It’s been an exciting summer for ocean researcher Quinn Girasek—who played a role in the North Atlantic Stepping Stones expedition, cataloging previously unexplored habitats of the Atlantic Gulf Stream.
Although landlocked herself, the NOAA scholarship intern was part of an onshore team annotating organisms as they appeared live on divers’ cameras. And there was plenty to explore through her computer screens.
Highlights from the dive—targeting the deep scattering layer (200–1,000 meters/ 656–3,281 feet underwater) along Hydrographer Canyon—include several newly discovered species, and the spectacle of a beautiful red jellyfish (in the genus Poralia) seen on Dive 20, which may be an undescribed species.
(Courtesy of NOAA Ocean Exploration, 2021 North Atlantic Stepping Stones: New England and Corner Rise Seamounts)
“My role during this expedition was annotating the water column dive, which took place on July 28, 2021,” Quinn said. “The annotations were added into SeaTube, an electronic database run by Ocean Networks Canada.
“Using SeaTube, I was able to watch the dive live and annotate when an organism was spotted. The site is integrated with the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS), which means after saving the annotation, a hyperlink to the identified organism in WoRMS shows up.”
The timing of each encounter was also recorded, so anyone viewing the dive could see what organism they’re looking at. Additionally, notes were added for each organism so that researchers could glean more than just taxonomic data.
“I made notes of which organisms were sampled and after the dive was over, I went into SeaTube and added the collection timestamps in the notes section,” she said. “I also took notes of potentially new and/or undescribed species. That was definitely a highlight and I can’t wait until we learn more about those organisms!”
Those who are interested can go into SeaTube and filter using the words “new” and “collect” to see the video footage taken of those newly discovered sea creatures.
The dive also employed a remotely operated vehicle called Deep Discoverer, with a robotic arm and “suction sampler” to gather a limited number of organisms to be placed in one of five collection jars and stored on the unit. Quinn, an intern for the Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship Program, engaged with experts and participants from their homes across the globe via livestream, and communicated through online chat.
Among her favorite encounters were the ctenophore (genus Vampyroctena) and the cnidaria (genus Solmissus). They also encountered crustaceans and Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes), while documenting any interesting behavior observed, during the dive.
Overall, she added, “Everyone was friendly and funny. I personally enjoyed the Olympics-related jokes and the excitement about the new jellyfish.”