Ain’t no party like a cephalopoddy, cause a cephalopoddy don’t stop!

This past week I spent some time in Woods Hole in both the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI). On Monday, I met with Roger Hanlon, a professor and sea rover, who conducts research through filming various behaviors of cephalopods. Cephalopod translates to “head foot” are a class of marine mollusks which includes octopus, squid, cuttlefish, and the nautilus. Roger has dive locations he prefers for documenting their behavior worldwide, but his research is conducted at the MBL. Upon arriving, I got to tour the building, seeing the dive locker, the filtration systems, and plenty of sea creatures. After a brief history of previous research, Roger introduced me to his two undergraduate summer interns, Marisa and Valerie. They were trying to document a rapid coloration change in cuttlefish known as the “passing cloud.” For this to happen, certain chromatophores (skin pigments) must open and close, making a dark area roll down the body, much like the shadow of a cloud.

We spent almost every day from nine to five running trials, hoping to catch individual chromatophores changing in this pattern, and recorded about a minute of decent footage – which believe it or not, was a success in Marisa and Valerie’s opinion! During my time in Woods Hole, I also got to go on two trawls on their research vessel, the Gemma! Though the first squid trawl was cut short due to an issue with the hydraulic system, the second trawl pulled up many creatures, from the tiniest plankton to a horseshoe crab! I also spent an afternoon with WHOI’s dive program, where Kim Malkoski works. There I was safety support for Kim while she taught a student some navigation skills, and even watched a diver assemble a rebreather as he prepared for an afternoon dive scraping barnacles off the research vessels in port. Afterward, I got to take a tour of both the R/V Atlantis and the R/V Neil Armstrong. There I met Alvin, the submersible that discovered the Titanic! My experience at Woods Hole was certainly one for the books, and I wish Marisa and Valerie the best of luck as they continue their research! In addition, I’d like to thank Roger Hanlon and Kim Malkoski for showing me the research facilities in the area, and the Malkoski family for hosting me!

The Alvin