Cruise Day 1: Testing Approach and First Observations

The morning started at 6:45 (well, Ian was up at 4am… thanks jet lag!) as the crew met for breakfast and proceeded to the dock at the University of Washington pre-dawn for an 8 am departure. After arriving on the Barnes, the team received a safety briefing from Captain Ray before setting sail. The vessel transited from the UW dock to the lock from Lake Union (freshwater) to Shilshole Bay, which took about 90 minutes, which afforded the team time to adjust to the vessel’s labs, as well as provide amazing just-after-dawn views of Seattle. Fortunately the weather seems to be cooperating – glassy conditions, sunshine, and mild temperatures – fingers crossed it stays like this the whole trip!

After a short transit, the team arrived at their first site. The first station on any cruise is a bit of “where’s my stuff!” “how do we do this” “what comes next?” etc, so usually takes a bit longer than expected. First up, Kalia and Jacob, with the help of marine tech Brandi, performed a Van Veen grab of sediments, which revealed that the bottom was a fairly coarse sediment flat; they found a few amphipods in the grab sample as well – which is the other target of the lab’s research.

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After the grab, the team filled carboys with seawater to perform virioplankton sampling via FeCl3 precipitation, and worked out how to do chlorophyll-a sampling, a key biological oceanographic indicator which can be used by other scientists to determine productivity (more or less) at the site. Then, we switched attention to the first benthic trawl to look for sea stars and conspecifics. The wonderful folks at the UW Marine Center had constructed a dredge which contained ~ 1cm mesh and rubber skids, which would allow benthic animals to be skimmed off the surface while keeping sediment to a minimum. After 10 minutes (roughly 300 yards) the trawl was retrieved, and… sea stars! We found 3 Hippasteria spinosa, and, remarkably, one juvenile Pycnopodia helianthoides. Unexpected, since they were very few and far between over the last year as reported by divers, and absent altogether at dive sites in Summer 2015. It’s good to know they’re still with us!

After the trawl, the team performed a plankton tow to look for any larvae, as well as to collect hyperiid amphipods and copepods. The tow was only 15 minutes but contained a wealth of calanoid copepods, hyperiids, but no echinoderm larvae.

 

After spending about twice as long at the station as anticipated, the ship headed south to Alki Point, which is where lots of disease had been noted in 2014 and 2015 in intertidal populations. There, the benthic grab and water sampling went as planned, as did deployment of the trawl. On it’s way up, however, with about 40m still to go… thwack!… the trawl line snapped. Oh no!

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Since our work relies very heavily on this device, the crew attempted to grapple for the dredge, and after 2 hrs of circling, they did snag something, which turned out to be Dungeness Crab trap left over from many years in the Sound. This still provided a cool opportunity to look for amphipods, so Kalia and Jacob worked quickly to grab whatever we could. But no sea stars.

After grappling, the crew and Ian made the decision to return to the dock at Shilshole Bay to pick up another 2 dredges, which were not complete and not ideal, but it is the best that we can do. After an hour of rigging, the vessel headed south to Restoration Point to perform another station – right at dusk. All things went to plan, but the grab took 4 goes, and contained very fine silt – which should have been a warning sign. However, the team proceeded with a rock dredge, which when retrieved turned out to be an approx. 100 kg ball of clay. After a great deal of sifting, the team did not find any new sea stars. But it did provide quite the photo op, reminiscent of dino-dung digging in Jurassic Park!

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After a long and somewhat frustrating day, the team headed back to the dock at Shilshole Bay, where they spend the night. Tomorrow – the team heads north to Port Townsend, stopping at [hopefully] 5 sites along the way where disease has been seen. Hopefully we find more Pycnopodia!

 


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