Plankton Research Cruise - RV Sikuliaq

As Artist-At-Sea with a dozen marine scientists, I happily settled into my stateroom onboard the icebreaker RV Sikuliaq on February 14th. We headed out to collect zooplankton and seawater  from Newport, Oregon to Trinidad in Northern California. The ship was our base for the next several days – a wildly mobile home, as it turned out, with typical winter winds and mountainous waves.

The survey area began close to the Newport shore, then headed 60 miles out to sea,  south to California and back. The large ship ( 280') was very comfortable and outfitted with all the equipment to investigate how seasonal variations in the zooplankton affect the overall marine food web. Speaking of food, the chefs onboard the ship prepared beautiful meals, despite the frequent wild rolling of the seas and flying pots and pans. This is the first trip of a 2 -year study funded by the National Science Foundation. OSU lead scientist, Bob Cowen, and his students will conduct 4 research cruises. Each trip will also include an Artist. I was fortunate enough to be invited to join this wonderful group of young scientists to observe and record their work deploying plankton collection nets, seawater sampling equipment as well as viewing images from the marvelous underwater camera developed by Bob Cowen.  The images from the microscope and ISIIS camera, rich conversations with the scientists and ship’s crewmembers gave me loads of material to work with back in the studio. I did some drawings of the organisms I examined under the microscopes, was able to help sort different species for preserving for future study, and spent time with the excellent plankton books the professors brought onboard.

I'll be joining another cruise with the Schmidt Ocean Institute in July to map methane seeps on the seafloor. https://schmidtocean.org

 The spectacular ship Sikuliaq. Great plankton, great food, great people!

The spectacular ship Sikuliaq. Great plankton, great food, great people!

 Heading under the Newport Bay Bridge to the open ocean.

Heading under the Newport Bay Bridge to the open ocean.

 A few of the young scientists awaiting the next net haul.

A few of the young scientists awaiting the next net haul.

 Pouring the net contents into buckets for the wet lab and specimen sorting

Pouring the net contents into buckets for the wet lab and specimen sorting

 Mending torn nets before redeploying.

Mending torn nets before redeploying.

 Sorting and bagging chaetognaths (arrow worms) for the freezer

Sorting and bagging chaetognaths (arrow worms) for the freezer

 Team preparing to launch the seawater collection apparatus to sample water from same areas where zooplankton is collected to determine water attributes - salinity, temp. O2 and how that affects plankton.

Team preparing to launch the seawater collection apparatus to sample water from same areas where zooplankton is collected to determine water attributes - salinity, temp. O2 and how that affects plankton.

 Scientists securing equipment for rough seas.

Scientists securing equipment for rough seas.

 ROV with ISIIS camera being lowered and towed for hours of high resolution plankton scanning and recording

ROV with ISIIS camera being lowered and towed for hours of high resolution plankton scanning and recording

 The thrill of tweezing out all the tiny pteropods for one bag, fish larvae in another, and my favorites - Tomopteris!

The thrill of tweezing out all the tiny pteropods for one bag, fish larvae in another, and my favorites - Tomopteris!

 These are some images taken from the ISIIS ROV camera that Bob Cowan developed. The Tomopteris, Pteropods and Chaetognaths are seen on (f), (e) and (f), respectively.

These are some images taken from the ISIIS ROV camera that Bob Cowan developed. The Tomopteris, Pteropods and Chaetognaths are seen on (f), (e) and (f), respectively.