The crew sorting samples from the benthic skimmer
This past weekend I managed to fit in a quick sampling trip out on the Gulf of Mexico with Darryl Felder and his lab from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. This trip was designed to make up for some days that we lost on an earlier trip this year due to hurricane Isaac's path. Fortunately for us, this trip wasn't full of the suspense of an impending hurricane, so we were able to sample at all of our planned field sites. We left from LUMCON on Wednesday night, and traveled through the night to our first field site. We sampled at this site, and all subsequent sites, using a benthic skimmer at depths up to 1,800m. This always results in the collection of unique and interesting specimens that don't get seen often. These trips also serve the purpose to monitor species diversity and abundance at sites that could have been impacted by the deepwater horizon oil spill. Hopefully I will have the opportunity to serve on several of these trips in the near future, as they are always a fun time.
Back in July, Prosanta Chakrabarty and I were invited to participate in the comprehensive marine biodiversity workshop in Singapore hosted by the National University of Singapore. This workshop was to be a collaborative effort, bringing in professionals from all over the world to examine everything from fishes and shrimps, to marine mites and nematodes. After figuring out all of the logistics I found myself boarding an extremely long flight to Singapore last month. Although I wasn't exactly sure what to expect out of the workshop, I can happily say that I think the workshop was overall a success, as we found and cataloged a large variety of species along the Singapore coastline.
Prosanta at Chek Jawa
The focus of this particular workshop was the Johore Strait, which borders the northern part of Singapore and separates it from Malaysia. While most of Singapore is a developed metropolis, we were fortunate enough to stay on the island of Palau Ubin for the duration of the workshop, which is a smaller, forested island with little development. On this island there is an Outward Bound School that graciously let us use their dorms and provided us with adequate lab space, and also fed us during the trip. It was also the perfect launching point for all of our excursions around Palau Ubin and the coastline of of Singapore adjacent to the Johore Strait.
The fish people involved on this trip included myself and Prosanta Chakrabarty from LSU, goby expert Helen Larson from Australia, and Ng Heok Hee, Tan Heok Hui, Zeehan Jaafar and Kelvin Lim Kok Peng from the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research at NUS. Throughout the trip we sampled in mudflats, mangroves, sandy beaches, seagrass beds, and also trawled and dredged the deeper parts of the strait on the RV Galaxea to cover as many habitat types as we could.
Hollow-cheeked stonefish (Synanceja horrida). Photo credit Arthur Anker
Each day we would split up and sample different sites to maximize our coverage of the area. Everyone would then later meet up in the lab to identify and sort the samples. Samples were then photographed by shrimp expert and macro photographer Arthur Anker (check out his Flickr account), tissued and preserved for museum collections either at Raffles, in Australia, or here at LSU. Overall we collected over 200 different fish species and added approximately 600 tissue samples to our LSU collection. I cannot thank enough all of the amazing people that made this trip possible, and would like to extend my thanks to all of the organizers, volunteers, and other workshop participants that helped me during this excursion. Hopefully one day soon I'll be able to re-visit Singapore and explore the surrounding oceans again for more fish.