BATS Validation Cruise (BVAL-98), San Juan – Bermuda

In October 2014, Ian, Kalia, Elliot and Jason participated on a research cruise from San Juan to Bermuda on board the R/V Atlantic Explorer (BVAL-98). The purpose of this cruise was multifold: 1) collect dominant hyperiid amphipods along the cruise track; 2) collect sympatric copepod taxa for viral discovery and prevalence; and 3) perform viral decay experiments to understand longevity of amphipod and copepod viruses in ambient seawater.

The adventure began when the team arrived in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on 4 October 2014 via various routes – Ian was delayed thanks to US Airways until after midnight!

IMG_2419Made it to the boat! R/V Atlantic Explorer in San Juan

IMG_2421Kalia and Jason do the Gumby Suit thing…

The cruise eventually set off on 5 October at around 10 am. Sampling occurred daily at each of the BATS Validation stations (roughly every degree of latitude between San Juan and Bermuda) and comprised: 1) a 30 minute zooplankton tow to collect hyperiids and copepods (and any other interesting mesozooplankton which we encountered!); 2) filtering seawater collected via the flow-through system for free viral abundance; and 3) collecting water for decay experiments, which occurred every 3 – 4 stations along the track.

IMG_2423Leaving Puerto Rican waters across the Sargasso Sea…

P1010987Kalia picking individual amphipods and copepods from plankton tows

IMG_2420Cruising is hard work! The crew having a break in the lounge.

During the cruise we collected a total of 562 individual animals, including a myriad of interesting hyperiid amphipods, copepods, larval fish (for use in a projected study of the future), along with 80 virioplankton samples, and 4 decay experiments.

P1020017 Hyperiid amphipod (species yet to be ID’ed) from the cruise

P1010986 Trichodesmium – a diazotrophic cyanobacterium seen a LOT on the cruise

P1010992 Miracia glacialis, one of the more common copepods encountered

P1010995 Larval fish – we collected them for a future project

Check out this cool video of a plankton tow… from a plankton tow perspective!

After 5 days at sea, we made dock at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences. We were wondering why the captain was in such a hurry to get back to the dock, but one look at the weather forecast revealed that there was a hurricane brewing, and that it would hit Bermuda very soon. So after leaving the ship and having a bit of fun for the first night back on land, we were awoken to the incredible sounds of a hurricane bearing down on Bermuda:

Check out video from BIOS of the hurricane:

IMG_2426 Doppler radar of hurricane – Bermuda is right in the middle of the bullseye!

Our flights canceled the following afternoon, the team decided to check out Bermuda itself, which boasts pretty amazing history!

IMG_2427Hamilton, Bermuda

P1020068Gateway to St. George’s Bermuda

After a day of sightseeing imposed by the hurricane we eventually found passage on Air Canada home. After a brief moment of concern caused by one of the team’s passport being eaten prior to the cruise by a dog (!), we finally made it onto our flight from Toronto to Syracuse, which was the smallest plane most of the team had ever been on.

FullSizeRender Thank goodness, almost home!

Click here to view a video summarizing our work.

Publications from this Expedition:

Hewson, I, Bistolas, KSI, Quijano Cardé, EM, Button JB, Foster PJ, Flanzenbaum JM, Kocian J, Lewis CK (2018) “Investigating the complex association between viral ecology, environment and North Pacific sea star wasting” Frontiers in Marine Science 5:77

Gudenkauf BM, Hewson I (2016) “Comparative metagenomics of viral assemblages inhabiting four phyla of marine invertebrates” Frontiers in Marine Science

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