Journal archives for August 2016

August 02, 2016

Swimming with the Big Guys

Two days from now I will pile into a car packed to the brim with 3 different types of acoustical devices, snorkeling gear, trail mix and peanut butter, sleeping bags, and (in my corner) a stack of field guides, and join a caravan of students from Moss Landing Marine Laboratories on a two day drive from the Central Coast to San Diego to Bahia de los Angeles on the Sea of Cortez. One of the perks of mentoring young interns is the possibility that they will embark on their own adventures in the future and, if you're lucky, will invite you along for the ride. In this case, a young woman who worked with me through many sea otter research adventures will now be my boss as our team heads south for her first field season as a graduate student at MLML.

Her research question is a fascinating one: Do whale sharks make sounds? On previous trips to BDLA, she recorded mysterious and unique sounds while assisting with a photo ID project and we are returning this year to try to obtain more recordings and definitively establish the source of the sounds. If successful, this young woman will have found the first evidence of ANY SHARK making a sound!

We are traveling with a crew of six and will be tagging along (so to speak) with a local research crew that's working on a long-term photo ID project. Team members will swim with a camera in one hand and a recording device (one of the 3 types) near slow moving sharks to try to obtain photos suitable for ID (there is a rectangle shaped target area behind the gills) and recordings of any sounds. The boat team will record data and manage the second acoustic recorder (the third will be mounted underwater). Sometimes I emit an audible giggle of glee just thinking about it.

Mornings with glassy conditions will be optimal, with afternoons off for siesta and exploration (heat permitting). The area offers spectacular scenery with its network of islands large and small and is rich with wildlife. Most of it will be brand new to me: four species of sea turtle, numerous small cetacean species, marine invertebrates straight from the Log of the Sea of Cortez, seabirds, desert plants, herps, and apparently an abundance of scorpions! The temperature may soar to 110 F, but I'll be iNatting even if it's while lying on my face under a bush with an ice pack on my neck ("There's a lizard!"). I am taking along "Common Seaweeds of the Gulf of California" by Mark Readdie, "Baja CA Plant Field Guide" by Rebman and Roberts, Gotshall's "Sea of Cortez Marine Animals", "Amphibians and Reptiles of BC" by McPeak, and a few general guides.

We will work for 14 days straight, then make the return trip. Internet is uncertain at our destination, so I may not be able to share observations until my return. I will share a Google Photos album of the trip in a follow up journal post. Any insights from iNatters that know Bahia de los Angeles are welcome! The moral of this story: Be kind to your interns!

Posted on August 02, 2016 15:55 by gbentall gbentall | 3 comments | Leave a comment