Song of the crinoid

"This is a song about a boy
A song about a little boy and his cebus 
A song about a little boy and his three cebus
The little boy had a sick cebu, a sad cebu, and a mute cebu
And also a hippo"
- "Song of the Cebu" from the children's series Veggie Tales
It's been an interesting week in the lab. As some of you might recall, my intern, Mimi, spent her summer describing the larval development of stalked crinoids in the Arctic deep sea. She used specimens I had collected in 2017 along with my German collaborators, as part of a long-term experiment in the HAUSGARTEN. At the end of her internship, Mimi produced a final report, which I then turned into a publishable scientific manuscript: "Ontogenetic development in the Arctic deep-sea crinoid Bathycrinus carpenterii." We were ready to submit to a journal - or so I thought. 
Before we submitted the paper, I reached out to two crinoid experts to ask for their input. I figured they'd come back with some small…

Herbst am See

"Herbst am See    Autumn on the sea
Wetterwende, kalte Hände  Changing weather, cold hands
Als ich mit dir am Ufer steh'"         As I'm standing with you on the shore
- "Herbst am See" by The Wise Guys (translation mine)
Friends, it is officially autumn. There was about a week earlier this month when the weather forecast showed progressively cooler and cooler temperatures each night, and now, we've settled into a classic New England chill. I never used to notice the changing seasons, you know. I was always traveling to different climate zones and messing up my internal time-keeper. I'd go to the Arctic in summer, the tropics in winter, and half the time, when I got home, I'd have no idea what season it was at all. 
Covid took all of that away. The pandemic is the longest continuous time I've spent at home in 10 years, and I can feel it. There are changes in my mental state (not for the better), and I'm noticing seasonal patterns like never b…

Beach to beach

A few months ago, I got an email from Brazil. It was a from a researcher who studies genetic patterns in gastropods (snails) and who was on the hunt for a few species from New England. He had collected the specimens he needed several years ago but lost them when Brazil's national museum (Museu Nacional) burned down in 2018. I remembered reading about the fire when it happened and thinking to myself that it would take years for science to recover from such a loss. Now, I was being presented with an opportunity to aid in that recovery, so I told the researcher I would help.He gave me the name of the cove and the beach where he had collected the specimens originally. He described the habitat I should look for and told me to bring a sieve. The snails are tiny, so you really can't find them without one. I was excited for the adventure. My husband and I headed over to the cove, and I set to work.We were there at high tide, so I set about snorkeling close to shore, keeping an eye on…

The end of telepresence week

The end of a project is always jarring. After working closely with a group of people for weeks on end, it feels weird to suddenly be without them. It's like being sucked instantly into a vacuum - both surreal and sad.

Telepresence week concluded yesterday in the most fitting way possible - with a rainstorm. We had made countless adjustments to the plan for this project over the summer, mostly driven by the pandemic, so when it started raining, I couldn't help but laugh. Even at the last moment, nature had to throw us just one more curve ball. We moved all the cameras and electronics under tents to keep them dry, pulled out our jackets, and pressed on.

As soon as the last rainy broadcast concluded, we had a toast with the team and then began disassembling our equipment - "striking the set," to use a theater term. It took about an hour to pack everything into boxes and trucks, and when the boathouse was empty, we all looked at one another as if to ask "What now?&…


Possibly the most exciting thing that has happened during telepresence week (aside from connecting with our audiences) is that our team has successfully penetrated the shipwreck Portland. On Tuesday, the weather was spectacular, and our at-sea team was able to carry out ROV operations. We showed live footage from the seafloor during two of our broadcasts. The team used ROV Pixel, the same vehicle we’ve been relying on all summer, and a brand-new, custom-built vehicle named PPE.

In our case, PPE stands for Portland Penetration Explorer. There’s a nice symmetry to that name, since the same acronym is used for Personal Protective Equipment - things like gloves and masks. PPE is the acronym of the year, and in some ways, the vehicle is a daughter of the pandemic.
To reach the wreck, PPE hitches a ride on Pixel, then thrusts forward to leave her cradle and enter the wreck. Our ROV team collected some amazing footage from inside the Portland, including the engine room. A large boiler sits …

Beach climber

“Kirstin!” someone calls from behind me. I turn to see David, rolling past me in his truck. 
“My wife loved the broadcast,” he calls. 
“Thanks!” I shout, giving David a double thumbs-up. I turn back to the beach while he drives away. 
Our break between broadcasts isn’t that long - just a mere two hours - but I am on a mission. I lift myself over the cement wall separating the road from the beach and gingerly place my left foot on a rock on the other side. I test my weight on the stone - safe enough. My right foot follows, and soon, I am in another world.
I have no idea when was the last time I scrambled over a breakwall like this, but it feels like it’s been since college. My boulder acrobatics would be so much easier in hiking boots, but at the moment, I’m enjoying the fresh air too much to even notice my feet.
Earlier today, a teenager asked me how I identified a sponge specimen we collected from a shipwreck - he wanted details. Truth be told, one of my personal missions is to get more p…

Stellwagen Live!

It is telepresence week! Team Shipwreck is coming to you live from Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, and I encourage everyone to tune in. We have live video footage from deep below the surface, thanks to ROV Pixel, commentary from research team members, and answers to all of your most burning shipwreck-related questions. You can tune in on Facebook, YouTube, or on the project website, found here: