals, so when they invade, they create seismic shifts in food webs, sometimes resulting in extinctions. When the mammals are subsequently removed, yet more prolific changes occur. Our team helps to quantify those changes, by using multiple islands with different times since mammal removal, to ask how islands recover through time. Our work can help to prioritize additional conservation/restoration that might be needed to achieve full recovery.
Speechless July 25 evening I am having a difficult time deciding what to even write about. The numerous wildlife sightings are incredible. I have lost track how many polar bears we have seen and just today we were following elusive narwhals. The Expedition Leader is scouting the land right now to see if we can get off ship for a bit. Yesterday was difficult to get to land to stretch our legs, because there were so many polar bears around – a good problem to have. Life on ship is better, motion sickness is being kept at bay, thank goodness. There is so much ice around, the hissing and popping of it makes a unique sound. The photos include kids playing around at Ittoqqortoormiit, the working sled dogs and the lone wandering dog of Ittoqqortoormiit, a mother polar bear and her cub in the ice field and some ice.
After talking to locals we have been directed to a fish auction on on the Northeastern coast of Taiwan. This auction receives catches from around Taiwan and we were eager to checked out some of the weird sharks that they get. Sharks are these markets are often taken as bycatch (caught by accident while fishings for other species) but are still consumed. We were interested to learn that there is a value on rare sharks and consumers like to eat unusual animals. Among the species we saw were Blue Sharks, Bronze Whalers, and hammerheads. They also had a few Gulper Sharks which are rare, deep-sea sharks known for their slow reproduction. Finally we spotted one large (8.6 ft) False Catshark, a very rare species that is poorly known. This relatively large species has tiny teeth the size of grains of sand, and the pups (baby sharks) eat each other in the womb. We talked to the auctioneer, and he said Megamouths, while rare in the market were seen a few times every year during this season. We were optimistic and excited to know that we were in the right place at the right time.
"Selamat Datang ke Sabah! What is this thing?" The customs inspector at the Kota Kinabalu airport asks me, curiously examining the Trident and controller in my carry-on bag. After explaining what the ROV is (and helped by the MPA, Shark Stewards and National Geographic stickers) we got a pass and headed for the jungle. We are here using our Trident ROV for the first time in Borneo with a trial run on the Kinatangan river before heading for the reef. But first, we have to get some last minute first aid, and received incredible service from Open ROV to get the Trident to respond. Thanks Zack! Not yet at the coral reef to continue the shark and coral project, I am first with a University class on Tungog Lake near the Kinabatangan River in Eastern Malaysian Borneo. The ultimate expedition plan is to survey coral and Crown of Thorn Starfish (COTS- Acanthaster planci), and look for nocturnal sharks we tagged and released last year at Pom Pom island at the TRACC lab on Pom Pom Island in Borneo. However, before visiting the island, I am helping teach the aquatic team, collecting chemical and physical measurements along this jungle river system, and helping develop a restoration plan. As part of a class with the University of San Francisco, I help teach the aquatic field surveys in the rainforest, and we are assisting our partners here on the Kinabatangan. Tungog lake is an oxbow lake. These lakes are formed by loops closed off from the meandering river and have unique species assemblages. Healthy lakes have fresh water otters, many species of fish and the occasional Siamese crocodile dozing along the shoreline. Students in the Masters of Environmental Sciences Management program is evaluating and helping restore the tropical rainforest with local Malaysians from a collective called KOPEL. Now in its third year, we are monitoring physical and chemical conditions within the lake, in addition to conducting planting in the rainforest. The Aquatic team also attempting to understand and control an invasive fern, Salvinia molesta. This species is an aggressive aquatic fern invading almost all of the oxbow lakes along the Kinabatagan River floodplain. Blooms cover the entire lake and degenerating plants have caused mass fish die-offs believed to be associated with reduced dissolved oxygen, but may also be related to lower pH conditions caused by the ferns. While the students are sampling from the safety of a platform, I flew the drone in the lake and beneath the canopy of Salvinia, searching for fish but hoping for crocodiles. On the far bank along the section of lake cleared of Salvinia we see crocodiles sunning. These are not the larger more dangerous species that live lower down the river and which are more responsible for human deaths than great white sharks off California. Between 2007 to 2013, it was estimated that out of 42 reports of crocodile attacks in Malaysia, 40 of them are from Sarawak, in a state well to the east of our location. The saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus), also known as the estuarine crocodile can reach lengths of over 6 meters and 800 kilograms. Here is a video- note the division between the clear water free of Salvia and the thick mat behind the boom. [https://youtu.be/6BcqkvwwQo] Some Iban native peoples in Sarawak believed that a giant crocodile called the Bujang Senang that haunted the river was actually a warrior cursed to become a crocodile. An uptick of deaths removed protections and the state allows culling of the predators in a response that recalls the West Australian great white shark cull. Perhaps better studies of the animal's movements and habitat protection would avoid deaths and remove these crocodile hunts. What better way to search for the wily and in this case, shy crocodile, than using the Trident? This smaller species (4.5 m, 350Kg) has been extirpated from much of its range in Southeast Asia and Northern Australia and is critically endangered. We hope that restoring the balance to this lake will benefit the predators and the prey. The ongoing monitoring program will monitor for water temperature, dissolved oxygen, ph, water clarity, chemical oxygen demand (COD), ammonium, nitrate and nitrite. Plankton and fish are also sampled. Last year we fabricated a plankton net from chicken mesh, ribbon, and mesh skirt filtering into a plastic colander. This year we brought a proper plankton net, collecting samples by pulling the platform along a roped transect strung across the lake and collected fish with a throw net that brought in several species of freshwater fish. The ROV picked up images of fish, and skimmed the shadows beneath the thick mat of Salvinia, but visibility is low in the silty red soup. We did not see any curious crocodiles, but we did see and sample several species of fish in the lake including a freshwater eel, (Monopterus albus) that are normally found in the benthic layer of lakes but creates bubble nests on the surface vegetation to breed. A common species were the beautiful blue striped Rasbora. Also identified were the native Trichopodus trichopterus and an introduced Trichopodus pectoralis. introduced for food in Borneo that may be outcompeting and displacing T. trichopterus. Two benthopelagic species of Leptobarbus were also caught; Leptobarbus sabanus and Leptobarbus melanotaenia. We are challenged by a lack of internet and editing software, so, for now, this short video and images will have to suffice. Next stop is Pom Pom Island- back to the coral, COTS and sharks. Stay tuned!
