Intro to myself
Growing up in south central Pennsylvania, my access to the ocean was limited. Even on the occasional family trip to the beach, I could but sit on the shore and wonder what lay below those ocean waves. Windows into this mystery from programs like Planet Earth captivated and inspired me. They were able to do something science communication often struggles to do. They showed us the amazing animals of our planet instead of just telling us about them.
As a member of this exciting expedition to Antarctica, I have unprecedented access to the biodiversity of the Southern Ocean. Seeing all of these amazing animals alive has been an incredible experience and something I wish I could share with others. Taking inspiration from my favorite science communicators, I hope to show people these incredible animals instead of just talking about them. To do this, I have been using any free time from science to photograph and record the fascinating creatures we are studying.
I have been using a really cool tank built by Nick Roberts. This tank is designed so that water can continuously flow through the system allowing us to keep animals in it for hours without water quality or temperature issues. The water is pumped from the ocean directly into our lab. This saltwater hose is placed into the side most fraction of the aquarium. Baffles in the tank prevent bubbles from reaching the main chamber and make the flow more even and gentle. The tank has a narrow design. This is because the more water you must shoot through, the lower the image quality will be. This has to do with the refraction of light through water.
By staging the tank with sand, rocks, and coral we can make the animals seem like they are “’in-situ” or in their actual habitat. Images like these would be otherwise impossible, given the remote locations and extreme depths we are sampling in.
Here is an example of the amphipod that I photographed in this tank. It is called Podoceras septemcarinatus. They have this interesting life strategy of perching on coral branches and using their large front arms to capture food in the water column. In this tank I was even able to get video of this behavior.
I usually wouldn’t consider sea cucumbers to be particularly interesting. However, this particular species is able to swim away when feeling threatened. They do this by extending their feeding tentacles and thrashing their body back and forth. It was such a cool thing to witness and I got a great shot of it happening!
This animal holds a close place in my heart because it is a solenogaster, the group of mollusks that is the focus of my dissertation. This one was particularly large and I was able to capture a photo of it alive in the aquarium. Something really exciting about getting these live photographs is realizing how vibrantly colorful these animals can be. When preserved these animals usually turn white and lose their color. However, in this photo you can see in life it is very pink!
Instead of telling people about the amazing biodiversity of the Southern Ocean, I hope to show them with the photographs and video that I capture throughout this expedition!
University of Alabama
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