It's that time of year again for LSU to host Ocean Commotion, which is an outreach event aimed at kids aged from kindergarden to high school. This is a great event where the kids get to walk around and interact with scientists and educators from all over the state, who teach them about the marine resources that Louisiana has. Just like last year I was fortunate enough to help represent the LSU Museum of Natural Science with fellow LSUMNS graduate student Valerie Derouen, and LSU Biology post doc Melissa DeBiasse. The theme of our booth was monsters from the ocean, and we got to show off some of the stranger fish specimens that we have in our collection. It was a great time filled with shocked faces from the kids when they saw fish that looked strange to them. I can't wait for next years LSU Ocean Commotion event.
Last month I was fortunate enough to go on another research cruise to the Gulf of Mexico with Dr. Darryl Felder and his lab from the University of Louisiana Lafayette. This trip was similar to our previous trips where we were using a custom made benthic skimmer to get deep sea crabs and fishes. Unlike previous trips, however, this was our most ambitious yet. We sampled from Louisiana all the way to the Straights of Florida, and also attempted to sample deeper than we ever have before, down to 3,425 meters! Sampling at those depths takes a lot of time and also comes with its whole suite of problems you must be cognizant of. Unfortunately our deepest samples didn't come up with much, as one snagged on an unmarked wreck and the current was too strong on another one for our skimmer to reach the bottom. However, we still got a ton of great samples from other sites that weren't in the 3,000m range, like the Chaunax suttkusi pictured above and the Steindachneria argentea below. Some of these samples are new representatives for our museum, and they will all be available through the Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science to any interested researchers. There were rumors that this was Darryl's last research cruise, but hopefully that isn't the case. In fact, I hope there are many more in the near future because they are always a great time. Thanks to Darryl, his lab, and all the people on the boat for making this last quick trip a great success.
About a week after getting back from my Kauai trip in the previous blog post my advisor, Prosanta Chakrabarty, and I were getting on another flight. Our destination for this trip: Kuwait. We had been personally invited by Jim Bishop, a scientist at the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR), and also an LSU alum who has close ties with the LSU Museum of Natural Science. Jim is an excellent naturalist and has donated many specimens to the museum over the years and also visits whenever he is stateside, so when Jim invited us to visit and collect fish we couldn't say no! Our trip was quick, and started with Jim picking us up from the airport and graciously showing us around Kuwait city. We visited the fish markets (pictured above), collected specimens from beaches and mudflats, and also sorted through a lot of specimens that Jim has collected over the years during the process of other studies KISR has done. This included a great variety of species from all over Kuwait, including a couple specimens of Kuwait's only freshwater fish, Aphanius dispar. Jim also got us a behind the scenes tour of the Kuwait Aquarium at The Scientific Center where we got to see a lot of great fish and even a couple caracals. In the end it was an extremely productive trip where we got a great variety of fish. None of it would have been possible without the help of Jim Bishop, though, so a huge thanks goes out to him, and hopefully we will get to visit Kuwait again in the near future.
After Kuwait, it wasn't long until I was on the road again. This time I travelled to California where I did a mini road trip to look at some museum specimens for one of my dissertation projects. I visited three museum on my trip, starting with Scripps Institute of Oceanography, where I was lucky enough to visit the exact day that a giant school of anchovies (the largest in 30 years) was passing in front of the pier. This was an awesome sight to see. From there I drove up to San Francisco and visited the California Academy of Sciences, where I also got to catch up with some of my old lab members from the Rocha lab. I also managed to squeeze in a couple of kelp forest dives while I was in Northern California, which is a bit colder than the usual dives I do. From there I made my way back to southern California and made one last stop at the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum. Overall I got to examine more than enough samples of the Prionurus surgeonfishes that I was interested in, and it was a fun trip. A big thanks to Dr. Phil Hastings and H.J. Walker at Scripps, Dr. Luiz Rocha and David Catania at CAS, and Dr. Christine Thacker and Rick Feeney at LACM, for without all of their assistance and permission to look at the collections this trip would not have been possible. My summer travels ended with the 2014 JIMH meeting in Chattanooga, TN. There were a ton a great talks at this years meeting, and I'm excited to see some of the publications that will come out from them. In the end it was a busy, but extremely fun and productive summer, and I look forward to more traveling in the future.