Since June 1, 2018 Everyday Explorer has interviewed seven New Orleans locals about their daily lives in the Big Easy and the effects tourism has on their lives. Since 2018 is the Tricentennial of the city this is an important junction of the history and the future of one of America's favorite cities. We've talked short term rentals, music, culture, housing, favorite foods, best festivals to attend, and much more. Below is a photo of Ethan Ellestad, the Director of the Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans. Next up we focus on the environmental side of tourism in an ecosystem already delicate from nature and man's handiwork. Follow us on our Instagram story at @everydayexplorer or on Twitter at @theLeighWright
Day 2, July 5th (1/2): Matapalito Bay Matapalito bay has proved to be one of the most important foraging grounds for green sea turtles and hawksbill sea turtles in the northern pacific coast of Costa Rica. Sea turtle scientists have debated about the taxonomic classification of green turtles for decades. For some, Chelonia mydas should be considered a single species, even though its populations have different physical traits, the genetics is basically the same. After several years of studying in-water sea turtle populations in the area, researchers from Equipo Tora Carey have discovered that Matapalito Bay is not visited only by Pacific green sea turtles (that we call black sea turtles, and some scientists consider a sub species of the green turtle) but its also visited by green sea turtles from the Indopacific Ocean, with a distinctive morph and colorations of their shell!! During our research we had the chance to capture both a black turtle and an indopacific green turtle, we took tissue samples that will be used for genetic studies to help us solve the dilemma of the green turtle. Can you tell the difference?? (Look at pictures)
Last night I had a dream that I embarked on this expedition with only one of my bags...please for the love of my sanity, NO! Honestly, though, it would not be the end of the world, of course. A little lighter packing, and perhaps a little liberating! So let's talk about the weather on expedition. I will be in the Southern Hemisphere, which right now is experiencing winter time. Lima and Cusco will be in the 50s and 60s Fahrenheit, while the jungle and rainforest will be in the 80s and 90s Fahrenheit. Interestingly enough, the clothing I am packing will be used in all of these locations. During the day, I will be wearing long pants and long sleeve shirts to protect from the sun and insect bites. I will also have along with me for my trek, a light jacket and medium jacket for when the sun sets (so scientifically inaccurate, but I'll save that for another post!). Today, my mom took me shopping for a few last minute things like band-aids, water filter, face wipes, and one more pair of pants and socks. To be clear, that is one pair of socks and one pair of pants, not some new age pants/socks combination--I know at least one of you reading this totally pictured that. I digress. So incredibly grateful for my mother--she beamed as she spoke with two different employees at REI about my expedition. I loved hearing about it from her perspective, and it really made me think about what you all think and how excited you are about this expedition as well. In fact, a few hours ago I was at church for music rehearsal and the expedition came up--I know what you are thinking, I was talking about it AGAIN?! For the record, I did not bring it up, but I will confess I WAS thinking about it. The five others that were there for this particular conversation had so many questions and I loved talking with them and answering questions about it. It made me realize once more that this means a lot to not only me and my students but every one of you on this journey with me! I am so incredibly excited to share this with you in so many ways. Thank you for joining in the fun and thank you for being my cheerleaders--I appreciate you all.
The best laid plans are subject to Volcanjc shifts! Our flight from Dallas has been turned around due to a volcanic eruption near Guayaquil - the ash cloud is drifting towards Quito and the plane cannot fly through it, though we are told we may be able to fly out later tonight. The avenue of volcanoes near Quito is stunning and active, several of us were planning an expedition to Cotopaxi on our day off. More info is here: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/biking-ecuadors-spectacular-avenue-of-the-volcanoes-353120/ We don’t have too much information yet as we are currently aloft, about 22,000 ft of altitude somewhere over east Texas but will hear more news about the eruption and its impact on our expedition once the eruption shows up in the news! Image below courtesy of the BBC website from an eruption in the region last year.
Early in the morning, we arrived at the docks in Cox's Bazar. It was a bustling scene and the docks were already crowded with the daily traffic. Our students arrived on a bus from their school and were swiftly guided to our boat to begin our field trip - after all, we had a lot of ground (or rather water) to cover, and everyone was eager to get on the river. Two stops were planned on our river journey. The first was in the middle of the tributary that feeds into the larger Maheshkhali Channel and then another stop by the Channel's mouth closer to the open ocean. The purpose of the field trip was to conduct science experiments to test the visibility of the water, to examine what microscopic mysteries lurk in the water, and lastly, to explore the underwater realm using a remotely operated vehicle from OpenROV. Two of the three experiments were made with recycled or easy-to-find objects that the students could reproduce on their own. In addition to the experiments, we brought along a pair of binoculars so our explorers could observe the local flora and fauna from the boat. Before we left the dock we explained the exciting activities that were about to ensue, as this was a unique experience for most of our students. At our first stop, upstream from the larger Channel, we began our experiments. We separated the students into two groups so everyone would have something to do. The first group was responsible for water visibility measurements using a homemade Secchi disk. We lowered the disk until the students said they couldn’t see it anymore and measured how many meters down the disk got. We repeated the experiment three more times and recorded our results. The second experiment made use of pantyhose as a filter. As the boat was transiting we dragged the pantyhose filter through the water collecting anything that came into its way to be analyzed later through microscopes. The third experiment was to explore underwater using the Trident – a beautiful remotely operated underwater vehicle able to record its findings. Despite some technical issues getting the ROV working and some mild panic when the ROV got stuck under the boat, our explorers had a blast driving and maneuvering the ROV. We boated closer to the Channel and ran the experiments again, switching groups so all students had the chance to try everything. In the time between experiments, the students took turns using the binoculars to observe nearby cormorants and the landscape on the shore, rich with vegetation. Overall the field trip was a success, and back at Dipshikha, we were able to analyze our data and samples that the class had collected. It turned out that our first stop had less clear water than in the Channel, and the students got to see interesting microbes collected from the river under the microscope. The best part of the field trip was seeing our students conducting the experiments on their own (without us even asking too!). Clearly they were curious and empowered to understand their world around them. We hope this drive stays with them after our workshop is over and that we’ve unveiled some tools that they can easily make and use to do science in their own backyards. (Images from Julia DeMarines)
The Philippines, which lies at the heart of the ocean's biodiversity, is highly dependent on fisheries for food security, export earnings, and economic development. Many of the country’s fish stocks have been depleted by decades of overfishing, which has also damaged precious coral reefs and other marine ecosystems. Growing recognition of this problem has resulted in a new law that encourages science-based management that will rebuild these stocks, and thereby improve food production, profits, and jobs in these fisheries. This has created a big opportunity to improve both ocean conservation and human welfare, but it is constrained by the lack of data and science. Scientists using conventional surveys have only been able to study a small fraction of the Philippines’ hundreds of fisheries, which are spread among over 8,000 islands. In the Philippines, we are working with a team of scientists from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), the nation’s fishery management agency, to collect data on the abundance of the 20 main species harvested from coral reefs in the Gulf of Lagonoy (Bicol Peninsula, Luzon Island). Our plan is to provide Trident underwater drones to BFAR technicians who would first fly the Tridents along standard transects that have been surveyed by divers, and then analyze still and video images to quantify fish density (number/area surveyed) and habitat quality (using metrics such as coral cover, macroalgal cover, grazer density, etc). This will allow us to compare metric data gathered by the divers and by the Tridents, and to calibrate future analyses. Total fish density will be compared inside and outside of no-take marine reserves to estimate the level of depletion by fishing (the density ratio), and to ascertain the status of the coral reefs relative to “tipping points” (certain density ratios associated with dramatic changes in coral reef status) that have been quantified for Philippine coral reefs. If possible, BFAR technicians will also estimate fish lengths from the images that can be used to calculate fishing exploitation rate and the reproductive capacity of these 20 fish populations. These analytical outputs would then be used to guide fishery control measures aimed at bring abundance and fishing exploitation rates closer to target levels. EDF and our partners have made great progress toward creating better, science based management systems in the Philippines by building capacity within BFAR and the academic community with a series of trainings and tools over several years. We anticipate that successful use of underwater drones in Lagonoy Gulf can be replicated and scaled relatively quickly by leveraging our ongoing trainings and strong relationships with BFAR leadership. By overcoming the major barrier to science-based management, the data collected by the Tridents will unlock the huge potential for fisheries recovery to feed people and enhance economic development while protecting critically important marine ecosystems in the Philippines.
