Another productive week of video analysis has passed, and I am getting closer to finishing with this stage of my research. I found dramatically more pyrosomes in the water outside Newport, OR than outside of Trinidad, CA, but I currently have no ideas as to why that is the case. I have also noticed that the pyrosomes recorded very rarely mixed in with water layers containing significant numbers of visible zooplankton such as krill and jellies, which tend to exist together. Typically, these species can be found in deeper water during the day, at around 50 meters or more, but during the night may be found close to the surface. I have noticed that very few pyrosomes can be found at all in cases where zooplankton and jellies are near surface water, but these cases usually occur when filming relatively close to shore in shallow water, from about 60 to 150 meters deep. In relating this to observations that I made in the previous week, I believe that the presence of these dense zooplankton populations are a more likely factorof pyrosome absence or abundance than predation by fish, but I cannot rule out the idea that sea state has a role to play as well. It is also possible that there are other factors at work determining the depth and abundance of pyrosomes and zooplankton, such as phytoplankton abundance or water currents that may push certain species further from shore than others. I have begun to record the general density of visible zooplankton at depth during video analysis as a reference for myself and as a possible avenue for further research. With luck, some patterns will appear that relate environmental parameters to pyrosome and zooplankton abundance.
In other news, the Charleston Marine Life Center research show case is scheduled for tomorrow at 11am and I have spent much of the day preparing a display for my project. My display will include some interesting footage taken from the July cruise, a jar of preserved pyrosomes for visual reference, and a pyrosome that I constructed out of thick plastic mesh and bubble wrap for tactile reference! I have found that an assumption many people have about pyrosomes is that they are very squishy and gelatinous, and while this is true of a pyrosome that is dead or dying, they are actually somewhat crisp and hold their shape well when they are fresh out of the water. ‘Sea Pickle’ really is a fitting name for them because they will crunch in a way that is distinctly reminiscent of a pickle when they are healthy. This is the sensation that I am attempting to capture with my false pyrosome as hopefully the plastic mesh will give people an idea of the solid but collapsible tunic of a real pyrosome while the bubble wrap will give a sense of their crunchiness as well as represent the zooids which compose the creatures.
My constructed model pyrosome atop a jar or the real thing preserved in ethanol
Hello there! My name is Matthew Gimpelevich and I am currently an undergraduate student in my third year of oceanography and engineering at Seattle Central College in Seattle, Washington. I’m lucky enough to be working in the Sutherland lab at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology where I get to formulate my own methods of studying the pyrosome, Pyrosoma atlanticum, which has recently migrated up the Pacific coast from warmer waters! As an REU intern, I look forward to developing research techniques and methods of organizing and maintaining my own projects!