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Denise Kendall

Denise Kendall

Denise is a science education researcher with a strong background in the biological sciences as well as teaching and learning. She holds a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from The University of Tennessee Knoxville. Denise currently uses her expertise in her position as a laboratory coordinator for general education and majors Biology courses at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana. Denise takes a scientific approach to her research in order to attain a better understanding of teaching and learning in the biological sciences at all grade levels. She uses her research to drive curriculum development projects for K-12 and higher education instruction. In addition to her science education research Denise conducts biological research studies both in the laboratory and field setting (e.g., biodiversity inventories and genome sequencing). Denise is passionate about sharing her fascination of science and the natural world and as a result she is involved in many public education outreach endeavors.

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Good afternoon everyone! Did you know that animals are divided into two main groups? These two groups are the invertebrates and the vertebrates. Today we will focus on invertebrates. An invertebrate is an animal that does not have a backbone (spine). Some examples of an invertebrate are dragonflies, clams, and worms. Most of Earth's animals are invertebrates! Some scientists think that 97% of all animals are invertebrates. That's a lot!

Let's take a closer look at some invertebrates that live in the Gulf of Mexico. These invertebrates were caught during the August 2015 DEEPEND cruise!

Check out the eyes on this crab:


Wow, this shrimp is very colorful:


Look at the pinchers on this lobster:


I can't believe I get to share my home with all of these amazing invertebrates. Scientists think the giant squid is the largest invertebrate on Earth. Even though I'm a different squid species, I'm also an invertebrate! That's all for today, thanks for joining me!


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Have you ever heard of the giant squid? The giant squid lives in the abyssopelagic layer of the water column. Many invertebrate that live deep in the ocean are giant, or at least bigger than normal. Deep sea gigantism is where animals grow to an abnormally big size. Check out this photo of the largest crab in the world, Macrocheira kaemferi, from Japan being held by scientist Dante Fenolio.



Scientists are researching what causes deep sea gigantism. Some scientists think it is due to the high pressure exerted on the animals at these depths. Others think it is due to the scarcity of food. What do you think causes deep sea gigantism?


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Squirt here to talk about how temperature changes in the water column. The surface waters (epipelagic layer) tend to be warmer than deeper waters because they are warmed by sunlight. The bathypelagic layer feels very cold to me. I live happily in the mesopelagic layer because the waters are just right. Other factors that affect water temperature are longitudinal location and water currents. Waters closer to the poles are colder than waters which are close to the equator. Have you ever seen pictures of the Southern Ocean? There are usually chunks of ice floating. Brrr... I don't think I like the cold waters at the poles! Do you like the cold?

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Hi everyone! Squirt here to talk about cephalopods. Cephalopods are a group of marine animals that includes cuttlefishes, nautiluses, octopods, and squids - like myself! There are over 900 known species of cephalopods. Cephalopods are invertebrates, this means they do not have a backbone. Some consider cephalopods the most intelligent marine invertebrates because they have big brains. Some cephalopods are bioluminescent while others can change colors like a chameleon when they feel threatened or want to blend in to their surroundings! One of the most noticeable features of cephalopods are their dangling arms. These arms help cephalopods capture prey and navigate through the water. Check out the arms on the cephalopods below. Octopus have 8 arms and squids have 8 arms and 2 tentacles….. Pretty cool tools to have when capturing food!


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Squirt here! Did you know that light is made up of a rainbow of wavelengths? Marsh Myers tells us all about what happens to light in the ocean in the video I want to share with you today. He also shares with us how some animals camouflage in the dark waters. Ask an adult if you can make your own animal using construction paper. I'd love to see pictures of the animal you create in the comments section! Check out the video here:


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Hi everyone! Today I want to share a video about water pressure with you. Water pressure is the pressure exerted on an item due to the weight of water above it. The degree of water pressure increases as you dive deeper because more water is above you. This video shows you how water pressure affects different items. Ask an adult to help you try out the egg experiment Marsh Myers talks about. Please share your results in the comment section, I'm excited to see what you found. Just follow this link for the video:


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Good morning Kids! Are you ready for our next matching game?

