July 24 – Aug. 13, 2017

Follow us on Instagram @pribsbluesmuse, but here is our daily log if you want the full experience!

Leptasterias sp. (polaris likely) and a little red king crab just under an arm.

Leptasterias sp. (polaris likely) and a little red king crab just under an arm.

August 13, Sunday – Good bye, St. Paul! Until October and next summer. Special thanks to Alex Filardo, for which none of this 2017 work could be complete without! Also to our collaborators with the Tribe (Lauren, Veronica, Patrick, Captain Duck, Paul, and Aaron), Captain Charles, NOAA for housing and support (Rolf Reem and Mike Williams), and F/V Bay Rose and Jeff and Taylor Kauffmann for halibut stomachs. Finally, I would like to thank the St. Paul community for making the summer so productive and providing so much support. Even with this summer’s weather (a pretty consistent bad across Alaska), we achieved most everything we set out to do in Year 1 and I am very excited to look at the samples and data and return with results!

August 12, Saturday – Last full day on island, a bittersweet realization. Luckily, we are so busy finishing processing samples, packing, cleaning, and storing things away that our bodies and minds are near exhaustion. We finished with three full pallets of science field gear in the ECO connex container and near half a lab full at the NOAA building full of dive gear, small science gear, microscopes, and leftover dry foods. Luckily, I have Alex to remind me of last minute tasks I would otherwise forget as “Alex, please remind me…” has become a one of my go-to sayings over this summer. Everything was finally packed away and our quarters clean. All ready for my return for Bering Sea Days in October and next year’s field season!

Buddies above and below water. We both had a pretty good time I think ;)

Buddies above and below water. We both had a pretty good summer I think ;)

August 11, Friday – Believe it or not, it took the entire summer to get “Sheila”, our drop camera system, to function as fully designed and anticipated! It’s never too late, haha! Seriously though, today was an awesome day on the water and we got a ton done! Firstly, we were still missing 4 deep moorings on the west side of the island. With our last chance (on our 4th try), we stopped by our sites and miraculously all of the buoys were up! We couldn’t believe it! The three deep ones off the west bluff were interesting; it appeared that our moorings were located in a horseshoe-shaped depression on the sea floor with strong bottom currents going up and over the shoe pulling our lines hard over and under the water. We believe the bottom currents shifted today pushing the buoys out the top of the shoe, thereby relaxing the current strain and letting them surface! Either way, we were lucky I think! And the final one missing, was way up northwest at our deepest site! It was perfect as these moorings had the least amount of buoy line and total relaxation of the current and hitting the tide right allowed us to fully recover this site’s collector bags! After these recoveries we conducted extensive drop cameras over the west, northwest and north coasts of St. Paul! Our Dual GoPro cameras were holding charge very well (which IS NOT typical) and we were able to get many sites in very little time! We also got in our last two dives of the year, as Alex and I went for exploratory dives of Northeast Point and Middle Point. These were actually very good dives on bedrock with lots of epifauna! Middle Point in particular was very interesting with a new species of sea star we have yet to see and another baby red king crab! This was a fantastic day and a good way to end with a great new friend Alex after a summer of hard work!.. Not to mention one last visit to Z’s welcoming home tonight!

Staff Quarters and Lab from June.

Staff Quarters and Lab from June.

August 10, Thursday – Our collector bags are all processed! We still have a couple ‘missing’ moorings out and we will take one more shot tomorrow with smaller seas and nice weather. Missing moorings is a misnomer, as we have yet to have the moorings sheared off but the strong currents have been able to pull the buoys under the water so we cannot find them! Currents upwards of 3 knots! But, with our looming deadline and flight out on Sunday, we took the day packing and cleaning up all our science and personal gear spread throughout the NOAA Staff Quarters and Lab buildings. It is on these days, I truly understand what over 5 pallets of science gear looks like (and weighs!)… Quiz answer from yesterday: St. Paul, St. George, Otter, and Walrus Islands. Along with Sea Lion Rock!

August 9, Wednesday – With the amount of work we’ve packed into the last few days on the water, Alex and I spent the hole day finishing collector bag processing and storage. The freezer boxes are starting to fill up with ziplocks containing our crab and invert catches from each collector bag. Each one of these bags represents new and interesting data on what exists in both the pelagic and benthic environments surrounding St. Paul. The uniqueness of this environment and passage of water and currents around these FIVE isolated islands in the Bering Sea is astounding to think about! Try to name the five islands as a quiz, the answer will follow in tomorrow’s post!

