By Megan Grupe
My goals coming aboard the ship were quite different from many of the scientists aboard. I am currently teaching 7th Grade Life Science at Granger Junior High (National City) and wanted to use this experience to learn and bring back ocean science to my students. Most importantly, I wanted to peak their interest in the deep sea, a quite unexplored (and untaught) biome in the ocean. Before leaving on this trip I asked my students to come up with questions that they would have for an ocean scientist. The science crew on the Melville were more than happy to answer these questions for you and my students.
Question 1: What do you like about your job as an ocean scientist?
Lisa: Overall, this job is intellectually creative, which makes work fun, challenging, and motivating, allowing me to be able to explore and ask interesting questions. As a deep-sea or open ocean scientist, you get to travel around the world and have many opportunities to work as a team with other researchers. There is always something exciting, interesting, and new to discover, therefore the job is hardly ever boring. Most importantly, this job is a job of constant learning and continues to remind me that we never know everything – we must always ask questions.
Question 2: I’m scared of the ocean, how do I change that?
David: Believe it or not, I’m still afraid of the ocean a little too, but I study it! There is so much water out there and we do not know everything that is below. My advice to you is to continue learning about the ocean and experience it. The more critically informed you are, the more prepared you will be to embrace the ocean.
Question 3: How do you like working on a ship?
For some, this is their first time being on a research ship:
Emily: What is fun about being on a research ship is that there are many ocean scientists asking different questions about similar parts of the same ecosystems. This is fascinating to be a part of!
For some, this is not their first time on a research vessel:
Ally: I love being able to work with people in pursuit of quality science; it is almost like a “Summer Camp for Scientists”, but with a lot of hard work of course.
Kirk: People! People from all over the world and/or country are here representing institutions and science all in one place. This is exhilarating! We do not always speak the same first language, but we are able to communicate the common language of science.
The back deck of the Melville is where lots of the action happens. The A-frame guides the multicorer (pyramid-shaped frame) to collect mud from the seafloor, and also is used to pull nets that sample animals on the bottom or in the midwater.
Question 4. How long do you have to go to school to become an ocean scientist?
There is a large range on the boat. Most all have gone or will have gone to about 10 years of college after high school. This includes a Bachelors degree and a Ph.D. Some have even completed a Masters degree, which takes an additional 2 years to complete.
Question 5: What things do you do as an ocean scientist on the boat?
CTD Team: Collects water from different depths in the ocean, and measures carbon dioxide and oxygen to understand how marine life and humans affect the oceans chemistry.
Methane Seep Team: Sends an ROV (remotely operated vehicle) to the depths of the ocean to explore for current day or past seeps, while collecting samples. Most time is spent in a lab processing samples by picking out organisms from mud and water.
Shelf/Midwater Team: Uses a couple different types of trawls to collect organisms from different depths in the ocean.
OMZ (Oxygen Minimum Zone) Team: Collects water and mud samples to study organisms that are able to live in low oxygen environments.CoastEx scientists retrieve samples collected from 1000m deep, by the Scripps ROV.
Question 6: What cool animals have you seen on the cruise so far?
A dumbo octopus, chimera (Ratfish), Beroe (jelly-like animal), an electric ray, and many more!examines a hatchet fish which spends its days hiding in the dark waters, 1/2 mile below the surface of the ocean, but ascends at night to feed on unsuspecting zooplankton.
Question 7: Is being an ocean scientist difficult or easy?
Kat: Both, it is a lot of hard work because you often work long hours, but most importantly you are doing something that you think is really cool and exciting, that makes it easier. When you love and enjoy something, it makes all of the hard work worthwhile.
Question 8: How many years have you been an ocean scientist?
We have ocean scientists on board that have been studying the oceans anywhere from 2-29 years!
Question 9: What do you love to eat while on the boat?
There is so much good food on the boat, and it is always out, including an incredible snack bar. Here is a list of some of the scientists favorite foods: chocolate, peppermint tea, goldfish, snickers ice cream bars, dried trail mix, crackers, ice cream, and morning coffee.
Question 10: What is your favorite sea animal?
Emily: Frogfish because they are goofy looking and they always look upset. They are also well camouflaged, their fins look like little feet and they are awkward swimmers. I love them!
Jillian: Siboglinid worms because they have no mouth or stomach!
Kat: Squid! The way they move is really cool and their eye is so similar to our eye. In Danish they call the squid, the “Inkspurter”.
David: Deep-Sea Corals because they are unlike what you see when you go scuba diving (e.g. coral reefs). They do not make colonies and are instead solitary.
Ally: Sea cucumbers because they can regurgitate their guts. I love also that they come in many shapes/sizes. Also, someone once told me that you get good luck by kissing them.
Lisa: I don’t have one cause there are so many. Whale sharks are pretty cool!
Question 11: Did the blue whale and the whale shark go extinct? If they didn’t, how often do you see them?
Actually, neither is extinct. Keep in mind that just because we do not see some animals everyday, that does not mean that they are endangered or even extinct.
Many of the scientists have seen blue whales right off the coast of San Diego! In fact, someone saw a blue whale last week right off the Scripps Pier in La Jolla.
As for whale sharks, one of our scientists has seen them in the Okinawa Aquarium in Japan. Also, your teacher, Mrs. Grupe got to swim with them in Baja.
Question 12: How many sea creatures live in the ocean?
There are still many creatures waiting to be discovered in the ocean. At this point in time, there are over 200,000 described animals in the ocean. Some ocean scientists would say that there are still millions of species to be discovered, but we cannot know for sure exactly what number that is.Some of the animals caught in today's midwater trawl.
Question 13: How salty is in the ocean
It depends where you are in the ocean. On average, ocean water is 3.5% salt. However, some places like the Mediterranean Sea, are more salty while parts of the Pacific ocean are slightly fresher and less salty.