Is TV Showing Us What Shark Experts Really Look Like?

The Drop-In Blog @ Moss Landing Marine Labs

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Vicky Vásquez is a graduate student under the Pacific Shark Research Center and the founding Deputy Director of the Ocean Research Foundation. You can follow Vicky on Twitter at @VickyV_TeamORF.

The Shark Expert.

As an early career scientist, I am still learning about what it means to be a shark expert and the standards by which we uphold these individuals to. Before starting school at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, I used programming similar to Discovery Channel’s Shark Week or NatGeoWild’s SharkFest to help me define those terms and build my knowledge of “shark facts”. Did you make the same mistake?

Shark Week's 2014 campaign, King of Summer used a comical caricature of a shark expert. Shark Week’s 2014 campaign, King of Summer used a comical caricature of a shark expert.

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Fog Blog: the June Edition

Very cool study investigating mercury in coastal marine fog with blue water diving (!) going on at MLML.

The Drop-In Blog @ Moss Landing Marine Labs

By Alex Olson & Holly Chiswell, Chemical Oceanography

1 Fog Tower deployed, the crew of the R/V Point Sur spotlights night waters to avoid crab pots during fog collection operations off the California Coast (Photo by Alex Olson)

On June 5th, members of the Marine Pollutions Studies and Chemical Oceanography Labs under the direction of Dr. Kenneth Coale, began a week-long journey on the R/V Point Sur to investigate the recent findings of mercury in coastal marine fog. Dubbed “The Fog Cruise”, the crew and science party aboard sampled near and offshore waters using oceanographic tools for signs of methylmercury (MeHg), from deep sea sediments to fog above the sea surface.

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Diving the MLML Seawater Intakes

The Drop-In Blog @ Moss Landing Marine Labs

By Diane Wyse, Physical Oceanography Lab

Earlier this week I volunteered to dive on the MLML seawater intakes, located about 200 m due west of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) and 17 m below the surface.  The intakes supply seawater to multiple sites around Moss Landing, including the aquarium room at MLML, the Test Tank at MBARI, and the live tanks at Phil’s Fish Market.

The purpose of the dive was to attach a surface float to a subsurface float located at a depth of about 15 feet.  A secondary objective was to visually inspect the intakes, which can be viewed in the video below.

So how do you find an intake system 50 ft below the water?

To execute the operation, Assistant Dive Safety Officer Scott Gabara and I took a whaler from the MLML Small Boats with the assistance of boat driver Catherine Drake.  We…

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Tidepooling Take Two

Earlier this week, three graduate student volunteers and I ventured to Bay View Academy in Monterey to talk with the fourth grade class about trophic levels and intertidal zonation.  I had the unique opportunity to lead the trip again this year, you can learn about the first iteration of this trip in one of my very first posts for the Drop-In.

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Sara Worden, Heather Kramp, Dorota Szuta, and Diane Wyse lead a classroom safety briefing and intertidal lesson. Photo: Erika McPhee-Shaw (2013)

I volunteered for the trip again this year because it is the sort of educational outreach experience that to me really embodies the spirit of MLML; sharing resources and experiences from multiple labs and teaching in our beautiful marine backyard.  The student volunteers represented the Physical Oceanography Lab, the Phycology Lab (Sara Worden), the Benthic Ecology Lab (Dorota Szuta), and the Ichthyology Lab (Heather Kramp). Another reason I volunteered again? Try passing up an opportunity to geek out science on one of the prettiest beaches in the world.  Yeah, it’s tough to do.

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Benthic Ecology Lab student Dorota Szuta teaches a group of fourth grade girls about intertidal invertebrates. Photo: Diane Wyse (2013)

Working off an intertidal food web lesson plan developed by the Teaching Enhancement Program at MLML, the grad student volunteers introduced the fourth grade class to the organisms in tidepools at Asilomar State Beach.  We were impressed by the knowledge the students shared with us that their teacher Alicia Doolittle had introduced in previous lessons.  At the beach it was hard to tell who was more excited to explore the intertidal – the elementary students, grad students, or even the parent chaperones!

Heather Kramp shows some intertidal organisms to an interested chaperone and the youngest field trip participant. Photo: Diane Wyse (2013)

Ichthyology Lab student Heather Kramp shows some intertidal organisms to an interested chaperone and the youngest field trip participant.  Photo: Diane Wyse (2013)

This year’s trip was especially cool for me as my graduate advisor, Dr Erika McPhee-Shaw, who serves as a board member for Bayview Academy, was along for the trip and helped to photo-document the field lessons.  I’ll admit it was a bit intimidating to be on the other side of things – here’s a highly-regarded physical oceanographer who has taught me equations of motion, coastal dynamics, and guided me through the steps of a Master’s research thesis, and here I am fielding questions about the inner workings of the ocean to a class of fourth graders while she listens in the audience.  It reinforced something I’ve learned time and again through graduate school, that the more simply and elegantly you can describe a complicated process, the more you truly understand it.  With the students’ healthy appetite for knowledge our conversation ventured from why ocean water is blue to a comparison of ecological zonation on a beach versus a mountain.

Recognize those t-shirts?  The 2013 Open House tshirts were designed by our very own Dorota Szuta!  Photo: Alicia Doolittle (2013)

Recognize those t-shirts? The 2013 Open House tshirts were designed by our very own Dorota Szuta! Photo: Alicia Doolittle (2013)

From the closing discussion it was clear that invertebrates were the crowd favorite: the hermit crabs, the purple pisaster (ochre) seastar, even the tunicates were getting some love thanks to the students’ curiosity about the round little chordates.  Will student leaders from MLML lead the trip again?  You better believe it!