Even when the deep sea is in your "backyard", accessing the deep sea is inherently hard. Whether just a few kilometers away from land, or thousands of miles from shore, when you are in the deep sea, you are almost always out in the open ocean, which make the weather a much bigger factor than in coastal waters. The weather can blow up quickly, raising the seas and the winds mercilessly. Then there is the pressure: for every 10 meters down, add another atmosphere of pressure (14.7 psi or 1 bar). So, at 1000 meters below the surface, you have a pressure of 1,470 psi or 100 bar. Electronics and other equipment need to be built to withstand this crushing pressure, or else they will implode. One of the best tests of this is the styrofoam cup test (there is a trending twitter hashtag where marine biologists the world over are posting their favorite shrunken cups - check it out: #shrunkencupoff). When you lower a styrofoam cup below 500-600m, there is enough pressure to remove all of the air bubbles and the cup shrinks. We did this in Kiribati with our i-Kiribati colleagues as a demonstration, and all found as much joy in shrunken cups as we did. :-) Back to business though. In addition to the challenges of location and pressure, you have the added challenge of controlling equipment over deep distances. In the case of the ReelCam we are using, we have no real-time feedback from the camera. So, we don't know what the camera is seeing or exactly where it is (what depth). Once the light and camera are turned on and the pressure housings are closed, we don’t have any additional control or feedback. Nada. Just crossed fingers and trust in math and engineering. Our ReelCam was designed and built by Brennan Phillips (URI), who is a former ROV pilot and a heckuva engineer, so we knew we were in good hands. Still, it's unnerving when the only thing we can control during a dive is the amount of line we let out. The camera just hangs on a fishing line that is mounted to a powered fishing reel. And, to make things even more complicated, the amount of line out does not directly translate to the depth of the camera. If you have only worked in calm water, you might think that knowing when the camera is on the bottom would be easy. As soon as the tension on the line goes away you are on the bottom right? Well, when working in open ocean from a boat that is drifting, it is not so easy, because the camera is falling while the boat is drifting with the surface winds and currents. If the conditions are strong enough, the line will never completely lose tension even when the camera is sitting on the bottom. Hmmmm. So, you have to make a judgement call on when you think the camera is on the bottom. The first couple deployments of the ReelCam, we guessed wrong and were extremely disappointed once we downloaded the video and realized that we were not patient enough: we never reached the bottom. Grrrrr. As deep sea equipment goes, our ReelCam is fairly simple, but given the complications of operating in deep water it still took us several attempts to get the system dialed in. First, we lost the camera and it sank to the bottom. Yikes. Thankfully, we had the good sense to try our first deployment in shallow water, so we retrieved it (yes, there is an earlier post detailing that failure). Then, we failed to get to the bottom because we guessed wrong about how much tension was on the line (ahem, we were impatient). Then, we had two problems with the fishing line on the winch getting tangled because we didn’t have enough tension on the line, which forced us to abort the dive, so we reeled in overly cautiously, and voila: hundreds of feet of tangled fishing line. And unfortunately, that happened twice. After re-rolling the line (again, twice!) and thinking through everything about a million times, we decided it was time to try again. After all, if you don't use the ReelCam to explore the deep, it just becomes a very expensive paperweight or doorstop. Not okay!! On our last afternoon on the boat, just as the sun was setting, we finally got our procedures and settings correct. With our Kiribati colleagues (Tooreka! Nabuti! Betarim! Eriatera! And so many others!!), we did four deep-sea drops, marking the very first deep-sea dives in the entire archipelago. We were so excited. We carefully brought up the camera. Fingers and toes all crossed, we retrieved the camera onboard. And then.... we impatiently waited, since we didn't want to open the camera at sea to retrieve the SD card. That was the longest ride... the anticipation was hard to bear (yeah, I'm not great with delayed gratification...). FINALLY. The SD cards were extracted, downloaded, and it was time to examine our first ever look at the deep seafloor of the Gilbert Islands. And what did we see? Benthic Ctenophores! SO NEAT! We have worked in the deep sea all over the Pacific and Atlantic and have never seen so many benthic ctenophores in the same place living on the bottom. Once we get back to shore, we will have to do a thorough search to get a better understanding of the types of communities and densities benthic ctenophores are normally found in, and if there are other places where they are seen like this. But for now, we can say for sure that this is the first time they have ever been documented in these depths in the Gilbert Islands. What an awesome moment to share with our Kiribati colleagues and friends. One of the great things about this project is while we are soon headed back to the US, the ReelCam is staying with the Kiribati Fisheries Department, so our colleagues can continue to explore their waters and learn more about these unexplored ecosystems. We are jealously awaiting news of their next discovery!!
