Showing posts from August, 2020

The end of telepresence week

The team in Scituate, MA 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. The team at the Inner Space Center 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 boathou


PPE enters the Portland wreck. Photographed using ROV Pixel . 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 foot

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.  My beach spot in Scituate, MA 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 weigh t 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.

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: A diverse array of invertebrates on the wreck of the Portland

The end of the crinoid project...for now

Hello everyone, it’s Mimi again! I’m back for one more blog post before the end of my summer student fellowship at WHOI. It’s quite bittersweet and surreal to see all of my work culminating into one final presentation, poster and now a manuscript. Kirstin and I have been working in the past month to turn my WHOI report into something we can submit for publication, most likely to the journal Invertebrate Biology (which is super exciting!). To recap, the main purpose of this project was to be the first people to ever characterize the larval development of the stalked crinoid species, Bathycrinus carpenterii . In the end, we found that  the overall development process of all crinoids is pretty much the same, following the same phase progression from cystidean to pentacrinoid to juvenile. However, we also noticed that there are a few key morphological differences, most notably the discoidal proxistel. The discoidal proxistel in Bathycrinus carpenterii . Photographed at 35x magn

The situation

"This whole summer has been pretty wild, pretty crazy...lots of drama" - Mike 'The Situation' Sorrentino in Jersey Shore Oh, covid, how you make our lives...interesting. I don't think I need to tell anyone that this year has been tumultuous and stressful, or how sick I've gotten of the phrase "the situation" - because you're probably feeling it too. "The situation is ever-changing" - "We'll just monitor the situation" - "In this unprecedented situation" - see what I mean? Ugh. Despite the pandemic, Team Shipwreck has pressed on with our investigations of the Portland and the Mystery Collier in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. I'm actually proud of what we've been able to accomplish so far, and I'm pretty sure this project is the only thing keeping me sane right now. Long days offshore with no cell service might sound strenuous, but for me, it's a fantasy world with no news. Our

The settlers

CATAIN. You may see a fouled housing, but I see data. Friends, in between spending days at sea on R/V Catapult looking at shipwrecks, I have another project that's at a very exciting stage. I've been collaborating with a group of engineers over the last year or so to develop a camera system that can photograph newly-settled juvenile invertebrates. The engineers kept calling it "LarvaeCam" as a working name (despite my insistence that it didn't photograph larvae), but I think I'm going to name it CATAIN - CAmera To Analyze INvertebrates. This name is also conveniently a nod to the nerd-tastic board game Settlers of Catan (because the camera photographs settlers, get it?). A snail crawling on CATAIN. The light part is its foot, and I think the skinny light part might be its radula. CATAIN got its first test deployments this summer, and the results look very promising. Our major innovation was photographing the settlers from the underside, using the c

Return to the Portland

Scituate Harbor in the early morning, as we headed out for a long day at sea A major focus of my shipwreck project this year is completing our documentation of the steamship Portland . This ship is sometimes referred to as "New England's Titanic ," because it was a passenger vessel that sank with all hands in a tragic storm in 1898. The ship's significance extends across the region, as descendants of the passengers and crew are still actively connected to its story. Last year, we were able to document a large fraction of the Portland wreck using ROV Pixel , but we wanted to make sure we got to 100% coverage on this historically important ship. The footage we collect is being used to build a 3D photogrammetric model of the wreck, so we can view all the structures in context and better understand how the site is transforming over time. One of the most important things we've done this year is fly Pixel over the top of the wreck. All of the superstructure a