Sunday, October 30, 2011

ARMSed and Ready

Hey, remember all that time when I wasn't posting?  One of the things we were doing was survey dives in the Gulf off Cedar Key and Steinhatchee looking for suitable habitat to deploy some ARMS.  (You might remember ARMS from this post).  This is a continuation of the survey work we did on the R/V Weatherbird back in March (remember this or that or this other post), but the water was much warmer this time, approaching 90 degrees!  We were looking for hard-bottom areas, which turned out to be rarer than we might have anticipated.  Most of Gustav's quick peeks at the bottom revealed long stretches of sand, but a few times we found what we were looking for and went down to do a more extensive survey of the area.  These areas had lots of sponges and Caulerpa algae

and lots and lots of tunicates of various types

So now that we'd found some potential sites to set up some ARMS, where were we going to get them?  Thank goodness for Woody at the Smithsonian Research Station in Ft. Peirce.  They had some old disassembled ARMS that they were willing to let us use, and Woody even put them together for us (except for the base for ease of transport).  So what do 27 ARMS look like after they've been driven back to Gainesville and piled on a cart?
It sure would be foolish for one person to put 367 pounds of metal and pvc all together on a cart and then expect to move that cart over a non-flat surface...unless that person were a glutton for punishment, or placed well in an arm-wrestling competition, or both.

So now we have (some of) the monitoring locations, and we have the ARMS.  The boat is repaired, now all we need is Gustav.  He's making an appearance in November so we can go install them:  3 per site, 3 sites per location, 3 locations.  He'll only be around for a few days so we're sure to be busy.

All this talk of ARMS reminds me of someone else


Dickinson Hall has a new mascot.  In order to ward of the bad mojo that can follow from naming the animals in the aquarium, we call her The Octopus.  The picture above was taken when she was actually much younger (and smaller) and had not yet eaten all her non-echinoderm, non-cnidarian rommates.  Now she's much bigger and growing progressively more clever.  We often feed her live clams inside a jar with the lid on which is inside a large hamster ball with the lid on.  After opening up all the contraptions to get to her food, she sometimes sits inside the ball to eat.  We don't know what species she is, but we've recruited Julie to slip a little octopus tissue (from a tentacle shed) into her queue of tissues for DNA extraction.  I'll keep you posted.

With the return of diving I should have some more field pictures to post before too long.  In the interim John and I will be busy getting the collection in order:  labels, put-away, loans, incoming collections.  Gustav's current prime directive is to get things organized to make room for more specimens.  And don't worry, even though we still have ARMS installation and retreival posts in our future, I won't run out of puns for the post titles.

:) Mandy

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Group Activities

It's been way too long since my last posting, but I have so many good-bye posts piling up ( Hsiu, Art, Jenna...did I do one for Machel!?) that I've been putting it off.  Well, I decided to forgo the good-bye posts for the time being  and focus on togetherness.  Although this blog is really all about the awesomeness of the Invertebrate Division, the truth is that the whole FLMNH is pretty awesome; here are some of the projects that we've shared with other divisions (or they've shared with us).

Several months ago a strange creature wandered into the range, and I was brave enough to tackle it, as seen in the photo below.

A quick call upstairs to some of the other ranges confirmed what we suspected, not only was this animal a vertebrate, it turns out it was a bird, more specifically a Muscovy Duck.  It's not known to be especially dangerous (lacking claws, spines, venom, spicules, cuvierian tubules, nematocysts, or any other invertebrate armament), and it was wearing a diaper, so we welcomed him into our range, backbone and all.

Because my tackling-expertise had been demonstrated during the duck event I just mentioned, it's strange that I wasn't invited to participate in the project illustrated in the next photo.

The fish range moved several large sharks from their old tanks to shiny new ones.  Jenna and John were there to help out and photodocument.  Some specimens, like the shark above, are just so large that there isn't room to properly or safely house them in Dickinson Hall.  Some of the larger museum specimens, like complete and mounted skeletons, are on display at Powell Hall (the public face of the FLMNH), and some are kept in the large specimen storage facility in another building on campus.  This is a specimen that we have in off-site storage.
Thanks Jeff Gage/Florida Museum for this photo!

This Giant Squid was caught floating on the surface off the coast of Florida.  He is definitely a giant squid, but in this case he is also a Giant Squid, a member of the genus Architeuthis.  It is the first specimen of this genus that we have at the museum.  Because they are a deep water species, and...well...giant, Architeuthis are not often collected.  Once we figure out the logistics of safely preserving and housing such a specimen in a public place, we hope that this squid can one day educate visitors while on exhibit at Powell Hall.

So with all these large specimens coming in and moving around, I'm sure you're wondering how our ethanol supply is holding up.  Well, we had to place an order.

We tag-teamed this order with the fish range, so when we got the call from the delivery guy a group of us all rushed out to unload some ethanol.  This picture, featuring four 55 gallon drums and a bevy of intrepid ethanol-moving-specialists, represents a quarter of that order (and 3/5 of those working on unloading it).

Some ranges have giant specimens that don't require ethanol.  This giant totem pole was moved to a display location on the stairwell.  Because it's very tall, solid wood, and moving to a somewhat awkward location, a Dickinson-wide call went out to recruit assistance.

A whole herd of us wheeled the totem pole outside on a series of carts, then controlled it down a steep hill and around to the back of the museum where we all lifted it and maneuvered it down the hall and into an upright position.  Because I was actually helping, this picture is of the final tweaking of the totem pole into place.  Nothing like risking life, limb, and artifacts to bring a group closer together.

I'll try to get back on a regular posting schedule.  With Gustav on sabbatical you'd think that I'd have a lot more time on my hands, but it turns out that he still has email.

:) Mandy