Ask us!

Ask us a question, and we’ll post both the questions and replies here. You can also ask questions by emailing Be sure to put “question” in the subject line for a timely reply!

The following are pre-cruise questions sent in by Steve Blatnica’s classes at Midpark High School in Cleveland, Ohio and answered by Alison Cawood, a Scripps graduate student.

1. How deep are you going to be researching organisms in the water? – Mackenzie, Amani, Kristen, & Jake
The nets will be going down to about 500 meters (approximately 1640.4 feet) to capture animals that are swimming in the water column. There will also be cores that collect animals that live on the bottom of the Santa Barbara Basin.

2. What are you most interested in hoping to find on your expedition? -Alexis,Tia,Korie,Marina
We are most interested in collecting data that will help us answer our research questions. In any kind of science, but especially with cruises, you never know what kind of data you will get or even if you will be able to collect data at all! Sometimes you have bad weather or your equipment breaks. Other times, things just don’t turn out as you had expected. So, even though we go out with the intention of being able to answer all of our questions, actually collecting the data necessary to make that happen is not guaranteed.

3. What interests do you have with learning on this vessel? – Stephen, Nicole, Kyla, Kaitlyn
There are a number of questions that we have. We are trying to collect data in order to answer these questions. They include:

  • Is ancient DNA stored in marine sediments?  How far back?
  • What organisms were present in past ecosystems?
  • How did the environment change during human occupation?
  • How were coastal fisheries affected by different periods of human settlement?
  • Are changes in the earth’s magnetism recorded at high resolution in the layered sediments?
  • What are the differences between anoxic to oxygenated waters in terms of life on the deep-sea floor, water chemistry, and microbe communities?
  • What fish are present in the basin and at what depths?  Are juveniles and adults living in the same areas?
  • Can bio-acoustic instruments tell where and what type of zooplankton are present?
  • What animals migrate up to the surface and back down during the day and night?
  • What fish are present in the basin and at what depths?  Are juveniles and adults living in the same areas?
  • Can bio-acoustic instruments tell where and what type of zooplankton are present?
  • What symbiosis exist between microbes and animals living without oxygen?
  • What is the interaction between the gut biome of fish and their immune system?
  • How is the jumbo squid, with its recent northward range expansion, impacting food web dynamics in the California Current ecosystem, particularly with respect to toothed whales and dolphins?
  • Do sediment cores show a cyclic history of jumbo squid abundance over the past 15,000 years?

4. How are you going to test for DNA on sediment rocks? – Steven, Bobby,
Morgan, Brittany
The sediments (soils) will be collected from the bottom of the Santa Barbara Basin. Chemicals will be added to the sediment so that any DNA that is attached to pieces of sediments or rocks will come off and can be examined by scientists.

5. Do you plan to bring back the organisms for further testing? –  Jackson,
Frankie, Baylee, Elie
Any organisms that are collected during the cruise will be preserved and brought back to San Diego. They will be examined in a number of ways and eventually stored in the Scripps Institution of Oceanography collections where they can be used by scientists from all over the world.

6. Are you hoping to discover any new organisms while researching? – Kayleigh, Khaila, Kaitlin, Tiffany
We are not planning on this, but it would be really exciting if it happened!

7. How long does it take to get sediments out of the waters? – Miguel, Sam,
Selena, Brad
It depends on how deep the water is and what kind of core is being taken. On average, It takes between 45 minutes and an hour to lower the equipment, grab the core and bring it back to the surface. However, it also takes a couple of hours to prepare the equipment before deployment and then a couple more hours to process the core post-recovery.

8. Is interacting with people that are in a different branch of science
difficult? – Stephanie,Scotlynn,Zac,Jessica
Usually, it is really exciting! People from different branches of science all like and enjoy science, but come at questions from different perspectives. A geologist may think about a certain question or sample in a completely different way from a chemist. These different perspectives allow us to learn new things and gain a better understanding of the world around us.

9. What made you decide to go on this expedition? – Megan,Brian, Bailey,
This is an excellent opportunity for us to collect data and to work with new scientists. Oceanographic cruises are very expensive, so there are not lots of opportunities to go to sea and collect data.

