During each dive we collect biological specimens that inhabit the wreck. The specimens will be used for various studies ranging from species distribution patterns and isotopic analysis to coral genetics and larval analysis. This is an example of a cool organism collected from the dive last night. These corallimorphs were attached to a piece of the wreckage. Corallimorphs are closely related to sea anemones and do not produce a hard skeleton.
We received some helping hands about half-way through our two-week dig in Arizona. Dr. Andy Heckert and a hard-working crew of undergraduate students from Appalachian State University made the cross-country trip to search for fossils. A total of 8 students with interests from sedimentology to paleontology began digging within 30 minutes of their arrival in the field!
The extra hands allowed us to cover more ground.
There are no 9 to 5’s on the ship. With several different projects going on, work continues around the clock. Working nights is usually a requirement on research cruises like this. When work time during the day is devoted to ROV diving, which can last up to 60 hours, other analyses must be performed at night. On this leg of the cruise, night shifts have been devoted to…
by Meg Lowman
One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating. – Luciano Pavarotti, opera singer
One of the best parts of spring is waking up with Mother Nature. Eagerly hitting the trail for an early morning walk, I was confronted by a charismatic denizen of the temperate forest: a chipmunk!
Today was a successful day at the Placerias Quarry! The weather was perfect, the company pleasurable, and the bones plentiful. We arrived on site and began work around 7:30am, working through the morning until lunch at noon. We returned to work and finished out the day, packing up the van to head back into town around 4:30pm.
The field crew is working in a designated 9 meter x 3 meter grid.
The Department of Paleontology at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences has made it out to the desert to dig up some dinosaurs (among other creatures)!
Vince Schneider, the Museum's Curator of Paleontology, and two of our loyal volunteers made the cross-country journey from Raleigh, North Carolina to Springerville, Arizona. They covered 2,100 miles in 32 hours on about 5 hours of sleep in an old, but reliable, van packed down with the necessary gear for our two-week dig in the desert.
A question from Zach came through the blog recently, asking about the coolest animal we have brought up so far. Picnogonids, or sea spiders, was the answer, and after learning more about them, an entire post on these extraordinary creatures was due.
These “sea spiders” are found all over the world, from shallow water reefs in the tropics to these deep areas of the canyons.
by S.W. Ross (UNCW, 7 May 2013)
On this cruise the ROV Jason II is our main science sampling tool; however, underwater vehicles cannot stay on the bottom indefinitely nor can they collect every type of sample needed. We use a variety of gear specific to different needs, and many types of nets are included in our arsenal of sampling gear.
Spirits were high as we launched the connection to the Daily Planet at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences on Wednesday. We had found the methane seep that we suspected to be in the area, and the video feed from the Jason ROV showed vast expanses of live mussels. Now we had a chance to share our passion for research with a new audience at the Museum.
by the Deepwater Canyons Project Science Team
After several days of lost dives due to bad weather, and making dives under difficult conditions, we are today in calm seas exploring an area that was discovered last year during a NOAA mapping cruise. While conducting a seafloor survey, the NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer found bubbles coming from the seafloor at a site south and offshore of Norfolk Canyon; they thought these bubbles might indicate a new methane seep site, but they had no way of verifying this idea.
The best thing is when the chief scientist is so excited that he can’t sit down.
—Tito Collasius, Expedition Leader and Chief Pilot
The ROV Jason transports images back to the ship — images of corals and fish, crabs and squid, shipwrecks and fishing gear — with amazing clarity. The three high definition cameras, coupled with the sonar help create a mental map of the sea floor.
Thanks to Chris Tacker, Curator of Geology at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, for this guest post.
Museums and cultural institutions frequently get phone calls from prospective donors who want to give away Daddy's or Granddaddy's rock collection. Rock and mineral collections can support interesting and educational programs. However, these collections may hold a few surprises that open the institution to a number of unexpected regulatory and/or safety concerns.
If you prepare chocolate milk and let it sit, you’ll see that the chocolate starts to sink to the bottom, creating a “chocolate” gradient from top to bottom. If you sip from the top of the glass, it tastes most like milk, and from the bottom it tastes most like chocolate, however it is all chocolate milk.
In the sea, for the most part, we can’t see the gradients like we can in chocolate milk, but we do have ways to study them.
by Meg Lowman
One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. —Aldo Leopold
A recent trip of Raleigh community leaders to advise the royalty of Johor, Malaysia on global conservation and create scientific exchange produced lifetime memories, as well as a photo album depicting many amazing landscapes strewn with plastic. This observation inspired numerous conversations during our travels about our global landscape, usually strewn with plastic.
We have created light in the Visual World Investigate Lab...well kind of. Last night 13 visitors created a computer game to guide a beam of light through two dimensional space using mirrors and trigonometry (somewhere right now a high school math teacher is crying with joy) to light up a computer screen. Each person was given a partially completed program and instructions on how to create the game by adding in their own lines of code.
by Margaret Cotrufo
My job as Assistant Librarian at the Museum involves taking care of the Museum’s historical documents as well as cataloging historical and digital images. Occasionally, I am asked to research how the Museum acquired certain specimens. Here is a brief account of how the Museum acquired the Ocean Sunfish which is on exhibit in the Nature’s Explorers Hall.