Our student ambassadors from the Universidad de Oriente (UNO) in Yucatan, Mexico have been helping us with our photovoice activities. Our UNO students worked to translate descriptions in both Spanish and Maya of photos our segundaria (middle school) students have been taking. Students take photos of things related to cenotes that are meaningful to them. In the image below a student took a picture of contamination in their town's cenote and talked to us about the image. The student's silhouette can be seen in the image. The English, Spanish and Maya descriptions of the image are below: English: In this photograph we encounter the silhouette of a young girl who is observing trash on the green ground, this trash is the same trash that forms part of the contamination that the principal cenote in the town suffers from. Our perception (provided by the image) is that this indicates the preoccupation the children have for preserving this natural site. Even though they are young, it appears to bother them to see the garbage surrounding the cenote. They seem concerned that we should avoid and reduce the pollution that nature has suffered. Spanish: En esta fotografia podemos encontrar la silueta de una nina que esta observando la basura en el suelo verde, esta basura misma que forma parte de la contaminacion que sufre el cenote principal de su comunidad y nuestra percepcion es aquella que indica la preocupacion de los ninos por preservar este sitio natural, aun a su corta edad a ellos les incomoda ver el basurero en el que se han convertido los alrededores de esta Fuente de agua y les surge una preocupacion por evitar y reducer la contaminacion que la naturaleza ha sufrido Maya: Tela ju beyta in ilkon bix yanik juntuul ch’u’upal tan in yilik bis yanik le sojol te lumo’ , le sojola’ tan u k’askunsik le ts’o’onot yan tu kajalo’obo, ba’ax tin ilone’, le ch’u’upalaloba ku tukliko’ob ba’ax ka’abet u betko’ob tial u kanantko’ob. Le ch’upalalo’oba keex chichno’ob ku na’atko’ob, ma ka’abet u pulko’ob sojol te tso’onoto tumen u ku’uchi tu’ux ku ch’ako’ob ja’, le metik ku yako’ob k’a’abet u kanantko’ob yo’olal mu p’aata jump’eel kuuchi tu’ux ku ts’a’akajal sojol.
After 15 days on the Island of Mozambique, we can finally look back on the work done. The team went diving more than 10 times, and thoroughly explored and documented three important sites. Also, the above-water team used a portable sonar to create this highly accurate bathymetric chart. It will be an important tool for the soon-to-be-created underwater archeology center. The very first in Mozambique.
The deep sea is the least explored and the least understood part of our planet. In this vast and extreme environment, even less is known about the biological communities that exist there, or the biogeography of deep ocean species. Out of sight and out of mind, these fragile ecosystems are silently at risk of extinction from climate and anthropogenic pressures in this time of rapid global change. To attain a planet in balance and sustainable futures, it is evermore imperative to expand human understanding to the deep sea. This project is designed to transform innovative exploration technology (the Deep Ocean Dropcam) into an active research program to protect biodiversity in the deep sea. We will establish a baseline deep ocean health assessment to identify areas for the protection of biodiversity and monitor ecosystem health into the future. With the expansion of the Dropcam program, we have the opportunity to bring the deep sea into sight and into mind.
Marine protected areas are a fundamental management tool around the world in front of the growing degradation of coastal ecosystems. In Catalonia, Spain, marine protected areas are a key component of the country's natural heritage and play a preeminent role in the conservation of coastal marine areas. The Marine Protected area of Cap de Creus is the largest marine protected area in Catalonia, and is one of the most important marine reserves in the Mediterranean. Its rich natural resources and the intensity of human uses create the characteristic features of this area. Human uses such as recreational and commercial fishing activities represent the main danger of degradation of the natural resources of this space. The cap de Creus Natural Park was first protected in 1992, and became a marine and terrestrial Natural Park in 1998. The total area of the Park is 13,886 hectares, of which 10,813 are on land and 3,073 are at sea. Within the sea there are 3 different management regimes: the Natural Park (PN) where fishing, including spearfishing, is allowed with few limitations; three Partial Natural Reserve (RNP) where spearfishing is prohibited and commercial fishing is restricted; and the Integral Natural Reserve (RNI) where any activity, whether extractive or not, is prohibited. The marine protected areas in Catalonia are based on an adaptive management concept, which implies the need for a periodic evaluation of the reserve in order to determine the effect of the management measures undertaken. Therefore, management is based on a biodiversity monitoring program that periodically evaluates the marine ecosystems and species inhabiting these areas. The monitoring program in the cap de Creus Natural Park was initiated in 2006, and is focused on evaluating key species and habitats as indicators to validate the efficiency of the management and to detect the effect of potential human or natural impacts. Fish populations are main indicators because of their ecological and economical importance. Since 2006, SCUBA monitoring of the shallow subtidal fish populations has shown an increase of the target fish species in the totally and partially protected areas, whereas in the areas where all types of fishing are permitted, their abundances are very low, showing evidences of overfishing. This year, Rick Starr of Moss Landing Marine Labs in partnership with Marine Applied Research and Exploration (MARE) will be traveling to the Cap de Creus National Park to help Dr. Hereu survey the fishes that live in waters deeper than can be surveyed by SCUBA techniques using the Trident ROV.
Meet the 2018 Dive Team! These eleven divers - one of our biggest teams yet as the PISCO program at UCSB turns 20 - were selected to take sound scientific data underwater. Led by staff researchers Avrey Parsons-Field and Katie Davis, diver Keegan Bell returns for his fourth season, Brittany Tholan and Chris Honeyman return for their third, Lindsey Kraemer and Jake Eisaguirre return for their second, and interns Amanda Rivard, Cece Martin, Jade Zounes, and Luca Silva are welcomed to the team. Over the course of the summer, we'll be posting diver profiles to introduce each individual. It may take a mix of experience levels to make a dive team, but it takes an equal amount of enthusiasm. Morale is high! PHOTOS: (1) The whole team on the RV Garibaldi (Photo by Chuck Dobbins), (2) Chris Honeyman off-gases on his safety stop (Photo by Brittany Tholan), (3) Jake Eisaguirre celebrates America by working on the Fourth of July (Photo by Chris Honeyman), (4) The Gang goes SCUBA diving (Photo by Chuck Dobbins).