This time we will dive into the depths of the bathypelagic layer. The bathypelagic zone extends from 4000 - 6000 meters. Waters in this layer is completely dark as no sunlight penetrates this deep. With the help of a light I caught a: giant isopod, threadfin dragonfish, phanthom anglerfish, google-eye, bathynermest, humpback anglerfish, squid, tripod fish, and slender snipe eel. Can you guess who's who in the image below? The answers can be found under the image.



A. Google-eye; B. Tripod fish; C. Giant isopod; D. Squid; E. Humpback anglerfish; F. Threadfin dragonfish; G. Slender snipe eel; H. Bathynemertest; and I. Phanthom anglerfish. Photographs by Dante B. Fenolio.

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Hi everyone! How did you do on the epipelagic matching game from last week? I hope everyone did well and had fun!

This week I want to share with you some of the animals I found in the dimly lit mesopelagic layer. The mesopelagic layer extends from 200 - 1000 meters. Some light penetrates this zone until about 800 meters so it is sometimes called the twilight zone. In this layer I caught a: lanternfish, glass squid, waryfish, firefly squid, amphipod, hatchetfish, shrimp, heteropod, and viperfish. Can you guess who's who in the image below? The answers can be found under the image.



A. Firefly squid; B. Heteropod; C. Waryfish; D. Shrimp; E. Lanternfish; F. Glass squid; G. Hatchetfish; H. Viperfish; and I. Amphipod. Photographs by Dante B. Fenolio.

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Hi everyone! Over the next few weeks I want to show you some of the plants and animals I caught during our dive into the deep. For this week I want you to see what I caught in the warm and sunny epipelagic layer. This layer is near the surface of the open ocean and extends to 200 meters in depth. The sunlight here allows plants to photosynthesize. I caught a crab larvae, seaweed, lobster larvae, sea snail, flying fish, juvenile sailfish, siphonophore, and crab zoea. Can you guess who's who in the image below? The answers can be found under the image.


A. Flying fish; B. Crab Larvae; C. Crab Zoea; D. Juvenile Sailfish; E. Siphonophore; F. Lobster larvae; G. Seaweed; and H. Sea Snail. Photographs by Dante B. Fenolio.

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Hi Kids! Are you reading to dive into the deep ocean with me? Scientists divide the ocean into zones and layers. I'm here to give you a tour of the pelagic ocean layers. The pelagic ocean zone is all the open ocean waters from the water surface down to the ocean floor.



The pelagic ocean zone is divided into three main layers: epipelagic, mesopelagic, and bathypelagic.







The epipelagic layer is the uppermost zone in the water column extending from the surface to 200m.





This layer is sometimes called the "sunlight zone" because sunlight penetrates the waters.  The epipelagic layer is home to many plants and animals. Notice how the fish like to live here because of the warmth and sunlight!








Descending through the epipelagic layer we encounter the mesopelagic layer (200–1000m). There is a dim light presence in the mesopelagic zone, so it is sometimes called the "twilight zone." No plants live in this zone because there is not enough sunlight to drive photosynthesis. Animals such as myself call this layer home!



At a depth of 1000m we encounter the bathypelagic layer. The bathypelagic layer extends to 4000m. Absolutely no light reaches this zone, so it is often called the "midnight zone."








Notice how I need a light to see all the way down here! Once again, we see no plants living this deep. But, animals such as octopi and gulper eels call this layer home.



Wasn't our descent into the deep ocean exciting? I think I'll return to the mesopelagic layer so I can see again!

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Good afternoon everyone! This week I am going to introduce you to some of our DEEPEND student scientists. On board the R/V Point Sur this cruise we had five graduate students. A graduate student is a college student who is working to earn a Masters or Doctoral degree.

The first graduate student I would like you to meet this week is Ms. Katie Bowen. Ms. Bowen grew up in Pennsylvania and recently moved to Florida to attend school.


Ms. Bowen is a graduate student at Nova Southeastern University working on her Masters degree in marine biology. As part of her studies Ms. Bowen is studying juvenile reef fishes collected in the Gulf of Mexico. Ms. Bowen wants to know where these fish live in the water column and how many species there are in the Gulf of Mexico.


Do you have any questions for Ms. Bowen? If so leave them in the comments area!

