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Squid science: Field notes from Stephanie Bush

By UCMP grad student Stephanie Bush, April 10–May 31, 2007

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Stephanie is a graduate student at UCMP currently doing research at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI). She wants to figure out why deep sea squid release ink even though there's very little light in the deep sea. Check out an overview of Stephanie's research, her other updates, or read on to find out what she's been working on recently …

April 10-11, 2007



In this video narrated by Stephanie, we can tour the Western Flyer's control room, then watch: (1) a jellyfish on the control room monitors; (2) how the jellyfish is collected using the suction sampler; (3) the ROV Tiburon recovery; (4) the collection buckets containing animals on the Tiburon; and (5) researchers in the wet lab.
We've been out on a cruise on the research vessel the Western Flyer since April 9. This vessel operates the ROV Tiburon (sort of a remote control submarine). View a video from the cruise (right).

May 2, 2007

Elephant seals bask on the beach at Año Nuevo
Northern Elephant Seal females and pups bask on the beach at Año Nuevo.
This morning I visited a colony of marine mammals at Año Nuevo, California, with graduate students from UC Santa Cruz and Scripps Institute of Oceanography. These two students are studying the diving physiology and the fasting ability of the Northern Elephant Seal (left), one of the deepest diving pinnipeds. The average dive depth of some adult seals is 600 meters, and they have been known to dive to 1500 meters! Also, previous researchers have found that Northern Elephant Seals regularly eat the squids that I study — so this species is a perfect predator to test with squid ink.

Why Año Nuevo? Every spring hundreds of individual seals come ashore for several weeks to shed their old coat and grow a new one. During this time, individuals spend little time in the water and seldom feed. Researchers have been studying this colony for years, and the graduate students introducing me to the animals were recovering some tags that recorded the depth and duration of the seals' dives. I knew that tags were attached to and recovered from animals in the field, but I learned that these researchers rarely brought individuals into captivity. I realized that my experimental plan to expose captive seals to ink as they fed upon squid wasn't going to work! Despite the fact that I will have to rethink this plan, which I was quite excited about, I had a great time seeing 100–170 kilogram animals up close.

May 18, 2007

Planctoteuthis, a squid rarely seen in Monterey Bay
This is Planctoteuthis, a squid we very rarely see in Monterey Bay, captured on video by the ROV Tiburon.
On May 16 and 17, my lab group had research cruises on the research vessel Point Lobos, which runs the ROV Ventana. On the 16th, we saw a Histioteuthis heteropsis, a squid species we have not seen in a long time. The individual was hiding within an ink cloud when we encountered it. We also saw an Octopoteuthis deletron within an ink cloud. We found several Gonatus and Chiroteuthis calyx individuals, some of which released ink. Using the ROV, we collected one Gonatus and two Chiroteuthis calyx in order to save the ink for my studies. On the 17th, we came upon a Planctoteuthis (right). These are very rare — this was only the 12th individual encountered by MBARI scientists in 20 years!

May 31, 2007

The Guaymas Basin in the Gulf of California
The location of the Guaymas Basin in the Gulf of California.
I have been on several research cruises within and just outside Monterey Bay on MBARI vessels. However, in a few days I will be leaving for a research cruise to the Gulf of California's Guaymas Basin (left). Therefore I am responsible for bringing everything I will need for the 9-day cruise — a task made even more difficult by the fact that I don't know what types or how many squid we will encounter! I will definitely see some species that we do not see in Monterey Bay, so I am excited about collecting ink from different species.

Things I need to take: SCUBA diving gear, plastic bags, electrical tape, plastic tubes, glass jars, dissecting tools, permanent markers, labeling tape, headlamp, gloves, close-toed shoes, lab notebook.

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Audio and video by Stephanie Bush; Northern Elephant Seals by Stephanie Bush; Planctoteuthis © 2006 MBARI; Guaymas Basin map adapted from a USGS shaded relief map.