Beep beep beep. It's 6am, and my alarm clock wakes me up abruptly. I throw on some clothes, make a coffee, and head down to UCONN. Chris and I meet up, grab the supplies we need (buckets, bags, coolers, aerators, etcetera), and start making our way to Scituate, Mass. Today we are going out on the NOAA vessel "Auk," with a few members from NOAA and the USGS. Our goal? To collect approx. 200 Northern Sand Lance, Ammodytes dubious.
We boarded the ship a little after 1030, and depart the docks just after 1100. It was a bit over an hour to get to our first location--on our way out we saw plenty of birds, and even a few whales.
At our first station, we set up the Sea Boss--it has lights to illuminate the bottom, lasers that can give us a sense of scale, GoPro's for HD video, a smaller camera for a live-feed so we can see the bottom, a sediment grab, and a few other sensors that record chemical data.
For us, the sediment grab is the most important, as it's our way of catching the Northern Sand Lance--it's not the most efficient method of catching, but it's the easiest and simplest way to grab them from the bottom. These fish are aptly named--they live in the sandy sediments of Stellwagen Bank, and we could see them swimming out of the sediments as the Sea Boss went by.
It took a minimum of five of us to retrieve the BOSS as it came up, which wasn't too difficult as the seas remained calm for most of the day.
One of the gentleman from the USGS was collecting sediment samples, as he's currently trying to map sediment grain size across the entire basin. As each sample came up, he collected a small shovel-full of sand from each side of the grab.
It was a long day, with little time for breaks, but there were a few fleeting moments of repose.
The most important part, for us, was the actual fish collection. Once we had the sample back up on the ship, we would dump it all into a large bin, and sort through it as quickly as we can to get the fish into our coolers and keep them alive. This was an all-hands-on thing, and we did exactly that every single time.
A few of the fish were "running-ripe," which means that they were reproductively mature. Below is an image of some eggs that one of the females we caught released--they look great!
And after we removed all the fish, we ran the remaining sand through a sieve, just to ensure we didn't miss any fish. Of the 16 separate times we did this, only once did we find a fish in the sieve.
We even had a a nice sunset from the ship.
All in all, it was a successful day. We didn't net our goal of 200, but we drove away with 107 individuals in our coolers, ending with setting up 106 fish in our tanks back at the University. A huge thank you to everyone who made this trip possible! We wouldn't have the fish we need for our research without the help and knowledge of the wonderful people from the USGS and NOAA.