10. What are you looking for on the West coast? Why not the East coast
too? -Brandon, Cassidy, Melissa, Stephanie
The Santa Barbara Basin is a really unique place. The bottom of the basin is largely anoxic (there is little or no oxygen there). This means that sediments and body parts from organisms are often preserved better there than they would be in other places. Studying the Santa Barbara Basin allows us to study the history of organisms that lived in coastal California habitats in the past and to compare them to organism that live there now.

11. How do you think studying the past marine environment helps you learn
about it now and in the future? – Trinh, Brianna, Claudia, Katie
In order to know if what we see now is changing, we need to know what it used to be like. If we don’t know how things used to be, we will have no idea if what we are seeing now is the same as it used to be or if it has changed. When we know about the past, we are much better able to interpret what we see in samples from today. Knowing patterns of change will allow us to make predictions about what we will see in the future.

12. This is directed towards the marine biologists… As a marine
biologist, what is the most exciting and interesting thing you have ever
done in your line of work? – Michaela, Elisabeth, Amber, Ryan
This is going to be different for each individual, but for me, the most exciting thing is finding the answer to a question! We spend lots of time reading what other scientists have done and collecting and analyzing data. You do all of that work so that you can answer some question that you think is fascinating! When you find the answer, it is a really exciting moment because you know something that no one has ever known before.

13. This is for Mr. Ben Fissel. If you’re an economics major then what could there be for you out on a marine research lab? – Alex, Victoria, Cate, Ray
Ben has worked for the past 3 years with a researcher at NOAA. He is part of the Sripps IGERT program. This program links together natural, social and informatic science to provide a more well rounded approach to confronting biological and societal issues related to the health of the world’s oceans. Specifically, Ben is interested in combining information from economics and marine fisheries to better quantify the costs and benefits of sustainable fisheries. On this cruise, he is looking at mud because it provides a great time line of human impacts on California fisheries and is the first place to look when comparing the boom and bust cycle of sardines and anchovies.

14. This is for Jenan kharbush, as a major in marine chemistry what are you looking forward to finding out about? – Josh,tyler, Austin

Jenan is looking to discover more about the chemical structures of hopenals. Hopenals are the lipid molecules that work in supporting the cell walls. Beyond their role in the cell, they are important because the bacterial membrane is illustrative of how the cell interacts with environment. On this cruise, she is looking to compare hopenals in oxidized and anoxic conditions to see if the different environment affects the membrane components.

15.This is for Dr. Arndt Schimmelman why do you have an interest in paleooceanography? – Danielle, Leland, Mike, Tori

Dr. Schimmelman is interested in paleooceanography because of the wealth of information it can tell us about the planet. How can you understand the present without fully knowing the past? He is fascinated to learn about how the earth changed before humans were around so we can better judge the impacts our existence has caused. Human life is but a glimpse in an extremely long earth history and the more we know, the better off we will be.

16. Do the fossils of fish have anything to do with/impact the bone structure or composition of the fish that are alive today? Do they help us to have a better understanding of the fish, or is the information more relevant to something else? –  Lea, Maddie, Kaylie, Freddie

Most of the fish fossils are pretty similar to what we see in fish today, but the differences are really interesting. Knowing what has changed allows us to do experiments to understand how and why that change has occurred. Also, the fossils tell us what kinds of fish and how many fish used to live in a given place. We can compare this fossil data to current data that we collect from nets. If these data are different, we can begin trying to understand why they might be that way.

17. As you move around the ocean for the cruise, will there be sections in the ocean where there totally different from each other? -Kellie, Jackie, Meghan, Jessica
That won’t happen too much on this cruise because we are not traveling very far (only from San Diego to Santa Barbara). However, the water in the Santa Barbara basin is different from water that we will find in other places (the water at the bottom of the basin has little to no oxygen, which is not the case in most of the ocean). In the rest of the ocean, there are large differences (even though the water still looks the same). There are differences in temperature, salinity, oxygen level, nutrients, and the number and kinds of organisms that live there.

18. What are the differences in research that a marine biologist would look for compared to a scientists such as an geologist? – Kyle,Taylor,Danielle,Kiersten
In general, they ask different kinds of questions. Biologists tend to look at organisms that live in or associated with the ocean. They try to understand how the organisms function and why they live in certain places. Geologists study the history of the earth. This is done by looking at rocks and sediments. However, sometimes, biologists and geologists ask question that overlap. These questions usually involve looking at organisms or environments that existed in the past. This region of overlap is referred to as paleoceanography, and it applies to many of the questions that are being asked by scientists on the Cal-Echoes cruise.