On the first day of Ad Astra Academy, students are introduced to the key concepts and tools used by scientists in the real world. Through hands-on activities, they participate in the scientific method to test a hypothesis by collecting and analyzing data. Students leave the classroom to search for signs of past and present life in the natural environment. It's important to allow students to explore freely, but also to guide their exploration toward testable hypotheses. For example, is sunlight a necessary ingredient for life? What other energy sources could organisms use? How is plant growth affected by access to nutrients, or how long can life survive without water? Using a research notebook, students investigate habitability (past and present) through the study of form, activity, and environment.
Greetings Enthusiasts!Another catch-up post. On July 30th, we managed to return to Indian lake, in Somerset County, PA. We needed to get back into the quarry, and we did. However, we hit the end of our 25m tether long before the bottom, as we were deploying off an island ans not directly over the trench. Some interesting bits in the video. Certainly have fish of various types, and corroding metal pole protruding from the stone and mud. We took a look at the island support stones as well. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3jWgte9Xns https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cxe7tbYgG1w We also took some time to record hydrophone data. As you can imagine, engine/prop screw noise was dominant. This is unprocessed raw feed, so it's noisy. https://youtu.be/WJXHmf-Usio
Wreck of Sigurjón Arnlaugsson (+1990) In July 2015 we were testing camera module payload on a GAVIA AUV (Autonomous Underwater Vehicle) We were close to a shipwreck of an old troller, Sigurjon Arnlaugsson. Sigurjon Arnlaugsson HF210 was built as a fishing trawler in Norway in 1960. He had many names before he got his name Sigurjón. Sigurjón Arnlaugsson was taken out of use in 1990 and was sanked as a training dive site for search and rescue teams. The wreck lies in 25 meters depth and stands upright. Visibility is most often not good or even very bad. The sonar images was taken with 600 kHz frequency.
ROVs: Where They’re Headed For this post our interns focused what they think about mini-class ROV technology Working as interns for Oceans Research, we are introduced to various ongoing research projects. One being the OpenRov project that looks at fish assemblages in coastal reef areas. This study utilizes the relatively new, and quickly growing technology known as Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV). After practicing our piloting skills in a nearby shallow reef-like area in Mossel Bay, we were able to reflect on how this technology might be further used to maximize its potential. One of the outstanding characteristics of this technology is its flexibility to be used in a number of different studies with a multitude of objectives. That being said, it seems that no one has really pinned down a specific area of interest to help find the technology’s niche in the research world. It was amazing to see how much information we gathered from just a few minutes of recorded footage while traveling along a transect only 25 meters long. Who knows what else can be discovered when applying this rapidly improving technology to different areas of study. Matt, Jordan & Josie
Prep Time Part Two Researcher prep Each team member has plenty of preparation to do on their end, and with an international team hailing from Alaska, Japan, Russia, and France, it will be interesting to learn each researcher's priorities. Alexis Will is my partner in this process, as well as the Principal Researcher. She works as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow between the National Institute of Polar Research in Japan and the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. Although she admits she can be a "last-minute person", she seems pretty busy. Researcher Tasks Some of her prep tasks include the following: 1.Ensure research is approved by the University's Animal Care and Use Committee. 2.Ensure that any new team member (such as myself!) completes required online classes for animal handling regulations. 3.Secure lodging, which in this case, will be renting a house from a local family. Personal space will be at a premium, all part of the adventure and yet more impetus to pack light. 4.Field Food! Since we will be in a remote island village, feeding a team of folks for several weeks can be a challenge. *Draw up a list for feedback/ requests from the team *Decide where to purchase items *Plan timing of food delivery to the island *Some food is stored on the island from last year, so we won't starve, but mail can be pretty unpredictable (Apparently it took one box 5 weeks to get to the island last year! *All of the food planning requires some research on shipping methods and shopping options which can be pretty stressful. If your team isn't fed and happy, well, you can guess how that would go! 5.Once those logistics are in place, she gets busy making and printing maps, packing gear, purchasing supplies in town, printing out field note books...lots of what she calls "small things", but they're all new to me, so I say they're pretty big things. 6.PLUS, with me joining the team, she's answering my questions, helping me with a packing list, and sending out research articles! Thanks, Alexis! The more preparation done in advance, the better. It's expensive to conduct research, especially in a remote location, so the goal is to hit the ground running! Packing list? We'll be, in essence, "Glamping in Savoonga", so rain gear, layers, and more layers rule the day. Plenty of different types of gloves, since it will be cold, wet, and windy while we're capturing and handling birds. Did I mention layers? Shopping For those who've asked me about shopping, what I know is that there's a single store in Savoonga and cash is best since the card machine at the store doesn't always work. (Also, prices can be triple that of the mainland, and the range of items can be slim, so plan ahead!) Local artists, industrious in nature, sell their wares, too, and since Savoonga is the Walrus Capital of the World, it's home to some of the best ivory carvers in the world. On the Homefront There's also family prep and animal logistics at home. We are all trying to bank some time with our loved ones, and one of the things I've done to try and remind my 12 year old that I'll be home soon is create a calendar with appointments, lessons, camp, and notes. Some of his favorite candy is included, along with some surprise cards and small goodies. The trickiest challenge is leaving family, but at the same time, I imagine it's extra impetus to maximize every minute away. What other questions do you have?
Just off the phone with colleagues from our MPA Collaborative in Monterey County, discussing ideas and protocols we'd like to implement when the Trident ROV arrives. We are all excited for its arrival and to be able to share the amazing underwater world with students from California and beyond. Serendipity plays a huge role in what is discovered underwater and the following video attests to this. Taken a little while back with a GoPro HERO 4 attached to a PVC pipe and tethered to a cord while sitting on a kayak. It wasn't until I got back to land that I saw the footage I captured. Looking forward to what we'll discover with the Trident!
The idea for this exploration grew out of a sailboat. Her name is Windfall II and the thought of buying her started when I realized I was consistently putting more than half of my paycheck to rent each month to live in Los Angeles. When I realized I could live smaller, simpler, cheaper and stay in SoCal, I bought a boat. After moving in, I quickly found out there were many other people doing the same thing. Housing was not just a problem for me but for most of the neighbors on my dock. From there I learned people were living alternatively outside of the marina in their RVs, cars, back houses, garages etc. all throughout California. I was then on a mission to learn about other people's stories on why they lived where they lived and how they were making it work. Today, housing is a major problem. With over a decade of not building enough housing or setting up correct zoning procedures, we are now struggling to house our residents. Without a single county with sufficient affordable housing across all income levels, it is my goal to reveal the realities of the housing crisis by fostering deeper and more substantive conversations with residents and policymakers.
