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Nicole Sandoval

Nicole Sandoval

Nicole's love for animals and nature started at a young age during her summer vacations with her grandmother. As a teen she started volunteering at the San Antonio Zoo and realized she could never leave nature behind. For the DEEPEND project, Nicole manages the Kid's Blog and all the social media sites. Her goal is to provide the science of this project to a larger audience, specifically targeting children. She hopes to inspire the next generation of researchers and biologists. Nicole now works as a Conservation Technician at the San Antonio Zoo.
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Hey kids!

Squirt here with an update from the last cruise! Our favorite scientists have been home for a couple weeks now and have sent over a report from their travels.

The team was able to complete 17 trawls on their last cruise and collected over 10,000 specimens! With each trawl they were able to conduct 17 CTD drops. The CTD measures the water's conductivity, temperature, and density. Additional sensors have been added that also record oxygen, florescence, and pH levels. It travels as deep as 1,500 meters but will take measurements at different depths for the scientists. When the CTD reaches a certain depth, one of the grey chambers (niskin bottles) will open, fill, and close with water from that depth in the water column.

Here is an image of the CTD


The team was also able to pick up their glider, Murphy, who was out collecting data for twelve days! Each scientist is now back home and working through their data and all those specimens!

I can't wait to see what they learn! Until next time!







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Hello Kiddos! Squirt here with another update from the Point Sur!

Yesterday, the crew had a visitor while they were trying to get the nets of the MOCNESS back in the water. This juvenile brown pelican was hanging around the boat looking for an easy meal! Have you seen any brown pelican when you visit the coast?


The team also had some really unique and special finds in the MOCNESS! They were able to pull up a "Deceitful Dreamer." The name, according to fishbase, comes from describing a deceitful little fish that manipulates its prey with the "bait" on its forehead. This fish in particular has only been seen 23 times by people! Isn't that crazy?! To think, that in all the time we've spent researching our oceans, we still haven't discovered or seen many of our discoveries we've made as often as people may think. That's part of the reason why it's so important to maintain the health of our oceans and to continue to study them! After all, you could be the next researcher!


The last fish I'll introduce has an interesting adaptation to living in the depths of the ocean. Meet the Glasshead Barreleye! These fish can see things in the water column directly above them through their primary eyes and they can also see bioluminescence below them by using their curved, mirror-like lenses and retinas below each primary eye. Can you see both sets? These fish live in the twilight zone of the ocean and are one of the few species that does not migrate towards the surface to feed at night, instead it chooses to stay in the depths all day and all night.





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Hey Kids! Squirt here with more updates from the DEEPEND crew!

The scientists have been at sea for an entire week now but the weather has not been working in their favor. There's a video that we received from the DEEPEND team that I'd like you to see! Unfortunately I haven't been able to pull it away from our FaceBook page so if you're not following us yet, you can find it under this link;

In the video, you can clearly see a crew member struggling to retrieve and secure the sonar equipment. The team that we send out has to be extremely dedicated to the work they are doing. Imagine having to work while the weather is causing ten-foot waves! It's only the first week of the cruise so I sure do hope the weather settles down.

Although the weather has been difficult, our scientists have managed to sample their chosen locations (on and off) just like before.

Below you can see a Smalleye Squaretail. These fish feeds on jellyfish and salps!


The team has also spotted another Velvet Whalefish! This whalefish (below) feeds on crustaceans! This fish in particular was close to eight inches in length and was trawled between 1,000 and 1,200 meters in depth!


The team also ran into one of my cousins! Meet another deep-sea squid! 


Here is a close-up of a tentacle!



That's all for now! Let's hope the weather calms down for the team!

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Hey Kids! The DEEPEND cruise has been extremely productive out in the Gulf of Mexico! They've sent me some photos to share with you and I'm so excited about what they've been seeing!

Below we have an Elongated Bristlemouth! Look at those teeth! Did you ever think that so many fish had teeth?! What other fish has DEEPEND seen that have teeth? List them in the comments! You can also clearly see the photophores on the sides of this fish. The scientists have compiled these three images so you can clearly see the teeth, the entire fish and its photophores. Do you remember when we talked about photophores?


The crew also has the chance to see some colorful fish! Below we have a more shallow species most commonly called a Rainbow Yellowtail. Scientists aren't really creative when it comes to naming things, huh?! What would you name this fish?


