May 20 – June 6, 2018

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

Holy Walrus! WHAT!?! How can something be so huge and cute! (see also #teamfiona #cincinattizoo) Photo by Ram Papish (IG, @rampapish)

Holy Walrus! WHAT!?! How can something be so huge and cute! (see also #teamfiona #cincinattizoo) Photo by Ram Papish (IG, @rampapish)

June 6, Wednesday – After completing our planned deployments in the ‘nic of the time yesterday, we packed and cleaned this morning as we leave the island until June 24th. We took our bags to the airport and returned to Staff Quarters to wait our planes arrival. This turned out to be a wonderful thing, as today has been the best weather of the trip and we receieved quite the phone call from Duck! A juvenile Pacific Walrus had landed near town down by East Landing and was sunning itself! This is the first known walrus to land on St. Paul in over 13 years! Thus, we scampered down the road and, while perched on the cliffs above the town cemetary, watched the young walrus on a small rock just off the beach. It was truly amazing to see! It was Lena’s first wild walrus. I’ve seen literally thousands over the years, but this is one that I’ll never forget. Everyone got amazing photographs to share. After viewing with tens of other onlookers, we retired back to Staff Quarters and Veronica dropped us off at the airport. After a normal takeoff, we stopped a second in St. George which is a rarity. It is such a beautiful island, but weather patterns are exceedingly worse there based on the orientation and topography. Then, it was off to Anchorage for the night and back home to Juneau in the morning. Lena is set to immediately join up with Ginny for more marine biology work down on Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska. I have a personal trip to Seattle and more work waiting for me in Juneau over the break… But, see you all again June 24 as Pribs Blues Muse is on island the rest of the summer! Over 2 months straight of science action!

Sending down our first mooring with glaucothoe bags and SPATTs off of East Landing.

Sending down our first mooring with glaucothoe bags and SPATTs off of East Landing.

June 5, Tuesday – It’s never too late! The marine forecast had predicted for days that winds and seas were supposed to come down below 5ft today. Thankfully, it did and Duck, Lena, and I pilled in the Lunax with all our remaining gear. We had another half-again set of moorings to deploy and luckily seas were good enough. We proceeded down to Otter Island first to deploy at 4 sites, two of which were our only stations to collect blue king crab juvenile instars last summer! We also set our nearshore sites a little deeper in hopes of dampened current effects and deeper diver surveys later this summer. Before leaving, we did take the first CTD and zooplankton sample at our regular sampling spot. The sample was full of green phytoplankton! I guess we hit the bloom! Plus, there were many small hydromedusa, Oikiopleura spp. larvaceans, larval fishes and fish eggs! I did see a few crab larvae that I’ll identify later, but very little copepods. After securing the deck, we transited back to the High Bluffs and Northwest Point areas to place more moorings on repeat sampling sites. These went very well. Finally, we did go to a new location called Pinnacle, which is an underwater feature 10 miles of the west coast of St. Paul to set 4 more moorings. We plan to go back and dive this area for a survey later this summer as well, which I am very excited about. Duck said folks routinely see albatross around the Pinnacle, so that’s a real possibility later this summer. It was amazing how shallow the Pinnacle feature was, we could actually see the mounts in the wave action. Three bulges in the sea surface could be seen from hundreds of yards away! After completing those moorings, we were finished for the day. Only 3 mooring blocks and 9 collector bags remain. We will try to deploy those at very deep sites between St. Paul and St. George later in the summer if possible. This area was previously high in blue king crab juveniles in the 1980s. So, since we’re looking for BKC; I figure it’s worth the effort!

June 2, Saturday through June 4, Monday – Over the weekend, weather kicked back up to gale winds and all was dreary outside. But, we persevered! Continued computer work, small detail gear tasks, and working out at Mail Call kept us a float. Prior to Seabird Camp, this week. Organizers USFWS Seabird Biologist Kendra Bush, Mrs. Tania, Ram Papish Community meeting held a camp introduction meeting at the Tavern. In special attendance were bird biologists from around the USA here to board the R/V Tiglax bound for St. Matthews Island. They were replicating a 20 year old study on land, song birds on the island and stopped in to catch the boat. Besides that, not much happened sadly. Other than increasing panic that mooring deployments were not going to happen before we leave on Wednesday the 6th!

