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