How to be a Zooper Trooper: Getting Comfy with the Uncomfortable

By Aly Covey, Marshfield High School student, GEMM Lab Intern 2023

Hello, everyone! My name is Aly Covey and I am a rising senior, one of two high school interns part of the  TOPAZ/JASPER project this summer. I have the pleasure of introducing the team name for this year. We came up with our name not too long after meeting each other last week, when our team member Autumn started calling the zooplankton samples we collected  “zoop soup”, which then led us to call our team the “zoop troop” (because it rhymes!). We had some other contenders for names, but none of them felt just right. I think this is because Zoop Troop has begun to mean more to us than just the convenient rhyme. We’ve all heard the phrase “being a trooper”, which describes someone who overcomes their struggles and we certainly have embodied that in each task, where we have demonstrated resilience in the face of specific challenges and pushing forward despite discomfort both mentally and physically.

Figure 1: Logo for this year’s team name, created by Autumn Lee.

As a team, we have bonded over this quality of resiliency, and quickly became close during our first week. We go on routine sunset beach walks where we look at interesting sand fleas, baby shrimp, and bring back pocket-fulls of shells and beach glass. As well as our group meals that always lead to fun conversation and a warm, family, feel. Personally, I have enjoyed getting to know everyone on the team and seeing their unique skills. Since the first day, Jonah has constantly been trying to help cook and clean for Zoop Troop whenever he can. Natalee and I have bonded over our daily need to find time for a quick cat nap. We usually find Autumn working on her individual research project in the kitchen. And of course, Allison has earned the name of “Whale Mom” because of her dedication to taking care of the team’s needs outside of the daily training and being the best mentor to all of us. 

Over the last two weeks of training, I learned all the new technology and protocols the team needs to successfully use the gear for our research. Allison has been such a huge help teaching us the in’s and out’s of everything while still letting us make mistakes and allowing us to learn from them. So far, I feel confident in all the things I have learned. That said, I still wonder what it will feel like out in the field without a supervisor helping when something goes wrong. Allison has given us a few “non-data collecting” days to feel out the scene without her there and so far I, and whoever I’m working with that day, seem to be feeling fairly satisfied in our skill level, and it has been a nice opportunity to help each other when needed. 

Figure 2: Team prepping CamDo for deployment underwater

For me, it has been uncomfortable allowing myself to fail at certain tasks and having to restart from the beginning to get it right the next time. Patience is such an important skill needed for the work we do everyday. It’s very exciting to feel myself slowly start enjoying the idea of “trial and error” as I lean into all the new information we have absorbed these past few weeks. 

Although it is frustrating at times, I believe the team does a great job of creating a fun environment for each other while still being able to slow down and take in all the small details needed for each new task Allison teaches us. This experience has shown me that in order to persevere, you need to get comfortable with the uncomfortable.

Figure 3: Aly and Natalee learning kayak sampling skills

While completing tasks on my own, I am vigilant to catch errors and run over each protocol in my head multiple times before going out into the field. For example, our theodolite is a very important but delicate piece of equipment we use on the cliff to track and fix on the whales we see out in the water. It is incredibly tedious to set up Theota (our nickname for the theodolite) in a sufficient amount of time without messing up the leveling, cords, or measuring needed to properly run the program. During training, we get up to the cliff around 8am and are able to take as much time as we need to correctly level, connect the telescope to the computer, and reach each fix point without feeling rushed. However, during a “real” workday, we are up on the cliff as early as 6am, held to a standard of having all our gear fully charged and ready to go for the day, as well as being able to efficiently set everything up and ready to watch the whales and be the safety watch for kayak team. The first few times I put up Theota, I got very annoyed with having trouble leveling out everything, but after my 4th or 5th set up, I was feeling very confident in my ability and also being able to quickly move from one place to another to fix on something out in the water. 