In order to make our project happen, we need to get really good at driving and fixing these little robots. With that in mind Erin Derrington, Live Ocean board member and fellow facilitator, flew down from Saipan for the weekend so we could do some test dives. We started out with some propeller repair, since one of my props flew off at the DAWR event; fortunately it was inside a kiddie pool so I had no trouble retrieving it. I think for future builds I will put a little locktight on those bad boys.She brought a ROV down with her, the goal was for them to run together and get video of each other. We spent a few hours trying to figure out how to get the chrome book to save video from the stream. Despite trying several chrome book apps, google hangouts, and YouTube Live, we were unable to get it to work. They do have great battery life, though! My own laptop will only run the robot and the video software for about 45 minutes. Undeterred, we headed out to Piti for a test dive at one of our student sites, the outflow from the Piti powerplant. It was pretty uneventful until we got our wires crossed, literally. Erin was running tether for me, and got her tether too close to the computer running the other bot. Suddenly, I was controlling her bot, which was spinning its propellers on land. I could dive, move left and right, but only on the WRONG robot. I couldn’t control mine at all, we had to power cycle both bots to straighten things out. We also had a few issues with random power loss, and some buoyancy issues. We recovered some marine debris (including the wheel hub pictured in the video) and learned a lot. Off to the deep dive, tomorrow!
The first session of the #K2K Gaborone Leg was a success as we gathered in Village Sound Studio with Tomeletso Sereetsi and Gaone Rantlhoiwa to concoct musical ideas and bond through mutual forms of self-expression. We were blessed by our new friend Leroy who gifted us his time, studio, engineering skills and drum prowess. His addition to the writing and brainstorming process was crucial! We can't wait to move forward and exchange more musical conversation with these talented individuals. 🎵🌍❤️ #conservationmusic @ Gaborone, Botswana
Field Session Internet was spotty in the field so these entries are ex post facto. Rather than create a long single post with everything I will roll them out in chunks. I have invited the educators to contribute their experiences as well. I'm keen to see what they say. Tuesday The day started out overcast and gray with rain predicted for later. Regardless, we loaded up and departed pretty close to our target departure time of 8 am. We were in a caravan of 6 cars, a necessity since departure times and destinations after the field session varied. Before entering the park we convened just outside because of course we got separated en route. Fortunately, we did not have long to wait until we were all there. Our research permit got all of us in and we traveled on to our first stop the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. The day had cleared off; blue sky and sun and clouds greeted us. I was glad because first, I wanted the full on postcard, technicolor experience for the educators and second, every photon of solar energy would dry things out that much more quickly. We were met at the Visitor Center by Ranger Stacy, the director of supervisory education (meaning she works with kids and teachers), toured the paleontology lab, and had a short presentation by Stacy outdoors. We didn't have time to enjoy the displays, the movie or book store because we wanted to go to the Fossil Talk, about a 20 minute drive down the road. The Fossil Talk is as much about the geology as it is about the fossils. The Parks geology--and boy does it have geology--is dramatic. The visible layers start with the inland seas 75 million years ago and end with the deposition of eroded material from the Black Hills 30 million years ago. We traveled on after the Fossil Talk to the Conata Basin picnic area where we had lunch. While our cook Ginny assembled the fixings, we wandered over to the Pig Dig. This was our first up close encounter with the Badlands soil. We were quickly schooled in its clay properties thanks to the rain from the night before . After lunch it was on to the campsite. The Sage Creek Rim road was closed due to the recent rains which meant going out to Wall and then backtracking along another road. Once were back in the park we saw the bison herd, the mothers and cinnamon colored calves. That was a photo stop. The road in that section of the park was soft around the edges but otherwise passable. Even the road into the campground itself was fine. Not surprising given the previous night's rain, the campground was mostly empty. Within moments of our arrival in camp, Dr. Amanda Bachmann pulled in. She was leading our entomology survey. But work before play so our first task was to set up camp and help Ginny, the cook, set up the kitchen. The skies were far from clear and between the forecast calling for thunderstorms and the gathering gray clouds I wanted to make sure we weren't doing this work in the rain. I've set up camp in the rain before and to me it always feel like once something is wet it never really dries out. Camp up, kitchen started and it was out to a nearby field to sample for arthropods. With our extremely intermittent access to service we would wait to upload our observations to iNaturalist. The field we chose to sample was selected more for its proximity than any sign that it would yield interesting observations. There were a few flowering plants but since the skies were looking gray I wasn't comfortable hiking out any distance. We assembled ourselves, got our nets and bug jars and dispersed. Next up: Arthropod Sampling
We're excited to introduce the mesophotic realm to the rest of the world! Ultimately, we aim to bring the unique and overlooked habitats that exist at mesophotic depths to the front line where science and society collide. Mesophotic ecosystems are found beyond recreational diving limits (deeper than 30m) but shallower than 150m. Buffered from direct and indirect anthropogenic disturbances by depth, these systems are thought to act as an important reservoir of recruits for coral and fish populations in shallow-water systems. In spite of this proposed role, our current understanding of mesophotic systems fall short of the scientific breakthroughs made for their neighboring deep and shallow-water counterparts. We currently lack baseline information about the occurrence, ecology, and potential for these mesophotic environments to influence patterns of shallow-water reef persistence through larval, genetic, and population connectivity. I wish to directly address this knowledge gap by identifying ecological patterns across a depth gradient and at a wider geographic scale to determine the role that mesophotic ecosystems play in mitigating the stress that shallower habitats face today. The nature of the video data collected with OpenROV during our research activities will help us showcase the organisms that exist at these dark and foreboding depths, and reveal their life giving vitality. Together we can fuel a crucial reform of the current societal outlook on mesophotic ecosystems with a view to changing our erstwhile notion to “out of sight, but no longer out of mind.”
The E/V Nautilus is at the site of the meteorite fall and it's less than an hour until we send the ROV Hercules to the seafloor to look for meteorites! Join us live on nautiluslive.org! Images, courtesy of OET/NautilusLive show special tools used by the ROV Hercules to scoop, slurp and magnetically pick up prospective cosmic materials.
