Wednesday, January 26, 2011


I have them, co-workers! And they're really cool!
back track: for those of you who do not know, for the past 4 weeks I have been virtually alone in the lab. BU didn't start till the 18th, so no one was here, then when classes did start everyone was too busy to come in. But today some did! All undergrad too. There was Lucas and Cara (freshman and sophomore), who I've met before and are really nice. Then there was Arjin (spelling?) and Zach, both seniors working on a sand lance project where they look at the fishes' ear bones. 
Anyhow, I was burning CDs today for Les (with the photo data) and both Arjin and Zach were in and I got to know them both better. Zach was kinda quiet and listened to music a lot but he's a pre-med kid hoping to finish the sand lance project in time. Arjin is a senior who is  an avid diver as well! We are planning to go to a sponge forest in Stellwagen bank (I did not know there were sponge forests there!) in the summer time!

I am so excited to be meeting the fellow lab members and I really like them all! :D

Monday, January 24, 2011

I. cannot. wait. to. go. to. the. Phoenix Islands

If every I have felt a desire to study corals, it is now. Woke up this morning to Boston being -1 but feeling like it was -20. I think that may be a conservative number because after five minutes outside I could not feel my legs. I feel like I like in Russia, not Boston.
Anyhow, I come to work and start editing videos again and, as I watch the divers swim in shorties and bask in only bathing suits on the boat, I cannot wait to get away from the cold. I think I'll just go to Panama next year and not come back, I make a raft and float around the Pacific. At least that was I can avoid 8' of snow every other day and I can feel my legs.

However, I think it'll be a while before I get to the Phoenix Islands, but I may be able to get to Fiji within a few years! On mornings like this, I keep that concept close to my heart.

But, so far, its been a fun week (well 3 hours) at work. Les, who has walking pneumonia,  came in the just talk with me and catch up. We ended up talking about photography the whole time and he promised to show me the "secret" lab with LOTS of coral and octopi! Also, he mentioned he'll take me out diving to his favorite spot to see the cold water coral, Astrangia. This coral is able to live in a symbiotic OR non-symbiotic state!
For those who don't really know coral, most corals live in a symbiotic relationship with zooxanthellae, which is a dinoflagellate. These not only give the coral nutrients, but provide the coral with their color. Well, our special cold water coral can live without them! I will do a separate post about them, for those who are really interested. :)

But, back to photography, I learned something really cool! When the aquarium did an expedition to Fijim back in the fall of 2010, the published photos showed coral bioluminescencing. Well, I love bioluminescence so I asked Les about it. Turns out that all coral do it! The cynobacteria that live inside of the coral let off the light  and he is hoping to do experiments about if there are patterns tied to certain feelings that the coral is feeling.
He is currently doing a project that reads the genome of coral as they undergo certain stresses (if I understood this to properly present it, I would go more into detail), but he is hoping to use the filters on the cameras to be able to make the process easier to see. If so, I want part of it! Apparently its really easy to see when one used high energy lights (either a black light or a blue light) and places a yellow filter over their lens & mask.
A photo from the 2010 Fiji trip showing the bioluminescence

I ALSO found out that... wait for it...I will be working with Brian Skerry's images! Brian Skerry is a very well respected photographer for national geographic and recently gave a TED talk. I was supposed to meet with him last year but, due to a comedy of errors, was not able to. Now I get to work with his photos and will be able to see the type of photos that national geographic photographers take and will probably be able to meet him (since he and Les are friends). Exciting!

Anyway, back to videos and then a lab meeting! Bests

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Well, today I had a feat, I won't lie. As you all know, I have been working on my PIPA image mastery list for about two weeks now (Well this is halfway through my third...), and I finally got one of the two booklets completed!
Why is this so great do you ask? Well, on day one I was given about 1000 photos to do something with. period. Just that, no explanation as to what they were, what Les wanted with them, a due date, nothing.
So, after looking through a few photos, I decided to split the photos up into further sub folders to organize them (the folders being NAI'A, terrestrial, coral, and fishes). I then made an Excel spread sheet that said the file name of each photo, the original location of the hard drive, and described the photo. NAI'A was easy, as was terrestrial. However, I had to give the scientific name of fishes and I barely knew the common name (thank you to my cousins, Sam and Ariane, for both of the ID books!).
Well, today I placed the mastery list for fishes, terrestrial, and NAI'A in a booklet, typed up a cover page and into, as well as made a chart of every scientific name used and the common name. It may not sound like much...but it is!
Here it is!

