Fine Focus- Steve Blatnica, Midpark High School:

I’ll be living half in the daylight, and half at night for the remainder of the expedition.

Last night would rank as the highlight of the trip so far. I was able to help out with the IKMT (midlevel trawl). This net is sent down to particular desired depths to collect fish and any other organisms living at that level of the ocean. Several researchers are looking at the daily migrations that take place. Some have said that they represent some of the greatest migrations that occur anywhere on the planet. Many species of fish and invertebrates make this daily journey, coming up from the deep during the night hours to feed. There destination is the edge of the layer in the ocean that contains light harvesting plankton, and other zooplankton that feed upon those primary producers. At dawn, the migration reverses and they retreat back to the depths to await the night again. Myctophid fish species, although not as photogenic or glamorous as their cousins living in the shallow coral ecosystems, are an amazing species. They, as many of the creatures of the deep, use bioluminescence  to attack mates, confuse predators, or grab a meal. As we looked through the products of the nets samples we found a wide array of vertebratesa and invertebrates. Some of the samples included species of jellyfish, krill, octopus, squid, shrimp, and diverse species of fish. Of course, many more species of planktonic creatures that are beyond my knowledge. The samples looked like a thick soup of life.  It’s amazing to look at these species and the adaptations that have evolved to help these organisms live like they do. Large eyes to collect any trace of light. Gaping mouths to make sure the prey is secured, and reduced organs of minimal importance. As the samples came in Ben Neal, Diana Tucker and myself spend time photographing the samples for virtual collections which we hope to share with everyone. Our attempt is to catalog what we find.

In addition today I spent time listening to researcher Dr. Greg Rouse, who is responsible for discovering new species within the temporary ecosystems that blossom when a whale dies and falls to the floor of the ocean, called whalefalls. His specialty in within the microscopic organisms that live in the deep. He is responsible for discovery and identification of many creatures that help form the base of food/energy pathways in the oceans. The sea floor, being one of the largest and least studied ecosystems on the planet holds so much unknown or undiscovered that he feels it will help us explain what is happening or has happened to life all over the planet. The world he studies is such a fascinating place to step into. One finds that this place, when you look close enough, matters. It may have more of an effect on the big picture than the organisms most scientists choose to study. The worms, bacteria and other glamor less organisms that live hundreds to thousands of meters below the surface. I’ve enjoyed walking into their dark, cold, and mysterious world for a while. It shows how much we still don’t understand about our world. We are waiting, as we adjust our focus into this fine world.

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76 Responses to Fine Focus- Steve Blatnica, Midpark High School:

  1. Khaila Pickering says:

    Why are such small species proving to be such an important factors in the basin’s ecosystem?

    • calechoes says:

      If you think of organisms such as those bacteria that live at the bottom of the anoxic zone. They don’t need oxygen to survive. In fact they retreat back into the sediment if oxygen levels start to rise. There is no sunlight down at the bottom, so they feed on the hydrogen sulfide gas that comes up from the top layers of sediment. These bacteria, of course are providing a source of food for other organisms, worms and similar creatures live within this microbial mat. They are in essence the base of a food web that revolves around there ability to extract energy from a non organic source. If you go anywhere on the planet most food webs or energy webs begin with the simplest types of life. They provide a starting point for which all other life relies on.

  2. katie bainbridge says:

    is it hard to send the net down? has it ever failed to get anything?

    • calechoes says:

      The net is deployed off the back of the ship. There has been some technical problems for several of the first deployments. In one instance the net hit the bottom, so all they collected was mud. On another occasion the net stayed right at the surface. This happened just a few times, other than that each collection has proven to be very successful.

  3. caleigh richissin says:

    what significance does the fallen whale have in a deeper ecosystem?

    • calechoes says:

      A dead whale that falls to the ocean floor is a huge source of organic material and energy to the organisms that live down there. In some cases that carcass can last for years. Organisms feed on it and until it’s gone provide a ton of energy to all sorts of worms, crustaceans, fish, and other microscopic creatures.

  4. Lea Ulintz says:

    What do you mean when you say that the samples looked like “thick soup of life”?

    • calechoes says:

      The samples are so full of living material that it looks like a soup. Everywhere you look in the samples you see living material. In fact, it’s kind of creepy when you look into the tray and so many tiny eyes are staring back at you.

  5. Danni Schultz says:

    Have you guys found any useful or helpful research yet? if so, what?

  6. Nicole Bito says:

    When you are talking about the migrations taking place you say how they migrate to the edge during the night and go back at dawn. When this happens, do they migrate in groups or individually?

  7. Ray Klebowski says:

    So are you going to be semi-nocturnal?

  8. Michaela Charlton (Midpark High School) says:

    Finally some information about sea animals!!!!! So what is most xciting about the night shift?

  9. adam poschner says:

    why would it matter if you found the whale in the deeper ecosystem?

    • That is such a large source of energy to reach the floor. Normally, huge sources, like a whale don’t come around too often. When they do, they attract quite a collection of creatures ready to make use of it.

  10. Taylor Charvat says:

    Why is the ocean floor so mysterious to scientsts? Why haven’t we explored it before?