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Ever wonder what a day is like on board the R/V Point Sur? I'm here to tell! The scientists on the R/V Point Sur spend a lot of time working and sleeping!

As the R/V Point Sur travels the Gulf of Mexico the scientists work hard to sample each site both during the night and day. Every night the scientists deploy the MOCNESS nets between 9 and 10pm. The nets stay in the water until 3am when the scientists pull them back up. They then repeat this process each morning. Every morning the scientists deploy the MOCNESS nets between 9 and 10am, pulling them back in at 3pm.

While the MOCNESS nets are in the water most of the scientists are sleeping. The MOCNESS operator Mr. Gray controls and monitors the nets during this time. The scientists wake up shortly before the nets are pulled back up because then their work starts. Once the nets are on board the scientists empty and process the catches.

Mr. Gray controlling the MOCNESS nets.


Mr. Gray bringing the MOCNESS nets back on board.


Ms. Tammy and Ms. Heather wait for the MOCNESS nets to come back up.

b2ap3_thumbnail_b2ap3_thumbnail_tammy-and-heather-waiting-patiently.jpgMOCNESS nets back on board.


Sorting the catches!


While the other scientists start sorting the catches scientists Charles Kovach and Travis Richards deploy the CTD to measure water conductivity and temperature at different depths.

The CTD!


After all of the morning work is done the scientists enjoy breakfast, usually at 6am. They then try to watch the sunrise! I'm sure the sunrises look pretty from the boat. Then the scientists take a nap before afternoon work begins. In the afternoon the scientists work on blog posts and input data from the morning catches. Dinner is served at 6pm on board the R/V Point Sur. After which the scientists spend some time relaxing. Some scientists nap while others watch a movie or read a book.


Check out some more images here:

All this talk of sleeping is making me tired! I think I'll go take a snooze. Until next time my friends.

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Good morning everyone! I'm here today to talk about some predators the MOCNESS nets have caught in the past week. We have seen some of these fish before, but I'm always excited to see them again.

First up is the fangtooth, Anoplogaster cornuta. The fangtooth is one of the biggest predators in the deep ocean.  I think his name is fitting, just look at those sharp teeth! The large bottom fangs of this fish are so long that the fish actually has a pair of holes in the roof of their mouth that allows the fish to close its mouth without hurting itself. That's really cool, don't you think?


Next we have some dragonfish. We've seen dragonfish before. On this cruise the scientists have caught two species: Photostomias guernei and Echiostoma barbatum. Just like the fangtooth, dragonfish also have fang-like teeth. Do you notice how the teeth curve a little bit? This curve helps the dragonfish hold onto its prey. Dragonfish are covered with gorgeous photophores. If you don't remember what photophores are check out the blog post from May 21, 2015! Ms. Alisha Stahl, our teacher at sea for this cruise, and Ms. Katie Bowen, a student, aren't scared to hold the dragonfish. Check out the pictures below!




What do you all want to learn about next? Let me know by using the comments link!



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Did the scientists just catch an alien?! No, it's just a deep sea amphipod! Amphipods are really interesting little creatures. They are crustaceans. We've talked about crustaceans like the blind lobster before.


This amphipod is from the species Phronima. It has really large claws! This amphipod species uses its large claws to prey on zooplankton, jellies, and siphonophores. The amphipod not only eats these creatures, but collects resources from them to build the barrel we see. Check out the image below, do you see the barrel shape surrounding the amphipod? This is a semi-hard gelatinous barrel - it kind of feels like a gummy bear. The barrel seems to be the amphipods' home providing protection and camouflage. That's really cool!


Also, take a close look at the amphipod. Do you see those BIG eyes? The species Paraphronima gracilis has 16 retinas in each eye! We only have one retina in each eye. Image if you had 16 retinas in one eye. Check out the amphipod video below!


It's amazing what unique creatures the scientists are finding in the deep sea. I wonder what the MOCNESS nets will catch next.



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Good morning everyone! Squirt here to tell you about autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) gliders! An autonomous underwater vehicle is a robot that operates on its own. Scientist Charles Kovach deployed an AUV Glider from the R/V Point Sur on Sunday August 9th.


