Recently the University of Southern Mississippi purchased a brand new In Situ Ichthyoplankton Imaging System (ISIIS) for use as part of a research consortium known as CONCORDE (www.con-corde.org). The goal of the consortium, which involves many different universities and governmental organizations, is to better understand potential physical and biological pathways of oil in river-dominated coastal ecosystems, such as the northern Gulf of Mexico.
In order to better understand the ecosystem, we must first get an idea of how the different planktonic organisms are distributed in time and space. The ISIIS is a good tool to do this because it will ultimately provide a high resolution spatial map of different plankton taxa, which can be used to complement many avenues of oceanographic research. Currently, we are aboard the R/V Point Sur, deploying the imaging system in the nearshore environment, identifying and mapping the different types of plankton in the highly productive northern Gulf of Mexico. Because the weather has and continues to be quite windy, we are generally seeing a well mixed water column, but there still a great amount of biological diversity. Throughout the course of the research expedition, we will post updates of the different organisms being found. Here is one image of a phyllosoma larva, which is the larval form of lobsters. This is possibly a slipper lobster, which is known to have a larval stage of over 9 months! These organisms must undergo incredibly long and dangerous ocean journeys in their first few months of life, as they traverse the coastal waters that are full of predators. We were lucky enough to come across this one:
For more updates on the research being done on the Point Sur, please follow Heather Dippold’s CONCORDE blog at www.con-corde.org/blog. There you can see information about the different instruments and people involved in studying various aspects of oceanography in the Gulf of Mexico. Also, stay tuned here to see different types of plankton we are finding in the images!