Thursday, December 30, 2010

Presentation at AGU Fall Meeting

Earlier this month, I attended the AGU Fall Meeting and presented the first results of our Mariana vent larval study. Click HERE for our abstract #OS13G-07, "Larval abundance and dispersal at deep-sea hydrothermal vents in the southern Mariana Trough." At the end of the talk, I showed a short video clip of live larvae, which you can view HERE (wmv file, ~4MB). Happy new year!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Jaa, mata (see you again)

The photo at left shows Guam on the starboard horizon, as we were returning to land on Sept. 15th. After our gear was safely unloaded onto a flat-bed truck, Susan and I caught a bus with our colleagues to the Guam Hilton. We had the good fortune to relax for a day, including snorkeling in the warm clear waters, and then we had to say goodbye. In Japanese there are so many different ways to say goodbye, but I am hoping that we can say "Jaa, mata" (jahh-mah-tah), which is an informal way of saying "see you again." This cruise was an incredibly enriching experience - both scientifically and culturally. Susan and I look forward to working on our samples and data back at home in Woods Hole.
Tomomi Ogura

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Last Shinkai Dive of the cruise

14-Sep-2010. Today our Chief Scientist Kojima-san returned to Snail site to recover our JAMSTEC collaborators’ demersal plankton pump on Dive 1228. Accompanying Kojima-san on the dive was our cruise mascot, “Gori-san” (shown in photo). We are hoping that Gori-san brought us good luck and that we will have a lot of biology work to do this evening, the last night at sea. I would like to again thank the Captain and everyone on board R/V Yokosuka who helped make this cruise such a great success. Arigatou gozaimasu (ah-ree-gah-tohh goh-zah-ee-mah-soo).
Sunset rays above Philippine Sea

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Like a kid in a candy store

As you can see, geophysicist Nobu Mochizuki was smiling and happy “like a kid in a candy store” this morning before his first dive ever in Shinkai. You can see the diversity of rock types collected on the cruise in the photo below (sulfides on left and basalts on right). Today I want to highlight something interesting that I learned during this cruise about how I use the English language. I learned that I often use expressions and idioms that are exclusive to native American English speakers. I learned over the past two weeks to use words with more of the correct meaning in a dictionary (or, in Japanese, “jisho,” pronounced gee-sho). I had planned on titling today’s blog “Icing on the cake” because we recovered the current meter mooring, and we now have data for the near-bottom flow during our larval collections. I talked with a couple of the scientists in the computer room, and we could not come up with a Japanese expression for “icing on the cake.” However, we did come up with an expression for Nobu being “tickled pink” – “hashagu” (ha-sha-goo) in Japanese.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Women working at sea

There are more women on board Cruise YK10-11 than have ever sailed before at one time on R/V Yokosuka. The science party has nine women, including our collaborator Florence Pradillon from JAMSTEC (see photo inside Shinkai before Dive 1226). While Florence was down on the seafloor, Susan and I worked on deck to clean our mooring gear for the shipment home. We were kneeling a lot, as you can see in the photo below. In the lowermost photo during the Shinkai recovery, you can see Hitomi Ikeda, the first female Shinkai mechanic. Also on board is Minamoto Mai, working on the ship’s crew as third electronics officer.

Recovering our last pump mooring at night

Our two plankton pumps are affectionately named “Paul” and “Ringo,” as if they are rock stars of the deep sea. Today Ringo responded as usual to our acoustic release and surfaced during daylight (photo right). However, Paul was down on center stage on the seafloor, situated near the top of a hydrothermal mound with a lot of topography all around. He did not want to leave the spotlight of our acoustic transducer. Finally, we were able to get a good angle to send the release command, and Paul lifted off the bottom. Most of the crew and science party went to the bow to wait and watch in the dark. Paul gave us such a light show with a strobe, green glow sticks, and reflective tape, that we saw him before he broke the surface. The photo upper left is Paul’s recovery on deck, and you can see his reflective “P.”

