Latitude: -63 20.5824 Longitude: -56 45.2699
Today was an exceptionally good day, for a cumacean fancier. We have been collecting small organisms from the mud for a few weeks now, with a cumacean (or comma shrimp) here and there, but today there were SO MANY! Among them were some lovely lively examples of the species Cyclaspis gigas, in a particularly striking orange and white pattern, as well as many individuals of Holostylis helleri, a spiky white cumacean. Cumaceans come in a wide variety of shapes, and one of my purposes in being present on this cruise is to document the color patterns that cumaceans have while alive. Small organisms are usually collected as part of bulk samples that are preserved and then sorted later, because sorting requires microscopes and specialized equipment that isn’t always available in the field, and also takes quite a while. Many organisms lose their coloration very quickly after they are preserved, which means we don’t know what they look like when alive, or if there are species specific color patterns that could help identify them. However, we are lucky enough to have microscopes and amazing camera setups that take really nice pictures even while the ship is rocking and rolling or breaking ice, so we are able to document their colors before they are preserved.
Studying small organisms requires dedication and a willingness to sweat the small stuff. Our time is split between working on deck and working in the lab.
Sarah Gerken, Ph.D.
Department of Biological Sciences
University of Alaska Anchorage