Showing posts from December, 2019

Desert island

If you were stranded on a desert island, what would you want with you? It's a classic question. I've given various answers to the thought experiment over the years, but I finally settled on a definitive answer about 2 years ago. If I'm on a desert island, the #1 thing I want dive gear. You see, I've actually been to a desert island . It's called Bonaire, and it's in the Caribbean. Bonaire is incredibly dry, filled with cactuses and barren landscapes - a true desert - and the lack of rain means there is very little sediment runoff to the surrounding ocean. As a result, the waters around Bonaire are crystal clear, and coral reefs thrive here . The western side of Bonaire is essentially one giant marine park. You can drive along the coastal road, pull off at any number of painted stone markers , and waddle into the water for an amazing dive. Bonaire is known as the "shore diving capital of the world." I'm spending Christmas in Bonaire with

Film festival

A staple of my research is image analysis, which means I spend a lot of time looking at photos and videos of the seafloor. It sometimes amazes me how much you can learn from a single image. A frame grab from this year's ROV video, showing anemones and sponges on the paddle wheel of the Portland . This week, I've started analyzing the ROV video we collected from shipwrecks in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. As you might recall, I lead an interdisciplinary team of archaeologists, ecosystem managers, and videographers on day-trips over the summer and an expedition with telepresence outreach this September. We recorded hours of footage from the steamship Portland and the coal schooners Palmer and Crary . Now, I'm weeding through the footage to glean quantitative data about the biological communities that inhabit the wrecks. The first step is convert the ROV video to still images. To do this, I watch the video and pause it any time the ROV has a good, cle

The emerald city of Oz: part 2

Selfie outside the NSF building. Friends, I am at it again! I'm back in our nation's capital, the very emerald city of Oz. After following the Yellow Brick Road (actually the yellow line of the DC Metro), I have arrived at the headquarters of everyone's favorite federal funding agency, the National Science Foundation. I'm back in DC to meet with program officers and discuss my research. This trip is a sort of early-career pilgrimage, meant to introduce me to the funders, let them know I'm serious about science, and help me gather advice for future proposals. One of the trickiest things about writing NSF proposals is figuring out which program to send them to. There are some subtleties in subject matter covered by each program, and for example, a lot of my work falls somewhere between Biological Oceanography and Arctic Natural Sciences. It was helpful to speak with the program officers in person to figure out where the boundaries are. I do have to confess one

Anything-can-happen Thursday: part 2

One of my absolute favorite things is to open up a sample, having no idea what I will find inside , and analyze it. This week, I had the chance to do that. I received a box from Norway, thanks to some extremely helpful colleagues, and was able to analyze the last samples for my study on larval transport and settlement in the high Arctic. For the past two years, I've been opportunistically giving larval traps and fouling panels to colleagues who deploy and maintain oceanographic moorings. My samplers were small and simple, and the idea was to use the existing mooring infrastructure for a value-added research project. You may recall a set of my samplers was recovered this summer from the Fram Strait, and it held some surprises for me . Well, the last of my samples arrived in my lab this week, and I could not wait to break them open. Impressive hydroid growth on my larval traps! Photo by Angelika Renner. The first surprise actually came in an e-mail. One of my colleagues who

The emerald city of Oz

"We live in an age of progress...It is easier to swallow knowledge than to acquire it laboriously from books."        - L. Frank Baum in The emerald city of Oz Dear friends, I am on a journey to Oz. It has plenty of brick roads, a couple witches, and possibly some flying monkeys. It also sparkles emerald, because as far as science is concerned, it is the source of all "green." Yes, I'm talking about funding, and of course, the city I'm referring to is Washington DC. I was advised by my mentoring committee to reach out to program officers at each of the major federal funding agencies where I'm likely to submit proposals - NSF, NOAA, etc. It's common practice for scientists to solicit guidance from program officers on whether or not their proposed research fits a given funding program. As I'm learning, communicating directly with program officers is especially important for early-career scientists like myself, who have limited experience in gra


"There is a lot of tedium in science. The need for replication means that you will end up doing the same task over and over and over again. One of the keys to being successful in science is figuring out what kind of tedium you mind the least." - a professor I admired as an undergraduate Right now, I'm working on an analysis of growth patterns in the deep-sea stalked crinoid Bathycrinus carpenterii . I have about 300 small juvenile specimens from a long-term recruitment experiment in the Arctic deep sea, and this dataset is just too rare and too precious to leave alone. I want to learn as much about these organisms as I possibly can. The first 50 of my slides, glued and labeled and stored in numerical order Like most studies, this one started in the library . I read everything I could about stalked crinoids, especially bathycrinids, and took copious notes. In the end, I decided to conduct a morphometric analysis of both juvenile and adult specimens, to see if