NAAMES-II Expedition: June 3, 2016 BONUS

June 4th, 2016 by Kristina Mojica

Charismatic megafauna

The oceanographers amongst us are often hard pressed to distinguish ourselves from marine biologists. Whilst many in the general public like to imagine our work surrounded by dolphins and resembling something out of a Caribbean vacation, the reality of tracing global biogeochemical cycles and deciphering complex bio-physical interactions in a dynamic and rapidly changing ocean for some reason is less inspiring – though of course much more important. Oceanographers study the ocean as a system and the ocean has critters in them, more numerous than the stars in the heavens, so yes, we also study critters. Rarely the charismatic megafauna though. While some oceanographers do study mammals, on this NASA NAAMES mission the largest animals under consideration are fish. Nonetheless, when the call goes out that dolphins are in sight – most frequently spotted by Luis Bolanos (OSU) – many briefly drop their important atmospheric or oceanographic research and run out to see the dolphins playing with the waves generated by the ship or riding seemingly effortlessly on the bow wave. The other day 2 sprinted by the side of the ship, as the R/V Atlantis made almost 14 knots (16 miles/hr; 26 km/hr). It was cool to hear them exhale, really seemed like they were doing a sprint. A sprint that lasted over 20 minutes and delighted those of us fortunate enough to see. So while most of the time aboard is focused on our research, sometimes we can’t escape the charisma of the megafauna to distract us from microscopic particles or plankton. It adds to the wonder of it all.

Atlantic common dolphins. Photo: Susanne Menden-Deuer

Atlantic common dolphins. Photo: Susanne Menden-Deuer

3 musketeer dolphins playing in front of the bow of the RV Atlantis.  Photo: Susanne Menden-Deuer

3 musketeer dolphins playing in front of the bow of the RV Atlantis. Photo: Susanne Menden-Deuer

Written by Susanne Menden-Deuer

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Notes from the Field