The coral booklet has about 500 files in it and I need to wait till Les and Randi get back to finish IDing the corals. Without seeing the corals that is a very tough endevure.

BUT, that is another day! And now I am going to celebrate! I found Narnia for $4 and Bridgette Jones for $5 at a used DVD store and am going to have a mini marathon of this rainy January (oxymoron?) day.

Best to all!!

Monday, January 17, 2011

biggest adrenaline rush in a while...

So, Sunday I was at the aquarium as usual and that day started out as normal: clean the glass, take the temperatures, back wash, change filter bags, prepare copious amounts of food, take scientific measurements on our baby turtles etc. However, I decided to feed Athena, our giant pacific octopus, in the morning.

playing with Athena

Thus, when the afternoon came around, by 2:30 I was done with everything I could think of! However, there is always more work to be done at the aquarium so all I had to do was ask Bill and he found a project. And what a project!
Actually there was nothing too thrilling about it because all marine scientists can do it but I never had done this before: pick up fully armed (no rubber bands) lobsters with my bare hands.
I had to set up a new holding system for them and then move the lobsters: two big ones and two smalls. This is all fine and dandy except lobsters are some of the meanest creatures I have ever encountered and they will happily chop off a finger. So, as the lobsters at all coming within cm of my fingers, I start to try to move them. I pick up the first and have no issue, it doesn't seem to care. I then try and pick up our biggest but fear was holding me back. So I let her get more and more angry at me as I tried again and again (each time getting more scared of the claws that could take off a finger). I moved the two smaller ones but, when I lifted one of the smallers, it used its tail tp try and escape, which caused me to have to step back to balance myelf and therefore almost fall off the ledge that I was standing on. Hear= pounding at this point.
But, I had moved the two smalls and the smaller of the large lobster. Now I just had one large and angry female to move. I try three more times and fail, so eventually I take a big breath, reach in...and grab her. I lift her out of the water and, almost as shocked at the capture as I was, she didn't move. I quickly rushed her into her new home and marveled at my work. Sure this is a skill that is elementary, but it was scary, and my heart was racing and the adrenaline was pumping in excess.
The whole adventure took the entire afternoon so I left shortly after it, but it was so exciting and fun!

I start my biology of fishes class tomorrow at the aquarium and am looking forward to it! Will keep you posted.
I am sorry, I had to

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Shot in the dark...

SO week two is over (wow) and it's been a really productive week for being in for only three days (thank you massive blizzard)!
I finished the still images project and called in Les to help me ID a few coral I didn't do...looks like my random, I mean educated guessing, or the types of coral was a bit more off than I though. I got the difficult ones but I mixed up my acroporas and pavonas and such (yeahhhh.....) But Les really likes what I am doing so he and I are going to sit down and really go over the photos so that 1) he knows what data is available 2)he can check my coral ID 3) we can flag photos that show interesting growth rate. I am not sure if I can put photos up from the data but, since they are recovering from the massive bleaching, there is a lot of really interesting data. You can see the healthy coral fighting with the dead, bleached coral and the results are some really interesting patterns.
Oh I have also officially learned a lot of scientific names of the fish, which makes me feel like a massive geek, but accomplished at the same time.

Some Acropora coral in the Phoenix Islands. (You can tell its Acropora by the type of branches and that it is lifted off the ground)

Thursday, January 13, 2011


So, I realized that I should probably give a "guide" to the names and such that I will be using, since not everyone who will read this will know who is who.

Bailey: Steve Bailey- the curator of fishes at the New England Aquarium
Les: Les Kaufman- professor at BU, PIPA scientist, and senior scientist for Conservation International
Randi: Randi Rotjan- A coral reef biologist scientist at the New England Aquarium and a PIPA scientist
Bill: Bill Murphy- The head aquarist of the cold waters gallery at the New England Aquarium
Rachel: Rachel Morrison- a PhD student at Scripps who started the project I am now working on

I think that's it for now? If anything I will always add more.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

week two!

So, week one FLEW by! As with most first weeks at a new job, it was a bit overwhelming but each day I was eager to come in.
By the end of the week I could tell you about 20 scientific names, can tell you the family a fish is in based on the body shape, and can identify Acropora, Turbinaria, and Fungia coral. Not bad for only four days!