August 8, Tuesday – This morning was the last Native fur seal harvest of the summer, and Lauren asked Alex and I to help out! So we took the morning and helped take scientific measurements on the harvested fur seals. The Tribe and NOAA-MML staff co-manage the fur seal populations on St. Paul, both with the cooperative goals of maintaining or growing the existing fur seal populations, actively researching physiological and ecological conditions of the rookeries, and leading humane subsistence harvests of this critical species for food and cultural benefit of the St. Paul community. After the harvest, Alex and I went back to work in the lab processing glaucothoe bag collectors. Each sample is washed, sieved, and frozen in water; most of which are small invertebrates and crab which use the gillnet and shellhash as protected refuge habitat and home between feeding bouts.

August 7, Monday – Today proved to be a great day out on the water! With Duck, Lauren, Alex and I on point and the weather cooperating, took care of the Otter Island the West and North portions of St. Paul. We started off going back over to Otter to pick up the left mooring blocks. We were successful picking those and then turned for the SNP west coast. We pulled the southern transect which we already sampled with Ginny the other day and then got on our dive gear to continue sampling. Alex and I dove with Lauren topside on the northwest bluff transect and the North Point transects in moderate current. We collected the bags into hot-glued screen door netting and zip-tied them underwater with little disturbance. That way we don’t accidentally knock out any crab inside the bag with overhandling. After collecting over 20 bags and pulling the trensects and moorings, we conducted one last zooplankton tow and CTD drop to get a second assessment on the north end of the island (in a similar location to one we conducted in early June). With a full day, we returned to the lab to process a few bags before late evening… Just in case your interested, a 62 lb cement block IS NOT 62 lbs after soaking in seawater for 3 months! Alex and I (but mostly the winch), began to realize just how heavy they are soaking wet! I would estimate they are 100-120 lbs now, and we have over 40 of them to pull!

Our two glaucothoe collectors: one with only gillnet and one with gillnet and crushed shells.

Our two glaucothoe collectors: one with only gillnet and one with gillnet and crushed shells.

August 6, Sunday – Seas came up and let off over night, so we spent today going through many glaucothoe collector bag samples in anticipation for another full day on the water tomorrow. Each bag takes approximately a half hour to fully process, in which we wash down every piece of gill net and shellhash from the collectors. On these very small pieces, you have to be careful not to miss any newly settled crab, which are typically only 2-3 millimeters in length! These crab are the ones we are looking for!

August 5, Saturday – Today, we went back out to pull some our transects and moorings on the east and northeast side of St. Paul. With yesterday’s practice with Duck, Charles, Lauren, Alex and I were fast and efficient and collected over twenty samples! The most interesting being those placed up on the shallow shelf of the Elephant’s Trunk about 8 miles northeast of the island. Waves were building toward the end of the day, but we finished successfully and called it a long day! Samples were stored over night in a cool and dark spot at the lab for processing Sunday.

August 4, Friday – This being Ginny’s last day, it was only fitting that the seas and weather finally allowed us to fully begin our glaucothoe bag collections and transect line retrievals in full! At least it looks like it will give Alex and I a chance to finish our work with our week remaining! Though Ginny cannot dive due to her coming flight home, the three of us and Duck pile in the Lunax and head south to Otter Island to dive on our two transects there and collect the bags currently clipped on the survey line. This is a high flow area, so it took Alex and I some time and effort to bag up the collectors on our two dives. Before ascending, we also prepared the lines and mooring blocks for topside retrieval using the davit and electric wench. After getting out of the water, we tried to pull the moorings, but the currents were a little too strong today so we left them for later this week. Finally, we sped up the west coast to our first dive site off Rush Hill. This dive went more smoothly with less current, and it was personally my first dive at the flat bedrock and sandy area. Very interesting! Then we rushed back to town so Ginny wouldn’t miss her flight and Alex and I spent the evening working up our samples bags.

August 3, Thursday – With the weather starting to come down a little, we took the quick opportunity to pick up our easiest transect and glaucothoe collectors just off of East Landing. These are our shallowest survey sites and the only one we directly access from shore! This survey is definitely different than the rest, in that our survey is directly in kelp forest habitat. Lots of understory kelp, and lots of surge! But, Alex and I were able to collect our bags (which were tore up quite a bit) and reel in the semi-permanent transect line. We even saw another little octopus swimming and crawling its way through the Thallasiophyllum sp. understory.

What do you think these two are conversing about? JK! But look how pretty these C. oregonensis are! This cryptic colloration works in shellhash and on the bright, epifauna covered rocky reefs.

What do you think these two are conversing about? JK! But look how pretty these C. oregonensis are! This cryptic colloration works in shellhash and on the bright, epifauna covered rocky reefs.