The team also saw a lot of bioluminescence in the water during one of their night trawls. It urns out that they were seeing Pyrosomes. Each pyrosome is a colony of animals called tunicates which are related to sea squirts. They actually form a tube that can pump water to allow them to migrate up to the surface or down into the depths of the Gulf.


Don't forget to follow the ship! You can see exactly where the team is in the Gulf of Mexico on the home page. We have also been updating our Instagram! If you'd like to see more images from our team, follow us at deepend_gom!


That's all for now! I can't wait to see what the scientists have in store for us tomorrow!


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Hello Kids!

Squirt here with an update from our DEEPEND crew! As you know, the cruise was scheduled to leave on April 29th! Unfortunately, the weather made it impossible for the team to leave port that day. I hear that the waves were ten to fifteen feet high and all the way to the first station DEEPEND was supposed to survey! The good news is that they are now at sea and won't be back until May 12th! That is a lot of time in the Gulf of Mexico!


Here we have a photo of the MOCNESS in action! Do you remember how the MOCNESS works and what the acronym stands for? If not, you can refresh your memory in one of our earlier blog posts under this link;


This is one of the very first fish our scientists have encountered in the Gulf of Mexico and it's called a frogfish! This one in particular is a larval, or baby, frogfish. You can clearly see the "fishing pole" (illicium) and "lure" (esca) that have already started to develop.



The whip-nose anglerfishes are pretty amazing fishes! Females of this species can grow "fishing rods" (illicia) that are nearly twice the length of their bodies! Can you imagine? The males, much like other oceanic anglerfishes, look nothing like the females. The top image (black background) is the male and the bottom image (blue background) is the female.


That's all for today!

If you have any questions for the scientists, leave them below!



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Hey Kids, Squirt here with some exciting news!

DEEPEND will be going out on cruise number five on April 29th!

The scientist are excited to be getting back into the Gulf of Mexico and have been preparing all their equipment! Each lab has to figure out which people will be on the vessel to represent them and they each have a specific list of tasks they are to accomplish while at sea. This time around our scientist will not touch the port until May 12th, so they are spending two week on the vessel!

Check back in and keep up with us during the cruise to see daily updates from our favorite scientists!









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Hey Kids!

 This spectacular squid turns two years old today! Squirt has taught us a lot of new things over the last two years and we hope to continue to learn form him and celebrate his birthday! Feel free to wish Squirt a very Happy Birthday in the comments section!



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We are pleased to present you with the fourth in a series of teaching and learning modules developed by the DEEPEND (Deep-Pelagic Nekton Dynamics) Consortium and their consultants. Whenever possible, the lessons will focus specifically on events of the Gulf of Mexico or work from the DEEPEND scientists.

All modules in this series aim to engage students in grades 6 through 12 in STEM disciplines, while promoting student learning of the marine environment. We hope these lessons enable teachers to address student misconceptions and apprehensions regarding the unique organisms and properties of marine ecosystems. We intend for these modules to be a guide for teaching. Teachers are welcome to use the lessons in any order, use just portions of lessons, and may modify the lessons as they wish. Furthermore, educators may share these lessons with other school districts and teachers; however, please do not receive monetary gain for lessons in any of the modules.

You can download the module and view our other modules here;

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Hey Kids!

Just checking in to wish everyone a happy holiday!


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Hey Kids, Squirt here to introduce Dr. Tamara Frank!

Listen as she talks about the largest migration on the planet, her work with DEEPEND, and how she struggled to break into the marine biology world! She is part of our crustacean team that studies animals like crabs, lobsters, crayfish, shrimp and krill.

Below are some of the images of crustaceans we've pulled up with our MOCNESS during our research cruises!






Did you have any questions for Dr.Frank?

Leave them in the comments below!



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Hey Kids!

Squirt here to talk about bacteria!

Bacteria are microscopic organisms that can thrive in many different types of environments, including our oceans! Bacteria have a bad reputation for making people sick, but they can also be incredibly helpful.


For example; some anglerfish (seen above) cannot produce their own light. Remember, bioluminescence is a chemical process that allows an animal to produce its own light. So how do these anglerfish get their glow? Anglerfish actually borrow their light from bacteria! These tiny bacteria, called Photobacterium, live in the anglerfish's esca, or lure. In exchange the bacteria gains protection and nutrients as the fish swims through the ocean. Pretty neat, huh?