The AUV Glider will travel around in waters of the Gulf of Mexico until Sunday August 23rd at which point the R/V Point Sur team will retrieve it. The scientists will be able to find the AUV Glider by using GPS. You can track the AUV Glider here

The scientists will also communicate with the AUV Glider and tell it to return to the surface. That bright yellow color should be hard to miss!


As it travels the AUV Glider will collect data for the scientists. It will go up and down the water column surfacing every three hours. As it goes up and down the AUV glider will record information on the temperature, dissolved oxygen concentration, amount of salt, ability of the water to conduct electricity, cloudiness of the water, and dissolved organic matter. The scientists will use this information to learn more about the ocean ecosystem.

This cruise keeps getting more exciting! Until next time.

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The MOCNESS nets are in the water! The scientists deployed the nets for two hours in the early morning hours. The nets sampled the top 200 meters of the water column. Once back onboard the scientists emptied the nets and began sorting.

The scientists found many animals in the nets including dragonfish, lanternfish, eels, crustaceans (shrimp, lobsters, etc.), pteropods (Sea Butterflies), a cephalopod, and planktonic larvae. We have seen some of these before! Check out the pteropods and crustaceans below.


I can't wait to see what the scientists have to share with us next!

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Exciting news! Another cruise is scheduled to set sail on Friday August 7th! Scientists are traveling from all around the United States to meet in Gulfport, Mississippi. Some of the scientists are traveling a long distance to join the cruise. When all the scientists arrive in Mississippi they will work together to load equipment onto the R/V Point Sur. The cruise will be at sea for three weeks. Stay tuned for updates from the scientists and Squirt!

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Did you know that dolphins can reach speeds of 40km per hour? That's as fast as an African Bush Elephant! Have you ever seen an elephant run? That's pretty fast.

While dolphins can swim that fast, they usually swim 5 to 10km per hour. That's how fast a Tiger Beetle crawls! Scientist Dante Fenolio took a video of dolphins swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, let's take a look. Can you keep track of the dolphins as they swim?

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Squirt here to talk about the importance of my home: the ocean! Just look at this mess:

The ocean provides a lot of resources to humans. For example, we get some of our food, water, and medications from the ocean! Also, have you ever been to the beach? The beach is a recreational benefit from the ocean.

The ocean is an amazing place so it's important for us to protect it. You can help out. First off, please don't be a litterbug! Many plastic bottles, toys, cans, boxes, and bags end up in the oceans. You can help clean up the oceans by recycling plastics, cardboard boxes, and cans. Also, next time you go to school look around and see if there is any trash blowing around. If you see any trash pick it up and recycle it or place it in a trashcan. Another way to not be a litterbug is to reuse items. For example, the plastic bags used at grocery stores can be reused as trash bags.

The ocean is also polluted by chemicals and pesticides. You can help reduce this pollution by asking your parents to use less chemicals on the lawn and in your garden. If you don't have a garden you can buy organic produce at the store, start a garden, or buy local produce at a farmers market!

Can you think of other ways to protect my home? If so click on the "comments" link below and share your ideas with me and all the other kids reading this blog!

Thank you for helping clean up my home. Maybe next time you see it there will be less of a mess!

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Squirt here to talk about fish!

There are five stages in the life cycle of a fish. Fish begin as an egg, just like you did. Then as the fish grows and develops, it become larval fish. During this stage the fish lives off of a yolk sac. The larval stage of a fish is similar to the human fetal stage when you were growing inside your mom. Take a look at this anglerfish in the larval stage.
When a fish starts eating on its own it enters the fry stage. In humans this would be the child stage. As a fry continues to develop it then enters the juvenile stage. During the juvenile stage, the fish matures reproductively. Humans undergo this stage during their teenage years. The last stage of development in fish in the adult stage. In the adult stage, fish are capable of reproducing to create their own offspring (or children). Humans also have an adult stage, for example your mom and dad are adults.

Just like human boys and girls are different, so are many fish! This is known as sexual dimorphism where the different genders (or sexes) look different. Male anglerfish are much smaller than female fish.  Also, only female anglerfish have the bioluminescent lure. Check out the images below!

Male anglerfish:

Female anglerfish:


See you next time!

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