Figure 3:  Aly fixing on a whale through the theodolite  

Like cliff site tasks, on-the-water protocols call for adaptability when things get rough; and the kayak is, in my opinion, more rigorous in protocol requirements, with much more room for error than the cliff work. This is likely because of the many types of gear we use while sampling from the kayak: we conduct visibility measurements, RBR Concerto and GoPro deployments, zooplankton net sampling — all while navigating in tricky ocean conditions. During our training, Allison took us out in the morning and taught us each how to properly navigate with the GPS and use all the sampling equipment like a pro. While it was a nice opportunity to double check everything with her, I knew going out without her wouldn’t be so easy. My first morning without Allison’s support, I had to redo multiple stations but was able to correct myself and learn from my mistakes. 

It is incredibly tiresome, but so rewarding to go out in the field early in the morning and come back to the lab in the afternoon with a tote full of new zooplankton samples or pictures of high-quality whale flukes to show everyone. The protocols in the lab are extensive, but the team has done a great job of taking tasks into their own hands and finishing processing data on their own accord.

Figure 4:  Zoop Troop on a beach walk 

So far, this internship has been an incredible opportunity for me, not just in my career but also in my personal life. I have learned so much from my team, everyone staying in the field station, and all the amazing people that I’ve had the pleasure to meet in the community. It has been so intriguing to learn about another small town in my home state of Oregon and compare all the similarities and differences from my home, Coos Bay. I’m so excited for what is to come in these next 4 weeks of research and for the team to keep you all informed. Having another summer to learn about the Pacific Ocean and solidify my love for marine life is such an endearing opportunity and I’m very grateful. I’m most excited for the first day I am able to complete all 12 sampling stations with ease. I believe my skills will continue to improve and I don’t expect any day to be dull working on this project. 

Zoop Troop team member, Aly, signing off!

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Updates from the 2023 Port Orford Gray Whale Foraging Ecology Project (team name TBD!)

Allison Dawn, Master’s student, OSU Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Sciences, Geospatial Ecology of Marine Megafauna Lab

Greetings from the South Coast Outpost, aka the Port Orford Field Station! Long-time GEMM lab blog readers will know that by this time of the year, our TOPAZ and JASPER projects are fully underway. We have officially entered our 9th consecutive year of these two integrated projects, which provides experiential learning internships to high school and undergraduate students while conducting long-term monitoring of gray whale foraging ecology in our small study region.

Much like last year, the Port Orford Field Station is at full capacity, with our team of five plus six other NSF REU, MSI, and Sea Grant interns. The research efforts here span a wide-range of subjects, including the long-standing ORKA kelp-urchin monitoring projects, river otter predation, science communication initiatives with the Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve, and more. This diversity in subject matter makes for excellent discussion during our communal dinners, and keeps the field station’s labs bustling with a variety of samples, gear, and equipment being transported in-and-out on a daily basis. Needless to say, it is a thriving environment for young scientists who are passionate about the community and ecosystems of the southern Oregon Coast. 

This is my third year participating in the project, and my second time as the solo graduate team leader. After having defended my master’s thesis this past June, I have been so excited to return to this incredible study site and share what I have learned about the system here with a new group of interns. I will write about my thesis work in a separate blog soon, but for now, I’d like to introduce you to the excellent group of motivated students that are on the team this year!

Figure 1: Autumn draws a pyramid while learning the equation for estimating zooplankton patch density, as provided in Hermanson, 2019.

First up, we have Autumn Lee.  Autumn is one of the GEMM Lab’s three REU students and together we are diligently working to automate the detection of zooplankton and predator occurrence from our in situ underwater cameras using the program VIAME. We hope to describe the predator-prey dynamics in Port Orford and a new, calculated metric for zooplankton patch density. Autumn moved to Mount Holyoke College, MA after celebrating their high school graduation with a drive-through commencement in Spring 2020. Despite the challenging start to undergrad due to COVID, Autumn is now a rising senior with a major in Neuroscience and Behavior with a certificate in Coastal Marine Sciences. Initially Autumn wanted to be a neurosurgeon or do veterinary medicine, but has always loved the ocean. After taking a few marine science classes back home, they decided to apply for our REU project in hopes of gaining their first marine science fieldwork experience. Autumn is excited to connect with like-minded students, the community, and volunteer with Port Orford Sustainable Seafood with the goal of consuming as much fresh, local seafood as possible in these six weeks.

Figure 2: Natalee beams after having captured two separate whales on camera for the first time.