This is also a great example of a symbiotic relationship! A symbiotic relationship is a type of interaction between different species. Sometimes they're beneficial and sometimes they're harmful, but these relationships are essential to many organisms and ecosystems, and they provide a balance that can only be achieved by working together.

Did you know that DEEPEND has a special team that studies these bacteria? Lindsey Freed and Dr.Joe Lopez are working on determining the species of bacteria found on these lures because it turns out that each anglerfish species actually has a unique species of bacterium it's paired with!


No one really knows how many different species of luminescent bacteria there are in total or how these anglerfishes are getting their bacteria in the first place. So far, there are tow different ideas. Either there are bacteria floating around in the ocean waiting to be picked up by the correct anglerfish species, or, these fish are being introduced to this bacteria by their parent during their larval stage (seen below).


Which method do you think anglerfish are collecting their bacteria?


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Squirt here with some exciting news!

Some of the scientists that work with DEEPEND will be at the Ft. Lauderdale boat show all weekend long! The show will be taking place at the Coral Reef Pavillion, Bahia Mar. DEEPEND will have special presentations from 11 in the morning until three in the afternoon each day where they will share information about the deep-sea organisms that live in the Gulf of Mexico.


The show starts on Friday, November 4th and ends on Sunday, November 6th!

Come out and play some games for an opportunity to win prizes! All teachers should also stop by our booth for a token of our appreciation!


We hope to see you there!





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Hey kids, Squirt here to talk about my favorite week! Cephalopod awareness week!


This week is all about celebrating and learning about the different cephalopods that live in our oceans! Since the DEEPEND team does all their work in the Gulf of Mexico, we will highlight some of the cephalopods they have captured there.

The first one on our list is called the Orangeback flying squid! This species of squid gets its name because it can jump out of the water and glide like flying fishes! It's also one of the squids we would think of as a "normal" squid. You can see it below!


The bobtail squid is a smaller species that migrates to the surface of the water at night in order to catch prey. Below you can see a picture of an adult bobtail squid!


Next on our list is the firefly squid. It is considered the smallest of the squids and it's covered in biolumenescent photophores! We talked about the firefly squid in our first video. Do you remember?

If not, you can watch the video here;


The firefly squid uses counter-illumination to match the background light so that predators swimming below cannot see the shadows from the squid swimming above.

Last, but not least, is the glass squid! Did you know that I'm actually a glass squid too? We are a special bunch that moves pretty slowly. We can escape and hide from predators because we are so "see through." Which one is your favorite?

Until next time!






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Hey Kids!

Have you enjoyed our updates from the scientists? Everyone has just returned to their labs and is working on their individual data-sets. In the previous posts we've seen a lot of images of the physical collection of organisms, but another one of the key components to the DEEPEND research is the collection of sound data! It's called bio-acoustics and it's another form of taking data that turns sounds into pictures for us to see! Ben, from Florida International University, was on the last cruise working the acoustics and was able to use the data to determine how many organisms were in the water. He is also able to tell us which different organisms were out in the water when he took his data. In order to collect his data, he sends different sound frequencies and pulse lengths through the water to identify fish and crustaceans. He can also track migration patterns of different organisms and is hoping to determine why certain patterns exist.

In the early morning, before the sun has started to rise, a mass migration of organisms swims from the epipelagic layer (sunlight zone) down to the mesopelagic layer (twilight zone). If you need a reminder on the layers of the ocean, you can view it here;

The migration cycle also takes place at night, but in the opposite direction! The same organisms will migrate up from the mesopelagic layer (twilight zone) to the epipelagic layer (sunlight zone) to feed throughout the night. Using multiple sonars, scientists can determine the different groups of animals through their own "acoustic fingerprint", or echo that each group of organisms produces when pinged at different frequencies. In the image below you can see the different groups highlighted in different colors and their migration patterns that were recorded over a 24 hour period in the Northern Gulf of Mexico.


In this echogram (pictured below) a school of larger animals were observed swimming through an area of high biomass, or (an area with a lot of organisms) the brighter color shows us the large concentration of organisms. Scientists think that the large animals pictured in this area were foraging, or searching for food! Pretty interesting to see it taking place, and all through sounds!


If you have any questions for the DEEPEND scientists, or Ben, please leave a comment! Until next time!

