Ships are well-known for their tiny rooms and tight quarters. But have you heard of a sea vessel that has toilets and sinks sticking out of the walls, and staircases and doors on the ceiling? This unique research vessel is real -- and, in June 2012, the Office of Naval Research and Scripps Institution of Oceanography celebrated its 50th birthday. The reason FLIP -- or the FLoating Instrument Platform -- has such bizarre interior design is because all the rooms have to be livable when the vessel is in either of two configurations. In the first configuration, the 355-foot long research platform...
Collect, sort, identify, photograph, sample, record. Repeat a couple thousand times. This is what the students and researchers have been doing as the Indonesian Biodiversity Research Center (IBRC) project has seriously ramped up. The foundation of the IBRC project is a relatively new method of sampling biodiversity , which uses Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures (ARMS) to measure reef life. Resembling a reef condominium, each ARMS is a stack of 10 spaced plastic plates that are left on the ocean bottom for a specific period of time. Marine invertebrates -- like sea squirts, bryozoans,...
We have arrived as the advanced scouting party to the scene of this year's field work location: Pemuteran, a small fishing village in northwest Bali. More importantly, we are sitting squarely at the heart of marine biodiversity at the "Coral Triangle" -- that small part of the globe where, if space aliens came to take an ocean safari, they would likely go. The Indonesian Biodiversity Research Center class of 2011 came to Pemuteran last year with the same expectation of witnessing extremely biodiverse marine systems. People have counted fishes and corals - those more visible parts of coral...
As an underwater photographer, time in the field is the most valuable thing I can be given. With time, I can usually overcome challenges and the problems that occur . Time also allows me to learn firsthand about the place in which I am working, what happens at different times of day and how animals behave. But oftentimes the best images are made when something unexpected happens. I love the discoveries that come from taking my time in a place and allowing opportunities to present themselves. Serendipity can only be seized however if I am prepared, so while I might be wandering casually...
For the past week, the Indonesian Biodiversity Research Center (IBRC) diving class of 2012 has seen countless fish in shades of pink, blue, yellow, red, and green darting through corals and the overhangs of a shipwreck. They witnessed stunning bioluminescent plankton flash like fireflies in the dark ocean surf. Best yet, they have grown together as one unit, united through scuba diving. Last week the IBRC program brought the 2012 class up and over a volcano from the bustling city of Sanur to the quiet, ocean-side Balinese dive site of Tulamben. While there, the class participated in an...
Today Ray Bradbury died. It might seem strange that I'm writing about Bradbury here on the Ocean Portal, as he's best known for his short stories about space exploration and strange aliens. But he also considered the unexplored realms of our own planet: the ocean. One story in particular, "The Fog Horn," from his collection The Golden Apples of the Sun , has stayed with me through all these years. Without giving too much away, it's the story of a deep sea monster that attacks land -- but not for the traditional reasons. Its motivation is not some bloodthirsty attack on mankind, a trope that...
It’s not everyday that I get to collect and gather data right alongside our Museum’s researchers. So, imagine my recent delight when the opportunity was presented to me to travel half way around the world to Bali, Indonesia to participate in a research and education field project. While in Bali, I will be participating in the Indonesian Biodiversity Research Center (IBRC) project as an “embedded educator”. From the field, I will be blogging throughout the field excursion to share the research, education, and stories that transpire over a 5-week course. Plus, I get to share the awesome...
To a photographer, all that matters is the image, the picture that results when the shutter is released. This is what people will see and what will remain of that moment in time, captured forever. But for wildlife photographers and especially underwater wildlife photographers, so much has to happen just to get to that moment when your finger is on the shutter release. Underwater photography is an equipment intensive business. It requires all the equipment used by land photographers, plus so much more. Cameras must be placed inside underwater housings and special strobes, strobe arms, cords,...
The open ocean is surprisingly barren to the naked eye. Every now and again you will encounter a school of fish and their attendant predators, but most of the life that you find is gathered around some sort of sheltering structure like a coral reef. In the Atlantic, the pelagic macro-algae, or sargassum seaweeds ( Sargassum fluitans and Sargassum natans ) serve as shelter, drawing in a tremendous variety of marine life and forming a nearly unique structural habitat in the open ocean. Without roots, a top, or a bottom, the sargassum is in constant motion until it is cast up on a beach, or...
If you were choreographing a dance about the ocean, how would you do it? Would you dart around like a lobster in a hurry? Dive like a dolphin? Float like a jellyfish? Choreographer Fran Spector Atkins and photographer Bill Roden have put together a dance production about the ocean, which is being performed at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History on June 3, 2012. While the pair certainly have their fun with creatures, as dancers school like fish and scuttle like crabs (see video above), their goal is larger. Ocean , as the production is aptly named, aims to educate audiences...