Next on our team is Natalee Webster! Natalee is originally from St. Helens, OR and has her associates degree from Portland Community College. Natalee was on a nursing track but slowly accumulated environmental and marine biology classes that led her to obtain her first SCUBA diving certification. After this, she was hooked and decided to major in biology with a focus in marine biology. Now, Natalee has earned both her dive master and AAUS scientific dive certifications, and has already helped us deploy our underwater in situ cameras. Like Autumn, Natalee is excited to get involved with the community, meet other interns, and get her first scientific fieldwork experience. In addition to her water sport skills, she is already quite a natural at taking photos from the cliff site.

Figure 3: Aly enjoying a sunny morning on the cliff site with our high-powered binoculars.

Aly is a rising senior at Marshfield High School in Coos Bay, Oregon where her favorite subject is science. In particular, her favorite class is AP environmental where she first learned how to read dissolved oxygen graphs and was fascinated by how this metric can describe water quality for public health considerations. As of now, Aly is considering several colleges, including Oregon State University, with aspirations to major in marine science. Interestingly enough, she used to be afraid of the water. Despite this fear, and being the intrepid person she is, Aly taught herself how to surf during COVID and has since found a new-found respect for the ocean — so much so that she is now ready to make marine conservation her career. Aly is excited for our kayak training session next week and is ready to get in the water to start collecting zooplankton samples. Aly has had a consistently positive attitude during training week, even when learning the most tedious tasks, and can always make our team laugh. 

Figure 4: Jonah poses near Port Orford Sustainable Seafood while listening to the Junket audio tour of the town. 

Jonah is a junior at Pacific High School here in Port Orford where his favorite classes are math and woodshop, and he also loves to get involved in sports such as track and field, soccer, and basketball. As a freshman, Jonah took a 3-D printing class which affirmed his desire to learn more engineering techniques. While considering a summer job, Jonah was excited to watch our recruitment presentation and learn that he could use specialized equipment for marine science applications. He is now considering Oregon State University and Oregon Institute of Technology for his undergraduate career. Jonah has been a quick learner with excellent attention to detail, and is also an excellent cook — which myself and the others are grateful for. He is excited to spend more time on the cliff and wants to perfect his theodolite techniques to track whale movements.

Figure 5: First team photo! We were all very excited and grateful to have been greeted by two whales on our first day together.

In just this first week, we have deployed underwater cameras, tracked multiple whales in one day from the cliff, obtained Basic Life Safety/CPR certifications, and practiced kayak sampling methods from the dock. Next week, we have our kayak safety training, and will have many more days of practicing the cliff and kayak methods before we jump into official data sampling days. I know the team is just as excited as I am for the rest of the season, especially because of this increase in whale activity. It is heartening to see so many whales after our low occurrence year in 2021. Stay tuned for more updates, including what we decide for this year’s team name!

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Whale Filled Summer in the GEMM Lab

By Cristy Milliken, Thomas More University, GEMM Lab REU Intern

It’s summertime in the GEMM Lab, meaning many visiting students, interns, and technicians working in the lab (12 additional people to be precise!). This influx of new faces in the lab means blog posts by some new people, including me, Cristy Milliken, as I am an NSF REU intern. I am a rising junior at Thomas More University where I am majoring in Biology along with obtaining a double minor in marine biology and environmental science. Prior to this internship I knew little about humpback whales aside from them being baleen whales and large mammals. Safe to say, I know much more about humpbacks after researching them for the SLATE project. SLATE stands for Scar-based Long-term Assessment of Trends in whale Entanglements. The project utilizes photos of humpback whales that have been collected from 2005 to 2023 to develop and refine methods of analyzing scaring rates. These methods of scar analysis will be used to determine the effectiveness of fishing regulations in Oregon. The SLATE project started recently (February 2023) and thus the current stage of the project is focused on analyzing many individual photographs of humpback whales captured in Oregon waters to determine the presence or absence of an entanglement scar.

