Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sampling Success in the Bayou

Things are winding down here in the bayou, and it has been a successful sampling season. We've collected many gonad samples and seen some huge fish!

This one is the biggest bluefin I've seen down here. As you can see, it took many people to get this big male on the scale, where it topped out at 886 dressed!

Here's to another successful season of bluefin tuna sampling in the bayou!

--Photo credits: Gennie Bazer

Monday, March 17, 2008

Born on the Bayou

I thought I'd keep with Kara's theme of song titles, and though I wasn't born on the bayou, the Large Pelagics Research Lab tuna crew has migrated even further south than the turtle crew. I've made my way to the great metropolis of Cocodrie, LA in search of spawning bluefin -- ok, so maybe it's not quite a metropolis.

This is the second year I've ventured to the bayou to get samples of bluefin caught on their assumed spawning grounds in the Gulf of Mexico.

Unlike the turtle-folk, I don't make the trek down in a car, so my first task was shipping a bunch of supplies south, which should be arriving tomorrow -- just in time for the fish to arrive. I've been here for one day, and I'm still waiting the arrival of the fishing vessels, but they should be coming in any day now.

Life is simple here. No frills, nothing fancy, just the necessities -- getting here is the hardest part. The scenery is beautiful, and the sun feels warm (unlike in NH) so I cannot complain.

April 2007

I'll be posting throughout my stay here, so check back for updates and photos.

- Jessie Knapp, Ph.D. student, Large Pelagics Research Lab
- Photo Credits, Google Maps, Jessie Knapp

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Elusive Leatherbacks - Week 1

Week 1 Crew (L-R): Brian Sharp, James Casey, Kara Dodge,
Andy Myers and Connie Merigo

We've now been in Georgia for almost two weeks, with little to report until recently (hence, the lack of postings!). High winds and seas prevented us from getting out on the water for almost a week. We finally made it out on March 6 but a rougher-than-expected sea state made searching for leatherbacks difficult. Our scientific crew that day included myself, Andy Myers (Large Pelagics Lab), Connie Merigo (New England Aquarium), Brian Sharp (Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies), James Casey (UNC Wilmington) and Mark Dodd (Georgia DNR). Despite marginal sighting conditions, we saw several giant ocean sunfish (mola mola), loggerhead turtles, spotted dolphins and a large shark just under the surface.
Testing out the new turtle ramp on the R/V Marguerite

One noticeable difference from last year is the lack of large jellyfish. We saw small jellies on our first trip out (moon jellies, ctenophores, salps) but we are not seeing the abundance of cannonball jellies and sea nettles that we found in our 2007 leatherback turtle hot spots. Our colleagues who fly these same waters looking for right whales confirm a dearth leatherbacks in the area and our team decided to stand down until leatherback sightings picked up and weather improved. Stay tuned for our Week 2 report!
Brian Sharp, Andy Myers, Mark Dodd and James Casey working on turtle capture net
- Kara Dodge, PhD student, Large Pelagics Research Lab
- Photo credits: Andy Myers and Connie Merigo

Friday, February 22, 2008

Leaving on a Midnight Train to Georgia

It's that time of year again. Time for the UNH Large Pelagics Research Lab (LPRL) turtle team to head south for warmer weather and some good old fashioned turtle hunting. Since the turtles won't come to us in March (apparently they don't like snow), we go to them. This will be our second year catching and satellite tagging leatherback turtles off the Georgia and Florida coasts. Last year we were quite amazed by the number of turtles we saw and we have our fingers crossed that this year will be similar.

Our first task is to fit a UHaul amount of equipment into, well, not a UHaul. After an overcrowded minivan journey to Georgia last year (riding in fearful discomfort and sometimes just fear), we learned our lesson and have upgraded to a Suburban. Hopefully this will make things a little more comfortable. Packing the gear is akin to a chinese puzzle, where every little piece has its place...

We'll hit the road next week and anticipate arriving in the Peach State on February 29. We're looking forward to regrouping with our fantastic collaborators from Georgia Department of Natural Resources, New England Aquarium, Wildlife Trust and University of North Carolina Wilmington. We'll also have some guest appearances from the BBC and Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies (a key partner in our New England leatherback research). BBC Radio 4 will be featuring our leatherback work as part of their "World on the Move: Great Animal Migrations" series. Be sure to check out their website at to read about all of the amazing animal migrations they're reporting on from around the globe.

A beautiful Georgia sunrise March 2007

We'll be posting blogs throughout our trip so check back regularly for pictures and updates from our field team.

- Kara Dodge, PhD student, Large Pelagics Research Lab
- Photo credits: NOAA/NMFS/NEFSC archives, Kara Dodge and Andy Myers