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Any Way You Add It Up, SDCoastEx I is a Smashing Success!

posted Jul 13, 2012, 11:42 AM by Shannon Casey   [ updated Jul 13, 2012, 1:36 PM by Benjamin Grupe ]
Tuesday afternoon marked the triumphant return of San Diego Coastal Expedition’s (SDCoastEx) science party aboard the R/V Melville to Scripps’ marine facility in San Diego Bay. Well, perhaps triumphant is too strong a word, but we were certainly happy to be back, and proud of the work we had done over the past eleven days at sea. One really has to be involved in an oceanographic research cruise to realize just how much work can get done in a very short time. Ship time is expensive, and thanks to the UC Ship Funds program, we have a valuable three weeks in 2012 to increase our understanding of San Diego’s coastal oceanography, the health of our ocean, and the nature of biological communities hiding hundreds of meters below the surface. We were not willing to let any of this precious time go to waste, so nearly every possible minute was spent collecting samples, acquiring data, or transiting to the next research station. Despite the occasional unanticipated change of plans, the first SDCoastEx cruise went as well as any of us could have expected, and before we start planning for SDCoastEx II (December 10-20), we would like to briefly recap the scope of this cruise’s work. Get your calculators ready!

6,650: The number of liters of water collected during 38 CTD (conductivity, temperature, depth) casts, which would be enough to fill 25 bathtubs. These water samples were (or will be) analyzed for oxygen, pH, dissolved inorganic carbon, microbial abundance, particulate organic matter, calcium, and nutrients. They were collected as deep as 1,200 meters in the San Diego Trough, and as shallow as 30 meters near the shore.

36,098: The vertical distance traveled, in meters, by the CTD rosette through the water column during the cruise.

Photo: The members of the CTD team kept their instrument busy, busy, busy during the cruise, covering 36 kilometers (~23 miles) of vertical water column!

247: The number of hours we spent at sea. Our chief scientist, Christina Frieder, meticulously mapped out the science activities for EVERY hour we were aboard the Melville. When a plan was interrupted, she would be ready with an alternative course of action. The result? A nearly seamless cruise with cheery scientists that worked hard and helped each other out, right up to the end. Great work, Christina! I’ll be happy to do half as well when I serve as chief scientist for SDCoastEx II.

24: The total number of multicore drops at stations ranging from 300 to 1,200 meters depth, yielding some 176 cores of deep-sea mud. Cores were distributed to different SDCoastEx scientists who were prepared to analyze them for bacteria, protists, meiofauna, macrofauna, and sediment porewater chemistry. Our research represents the first concerted effort to fully describe the benthic community in and around the oxygen minimum zone off San Diego.

450: The number of petri plates currently growing colonies of bacteria cultured from deep-sea sediments. These samples came from multicores across all depths of our sampling, and several actinomycetes have already been identified!

Photo: Petri plates grow hundreds of colonies of deep-sea sediment bacteria in laboratory conditions. Those that prove to be actinomycetes will be investigated further by Kelley Gallagher and the Jensen Lab for potential use in biomedicine.

21: The approximate number of gallons of mud artist Lily Simonson used in painting eight mud murals on the side of our cold van. We thought that the van’s primary use would be to chill seawater (because deep-sea animals like cold water!), but Lily found a more unique use for this giant palette. If you live in Southern California, you can go see Lily’s work at the CB1 art gallery in downtown Los Angeles through July 29.

6: The number of scientific otter trawls, resulting in data that will help us understand how invertebrate and fish species are distributed at different depths above and within hypoxic and corrosive waters (i.e. 400 and 100 meters). Benthic biologists were able to identify at least 58 species from none phyla, and observed clear patterns between animal densities and physical and chemical ocean conditions.

20: The length in meters of mending jobs required on the otter trawl net. Apparently the ocean contains a lot of rocks!

400: The cumulative distance in kilometers of our ship survey transects, as we explored San Diego’s continental margin for signs of cold seeps. Our collaboration between geophysicists and biologists led to the identification of several interesting sites that we hope to revisit in December.

3: Number of dives conducted that launched the use of Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV). This allowed scientists to observe behavior of salps that currently have bloomed in the water column and of the dominant calcifying urchins within a benthic community exposed to low-oxygen and low-pH waters.

32: The number of delicious meals consumed on the R/V Melville, thanks to the steadfast kitchen skills of Mark and Bob.

934: The estimated number of mugs of coffee consumed by SDCoastEx scientists. Yes, seriously. Hey, how else do you expect us to wake up at 3 a.m. for multicoring?

1: Dead fin whale, sunk in November 2011 by Scripps scientists, and relocated by us as we scanned the seafloor with the multibeam echosounder on the Melville.

9,964: The number of people reached by our Facebook page while the cruise was ongoing. I imagine the total is well over ten thousand once you consider the people visiting our cruise website and receiving tweets and Instagrams!

5: Months until our next cruise on the Melville! We’re truly excited that so many people followed us as we studied San Diego’s coastal ocean environments. We hope that all of you are ready for more fun in December, and even though we will no longer be posting daily, we will try to occasionally provide updates on the results of this cruise or preparations for the next one. Until then, over and out!

Photo: After packing up samples and cleaning labs and berths,
SDCoastEx scientists ride the bow of Melville into San Diego Bay.

-- Benjamin Grupe, Scripps Graduate Student