Research Expedition on board Quino el Guardian0
Date: September 23 – October 5, 2018
At each diving site, we have 4 main scientific activities we will be conducting. Each activity will be performed by a dedicated research team:
1) Collection of fish larvae:
We will be collecting small fish larvae (0.3-2 cm length) with underwater light traps that we will set up diving at ~20-25 m deep during the evening and will recover before dawn. Larvae will be attracted by light, enter the trap through small holes and then will be difficult for them to get out. We are mainly interested in collecting larvae from red snapper, a commercially important species for fishers in the Gulf of California, but for sure we will be collecting larvae from many different species as well. The samples will be processed, separated, examined and fixed on the deck of QUINO.
2) Collection of environmental DNA
During dives, we will be collecting water samples with 1 L Nalgene bottles at different depths (e.g. 25 m, 10 m, etc.) and sediment samples with 50 ml falcon tubes. Back to the boat, we will filter the water from each bottle with a filtering system that includes a vacuum pump to recover all the DNA molecules from all the plant and animal species present in the site of the dive. This technique, known as “environmental DNA”, will allow us to analyze samples in the laboratory, sequence every DNA molecule present in the sample, and describe the diversity and abundance of animals from their DNA floating in the water. We are especially interested in using this new non-invasive technique to describe the huge diversity of invertebrates and fishes from the Gulf of California, many of which are still unknown to science. Also, we are interested in obtaining data about large endangered species that are scarce and very difficult to study, including large groupers (e.g. Gulf grouper giant sea bass and Pacific goliath grouper), sharks (hammerheads, pilot, dusky, etc.) and manta rays.
3) Collection of zooplankton
At night, we will use the zodiacs to drag a net near the surface of the water to collect zooplanckton, which includes a wide variety of crustaceans and other invertebrates that many fishes feed on. Back to the boat, we will separate and fix the samples.
4) Survey about marine pollution by plastics
During the transit between one diving site to the next, we will be registering the number and types of floating plastics that we encounter in a 20 m radios from the boat’s path. Plastic pollution in the ocean is now a global threat to marine biodiversity, and by conducting a survey of how much plastic is present in the isolated areas we will be visiting we will know how bad is the plastic pollution problem in the Gulf of California.
We will depart from La Paz, BCS, and during 13 days we will be diving at two seamounts (Bajo San Francisquito, Bajo Catalana), and 8 different islands (Animas, El Farallon, Lobos, San Pedro Nolasco, Isla Tortuga, Isla Santa Ines, Isla San Ildenfonso). We will start on the seamounts north of La Paz, then cross the Gulf of California towards El Farallon (Sinaloa), go north in the mainland side up to San Pedro Nolasco (Sonora), then cross the Gulf back again towards Isla Tortuga (Baja California Sur), and go south along the Peninsula side to finish again in La Paz.
Besides the citizen scientists, the scientific crew includes established researchers (Icthyoligists, geneticists, marine biologists, oceanographers) from research institutions in La Paz (CICIMAR and UABCS) and the University of Arizona (Tucson), in addition to graduate students from academic institutions from La Paz (post-docs, PhD and Master students from CICIMAR, UABCS) that will be collecting data for their thesis and dissertations.
HOW A TYPICAL DAY MIGHT LOOK LIKE…
In a typical day, we will arrive the diving site before noon or after lunch do a prospective dive to select the site where the light traps for larvae will be anchored, collect water samples for environmental DNA, and take videos and pictures for quickly documenting the species that are present in the site. Back to the boat we will process the environmental DNA samples. In the afternoon, we will be doing another dive to set up the light traps that will be working overnight. Back to the boat, we will conduct the collection of zooplankton using the zodiacs and process the samples. Around 4-5 am in the morning, before the sun comes up, we will dive again to recover the light traps with the larvae. Back to the boat we will start processing the larvae samples and the boat will start moving to the next diving site. During transit, we will be surveying the amount and type of plastics around the boat’s path, until reaching the next diving site.
In some days, transit time between distant points will be larger, and there might be a chance to do only a single dive in the evening.
HOW THE CITIZENS SCIENTISTS COULD ENGAGE
- Help collect water and sediment samples during dives for environmental DNA
- Help take pictures and video of the species present in the site
- Help collect the zooplankton samples
- Help process the filtering of water to recover environmental DNA
- Help surveying plastics while the boat is in transit
- Look at larvae and zooplankton samples
- Participate in formal and informal talks with researchers while the boat is in transit
- Observe how light traps for larvae are set up during evening
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