Among the coolest aspects of interning at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) are all of the opportunities for new and exciting experiences in marine science and engineering. On a beautiful Moss Landing summer day, fellow intern Samantha Peterson and I enjoyed one of those opportunities on a day cruise aboard MBARI’s R/V Zephyr. We steamed out of Moss Landing Harbor early in the morning, and after two hours of getting our sea legs and munching on snacks (to avoid sea sickness, for sure), we arrived at our first of two stops for the day. The cruise plan included a visit to the M2 mooring, a buoy deployed and maintained by MBARI scientists and engineers in partnership with the National Data Buoy Center (ID 46044), to download acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP) data and perform routine maintenance.
The whole process of visiting and maintaining a mooring was really exciting to experience, especially as a student of physical oceanography. I got a kick out of the adventure inherent in maintaining oceanographic and meteorological instruments bobbing at the surface, moored 1000+ meters below on the seafloor. As I stood at the back of the Zephyr taking in the experience- the albatrosses gracefully landing to investigate our activities, the sea lion curiously poking it’s head up around the buoy, the scientists and technicians climbing onto the buoy from the side of the ship- I wondered what sort of training or security clearance one has the endure to work on the buoy. After pondering this aloud to my fellow intern, I inquired with the ship operator. His job was to carefully back the boat up to the buoy to transfer people and equipment, then to maintain a safe distance from the buoy while the technicians were working on it. As it turns out, it was surprisingly simple; I had to confirm with just about everyone on that day cruise that I am not sensitive to seasickness before getting the go-ahead to disembark the trusty Zephry and climb (well, pounce, really) aboard M2. I could see immediately what everyone was driving at once I was aboard the mooring. Because the platform is only about 10 ft in diameter, it is much easier to get tossed about with the swell. You feel much more in touch with the ocean on a smaller vessel. While ocean observers Mike Kelley and Jared Figurski downloaded the ADCP data, I climbed to the upper level to investigate the meteorological instruments. With my finely tuned CSI skills, I observed the evidence of seabird visitors on the solar panels and offered to clean off the droppings, you know, in the name of science. Surprisingly, they were more than happy to oblige that request, and I grabbed a cloth with seawater and scrubbed those panels squeaky clean.
This summer I am working as an intern at MLML’s neighboring marine science and engineering institution, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. Through generous support of the Friends of Moss Landing and the Gashler family, I am working on the Drew Gashler Internship with Dr Jim Bellingham in the Long-Range Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (LRAUV) lab.
The primary focus for my internship project is analyzing data from a laser sensor (the Laser In Situ Scattering and Transmissometry, or LISST) that detects the particle sizes of plankton via forward scattering on 32 channels. The objective is to test whether differing combinations of the 32 channels can be used as surrogates for chlorophyll and fluorescence, as it relates to my interests in phytoplankton bloom dynamics. Additionally, Dr Bellingham and I are investigating whether we can identify species of zooplankton the AUV encounters in Monterey Bay based on specific combinations of the LISST channel particle size distributions.
Though I am working in the LRAUV lab, the LISST sensor is actually mounted on the Dorado upper-water-column autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), which is larger and performs shorter missions than the LRAUVs. The Dorado AUVs perform missions over a couple days, while the LRAUVs can be deployed to collect data for nearly a month! The missions vary in duration and purpose, and it is really exciting to have both of these types of AUVs available for data collection and processing. One of the cool features of the Dorado vehicle is the gulper sampling system, which through a sampling algorithm designed by MBARI Senior Research Specialist Dr Yanwu Zhang, samples 1.8L of water autonomously when the desired combination of oceanographic conditions are detected by the vehicle. Imagine being able to fill ten 2L soda bottles with water samples for lab analysis without donning pounds of neoprene! Ok, as a research diver who appreciates the importance and value of blue-water sampling, I would jump at that opportunity, however the Dorado’s sampling technique is also very exciting. The sensor suite and algorithm for gulper sampling on the Dorado vehicle allows us to combine continuously recorded oceanographic data for temperature, salinity, depth, nitrate, LISST, and more with the water samples that are then analyzed for plankton species identification and abundances in the lab at MBARI.
The internship has been, and continues to be a fantastic learning experience and a great opportunity to apply the oceanographic data analysis and research skills I have developed at MLML over the past two semesters. My internship experience at MBARI has been full of amazing marine science, engineering, exploration, and outreach opportunities, which I look forward to sharing in the weeks to come!
One sunny afternoon at the beach in Moss Landing, beachgoers were treated to a tangy surprise. Dr. Erika McPhee-Shaw’s Physical Oceanography class made the most of the beautiful weather and nearby beach to observe the effects of alongshore transport in the surf zone.
From the shore, students observed the waves breaking and made predictions about the direction of alongshore transport and where convergent rip currents would occur.
How did they test these predictions? Why, launching citrus into the surf zone, of course! Members of the class warmed up their pitching arms and threw oranges into the water from the beach. They observed and discussed where the oranges traveled as a means of visualizing transport of sediment and plankton with the movement of water in the near-shore environment.
For the Physical Oceanography class at Moss Landing Marine Lab field research trips aboard the R/V Point Sur are a fun way to experience different field oceanographic equipment. Here student Alexis Howard looks on as the crew of the Point Sur retrieves a sample of sediment from the depths of Monterey Bay by means of a sediment grabber.
What does the sediment look like on the bottom of the ocean? The easiest way to get a sample is to send a giant sediment sampler (grabber) which is open as it drops to the seafloor, and closes when hits the bottom. Then voila, the grabber is filled with sand or gravel from the ocean depths! We can get an idea of how these sediments will move by how large or small the particles are.