FIELD NOTES FROM THE ANCIENT FOREST, PART II Reports from Dan and Ben say the sampling went smoothly, which is as good as it gets when it comes to field science in “rather Icelandic” conditions. They cut dozens of cross-sections from the ancient trees. “Because the standing dead trees in the buried forest were completely entombed in glacial outwash," Ben wrote "the outer divots and inner pockets of logs were stuffed with sand and gravel.” The cutting quickly wore down several chainsaw chains that they’d brought for backup. Phillip and Ben spent hours twisting increment borers into live trees on the moraine to collect samples of the core—from the outermost rings to the inner pith. Ben deemed 16-day trip a success. They cored about a hundred living trees from the surrounding area and cut about ninety cross-sections from trees in the ancient forest. Strapping the slabs to external-frame backpacks, Dan, Ben, and Phillip hauled about six hundred pounds of wood down to the beach for pickup on the flight out. In the end, Ben came up with three scientific goals from the treasures taken from the outer coast: First, construct a time series of the rates at which the trees grew and examine their demise toward death. He wants to know whether the patterns of growth and death correspond to any past climatic events. Second, see if (and how) the growth rates of yellow-cedar trees responded to the relatively balmy conditions of the Medieval Warm Period (MWP). “Just like the Little Ice Age,” Ben says, “the Medieval Warm Period was not a monolith over space and time.” Occurring roughly 900-1000 AD, “It was well-pronounced and fairly straightforward in Europe, but the specifics are still being defined elsewhere including the North Pacific.” Dr. Greg Wiles of The College of Wooster Tree Ring Lab calls the MWP a natural warm period relative to today. “Today’s warming is fundamentally different,” due to the influence of our human activity, but how the trees responded during that time might reveal something about how they’ll respond to future conditions. Given the extent of yellow-cedar mortality throughout many parts of southeast Alaska and British Columbia, the species is currently under consideration for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Lastly, Ben wants to determine how the different tree species on the moraine responded to the local cooling and warming as the glacier advanced and retreated in the 19th and 20th centuries. He thinks the historic, localized changes in climate could serve as a test for how these different species may respond to the abrupt climate change expected to come. What does their future in a warming world hold? He’s headed back to the La Perouse forest this week and installing some temperature devices that will collect hourly temperatures for a year. With any luck, we’ll return next summer with results from the wood samples and collect the current those devices for an understanding of the current conditions.
Debrief This is our last post on this expedition. I recorded a conversation with my daughter to gather her thoughts and insights on our journey, and learned that she's fast, and she's strong... The conversation is transcribed below. DAY 8: (4 days post expedition) Listening Location: Traveling through Texas by car Date: Tuesday, 16 June 2018 iNat Project Link: [Open Explorer: Appalachian Trail from Dick’s Creek to Nantahala] Senses: Texas is hot, my kid is on a good path. Quick Q&A ME If you had one thing that sums up the Appalachian Trail what would it be? HER It’s time I get to spend with my Dad, talking and having him listen to me and only me. ME If you had one piece of advice for someone thinking of hiking the AT what would it be? HER Hike with someone. Sharing it means a lot. ME If you had one piece of gear that people really need what would it be? HER Hiking poles ME If you could tell people one thing people wouldn’t expect on the AT what would it be? HER We didn’t really see people hiking, but you always seem to see people at the shelter. ME Lots of people ask us about seeing bears. What about bears, any thoughts? HER We haven’t seen any while hiking the AT, but we’ve seen them in 6 or 7 states, and I’m pretty comfortable knowing what I should do. I don’t think they are a problem if you are safe and prepared. ME What about nature photography and the science part of the hike. We didn't do much of that. HER I guess we didn't. I think I probably just ask you about the stuff we see and you explain it, so I don't stop for the pictures and stuff. I might if I was on my own. ME What about the people you’ve met? HER People have always been really kind and helpful and supportive. We mostly see adults, either couples or friends, and sometimes families, and sometimes a youth group or boy scouts or something. We did see soldiers one time in our first year and it was kind of surprising. ME Do you have any worries or concerns about hikes like that? HER I guess just that something would happen to one of us when we were a long way from a gap or something. ME Why do you go so many miles each day? HER I don’t know. I just like it, and I guess I think I should just keep moving if I’m ever going to get to Maine. ME Can families or other kids hike the AT? HER Of course. Anybody can hike the Appalachian Trail, you just have to have the right mindset. It’s not dangerous or a dead end of something. You can sort of jump on and off and do it in sections like we do, or you can have someone drop you off each day, or do it all at once. It’s just walking. ME Anything else people should know about your hike or their hike on the Appalachian Trail? HER Just like everyone says, hike your own hike. Have fun. Keep going. ME Talk about the last four days for a few minutes… What did you do, what did you see, anything scary, anything super cool. Just sort of give an explanation of life on the Trail through your eyes. HER First Evening On the first night, it was kind of hard because we had been sitting in the car for a long time and rushing to get to the shuttle and then hike to the shelter. It was kind of a hectic way to start. We didn’t talk that first evening, which isn't like us, and I didn’t like that too much. Spending a little much time with my own thoughts wasn’t how I wanted to start the hike. (Full) Day 1 The first full day we hiked about 12 miles and we weren’t doing so well at first. We got a late start and after we stopped for a snack, we hiked for about 30 minutes past the North Carolina/Georgia border and then you suddenly thought you had dropped something, so you backtracked for about 20 minutes or so while I rested. The rest of the day was smooth sailing, and we got the whole 12 miles to the Standing Indian Shelter. We had heard that a bear was really active in the area and we saw some torn up paper and food wrappings when we got there so I was a little worried that it might come back and try to get our food that night. Having that other hiker with a dog was good because the dog might bark to let us know if the bear showed up. It didn't. We also had great cell service there, so I got to talk to my Mom and sister for a while, which always makes me feel better. We also met Carl, who we saw several times on the trail for the next few days. He was a really nice man, but he didn’t make it to his resupply town in time. He ran out of food, so we shared some of ours. Day 2 The next day we went to Long Branch Shelter which was about 16 miles. That was a really long hike for me and my shoulders started hurting late in the day, partly just because of the way the straps we fitting my body. Adjusting my pack and giving you some of my weight helped and they didn't really bother me the rest of the trip. That night we reached the shelter and four very sweet ladies were there travelling in pairs. We got top bunk that night and I liked it because it was really big. Carl showed up later and said he was worried he wasn’t going to make it over Albert Mountain. I really think people who are worried about the trail should think about doing the go-around trail at Albert to get to the shelter. Day 3 Our third full day was over Siler Bald and then trying to make it up and over Wayah. It was mostly a pretty smooth day, and we were hustling to get to Wayah Shelter when the clouds started to form in the middle of the day. When we stopped for our energy-lunch of tortillas and peanut butter with some honey, the thunder started hitting pretty bad. Thank goodness we were right in front of a camping place and