Nets nets and more nets!
You can never have too many nets, so we’ve gone for 4 net systems with a total of 22 nets! The plan being to try and find out what small marine animals are living in the mesopelagic and if they are migrating up and down the water column. So far, we’ve had all of our nets in the water, catching everything from tiny copepods to small lanternfish. Each net system has multiple nets which we can set to open and close at different depths so we can figure out where the different animals are living.
Once we haul the nets on board, the sorting and picking begins, with a flurry of scientists eagerly leaning over the sorting table looking at what curious beasties the net has pulled up. Then it’s a game of spot the difference, sorting them into their different species, identifying and weighing them so we can have a good record of the amount of animals in each depth layer. We’re also freezing a bunch of samples to estimate their respiration (an important part of the carbon budget COMICS is hoping to piece together), as well as looking at what they might have been eating.
As well as preserving samples we are also doing on board experiments to look at things like grazing. For Dan and Kathryn this means many a long hour in the cold room (at a balmy 1 °C) picking individual animals out of the nets to use in the experiments. Fortunately they are well supplied with an eclectic mix of tunes to keep them sane (well mostly sane!).
So far we’ve done pretty well and despite some issues with one of our net systems, we’ve got a lot of great samples from our first sampling station. Looking forward to seeing what curious animals we find at our next station :)
Anna Belcher and Gabi Stowasser
24 November 2017