Finding evidence of a scar on a whale is tricky, and we have encountered a few issues while developing our methodology.  There is no universal method to analyze the scarring rate in whales, yet we are building off the methods created and utilized by Annabelle Wall and Jooke Robbins (Wall et al., 2019; Robbins., 2012). Robbins first developed the method of scar analysis using images of humpback whales in the Gulf of Maine. Wall refined the methods by creating set categories that classified every sighting of each  individual to determine the likelihood of being entangled in the past. The image scoring methods have some flaws, and the descriptions can be vague, leaving more questions than answers. One specific issue we faced was how best to define when an image is of the dorsal or perpendicular side of a whale’s tailstock because there were photos that were a mix of both body parts as seen in Figure 1. In the end, we chose to classify photos that did not show a clear view of both insertion points of the fluke into the tailstock as a perpendicular tailstock. It is important to make this distinction because the view of a whale’s body part can show very different markings that could change our perspective of the whale’s possible entanglement history. We also have to assess the quality of each image because the quality can hide or show details that could influence our ability to access the whale’s history. The quality of the photos range from being very good to being illegible, which can make scoring a bit difficult. Aside from these issues, I have been making progress and I have been enjoying the work that I am doing knowing could help researchers in the future. This area of research is something that I could possibly pursue in the future because I enjoy working in an area helping with conservation efforts.

Figure 1: Perpendicular tail fluke of a humpback whale. Photo taken by Jenn Tackaberry; Copyright Cascadia Research Collective.

In addition to my research project, I am also expanding my personal connections and boundaries.  I have started to feel more comfortable here in Newport, although I do miss my family. Everyone in the GEMM lab, as well as in the MMI in general, was very welcoming and kind so that made things easier to settle in. I have also been learning about other projects occurring since everyone has been showing off all the amazing videos and data being collected.  

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been four weeks since I’ve arrived in Oregon. Had anyone told me that after my freshman year of college I would spend an entire summer in Oregon studying humpback whales scarring I would have never believed them and called them crazy. I’ve spent the majority of my life in Ohio thinking that it’d be impossible to study marine biology. But yet I was offered the opportunity to work in the GEMM lab and I will always be thankful for the opportunity.

Confidence has always been a struggle for me, but I wanted to challenge my insecurities, so I put myself out there in my application. Doing so opened up this opportunity and it makes me glad that I took the chance. Internships are a great way to build up confidence while gaining research experience, especially this one. I have met many amazing and kind people here and it has created an amazing atmosphere here at the Hatfield Marine Science Center. So, this is my message to everyone: take the chance and reach out because the opportunity could be an arm’s length away.


  1. Robbins, J. (2012). Scar-based Inference Into Gulf of Maine Humpback Whale Entanglement: 2010.
  2. Wall, A. (2019). Temporal and spatial patterns of scarred humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) off the U.S. West Coast. Master thesis, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia.

Roger Payne: A life dedicated to whale conservation

By Dr. Alejandro A. Fernández Ajó, Postdoctoral Scholar, Marine Mammal Institute – OSU Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, & Conservation Sciences, Geospatial Ecology of Marine Megafauna (GEMM) Lab.

On Saturday, June 10, Dr. Roger Payne passed away. Throughout his remarkable life, he made impactful contributions to the study, understanding, and conservation of whales. His passion, research, and advocacy efforts played a pivotal role in reshaping public perception, and thus promoting the conservation of these giants, profoundly influencing generations of researchers in the field of conservation biology, including myself.

Roger in Patagonia where here found his love for Southern Right Whales. Credit: Mariano Sironi.

Roger in Patagonia where here found his love for Southern Right Whales. Credit: Dr. Mariano Sironi / ICB.

In 1970, Roger and his first wife Katy Paine began the Southern Right Whale (SRW) Research Program in Patagonia, Argentina, which in 1996 was continued by the Whale Conservation Institute of Argentina (the ICB) , becoming the longest continually running research program on a great whale (based on known individuals) in existence. In this study, Dr. Payne recognized that individual whales can be identified by the unique marks on their heads, establishing an important milestone for photo-ID, a technique that forms the bedrock of whale science.

I am proud to say that I am part of his legacy, as a member of the ICB. With the SRW program, I continued advancing research on SRW through my doctoral dissertation by advancing methods in conservation physiology (see blog post) to understand the underlaying mechanisms affecting young whales’ mortality in Patagonia (see blog post ).