Week two started like week one, going through the photos. But due to the lack of ways to identify the coral in the photos, I have but that aside for now and moved onto the videos. [Even though I started the videos last week I though I may have magically learned all the coral over the weekend so I'd try to ID the photos...not quite the case]. In the videos, I am watching them (and feeling quite jealous as it is cold here and people are all wearing shorties in the videos), describing notes of interest (such as ground cover, fish, fish activity, health of coral, etc), and giving a location. Not too hard just time consuming. It is really helping me learn the fish quickly though.
I also spend a good deal of yesterday (Monday) exploring our animal part of the lab. I though we only had cichlids and corals: boy was I wrong! In each of the coral holders is an animal: one has the cutest little surgeonfish, one has a clownfish/ his anemone, and the last has a mantis shrimp! There are also some other fish in a side tank that I cannot identify yet. If I am allowed, I will put up photos asap!

We also had our first lab meeting and 1) I really like our group. Everyone seems really passionate about what they are doing. and 2) I was named the chair of the party planning committee. I have no idea what that means but I am excited and will make sure the Kaufman lab is a sociable lab!

Today I am getting a late start and am about to start video editing. The sky is dark grey so I think I may have an early day (since yesterday was and 8-5 day) and try to beat out the storm!

If anyone is interested in the Phoenix Islands, I have a link here. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Half way through week one

So I realized that I haven't written about my internship at all yet! Not much has happened but I figured I would take part of lunch to write about it thus far.

On Monday (day 1), I started right away with organizing the images from the 2009 trip. I placed the photos into four different groups: fishes, terrestrial,  coral, and NAI'A (the name of the boat). All are pretty self-explanatory and contain images from five different memory cards.
five FULL memory cards, aka a lot of data.

So now I had this massive collection of photos and I figured that I should organize them, so I made a mastery sheet. Using excel, I made a sheet for each of the four groups and made the columns; image name, original location, description.  Again, easy and straight forward (we scientists enjoy that since something always seems to be astray). On Monday I was able to finish NAI'A and part of fishes before Les came in.

He and I talked and was already really impressed by what I had done and thought of. He said "By the end of this you will be a valuable part of PIPA and I'll talk with Randi* about opportunities". I am not sure what that means but I know it's good! We also talked about me helping write/ edit papers, do coral research in the lab, go on local collecting trips, etc! SO EXCITING!

So Tuesday was basically a repeat of Monday except I worked on fishes and was shocked. I came into this internship not really knowing any indo-pacific fish that well (besides the basics that everyone knows) yet by the end of Tuesday I knew about 50 common names, how to identify this fish, could easily determine the family of fish based on the body shape, and have gotten down some scientific names (the first one I got was Black jack= Caranx lugubris). If this is day two and I already know that can you imagine how fantastic this co-op will be for me to learn!
Caranx lugubris: Black Jack

I also left on Tuesday feeling like I may sail through this too quickly: I have done all the groups except coral and had done so with ease. Then I came in today...

Starts out as usual, start up the computer, swirl around in the spiny chair, delete the e-mails about post-holiday sales (now that I have a Rugby gift card(thanks Mom!) maybe I should keep some of those ;]. Anyway then I figured it was a good time to start with the coral identification. So I wrote down the image titles of the 600 coral photos there are and look around the lab for a coral ID book. I found one for staghorn corals that is in black and white and found a scientific list of the Phoenix Island corals (no photos).

How is it coming? Well it has been about three hours and I know that a Faviidae is a mushroom coral and found 20 photos of those. I also know Acropora is staghorn, table, elkhorn corals. While this is a feat, identifying these corals is almost impossible. I honestly don't even know how to go about this and actually am having Les come save me this afternoon by helping me out. So I have my first real challenge and am excited to conquer it but this maybe harder than organic chem.  I am hoping by the end of next week I will have this down and move onto the videos, but looking at the whole process from the starting point, its daunting.

I do absolutely love this co-op though and am excited for the first lab meeting on Monday and for all of the BU students to return!

* Randi Rotjan is a research scientist at the New England Aquarium who specializes in coral and is one of the heads of the PIPA research group. I want to be her in that sense (which she knows and told me how to get there). We are also recent Facebook friends ;P

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Silence before the Joyride

Okay, so I promised people that I would make a blog about my co-op with Les Kaufman and my Three Seas program, so here I am! I will also be posting about the aquarium, since there is no such thing as a calm day there and there are always fantastic stories (anaconda birth anyone?).

My new years resolution is actually to keep this updated, lets hope it sticks! Right nowI don't have much to say since I start back at the aquarium tomorrow and start with Les on Monday. So exciting! I have no idea what to expect or what I'll be doing, but aren't those the most fun situations? They may not be super exciting to blog about but hopefully you'll enjoy some of them and feel free to leave comments (actually I love comments).

I am wishing everyone the happiest 2011that is full of laughs and love!