Dive to inner space

10-Sep-2010. Today, Susan went on Shinkai 6500, Dive 1225 to Pika Vent. Just like an astronaut dons a space suit, Susan wore a special flame-retardant suit required for divers in Shinkai (photo 1). One thing about diving to the deep sea that is very different than in space, however, is that satellite transmission does not penetrate through the water column. You can’t get a GPS position directly on the seafloor. The Shinkai group uses acoustic navigation to track the Shinkai during a dive. In photo 2 you can see the Navigation Lab, with Chief Scientist Kojima-san speaking with the navigators and our Expedition Leader Sakurai-san next to the plotter. The navigation enabled Shinkai to go directly to Pika Vent for biological sampling (photo 3). After the dive, the scientists eagerly collect samples off the Shinkai’s basket (photo 4).
Photo courtesy JAMSTEC

Friday, September 10, 2010

Last splice of the cruise

Today, Shinkai Dive 1224 went back to Archaean Vent, where Sasaki-san (a taxonomic specialist in gastropods) was able to collect a diverse assemblage of species, including gastropods, for population genetic analyses. While the Shinkai was down on the seafloor, Susan and I were preparing for the last pair of pump mooring deployments. I had a moment to kick back in the hangar and make my last splice of the cruise. I also enjoyed working with students, including MiHye Seo (photo right), to teach them how to work with the lines and other mooring gear.

Somewhere under the rainbow

Today we recovered our second pair of plankton pump samples. Our “Wizard of Oz” is Captain Susami-san, whose excellent ship-handling skills have led to very smooth and well-coordinated recoveries of our pump moorings. A double rainbow spread over the horizon in front of the ship as we waited for the first of the moorings to surface. In the photo below, you can see our set-up for the deck unit and hydrophone used to communicate with the acoustic releases. Susan is holding the transducer over the port rail, and I am working with our excellent Res Tech Okada-san who is on the walkie-talkie with the bridge. Hiromi and students are waiting for me to press the release command.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Shinkai 6500, Dive 1223 to Archaean Vent


Today I am so thankful and appreciative of the opportunity to dive to the seafloor at Archaean Vent. We were successful in placing the JAMSTEC demersal plankton pump near an active vent with a robust faunal community. In the photo taken before the dive, you can see me and my collaborator Hiromi Watanabe standing next to the pump on the Shinkai basket (the pump has reflective tape on the frame). Accompanying me on Dive 1223 were pilot Chida-san and co-pilot Yanagitani-san (see photo inside of Shinkai). The third photo below shows sampling at one of the active black smokers atop the Archaean sulfide mound.
Photo courtesy JAMSTEC

Lunch time (Gohan ga oishii desu)

Gohan ga oishii desu (Goh-hahn gah oh-ee-sheee deh-soo) means “The meals are delicious.” After working so hard processing the samples, a good meal is so very appreciated. The food on R/V Yokosuka is beautifully prepared and with great variety, as you can see in the photo of today’s lunch.

We have larvae!

Photo courtesy JAMSTEC

5-Sep-2010. Today we successfully recovered the first of our plankton pump moorings. The pump worked flawlessly, and you can see in the accompanying image that there was a lot of material collected onto the filter. We can’t tell you yet what we found, but suffice it to say that we and our colleagues spent many hours processing the sample – including video of larvae swimming. We had to stop in order to get a couple hours of sleep before the second pump mooring recovery.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

First Shinkai Dive of the cruise

Today was the first dive of the cruise for the submersible Shinkai 6500. Our colleague, Hiromi Watanabe, and two pilots went down to Snail site. They observed all three moorings at the seafloor. These dives to hydrothermal vents in the southern Mariana Trough are funded by the Japanese multi-disciplinary program TAIGA (Trans-crustal Advection and In-situ biogeochemical proceses of Global sub-sea floor Aquifer). You can also follow the TAIGA blog in Japanese at:

Mooring deployments

Within seven hours of leaving port, we successfully deployed three moorings (2 pump moorings and 1 current meter mooring) to the seafloor near Snail vent. This ambitious feat was made possible due to months of planning ahead of time, then meeting yesterday with the Captain and officers to discuss the mooring configurations, and today by the excellent skills of the crew on deck. The photo shows a plankton pump on the line above an acoustic release and anchor weight before going over the fantail.

R/V Yokosuka

Today we loaded our gear on board the research vessel R/V Yokosuka. Yokosuka is the mother ship for the deep-diving submersible Shinkai 6500. The ship and sub are operated by JAMSTEC ( ). Yokosuka is a large research vessel, about 100 m in length, and holds a crew of about 30, plus 13 members of the Shinkai operations team and 15 scientists.