On Monday morning, May 31, 1926, H.H. Brimley, director of the State Museum, answered his phone. On the other end of the line a faint, but very excited voice announced:
“Humphrey talking! From Swansboro! Big fish — fifteen hundred pounds — seven and half feet long — nothing like it ever seen here before”
Brimley, who had a fascination with the large fauna of North America, responded “Hold that fish! We will be right there.” He and his assistant Mr. Davis quickly packed up skinning knives, hatchets, a steel tape measure, and a change of work clothes. Speed was necessary when dealing with what they assumed was 1500 lbs. of rapidly decomposing flesh. Off they went to Swansboro, a small coastal town 150 miles east of Raleigh, stopping only to acquire bichloride tablets¹ from a drugstore along the way.
The “big fish” they were going to pick up was an Ocean Sunfish or Mola mola. Molas are peculiar fish: large and flat with a ridiculously small mouth for their size. They will drift along the surface of the water lying on their side. They are gentle and curious and generally do not bother humans. This particular fish had gotten stranded on a sandy spot near Bogue Inlet and died. Capt. W. E. Mattocks towed it in to Swansboro on his way home from a fishing trip.
Upon arrival at Swansboro, Brimley and Davis were relieved to find the specimen in good condition. Mr. Humphrey of the New Riverview Hotel had packed the fish in ice. Now they needed to determine the most economical method for preserving the body. The plan they came up with was to make a plaster cast of the body and fins and later use papier mâché to create a model. It was too late to begin the project so they packed another 300 lbs. of ice on the fish and returned to the hotel to order the plaster. They inquired in Swansboro and nearby Jacksonville with no success. Eventually they found plaster in New Bern, 45 miles west and placed an order for 800 lbs. to be delivered the next morning. Then, as Brimley put it “we turned in to be lulled to sleep by the murmur of the wind, the lapping waves along the shore, and the soft caresses of the salt sea-air — and to dream of herds of monster fish waiting in line for the privilege of becoming Museum specimens.”
The next morning the plaster did not arrive as scheduled and with the ice on the specimen melting fast, they needed a new plan. So instead of making a mold on-site the two curators decided to save the entire skin from one side of the fish, the two fins and the jawbones. They also took many photographs, measurements, notes and sketches.
Back at the Museum, Brimley, who was an expert taxidermist, sketched the fish to scale. It was 8 feet vertically from fin tip to fin tip and seven feet in length. The mouth was only 3 x 5½ inches. You can see all of Brimley’s measurements in the finished sketch above including the framework made of white pine and cypress. He then fashioned ¼-inch galvanized wire netting around the framework. The papier mâché was layered on top of the wire frame.
Next, using the saved skin as a reference, Brimley and Davis painted and repainted the papier mâché at least six times before they were satisfied. “Sunny” was now ready for exhibit. He was placed in a glass exhibit case with a fake ocean bed made of beach sand and glycerin. The glycerin was used to make the sand appear wet. Some corals and a few smaller stuffed fish were added for scale.
It appears that the sunfish remained on exhibit from that day in fall of 1927 until the present. At one time there was another sunfish of a different species displayed with it. The other species which you see in the photo below was a Sharp-tailed Mola (Mola lanceolatus) captured by the mullet-seining crew of the Brown’s Inlet Fishing Camp south of Swansboro.
Presently, the mola is exhibited in the Nature’s Explorers hall on the second floor of the main building of the Museum.
For a video of molas swimming, see http://www.smithsonianmag.com/video/Swim-with-the-Mola-Mola.html#ooid=Q3M3l5NDqL457pxNNuQ6s7HnjMeb5fvi
¹Brimley’s mention of bichloride is: “So, for use in avoiding blood poisoning while working on the expected over-ripe specimen, we added a bottle of bichloride tablets to our [first-aid] kit”. This may refer to bichloride of mercury which is an extremely poisonous compound when ingested but was also used as an antiseptic wash after dissolving the tablet in water.
Nature’s Secrets by Meg Lowman
Breathing the sooty plume from a maladjusted diesel engine or a smoldering cooking fire has always been ill-advised. But a new study finds that soot is warming the climate about twice as fast as scientists had estimated.
Richard Kerr, Science Magazine (25 January 2013)
For a typical mom in rural India, breakfast does not involve take-away Starbucks, microwaved oatmeal, frozen waffles, or sparkling tableware extracted from an automatic dishwasher.
by Meg Lowman
Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, and safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success.
The Who’s Who of global exploration gathered in March, celebrating the 109th year of The Explorers Club. Eating exotic critters, sharing new limits to the endurance of the human spirit, and wearing indigenous dress — explorers swarmed the ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City which is a far cry from the rigors of Antarctic huts, Amazon forest canopies, Everest base camps, and undersea submersibles.
Today is a great day in the fossil lab. You can feel the excitement in the air (oh and a hefty bit of dusty earth too). Why, you ask? Because it is packing day!
Tomorrow we leave for a ludicrous, whirlwind expedition where we will attempt to find some of the most elusive fossils on earth. That's right, we are time traveling back to the Cretaceous of what is now Alabama to hunt for rare "fossilized" feathers.