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Hey Kids! Squirt here with more updates from the Point Sur! The scientists are almost done with their trip but we still have some amazing things to learn about!

Below we can see the face of a Spotlight Lanternfish. It's thought that these lanternfish use the light on their heads to help them locate prey. This lanternfish was trawled from between 700 meters and 1,000 meters in depth.  



Below we have a big red shrimp! This shrimp can store ammonia in their body to help with buoyancy ot the ability to float in water!




Here we have a close up of the hatchetfish. Look at those eyes! These fish are interesting because they use counter-illumination tactics to hide themselves from predators. You can find out more about counter-illumination from our video here;



Last, but not least, we have the Sloan's viperfish! Look at those large teeth! In fact, their teeth are so large that they actually have grooves on top of their heads just to be able to close their mouths! Can you imagine having teeth that large?



Can you think of any special adaptations that other animals use to help them survive? List them below!




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Hey Kids! The DEEPEND scientists are still going strong in the Gulf of Mexico! The team has officially been at sea for twelve days and they are extremely excited to share their updates with us!


Below we have a juvenile anglerfish! You can see that the "fishing rod and lure" has just formed on its forehead but it hasn't developed any adult coloration yet.



The scientist have also seen some beautiful deep water amphipods on this trip. This species in particular lives on jellyfish!



Below we have the biggest helmet jellyfish I've ever seen! This deep sea jellyfish is a vertical migrator, which means it actually lives deep down in the ocean, but migrates up to shallower waters at night to feed on plankton. It also has bioluminescent properties which allows it to communicate.


The scientists also bought up this bristlemouth ( image below) that has a parasitic copepod on its back! These parasites are also commonly found on the back of hatchetfish.



Until next time!



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Her kids! Squirt here with some interesting updates from the scientists! This is the first DEEPEND cruise the scientists actually catch some of these fish! I'm so excited to see what they have to show us!


Here we have a Threadfin Dragonfish! It was pulled from between 1,200 and 1,500 meters in depth!


Look at the barbel  on its chin and those photophores. Those teeth can't be missed either! These fish use those teeth to be able to capture their prey properly!


Here we have a Duckbill Oceanic Eel! These eels have an incredible rostrum, or beaklike mouth, that probably evolved to feed on crustaceans. This eel was trawled from between 1,200 and 1,500 meters in depth.


Can you guess how it gets its name? What does the shape of its mouth remind you of?

It looks almost like a duck to me!



Last, but not least, scientist pulled up the undistinguished Sabertooth. The enormous teeth on this fish help make sure they capture their prey. These fish feed on other fish! This one was an interesting catch because it was trawled between the surface of the water and 200 meters in depth! Of course, it was caught at night!



I can't wait to see what other fish the scientist have to introduce!

Until next time!


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Hey Kids, Squirt here to give you some details on how hard the DEEPEND scientists work! 

So what is a typical day like? We usually get nets coming up to the surface on the threes so at 3am and 3pm. It takes anywhere from three to six hours to process the nets. There are six nets per trawl and each net is opened at a different depth. Here are some photos of some of the scientists on board the Point Sur. 


Below we have Dr. Sutton identifying some of the smaller specimens!



The scientist alsoenjoy three square meals a day from the amazing kitchen crew on the Point Sur!



Sleep is usually the hardest adjustment for the scientists because of the net times and the way the sleep windows are divided. The scientists can get five or six hours of sleep but its going to be broken into two shorter sleeping times. It's all worth it though! These are great people and these opportunities give us a chance to catalogue the biodiversity of the Gulf of Mexico! 

Below we have one of the goliaths of the deep- a giant amphipod! We get these fairly regular in the deeper tows. The entire head of these amphipods is comprised of giant eyes. Does it remind you of anything? 



Below we can see the eyes a little closer! 



Until next time! 

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Hey Kids! Squirt here with more exciting updates from the Gulf of Mexico!

So every now and again, a Hatchetfish comes up in the nets that just shimmers with color. The colors seem to stand out and pop with the flash of a camera. I think that the photophores and the colors on the surface of these fish are some of the most beautiful things I have ever seen! This is the lower photophore set on a Hatchetfish.





Some detail with Cocco's lanternfish. The photophores are beautiful in this deep water species!




Some very cool larval crustaceans coming up in the nets. These individuals came up between 200m depth and the surface!



If you have any questions feel free to leave them in the comments below!


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