Probably, one of the most remarkable contributions of Dr. Payne to the field and to whale conservation was his groundbreaking discovery of the humpback whale song. In the mid-20th century, the world’s whale populations were intensively killed by commercial whalers, threatening their extinction. In the late 1960s, Payne and his collaborators unveiled the melodic symphonies of humpback whales, marking the start of modern whale biology and catalyzing the global conservationist movement “Save the Whales”. These haunting songs connected humans with these enigmatic animals in an emotional manner, raising public opinion and support for whale conservation that ultimately led to the global moratorium on commercial whaling in 1982.

Listen to this story on NPR featuring Roger Payne’s LP, ‘Songs of the Humpback Whale,’ released in 1970, which played a pivotal role in sparking the global environmental movement “Save the Whales”, helping whale populations on the brink of extinction. Photo: Ocean Alliance.

While he continued to believe that science provides essential information about the necessary changes needed to protect whales, Dr. Payne strongly believe in that the paths to accelerate these changes often involve a combination of activism and creative arts.

…All of the great movements in human history have been based not on data but on emotion and passion, and a dream of a better society and a better life. For unless people connect emotionally with a problem they won’t connect with the numbers and the data that describe its dimensions…

“…It seems highly likely that the changes we so desperately need will only come by invoking emotions, and that is something that poets, musicians, writers, playwrights, sculptors, painters, dancers, composers—in fact, creative people of every stripe do well, but that scientists do at their peril. For the real challenge here is to get the world to fall so deeply in love with Nature that we will no longer tolerate the destruction of creation, and will risk our careers and our lives to save all plankton, mosses, ferns, trees, flowers, jellyfish, crinoids, nautiloids, crabs, bees, butterflies, beetles, squid, fishes, frogs, turtles, birds, and mammals—in other words, we will fight to save all of the non-human “Other”…”

From the “Final Voyage

Roger Payne’s influence and legacy continue to inspire generations of scientists and conservationists. His work expanded our understanding of whales, deepened our empathy for these creatures, and paved the way for international collaborations aimed at protecting marine life and preserving our oceans. Today, there are many of us who, inspired by Roger, dedicate our lives to research, environmental education, and conservation. And following Roger’s teachings, we constantly ask questions to seek answers that allow us to continue learning about whales in a changing world.

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Exploring the Western Antarctic Peninsula  

By Abby Tomita, undergraduate student, OSU College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, research intern in the GEMM and Krill Seeker Labs

This February, during the winter term of my third year at Oregon State, I was presented with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. After spending the last year studying the zooplankton krill as part of Project OPAL, I was invited to spend the austral winter season doing research on Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) under supervision of experts Dr. Kim Bernard and PhD student Rachel Kaplan. Additionally, we were lucky enough to participate in two research cruises along the Western Antarctic Peninsula (WAP). 

Figure 1. Sailing into the sunset on the RV Laurence M. Gould.

Unsurprisingly, it is no easy feat getting to the bottom of the world. After an incredibly thorough physical qualification process and two days of air travel from Portland, Oregon, we reached the lovely city of Punta Arenas, Chile. It was such a relief to arrive – but we were only halfway there. The next portion of our trip was the one that I was most anxious about, especially as someone who is prone to seasickness: crossing the Drake Passage. This stretch of the ocean, from the southernmost tip of South America to the Antarctic Peninsula, is notoriously treacherous as water in this area circulates the globe completely unobstructed by land masses. I soon learned the value of scopolamine patches and nausea bracelets, which helped me immensely through this five day journey. From Punta Arenas, we boarded the RV Laurence M. Gould, along with a seal research team from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. They were headed down south to look for crabeater seals to better understand not only their physiology, but also their role in the trophic ecology of the WAP. 

The Passage was rough, but not as terrible as I expected. The hype around it made me think I’d be faced with something as menacing as the giant wave from The Perfect Storm, and while the rocking and rolling of the ship was far from pleasant, my nausea aids, as well as the amazing people and vast selection of movies on board made it manageable. Despite being extremely nervous for the Passage, I was also very excited to celebrate my twenty-first birthday during it. It was a memorable, although untraditional birthday experience that was made all the more special by my friends on the ship who took the time to celebrate the day as best as we could. 

