Another great blog!

Ever wondered what it would be like to journey 1000′s of miles down into the depths of the ocean?  Read about scientists doing just that in Alvin, a human-occupied underwater submersible vehicle!

Scientist at Work

“This blog is the modern version of a field journal, a place for reports on the daily progress of scientific expeditions — adventures, misadventures, discoveries. As with the expeditions themselves, you never know what you will find.”

Izzy at sea…

We are currently missing one intern as Izzy has gone for a 10 cruise on the R/V Western Flyer.  The scientists will be using the ROV Doc Ricketts to look underwater at a chain of four volcanoes called the Taney Seamounts.

Each of the scientists have been adding to the cruise log.  You can read about the challenges and successes they have had so far by clicking here!

Izzy will be back on Friday, just in time for the annual MBARI Open House Day.  Penguin suits at the ready!

Birch Aquarium, San Diego

I was having a look at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography website for my trip after the internship and came across a blog from the Birch Aquarium.  It’s full of news and pictures about the whales in the area, and some interesting posts about the exhibits.  Click here to have a look!

Advice to students

A group of interns spent some time this morning talking to high school students from Watsonville.  They were having a tour of MBARI, part of which included listening to us talk about our backgrounds, what got us interested in marine science and what we are doing here this summer.  One of the key things that stood out during this session was the importance of networking – making your name known by meeting new people.  I’ve definitely experienced the benefits of this even though I’m still a student.  Getting to know as many people as possible in the field you’re interested in can open up some amazing possibilities!

I’ve spent the past three years focusing on deep sea ecology but in October I’ll be switching to a new field, starting a PhD in ocean acidification.  So all my contacts and hard work meeting people over the past few years are useless?  No way!  To begin with, ocean acidification affects the deep sea as well so I’ve been able to meet with scientists here at MBARI who are doing major work in the field (click here to read more!).  This afternoon I’m going to help Matt Russell with his intern project that is looking at how sea urchins are effected by acidic waters.

Also, just the experience of meeting new scientists can increase your confidence.  I’ve booked to go to San Diego for a week after the internship finishes and a few days ago I emailed a Professor who works at Scripps Institute of Oceanography in La Jolla.  He’s done some really interesting work on how ocean acidification effects young fish and I’ve now arranged to meet up with him when I’m there.  Hopefully I’ll get the chance to talk to his research team and have a look around the labs as well.  This will be a really useful contact to have so early on in my PhD and I’m really pleased I took the plunge to email him.

If you want to know more about ocean acidification in general, there’s a good short film on YouTube called Acid Test, narrated by Sigourney Weaver.

A day in the life of… Chris

by Christopher Matthews

Internship Project: Controlled, Agile and Novel Observing Network (CANON) and Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) Website Development.

Internship Mentor: Nancy Barr (Web/Print Project Manager)

My time here …

For the first week here at Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), I was exposed to a wealth of scientific information in a short amount of time. I was overwhelmed with new scientific terms such as Environmental Sample Processor (ESP), Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV), Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs), Controlled Agile, and Novel Observing Network (CANON), Teleo-Reactive System (T-REX), Decision Support System (DSS), and many more. It was my job to present this information so that a member of the public should have a decent understanding of one of these scientific terms in about three to five minutes.

I was introduced to a wide range of scientists, engineers, and project managers who all agreed that the CANON and AUV websites needed significant updates. In the past, disseminating information on the World Wide Web has not been a high priority. Thus, there is a missed opportunity to show the public just how far MBARI’s technology and research has rapidly progressed over the last few years.

I used Adobe Dreamweaver to design the web pages. Adobe Dreamweaver is an extremely powerful and intuitive program that allows people with limited or advance computer skills to quickly create web content. If you right click on this web page, then go down and click on “View Page Source”, you can see all of the HyperText Markup Language (HTML) used to create the intern blog webpage. The wall of code does look intimidating and very dense to the untrained eye. But Dreamweaver allows a user to edit content using the “design” view, so they can directly write text and images onto the webpage. Dreamweaver will then automatically write the html code necessary for the text and images they inserted. For instance, I can insert an image, then Dreamweaver will write the code for me, which looks like <img src=”image.JPG”>.