Yoroshiku onegaishimasu (pleased to meet you)

Today we were very pleased to meet the other scientists for cruise YK10-11. In the photo, from left, are the biologists: Takenori Sasaki, Shigeaki Kojima (our Chief Scientist from University of Tokyo), Hiromi Watanabe (our collaborator at JAMSTEC), me, Tomomi Ogura, Hiroka Hidaka, MiHye Seo, Florence Pradillon(our collaborator at JAMSTEC), and Sayaka Mino (Susan is taking the photo).

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Lots of time to practice Hiragana and Katakana

Susan and I just arrived safely in Guam after 3 flights over about a day and a half. We had lots of time to practice our Japanese lessons (note the Katakana worksheet shown in the photo). We look forward to meeting our colleagues from JAMSTEC and University of Tokyo. They will arrive tomorrow.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Where is the southern Mariana Trough?

Susan and I are leaving tomorrow for our cruise to the southern Mariana Trough. This region is a back-arc spreading center - the back-arc of the Mariana Arc and the Mariana Trench, where the Pacific Plate is subducting under the Phillipine Plate. You can learn more about the geophysics in this region in a recent paper by Becker et al. (2010) Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst., 11, Q04X13, doi:10.1029/2009GC002719. The southern Mariana back-arc was recently listed as a region of "highest international priority" for hydrothermal studies by the InterRidge Working Group on Long-Range Exploration (

Friday, August 20, 2010

Equipment and supplies shipped to Guam

On Tuesday, we shipped our instruments, mooring gear, and supplies to the ship's agent in Guam. Susan and I have spent weeks gathering all the things that are now itemized on a big spreadsheet and distributed into 11 packages weighing 4000 lbs! Why does the shipment weigh so much? The heaviest "package" is actually a rack of steel anchor weights (for the plankton pump moorings, which will be described in a later post). The plankton pump boxes, with extra batteries, each weigh over 300 lbs. I am writing on one of these in the attached photo. Also in the photo, you can see our red boxes (heavy with mooring hardware), black totes (with lab and office supplies), and miscellaneous other gear such as polypro line and buckets.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Testing instruments

In preparation for our cruise, Susan and I have been conducting bench and dock tests of the instruments that will go on our moorings. For example, the photo shown here was taken during our test of an Aanderaa RCM8 current meter. This current meter is an older style, with a rotor and vane. It has served our lab group well on previous cruises, and we hope it will do the same at 3000-m depth in the southern Mariana Trough. The current meter will help us know whether the near-bottom flow was along- or across-axis during our plankton pump sampling near on- and off-axis vents.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Study sites within the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument

Since the discovery of deep-sea hydrothermal vents, scientists have been perplexed by the question: How are these vent sites colonized and, more specifically, How are the faunal populations established and maintained at these very discrete and often ephemeral habitats? The cruise in September 2010 will visit three of the Vents (Volcanic) Unit sites in the U.S. Marianas Trench Marine National Monument: South Backarc (also called Snail), Archaean, and Pika. The larval studies that we will conduct with our Japanese colleagues will help address the question of how populations of vent-endemic species are connected at hydrothermal vents within the Monument. For more information about the Monument, which was established in 2009, please see: You can see a map of the Monument on the Friends of the Monument blog:

Monday, June 7, 2010

Preparing for upcoming cruise

Susan and I are now in the midst of preparing for the cruise in September. We conducted a couple of Skype phone calls with our collaborators at JAMSTEC and helped prepare a plankton pump deployment plan for the cruise. We brought our two pumps to the manufacturer (McLane) for servicing and ordered mooring gear from weights and releases to floats and strobes. We are learning so much in our Japanese class, too. Dewa mata (see you later).

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Welcome and links to previous cruises and larval ID guide

Welcome to the vent larvae cruises blog. Later this year, in September 2010, members of the Mullineaux lab group will be participating on a Japanese research cruise to study larvae at deep-sea hydrothermal vents in the southern Mariana Trough. Our group's previous cruises have included studies of larvae at the East Pacific Rise, such as the LADDER project cruises in 2006 and 2007 ( We also maintain a website and published a Photographic Identification Guide to Larvae at Hydrothermal Vents (