June 1, Friday – Field Day! OMG! The weather came down just enough to head out finally, but the window is short as wind direction is only changing and increasing again. But, with how efficient Pribs Blues Muse operations have become while using the Lunax, we made a good dent in placing our moorings and glaucothoe collector bags! Starting with East Landing, we began easy with our most visible site (from town). This will be one of 4 non-harbor SPATT deployment sites as well. On one mooring line, two SPATTS are clipped to the line just below the waters surface and two moor are clipped to the bottom near the cement block. No one knows if HABs toxins, demoic acid and saxotoxin, are stratified in the water column. Taking samples at top and bottom allow us to test this depth hypothesis. We also plan to take water samples at both depth, as allowed. After smooth sailing on the first deployments, we run counterclockwise around St. Paul Island placing two moorings, each with 3 glaucothoe bags at each site. We hit Walrus Island area, Elephants Trunk in the northeast, North Point, and then a couple sites on Northwest Point and off High Bluffs. In all we placed 22 blocks; that’s 66 bags for collecting baby crabs! By mid/late afternoon, the wind was up and the waves didn’t disappoint. The struggle back from Northwest Point just to Southwest Point took 1.5 hours. Basically, a little boat bobbing in a big ocean. We made it back though, which is all that counts!

Lena in a fish tank! Literally! Calibrating Sheila and our stereo-cameras was not only easy, but a hoot!

Lena in a fish tank! Literally! Calibrating Sheila and our stereo-cameras was not only easy, but a hoot!

May 31, Thursday – This morning Lauren Divine, Veronica Padula, Melissa Good, and I had a conference call to plan ECO Camp this year. Camp is set for July 2-6, with a break for June-July Celebrations. It will be a packed camp with grade and middle school kids of St. Paul and we have lots of activities planned. This year’s camp theme is in honor of the late marine scientist Dr. Michelle Ridgeway, whom tragically perished in a car accident in Juneau this past December. She was a respected scientist, vocal environmental advocate, and important figure in many children’s lives here in St. Paul and St. George. She came for many years, organizing many field outings and camps with the local kids. Her love of science and mentoring of children of all ages will be missed. So, we plan to mix in daily activities of which Michelle demonstrated professional and personal interest while researching the Pribilof Island region. After the meeting, Lena went on a little exploration trip while I finalized some computer work and prepared for field operations planned for tomorrow.

May 28, Monday through May 30, Wednesday – After yesterday’s dive, we thought it would be better to contact Trident Seafoods and ask to calibrate Sheila in a controlled setting, indoors. Luckily, all the employee’s there have been very supportive of our research and they granted use of a large fish tote filled with water. This was anything if not funny and quite the snorkeling event. With a huge fish tote, 3ft deep in cold water, Lena donned her drysuit and weight belt for a swim with Sheila. For all the pictures and laughing, this was actually quite a successful venture! We got a number of pictures with both our stereo-camera GoPros and managed to do it in under an hour. If you are new to camera calibrations for precise shooting like this, in order to calculate the stereo-vision off set, you need to determine the intrinsic and extrinsic properties of the camera. This involves accounting for all medium changes involved in underwater photography. This includes the light refraction inside the camera, through lens and air of the housing, the plastic of the housing, and through the water to the target. We are using a precisely measured checkerboard pattern to estimate distance from each camera to the target through programs developed through Matlab Statistical and Computing Program. So, soon enough, with these images, we should be able to take habitat photos from Sheila and calculate the precise ‘topography’ of the seafloor down to nearly millimeter precision! We worked on this the next poor weather days, as well as Lena updated the King of the Pribs game maps and materials for ECO camp later this summer.

A short afternoon at Southwest Point and Einahnuhto Bluffs as the kittiwakes pass overhead. Edging up to the crumbling cliff is tense, but the view of the birds is spectacular!

A short afternoon at Southwest Point and Einahnuhto Bluffs as the kittiwakes pass overhead. Edging up to the crumbling cliff is tense, but the view of the birds is spectacular!

May 27, Sunday – With no boat and field prep mostly done, we had a slow morning and planned on our first dive of season in the afternoon. Prior to that, we assessed the first overnight taping by the Suptig GoPros. We were super impressed with their performance at cold temperatures (in the refridgerator!) where we got between 7.5 and 8.5 hours of continuous video! It appears the Suptig Lithium-ion batteries can be effective. However, two of them are having problems connecting and charging a couple of the GoPros. We believe it is faulty and loose wiring around the micro-SD chord exiting the battery. I wish we had a glasses repair kit, but I might have to bring them back to Juneau to get serviced. Anyway, after some frustration, we got our dive gear ready and went down to Trident for a checkout dive. The water was warmer than expected (~39degF), visibility OK for the harbor, and Lena did great! After her skills, we put out 5 extra glaucothoe collectors under the dock and attempted a calibration on Sheila and the stereo-GoPros. Calibration proved a little more difficult than anticipated, so we decided to save it for another day with an improved method. The checkout was great though, and even better to get back into the water! We saw several large helmet crabs, many hermit crabs, and found a few overboard treasures beneath the dock.