An important aspect of web designing is user accessibility. For instance, the images should have alternate (alt) text, such as “Upper Water Column Vehicle in Monterey Bay” (<img src=”image.JPG” alt=”Upper Water Column Vehicle in Monterey Bay”>). This alternate text does not show up on the webpage, but it does allow people with visual impairments to hear a brief description of the image. All of the hyperlinks need to be updated, current, and not broken. Members of the public will leave the site if they cannot access the information they want.

The IAUV on the Zephyr

I went on the research vessel Zephyr on two separate occasions in order to observe the autonomous underwater vehicle in action. I talked to engineer Brett Hobson, who was conducting a survey mission with the Imaging Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (IAUV). The IAUV would take images of sea organisms on the ocean floor by taking one picture every 1.8 seconds. Thousands of high resolution pictures can be overlapped to create a continuous mosaic of the ocean floor. We have AUV technicians on board who program the autonomous underwater vehicle with a mission script to run a specific course on the ocean floor. They also run system checks to ensure that the IAUV and its instruments are functioning properly. The IAUV is deployed off the vessel using the Launch and Recovery System, which is operated by the ship’s crew.


My combined major of environmental studies/economics focuses on conservation, agriculture, and policy. Writing clearly and effectively is a critical and valuable skill needed in the workforce today. It is important that MBARI is able to maintain its position as a world class research center in ocean science and technology by presenting their work. Professor Emeritus of Environmental Studies Alan Richards at the University of California Santa Cruz told his students (including me) that they should write as though they had only three minutes to propose an idea to a Chief Executive Officer in the elevator.

MBARI Open House


Every summer MBARI holds a free public event where everyone is welcome to come and learn a little about what goes on here.

You can wander around science and technology exhibits, listen to presentations, talk with staff, research students and the interns!  Two of the MBARI research vessels will also be on show, along with the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Ventana and the autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs).

To find out more visit the MBARI webpage, hope to see you there!

A day in the life of… Isobel

by Isobel Yeo

Lab: The Submarine Volcanism Lab

Mentor: David Clague

Project: It’s hard to come up with a ‘typical day’ because what I do is so varied. I’m a volcanologist and my project is concerned with how oceanic crust is being made at mid-ocean ridges (where the tectonic plates are moving away from each other). You wouldn’t know it but 70% of the earth is covered in oceanic crust and it’s almost all being produced at the 80,000km of currently active mid-ocean ridges, yet scientists still don’t completely understand how it’s being made. This is mostly because it’s so difficult to study. Many mid-ocean ridges lie more than 3000m below the sea so you need lots of ship time and special submarines or robots to go and study them. At the moment I’m mapping out lava on the seafloor at 3 mid-ocean ridge segments off the west coast of America. I’m using video collected by a robot (usually called a remotely operated vehicle or ROV), geochemistry from the rocks the ROV collected and incredibly high resolution bathymetry collected by MBARI’s autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) which allows me to look at features on the seafloor which may be only a few meters across. My mentor, Dave, has also dated some of the lava flows using the biology so I’ve just started to work out what order they erupted in.

Areas of seafloor

The manipulator arm on an ROV can be used to collect samples

It’s not all work in the lab though! In two weeks I’ll be going out on a ten day research cruise on the MBARI ship, the R/V Western Flyer. We’ll be sailing out into the Pacific to look at some really big underwater volcanoes using the ROV. It’s lots of work and long day’s but it’s worth it. It’s so incredible to be on a boat floating almost 3km above the seafloor and be able to move around and look at things as though you were down there walking around!

Point fissure eruption in Iceland

Subject: I was always interested in volcanoes when I was little and actually produced my first report on volcanology at school when I was 6. During my teens I drifted around a few different career ideas and it wasn’t until I was 16 (and convinced I was going to be a fashion designer) that I went on my first geology field trip to Iceland and it blew me away. I think the day that really clinched it we had climbed up a glacier so we could look down on the out-wash from an old volcanic eruption. It was incredible! It had washed away a highway and all that were left were these twisted pieces of metal. I realised that I was fascinated by volcanoes and the awesome power they have in a way that I never had been by textiles. So, as soon as I got back, I switched my A-levels to sciences and applied to a geology degree. Now I’m just finishing the second year of my PhD and I still find volcanoes as amazing as I did that day on the glacier!

Geology fieldwork in the UK


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