  11. Maria Lee says:

    Has anything mysterious been found on the ocean floor yet?
    Have you gone night fishing for sharks?!

  12. Mindy Rolince says:

    Did you guys hae to cut open the fish and other species?

  13. Stephanie Singh says:

    Why is the sea floor one of the least studied ecosystems?

    • It’s vast and very difficult to get to. Sometimes what you study is hard to get to. So you need to come up with technology to get at it, if you can’t go down there yourself.

  14. Ryan Juda says:

    What’s the weirdest fish you found look like?

  15. Erica Morgan says:

    why are microscopic organisms so important to science?

    • That is a really great questions. I’ll try to have a researcher answer this, but.
      Microscopic organisms form the base of food webs, they are the source of disease and illness, they help cycle material such as oxygen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, water. they help produce food. Microbes are responsible for a huge amount of essential functions. They’re big time.

  16. Scotlynn Morgan says:

    What kind of fish did you catch with the nets? And what did you do with the fish?

  17. Zachery Myers says:

    How many photographs have you taken and how many more do you think you are going to take? Which photograph of the sample was your favorite?

    • I’ve taken around 400 pictures. I have so many favorites, but I’m partial to the shots of some of the organisms collected from the IKMT net, and box cores. There are some organisms that I’ve never seen before.

  18. nathan harper says:

    did you guys find any new species. if so what did you name it.

  19. Tyler Ryan says:

    That is so cool I wish i was on a boat in nice weather. did you discover any new species/

  20. Jessica Noe says:

    I wonder if your ship being there changes any factors in their ecosystem? The ship can scare away or attract other sea animal, disrupting the natural order of things.

    • We are interested in the organisms that live deep enough in the water column that they don’t know we’re there. That does bring up a good point. Often times while researching you do want to be careful not to effect the organisms being studied. Sometimes it’s an inevitable part of research.

  21. Sam lopez says:

    How much do you already know about the ocean floor that gives you enough knowledge to test species?

  22. Stephanie Singh says:

    How come the seafloor is one of the largest least studied ecosystems?

  23. Baylee S. says:

    That is really cool Mr. Blantica

  24. Ellie Johns says:

    What do you like about researching at nigth? Do you ever find yourself falling asleep in the middle of researching?

  25. Amani Dakdouk says:

    What types of fish did the net catch? Is this the first time the net is used?

  26. Kristen Stupka says:

    what is the most interesting kind of fish you have found?

  27. Mackenzie Fegan says:

    When you caught the fish were you searching for any specific types of fish? After you caught the fish did they all die, or did you put them back? Did you discover any new organisms?

    • Sadly the fish do not adjust well when you take them out of the depth from which they came. They are adjusted to a particular pressure and temperature, so it’s hard for them to adjust to the rapid change. Thankfully they don’t suffer for too long.

  28. Marina Honkala says:

    It’s crazy that so many of those animals make that migration everyday! Why do you think that they feel the need to complete that journey everyday?

  29. Kayleigh Berendt says:

    How are you adjusting the the ‘night-life’?

  30. Tia K says:

    what type of fish have you found? anything new answers answered by finding these.

  31. Kyla Johnson says:

    What does bioluminescence mean? and What other organisms besides myctophids use this?

  32. Selena Zonnevylle says:

    If the sea floor is the largest area, is their a specific reason why it’s not studied much?

  33. Stephen Prusa says:

    What type of plankton did you find? Did you experiment with their species?

  34. Kaitlin P. says:

    i would be very excited to find the fish. is it exhausting to have to stay up at night?

  35. Sam Neric says:

    I think that reading about the sea life found was really interesting. I am wondering what is trying to be found with these creatures and why hasn’t anything been researched before on te sea floor?

  36. Kaitlyn Mazzola says:

    How many new species all together have you found?

  37. Miguel Guan says:

    how long does it take for the fish to migrate?

  38. Cassidy Broz says:

    It’s amazing how many small creatures are needed to keep the ecosystem going. Why do the fish migrate at night when all of the predators are looking for something to eat?

  39. Emma S. says:

    I think it’s so cool how fish and other animals migrate together in one group. I’m looking forward to seeing the pictures.

  40. Dylan Pachla says:

    Why is the ocean floor not studied much? How would you study it?

  41. Kaylie S. says:

    What exactly happens in a “whalefall?”

    • Whale dies, whale falls, organisms find it, organisms start to break down the material, This process can last over several years. One large whale can support life for several years. Some organisms make use of specific parts.

  42. Haley Klier says:

    I hope you’re having fun on the night shift. What was the most interesting species that you’ve found so far?

  43. Lisa Kenney says:

    How does so much life survive at the bottom of the ocean if it is hard for us to get down there?

  44. Torrie Bailey says:

    What is the best experience you have had so far?

  45. Jake Armstrong says:

    Why have we never studied these certain things yet? Was it challenging for you to study at night?

  46. Nick Bennett says:

    What was the biggest organism you found? Did you any sharks or anything?

  47. austin luu says:

    Why is it important for one small animals to keep the ecosystem going?

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