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August 12, 2010

Light traps for plankton

BY: Xavier Pastor


© OCEANA / Eduardo Sorensen


After sailing for almost two days from Fort Lauderdale, halted by the Gulf Stream, today we were able to start work on the sea. After having anchored the ship at the entrance to Key West harbor, we waited for nightfall to lower one of the Latitude’s launches and deploy a series of plankton light traps. They are a sort of keepnet with a very fine mesh, and a submersible lightbulb is placed inside them. The larvae and post-larval stages of many species are attracted by the light and they enter the traps through the small openings designed for this function. The individuals caught in this or other sampling stations in the Gulf will enable biologist Margot Stiles to observe their condition and the impact that hydrocarbons may have had on these organisms.

Dr. Mike Hirshfield, the scientist heading the campaign, and Margot returned to the ship after a few hours of collecting samples. And now we’re all going to bed. It’s already too late, for scientists and crew, and tomorrow proves to have a lot of work in store.