19 Responses to Ask us!

  1. Pingback: Introduction to the Cal-Echoes At Sea Education Team |

  2. Brad Clink says:

    Who is the main sponsor of your trip and where is your research sent to once its found

    • calechoes says:

      The cruise itself funded by UC Ship Funds ( This is actually a really cool program that allows students to write proposals and apply for ship time by themselves (instead of through a faculty member). As far as I know, this is the only program that allows students to do that.

      The samples that are collected during the cruise will be stored in the Scripps Institution of Oceanography Collections ( There they will be available to researchers all over the world. The analysis of the samples and the interpretations of the scientists will be published in peer reviewed research journals.

  3. Jacob Vance says:

    How big of sample will the core take?

    What is the food like on the boat is it good or bad.

    • calechoes says:

      Different types of cores take different sized samples. A box core goes about 1 m deep into the mud, a Kasten core is about 3 m deep and Piston core is about 18 m deep. With a 1 m deep core we can view sediments that date back up to 1000 years, with a 3 m core we can look at sediments that date back to ~ 300 AD and with an 18 m core we can look at sediments that date all the way back to the last glacial period (~15000 years ago!).

      In terms of the food, we have a great chef on board who cooks up 3 great meals every day!

  4. Brian Wargo says:

    The video of the sampling was interesting!!!

  5. Monique Keo. says:

    What do marine biologists hope to find, specifically, during their research? Is/are there any particular fields that they hope to learn more about or improve on?

  6. Miranda Crowley says:

    I think it’s interesting that some of the scientists want to core samples to look at DNA from the past. I hope to learn about something interesting being found.

  7. Nick Bennett says:

    It looked like a very messy job drilling. What do you hope to find? What is your ultimate goal in drilling for core sample?

  8. Becca says:

    Is it hard to do research in the middle of the ocean with people you just met?

    • calechoes says:

      It can be difficult at times! Every person has their own research to do and their own work style, so getting everyone on the same page can be a challenge at times. Also, being on a boat out in the ocean, we are limited logistically with what we can get done. Despite months of planning, once we get on the boat it is up to everyone to work together in order for all the goals to be accomplished.

  9. kiersten michalske says:

    What new things have you discovered? What is something that you want to learn more about? What is something that you are going to be learning about in the next few days?

    • calechoes says:

      Last night we caught an octopus! So far, the cores have been really nice as well. Over the next few days we will be traveling to an oxidized region and we will be able to compare these conditions with the an-oxidized conditions of the past few days. Most likely we will be seeing many more organisms and many different types too!

  10. Frankie says:

    I was planning to be Astro Physicist and work for NASA as a job, but my father says that all i would do is sit in a room and not do much. I know i would be calculating distances and what not, but seeing as you ( everyone on the boat ) already have a job in a scientific field, what do you usualy do when your at your job sight? What do you do when u wake up in the morning and drive to your empoyment?

    • calechoes says:

      It depends a lot on the day, but there are rarely days where you do nothing! There is a lot of variety in the day to day work depending on what stage of a project I am in. At the beginning of a project, scientists spend time doing research into questions they think are interesting and planning out the experiments that they want to perform or how they want to collect data. At the end of a project, they spend time analyzing their data and writing up their results for scientific journals. They also attend meetings and conferences to see what other scientists are doing. As far as the amount of time spent in the lab or in the field, it very much depends on the questions that are being asked. Some projects need lots of data or need to be carried out over a long time period, and these often require more time in the field. For other projects, all of the data that you need can be collected in a few days. Everyday is different!

  11. Brian Wargo says:

    How many different kinds of organisms have you found?

    • calechoes says:

      It’s hard to count exactly how many organisms that we found all together, as many of us are still in the lab figuring it out!

      One interesting thing that we found was the change in the number of species as we went from shallow water to deep water (and the amount of oxygen available decreased). Here are the species counts:
      100-200 meters 42 species
      200-300 meters 28 species
      300-400 meters 12 species
      400-500 meters 9 species
      500-600 meters 5 species

      The photos of these animals are coming soon, be sure to check out the change in diversity!

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