July 16, 2008
Another 12 hour shift down and today's highlight was the Blake Trawl. Back in NYC we take the students out in the Hudson River and conduct otter trawls to sample what lives in our backyard. They are always surprised and excited by oyster toadfish and seahorses that are native to our estuary. Since the FOODBANCS projects are focused on the nutrient cycling on the sea floor we use a Blake Trawl to sample who is eating all these tasty benthic treats. The trawl net has a cod end but instead of using doors to hold the front open we use a heavy sled that keeps the net open and on the bottom. The bad news is you get a lot of mud to sift through the good news is we see amazing creatures from deep down. Fortunately, the mud somewhat protects them since a trip in the net 600 meters up is not always nice to samples.
Some samples are put into an onboard aquarium to study live, some are preserved and some dissected. The dissected parts, mainly the gut and the gonads, are later analyzed for nutrient levels. There were many invertebrates in our catch. We netted several species of sponge, anemone, urchin, sea pen, echurain, polychaete and a few fish. The largest group of megafauna seemed to be the sea cucumbers. They come in several flavors but the sea pig seems to be the most popular and is unique to Antarctic waters.
We saw many interesting species and spent hours sorting through it all.