August 1, Tuesday and August 2, Wednesday – The weather window didn’t last more than a day, so Alex and I completely worked up the previous glaucothoe bag samples for crab. We separated, identified, and measured carapace length and width for each individual crab! Most exciting, we started to see red king crab recruits; only about 1-4 RKC per bag, but not too bad for the bags only being 1X3 feet cylinders in size! The little RKC are about 2-3mm in carapace length, so we can pretty much say those are young-of-year recruits that just settled to the benthos! Plus, the usual characters including Dermaturus mandtii, Hapalogaster sp., Oregonia gracilis, and Cancer oregonensis were fairly abundant.

July 31, Monday – Finally a break in the weather and wouldn’t you know that the Lunax wasn’t ready for us. Too bad, but we always try to make the best out of a bad situation here at PribsBluesMuse! Thus, after a quick call, Ginny, Alex and I took to the CBSFA skiff to collect our East Landing Deep glaucothoe collectors. There was a thick fog today, but our redundant GPS units and savy got the job done. Ginny and Alex went down for the collection and I stayed up top as skiff tender. This was completed and the transect line was pulled and we headed back into the harbor. Ginny decided to start processing those samples, while Alex and I used the good weather window to go out a little further toward Southwest Point and collect our other closest glaucothoe collects at a deep site off Ridge Wall at about 19 fathoms depth. This went really well and only took us a couple hours, as the buoys were up and right on. We also conducted a CTD for oceanography. The rest of the day, we kept working up our collector bags and started picking through the crab recruits we were finding!

A plethora of larval crab in June!

A plethora of larval crab in June!

July 26, Wednesday through July 30, Sunday – Weather is back for the worse, sadly. However, a few exciting things were happening while the fog, winds, and rains continued. Ginny Eckert, Project PI and my co-adviser, arrived on one of the last planes to reach the island on Wednesday. We both came to St. Paul last year around this time to beautiful weather and optimal working conditions. Oh! The times have changed! Luckily, she all could stay busy with computer work and finishing our semi-annual NPRB report. Alex and I also started to work through our June zooplankton samples in the lab. We finished processing and picking crab from those samples on Saturday. Initial thoughts were very intriguing, as the samples were relatively loaded with crab larvae! There were also lots of fish larvae and small jellys. We plan on repeating at minimum Otter Island East in order to get an early, mid, and late summer zooplankton community assessment. In the evenings, we took some time to be amateur artists down at the CAC where Alex and I worked on a ceramics project. These mugs quickly became a fun project to get us through the poor weather. We finished work on Saturday and they need to dry a week before kiln firing.

Alex is sending down the settlement plates to 1m depth off the dock. I am curious as to what will stick!

Alex is sending down the settlement plates to 1m depth off the dock. I am curious as to what will stick!

July 25, Tuesday – Today was as close to a good weather window we might see all week, however it was not to be. Only a few, larger fishing boats went out and the reports on seas and visibility were still not good enough to attempt drop cameras with Sheila around the island. We spent the morning monitoring the weather situation with Duck and getting our apartment in order for living and cooking, plus we made a couple loaves of bread in the machine and packed the crock pot with sausage stew! In the afternoon, we met up with Lauren and helped her place some marine settlement plates provided by the SERC division of the Smithsonian Institute. These settlement plates are placed out to monitor marine invertebrate settlement to track possible colonization of invasive species. Let’s hope we don’t see any invasives on them over the next few months before winter! After that, we worked inside the lab at Staff Quarters. Alex began gluing up a few more fine mesh collection bags for our glaucothoe bags. These will be used to contain each glaucothoe bag individually in the field, so we don’t lose or mix any of our samples. I spent the afternoon at the microscope sorting crab larvae from the zooplankton samples we have taken around the island this summer. Our first tow was surprisingly loaded with crab, most being late stage zoea lithodids (likely Dermaturus) with a few early stage Tanner/snow crab and a single RKC glaucothoe! The RKC was really cute! Prior to supper and bed, I received a text that the F/V Bay Rose had finished collecting my requested halibut stomachs. So I scooted down to the harbor and collected those 5 gal buckets full of individually bagged stomach samples.

July 24, Monday – We’re back on Island! We landed yesterday evening and settled back into our new apartments at NOAA Staff Quarters. Our shared apartment in May and June was great and separation of the Team Muse will be different, but we are very grateful to be back at Staff Quarters with a wide variety of friendly scientists. However, one glance at the current forecast makes me feel a little like the current weather outside. This week’s forecast is not a good one and if it holds true, we will not be going out on the Lunax much or at all. Today though, is the start of Reindeer camp for the kids. Alex and I spent the morning scouting out the west side of the island with several kids and the adult hunters. The fog was super thick so we weren’t successful finding the herd. In the afternoon, we helped the Youth Conservation Corp with trail maintenance at Southwest. A large load of gravel was dropped off in a big pile, and we spent several hours moving it and filling large potholes or rough patches in the current ATV trail. It looked really nice at day’s end!