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The Sea Dragon Trip
By Choy Aming
Jun 7, 2013 at 8:00 am
My name is Choy Aming and I am an aquarist at the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo.
I was recently sent out on a collecting assignment in the Sargasso Sea on the research vessel Sea Dragon.
We spent three days offshore and went nearly 100 miles to the south of Bermuda in search of the biggest Sargassum weed mats that we could find.
There were about half a dozen scientists on board the vessel working on different research projects and I was assigned to help each of them acquire samples for their specific project. They ranged from spectral analysis of Sargassum camouflage to microplastic comparisons of different areas of the Sargasso Sea. It was a varied and interesting group and I was very happy to work in a general collecting capacity as I got to interact with all the scientists, learn the specific details of their project, and support them in getting much needed data for their particular research.
Choy Aming, Aquarist at BAMZ sorts
through the day's finds
I was also tasked with video cataloguing the expedition and was very prepared to jump into the Sargassum mats to document what was there and possibly film new creatures that we may not have seen in the wild. However, the moderately rough state of the sea did not allow for any in-water collecting or filming.
After the samples were collected, cataloguing and analysis began. The moderate sea state definitely made the post collection phase more challenging. Trying to identify and photograph tiny planktonic creatures on a heeling sailboat with only a 1mm depth of field on the microscope proved to be a challenge I had previously never thought about. Why would you?
Often I would have to snap a photo as the organism slid into view on the Petri dish in the brief period between rolling waves. Luckily Stefan Siebert was as keen as me and it became somewhat of a game for us.
One creature I found looked like a small alien baby about to hatch and struck a childlike curiosity even in people with decades of field experience. It really brought the term inner space to mind.
Even as a trained marine biologist with several years of research under my belt, this is a tiny yet important world that I seldom think about. The most amazing aspect of this trip was how much the “experts” could learn from each other and hopefully that knowledge assists them in their work and gets passed on to the wider world because of endeavours like this.