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Field work with Nature Live

3 Posts tagged with the basket_experiment tag

Our last Nature Live event from the Bahamas was a bioblitz with Helena and Diva. It was great fun as we trawled the beach, against the clock, to find whatever we could for the family-friendly audience.



Above: Helena, Diva and 1 talk to the Nature Live audience in London

(Click images to see them full size)


With yesterday’s shark incident still at the fore of our minds, we set out to recover the 2nd package and to try and find and recover the 3rd package.

We made visual contact with the 2nd package late last night but it was getting too dark to bring it to the surface. So we returned to the spot today and hauled it up on to the boat.


The shark damage was obvious but we got a piece of good news…it hadn’t taken all of the whale bones! We found a small bone still attached to the basket which lifted everyone’s spirits. Helena was particularly excited – even though it was a small piece she will be analysing it under the microscope for any evidence of Osedax.



Above: Helena was very pleased that some of the whale bones had been recovered


After lunch we moved on to the 3rd and final package which was perched on the edge of the Great Bahamian Canyon. If it wasn’t were we left it six months ago then it had slipped into the abyss, far out of REX’s reach. It took nearly 2 hours to locate it and the control room was full of people waiting to catch a glimpse of it in the blue. This is the moment Nick spotted it…



After the initial excitement of finding the package we quickly realised that it would be a challenge to recover. At 55m deep, it was too deep for divers to go down to get it so we had to make sure that REX had a good grip on it so as it didn’t drop as it came to the surface. We carefully raised it to the surface and Nick and Leigh jumped in to retrieve it.



Above: Despite its appearance we were very glad to see our basket!


Using REX meant that we knew, even when the experiment was still on the sea floor, that it too had been visited by a curious/hungry shark as all the whale bones were missing. But this time all the wood was still attached to the baskets. We now know that sharks, if given the choice, don’t like eating wood! The best bit was seeing how many lionfish were surrounding the basket…



That wrapped up our time on the boat and it was great that we managed to recover all 3 experiments using REX, it’s just a shame that sharks got to the them before we could!



Above: This sums it all up beautifully. Lesson #1: Sharks like whale bones.


Tomorrow will be a long day of microscope work but the day after we head out to Blue Hole to drop REX down to nearly 200m. Will we get to finally see sharks instead of just their bite marks?!


We started the day early with another successful round of live-video-links to the UK to talk to school pupils and the Nature Live audience in the Attenborough Studio.



Above: Adrian speaks to students back in the UK

(Click images to see them full size)


With the weather improving everyday, we got the news we'd been waiting for yesterday - that we could finally head out to sea and look for the experiments that were laid down six months ago. We left port full of hope for the day ahead and with a large supply of seasickness tablets.


It took nearly an hour to get out to the first site and there was a lot of waiting around but once REX hit the water, the excitement set in. I couldn’t believe I was getting just as excited about finding these whale bones as the scientists were. Would we find the first package and would we find Osedax?



It wasn’t long before we found the package however it wasn’t exactly how we left it…



When the remains of the basket were pulled aboard we saw that there were no whale bones left, let alone Osedax. I had no idea that whale bones were that attractive to sharks but the shark bite marks on the plastic basket were conclusive evidence!


Although everyone was a little disapppointed that the experiment had been lost they quickly started working on the other creatures found living on the basket. They found many different polychaetes and as I type they are still analysing them under the microscope.



Above: Helena and Diva inspecting the remains of the experiment for any life


As we moved on to the 2nd site many in the team were left wondering, what state would the next experiment be in?!


Adrian did a great job of piloting the ROV and we found the second package in a relatively short period of time. But REX delivered some more bad news…



We were asked today by a student during our live video link if Jaws could happen. Well, I suppose if you’re a plastic basket it most certainly can!


We're heading out tomorrow to look for the third package which is deeper down at 55 metres. Will it be sharks - 3, scientists - 0?


And don't forget you can speak to Helena and Diva live in the Bahamas today at 2.30pm in the Attenborough Studio.


One of the objectives of our field trip to the Bahamas is to see if a species of the bone-eating worm, Osedax, can be found there, which would be a first for science. However, if we're to find Osedax worms in tropical waters we need to lure them to us.


We know that these bizarre creatures bore into the bones of dead whales that have fallen to the seafloor. Finding a whale skeleton naturally in the waters in the Caribbean could take weeks or months and although a stay that long sounds like an attractive prospect it wouldn't be the most economical. Instead, the team thought to sink pieces of whale bone and wood to attract the worms.


So, in October 2011, Adrian Glover and Nick Higgs went to the Bahamas to do just that. Here is a picture of the experiments...



Weighted baskets with bones and wood attached - the floats will (hopefully!) help to locate them
(Click images to see them full size)


The baskets were dropped to the sea floor at different depths; one each at 19m, 30m and 55m.


Here is the experiment that was lowered at 19m in October - will we be able to find it on our return?


The basket on the sea floor, at a depth of 19m below the surface


Now, 6 months later, we're going to retrieve them and hopefully in that time an Osedax species will have colonised them and we'll find the first record of the worms in the Caribbean. We’ll keep you posted!



Will we find Osedax in tropical waters?