we decided to settle in for the night. I was very disappointed we weren’t going to make those last three miles because it made the next day longer. Even with miles and miles of downhill at the end of the hike, I knew that adding three uphill miles in the morning would make it a really, really long day. Oh, and you switched my hammock before this trip and I wasn’t really familiar with the strap so it was a little stressful getting set up before the storms, so I just tied them in knots until you could help. The thunder was pretty loud, so it is probably best that we stopped. Day 4 The next day was our last day and I was really excited to get started. I wanted to get everything packed and get started but breaking camp always takes a while, especially when things are wet. We had 19.3 miles to hike and making it to the top of Wayah Bald was really pretty. The trail led to a parking lot and we sort of lost the white blazes so we just sort of wandered towards the fire tower. The view from up there was gorgeous, and we could see forever, mountain after mountain after mountain. We finally saw a white blaze on the other side of the fire tower and as we got on the trail, a big, fat rabbit jumped right in front of me. I noticed there were a bunch of berries there and the bunny was probably feasting on those berries. We don’t see many mammals on the AT, which is a little different than back home in Austin, where we see deer and other stuff almost every day. We stopped for lunch at Cold Spring Shelter, which is a stream and shelter right on the trail, which is a little different than some shelters, which might be off the trail a couple of hundred yards. We met a group of boys just leaving and after we finished our lunch of tuna, we headed towards Tellico Gap. We met some southbounders on the way who were taking a steep climb uphill and talked with them for a few minutes. We also crossed some people out for a day hike, which is always good because it lets you know you’re not too far from roads or towns or something. We wound up passing the boys we saw at Cold Spring Shelter and then stopped for our next bite at Tellico Gap. We sat on a rock and you started talking to a man in blue jeans who lived there and was supposed to have a meeting there or something. When y'all started talking about fishing, I took a minute to call mom. The man gave us some water and a few rolls of sweet tarts he said came from his wife’s office, she was an insurance agent. He seemed very nice. You told me that the water and candy was an example of something called "trail magic,” which is where people leave or give water, food, snacks or something else on the trail that is useful to hikers. In 100 miles, it was our first experience with trail magic, and it was pretty cool to not have to filter water. From Tellico it was about 2 miles uphill to Wesser Bald, and we went through a large section that looked like it had been set on fire. Lots of trees looked like charcoal and were hollowed out, and it was very pretty to see nature returning with flowers and small plants. Those last few miles up to Wesser Bald were pretty tough. We were tired. It was really pretty up there, a lot like the fire tower at Wayah, with lots of mountains and trees and a lake in the distance. Wesser was the “summit before the plummet” and I felt like running. As we started down, we could see rain around us and we saw a rainbow down below us. We kept heading down and the rain started and it rained for what seemed like a really long time because I was so excited to get to the Nantahala River. It eventually stopped raining and my glasses were all fogged up and I couldn’t get them clear, and we passed the last shelter and could start to hear cars. Dad pulled out his phone to make a little video and then he asked me if I wanted to do it. Reaching the river was a huge achievement because we’d sort of used Nantahala as a goal for the last three years. We wanted a hamburger so bad, our minds blocked out all of that and we talked about a lot of our good memories as we sat next to the river and soaked our feet. I was pretty much in tears about how excited we were to reach our goal. We don’t really have a next goal, so I think we’ll take it slower in the next few years and just see where the trail takes us. But, I like to go lots of miles every day, so we’ll see. My debrief We didn't do anywhere near the amount of iNaturalist I thought we might, but the journey is really about a bigger journey that I have as "Dad." As with most things, I just provide tools that she can engage and explore as she develops. For now, I'm just holding on and enjoying every step. I shared a lot of history through lenses of economics, the environment, human rights, and migration. I know I definitely didn’t tell the complete story of 14,000+ years of human history in four blog entries and had to use many qualifiers, but, as it relates to our hike on the AT, this is the story: The Path: There is more than one path. The path is open to everyone. Prepare for the path. Keep going at your own pace if you want to reach your goal. People: You’ll meet a diverse group of people on the path, and they might have different goals than you. That’s okay. Nature: We’re part of it. Yum: Sloppy-joes might sound better than they really are. Common Sense: “Contact! Contact!” Education: should always be geared towards enlightenment.
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.
As mentioned in an earlier post, we’re using not one but two ROVs! We showed you how ROV Doc Ricketts, the 4000 m-rated vehicle, is recovered through the moonpool of the research vessel in an earlier post. Check out how ROV MiniROV, with its SmartClump, is deployed from the stern of RV Western Flyer using a crane and A-frame in the video below.
Yelloweye Rockfish Project Updates After an incredible summer of long days on the boat with Alejandro Frid and the Kitasoo/Xai'xais, Wuikinuxv, Nuxalk, and Heiltsuk Guardian Watchmen, and nearly 50 interviews with generous, knowledgeable, and welcoming fishers and elders, our 2015 field season is winding to a close. I've learned more than I thought possible throughout this summer's journeys; about the wise, old, giant red rockfish who were such a mystery to science before 2002, the incredible and resilient connection between partnering First Nations and culturally-important marine species, about the power of cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural collaborations, new methods of fishing, and even some lessons in how-not-to-lose underwater towed-video cameras... We've published our findings surrounding Yelloweye rockfish (sometimes known as "red snapper"), species-level changes over the last 60 years, and the power of interweaving Indigenous knowledge and ecological science. Some key take-aways: Yelloweye rockfish size has decreased by over 50% since 1950, according to interview participants. That's a huge deal for species management, given that rockfish size correlates with age, and the oldest (read: largest) fish in the population are the most reproductively successful. Small rockfish likely aren't yet producing any offspring! (They don't give birth until 20-30 years old). Yelloweye rockfish abundance has decreased substantially according to First Nations fishers. Commercial fishing and sports fishing, along with other industrial and climate impacts, were most often cited as to blame. Our suggestion towards improving the precarious state of Yelloweye rockfish in BC's Great Bear Sea is to return fisheries management to local First Nations, who have stewarded resources like Yelloweye rockfish for thousands of years, and have developed modern marine-use strategies to continue such practices.
Please follow our expedition (and ask your friends to join as well) so we can begin our underwater exploration. We need 50 followers for OpenROV to send us a Trident Underwater Drone to start taking video to share. Thank you to OpenROV and Santa Cruz MPA Collaborative for sharing such terrific technology for our investigations. In the meantime, we'll get started by showing you some of the amazing patterns of color and texture found in the intertidal zone near the Seymour Center during a recent low tide. What do you think creates the different colors and textures you see?
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.
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
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!
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