May 26, Saturday – Today we are catching up on our computer work and planning the week to come. Today was a good opportunity to take a small break and head to Southwest for our first chance at viewing the seabird cliffs. The birds are starting to come and nests are being started. We saw several kittiwakes, murres, and both puffins. Even on a cold, windy afternoon you can be rewarded by the slendor of nature on this island. We are so lucky to be here! In other news of the day, Unfortunately, the broken crane cable has slowed launching of the Lunax. However, the cable and wireman were flown in yesterday and work continues over the weekend. We will begin deploying moorings as soon as possible. Too bad it appears the good weather will be the weekend. But, we’re always hopeful and optimistic here at Pribs Blues Muse!

Lena deploys the first the SPATTs in the small boat harbor.

Lena deploys the first SPATTs in the small boat harbor.

The SPATTs are placed into mesh bags and sealed shut. Seawater is allowed to flow through the ring and free toxins such as domoic acid and saxitoxin are absorbed by the resin inside. If they are present, water samples are analyzed further to determine the exact toxin level and algal species composition.

The SPATTs are placed into mesh bags and sealed shut. Seawater is allowed to flow through the ring and free toxins such as domoic acid and saxitoxin are absorbed by the resin inside. If they are present, water samples are analyzed further to determine the exact toxin level and algal species composition.

May 25, Friday – We finished our set up of field gear and are ready to go! All the blocks are painted, lines are cut, and buoys are marked. Most importantly, the glaucothoe bags are filled with gill net, tied and gangions clips attached. After receiving our delayed luggage yesterday evening, a few more bags were made and our number has inched above 130 ready to deploy. Throughout the day, we conducted tests of our new Suptig GoPro housings and Lithium ion battery packs. These new camera purchases are going to be used later in the summer to video our experimentally tethered crabs to assess potential juvenile crab predators and attack frequency! So far, out of the water, the packs appear to increase video duration from 1.25 hrs to over 4 hours! I hope a fraction of this video time is maintained in the cold St. Paul seawater! We were also able to conduct our first sampling of the season, where we deployed our first two SPATTs (Solid Phase Adsorption Toxin Tracking semi-quantitative resin filters) to monitor harmful algae toxins in the water column. These include typical HABs suspects domoic acid and saxitoxin. These will be collected after 2-3 week absorption periods. We also took water samples to supplement SPATTs in order to identify harmful algal species and fully quantify toxins and chlorophyll present in the water.

May 22 Tuesday through May 24, Thursday – These three days were spent preparing every part of our moorings for deployment. We were also lucky enough to have help from the Alaska Youth Conservation Corp hires Courtney, Sonia, and Maxim. They did a great job during their half days! All of us had to check and cut lines, repair and create new glaucothoe bags, cut and tie new gangion lines, remarker the buoys with UAF BKC RESEARCH. We plan on going all out this year; leave it all in the water to coin a new phrase. We have 43 mooring blocks available to deploy, so that is the number we’re shooting for! Each mooring with have 3 glaucothoe collector bags attached at the bottom. Several others with have temperature loggers as well. Additionally, new for this year, we are adding a small network of Harmful Algal Bloom (HABS) monitoring stations, taking advantage of our current mooring configurations. We are working with Dr. Astrid Schnetzer from North Caroline State University to assemble a fully quantitative assortment of samples from around St. Paul to establish background and/or HAB-specific levels of domoic acid and saxitoxin present in the water column. Though we always hope for low levels of toxins, these samples could go a long way toward establishing the first records of HABs monitoring in the Pribs and help infer potential cascading effects throughout the ecosystem.

Face lift for some old friends! Each block weighs 62lbs, but when they spend 3 months soaking up salt water its more like 124lbs. And yes, the side-by-side quad is that cool!

Face lift for some old friends! Each block weighs 62lbs, but when they spend 3 months soaking up salt water its more like 124lbs. And yes, the side-by-side quad is that cool!

May 21, Monday – Our first field day began with Lena’s introduction to the City of St. Paul. We took a quick tour of town sites and buildings. The new boat shed is huge and ready for equipment, tools, and fishermen to fully occupy and use the space. The grocery store, now Tribe-owned and formerly AC, was the biggest surprise as its fresh produce and selection was greatly improved compared to last year! There were also several friendly faces and re-acquaintances to meet along the way. In large part though, the rest of the day was spent unpacking and organizing our supplies in the apartment, lab, and retrieving large items from outside storage with the Tribe. The evening was spent re-painting our mooring block numbers. We managed to move each block only three times, which was pretty efficient. Our muscles got quite a work out!

May 20, Sunday – Saint Paul, Pribs Blues Muse Season 2 premiers! We woke early this morning in Juneau and arrived in the late afternoon after two flights and stops in Anchorage and Dillingham. Our team, consisting of myself (Jared) and Lena Block will be on island through June 6 setting up and deploying our sampling gear in the nearshore St. Paul areas. Lena, the inaugural Mitchell Scientific Diving Research Intern with the American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS) and Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society (OWUSS) will be joining us all summer! After arriving with most of our luggage, we settled in at Staff Quarters and unpacked our gear from storage in the NOAA lab.