Exciting News! The first DEEPEND Cruise has begun! Scientists boarded the R/V Point Sur, a research vessel, on May 3rd and will be exploring the northern Gulf of Mexico until May 8th. This is the first of many cruises the scientists will take over the next three years.
The scientists and educators of DEEPEND want to describe the ocean ecosystem of the northern Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf of Mexico is located south of the United States of America between Texas and Florida. You can follow the cruises on the DEEPEND website!
An ecosystem consists of the community of living plants, animals, and microbes as well as the nonliving parts of their environment, such as water, rocks, and soil. A big part of describing the ecosystem is finding out what animals live here. the scientists will use a MOCNESS net system. MOCNESS stands for Multiple Opening/Closing Net Environmental Sensing System. Whew, that's a lot of big words! All that to say, MOCNESS drops five nets into the water at the same time but the nets stop at different depths. This allows the scientists to collect aquatic animals at different depths from the surface all the way down to 1500 meters. How deep is 1500 meters? Well that's almost four Empire State Buildings in New York stacked on top of each other!
The scientists will collect the animals from the nets. Some of these animals will be frozen and taken back to the lab to be examined. For other animals, scientists will just take tissue samples to help identify the species of each animal. Scientists expect to find crustaceans (shrimps and crayfishes), fishes, and cephalopods (squids). Although the scientist are early into their journey, they have already caught a really cool fish, the Johnson's Abyssal Seadevil, Melanocetus johnsonii! The strange words in italics are the scientific name for this animal. Try sounding it out" Mel-an-o-ce-tus john-son-I-I. The last two I's are pronounce "ee-eye." This fish is an anglerfish, similar to the one in the movie Finding Nemo. Anglerfishes are known for hunting using the glowing lure on its forehead to attract prey. Stay tuned, more pictures of neat animals to come!
If you have any questions for the scientists just ask them below! The scientists will try their best to answer all of your questions as soon as they can. You can ask them about the ocean, the animals, what it's like to be at sea, what the crew does all day, or anything else that interests you. The scientists look forward to hearing from you!