University of Guam Barcoding of Local Life project aboard the NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

Submitted by Louise Giuseffi

The NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette is currently conducting fisheries research in the nearshore waters of Guam as well as the surrounding offshore banks. The mission has three primary projects and this blog highlights the work of one of the major partners, the University of Guam Marine Laboratory.

University of Guam graduate students (a.k.a. Team Triton) aboard the Sette are collecting non-commercial and non-subsistence reef fish samples for the genetic Barcoding of Life project (http://www.barcodeoflife.org). The ship provides a platform for students to target these fish species which are not readily available at the Guam Fishermen’s Cooperative where most of their routine samples come from. The team is utilizing several methods to collect these difficult to acquire species.

UOG students Taryn Mesa, Marylou Staman, Brad Wells and PIFSC Biotech Eric Mooney pose on a small boat with the Oscar Elton Sette in the background.

UOG students Taryn Mesa, Marylou Staman, Brad Wells and PIFSC Biotech Eric Mooney pose on a small boat with the Oscar Elton Sette in the background.

Students have learned to deploy traps to catch fish and invertebrate samples from 40 -140 m depth. Several small reef sharks were caught in the traps and the team was able to take small tissue samples from fin clips and release the sharks alive. This is important because typically nonlethal sampling of sharks is very difficult!

UOG student AJ Reyes cuts bait to put into the traps

UOG student AJ Reyes cuts bait to put into the traps

UOG students prepare traps to send to the seafloor

UOG students prepare traps to send to the seafloor

OES crew retrieve traps after a soak time of 12-24 hours

OES crew retrieve traps after a soak time of 12-24 hours

Students are lowering a special night-light over the side of the ship to attract fish. The fish, including flying fish and juvenile reef fish are then captured with a handheld dip net. “I really enjoyed the night light dip netting. It’s a lot harder than it looks but once you get the hang of it, it’s kind of like a game. It really surprised me how easy it is to catch the flying fish. They literally swim into your net!” –Taryn Mesa

UOG students AJ Reyes and Taryn Mesa night light dip netting for fish samples

UOG students AJ Reyes and Taryn Mesa night light dip netting for fish samples

The students are also interested in reef fish larval connectivity. To collect these species they are using an Isaac’s-Kidd trawl at 30m and 100m deep during evenings. The ultimate goal is to better understand fish larvae recruitment patterns around Guam and the surrounding banks.

The Isaac’s-Kidd (or IK trawl) is being pulled back onto the ship to collect samples

The Isaac’s-Kidd (or IK trawl) is being pulled back onto the ship to collect samples

UOG student Allison Miller sorts through the catch from the IK tow for species of interest

UOG student Allison Miller sorts through the catch from the IK tow for species of interest

A juvenile Chaetodon kleinii just under 4cm

A juvenile Chaetodon kleinii just under 4cm

“ While the IK Trawls have produced some very interesting specimens, I think I’d have to say that setting the traps has been my favorite operation so far because the process was exciting to learn and we’ve gotten to safely sample shark species that can be difficult to handle with other fishing techniques.” -Marylou Staman

When asked what was the strangest creature the students had seen on this trip:

“ Definitely the alien-like lobster larvae (phyllosoma) from the IK Trawl. I’ve seen different stages of crustacean larvae before, but this one was so different – it was as large as my palm, flat as paper and completely translucent.” –Marylou Stalman

Lobster larvae

Lobster larvae

“In one of our crab pots, we caught two Calappa calappa or shame-faced crabs. The shape of their claws, one club-like and the other dagger-like, are designed for eating snails. Although my favorite part about them is the shape of their shell and how when they pull their claws into their body, it looks as though they are covering their face, in a bashful or shameful way, hence their name.” –Taryn Mesa

Shame-face crab

Shame-face crab

Small boat coxswain and boating teacher Jamie Barlow teaches UOG students a knot-tying class.

Small boat coxswain and boating teacher Jamie Barlow teaches UOG students a knot-tying class.

“This cruise has given us the unique opportunity to study the parts of our coastline that have been impossible to reach with our limited resources on Guam. My favorite part so far was being able to survey the northern coastline around the Pati Point preserve because that area is usually very difficult to reach with the small boats we use at the Marine Lab. I feel very lucky to be able to survey some of these areas that most people on Guam will never be able to see.” – Marylou Staman

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