Figure 2. Taking in the sights of the Neumayer Channel with Kim!

The morning that we reached the Bransfield Strait was something truly unforgettable. Up until that point, I knew our destination was Antarctica, but I couldn’t really wrap my head around it because it was such a distant place and concept to me. I remember walking out onto the starboard side of the second level deck and seeing huge mountains out in the distance. For some reason, I had never considered how massively tall the mountains of the peninsula are, and just the fact that there were mountains down here at all. I joined the others at the bow, where we stood for hours in awe at the first land we had seen in days. Though many of the other scientists and crew members on board had been to this icy continent before, this was my first time, and I was in a state of disbelief. We’d finally made it and it sunk into me that I was in Antarctica, and that I would be here for the next five and half months.

After a day of hiding from strong winds in the Neumayer Channel, we were able to dock at Palmer Station (the smallest of the three US research bases in Antarctica) for our first port call, and seeing Palmer for the first time was just as exciting as seeing the continent. It looked so small at first, especially with the glacier and mountains looming behind it. Once the ship was tied up, orientation began. The station manager came onto the ship to give us an overview of what we could expect on station and the general Palmer etiquette. Next, we were given a tour of the facilities, from the lab spaces and aquarium room, up through the galley/dining area, past the hot tub and sauna, and into the lounge and bar in the GWR (Garage, Warehouse, and Recreation) building. I was surprised at how cozy the station was on the inside. In pictures, the buildings’ exteriors looked similar to the outside of a metal shipping container, but the inside was welcoming and warm. Those of us staying on station then sat through several hours of a more detailed orientation that somehow wore us out despite sitting in comfy recliner sofas the whole time. After sleeping on the rocking ship for about a week, I had some of the best sleep of my life that first night at Palmer Station.

Figure 3. Arriving at the Palmer Station pier in the first morning light.

Our first research cruise started a few days after arriving at Palmer, and just like that, we were off to explore the Southern Ocean. This leg of the trip took us south, down to Marguerite Bay and the region of Alexander Island, for ten days. The views were just spectacular everywhere we went, and it was so humbling to step out onto the deck to see gigantic mountains all around the ship. By day, us “krillers”, as our team is known, camped out on the bridge of the ship with the seal team, where we looked for sea ice floes with lounging crabeater seals. By night we conducted CTD casts, filtered water for chlorophyll, and deployed nets to catch our favorite tiny crustacean critters, along with any other zooplankton in our track. Unfortunately for both our group and the seal team, many areas that we visited were not frequented by krill or crabeater seals, though the seal team did successfully study and tag one seal over the course of the first cruise. 

Figure 4. Rachel (right) and I (left) filtering water for chlorophyll on the LMG. 

One of the highlights of this leg of the cruise was our Crossing Ceremony, as we’d crossed the Antarctic Circle (approximately 66.5ºS) shortly after leaving Palmer station. Myself and six others were crossing for the first time, so to earn our “Red Noses”, we had to pay tribute to King Neptune and his court. It would not be a Crossing Ceremony without at least some light pranking, so when they brought us out individually to the main deck, I knew something was coming our way.

Figure 5. Taking a celebratory picture with King Neptune’s court…with a surprise after.

The ten days flew by, and when we arrived back on station, we had less than a week to prepare for our next excursion on the LMG, which would be fifteen days. The time back at Palmer went quickly as we organized our lab space and entered data from the first cruise. The ship came back once more and we were off, this time heading north along the Peninsula to the Gerlache Strait. The sights were as breathtaking as ever, and I was excited to be back with my friends from the ship. 

Figure 6. Kim (left) and I (right) pour krill we caught into an XACTIC tank.

Our first day of transit was through the Lemaire Channel, one of the most stunning areas that we passed through (check out the photo gallery at the end of this post!). We spent the majority of the day on the bow and the deck of the bridge taking in the beautiful towering mountains on either side of the narrow channel and watching for penguins and humpbacks, of which there were many. This voyage segued into an extremely productive night of science for us where we caught thousands of krill that we were able to keep live in tanks on the ship, in preparation for later use for our experiments on station. Our first productive night of science was auspicious for the rest of the cruise as we caught and processed thousands more krill, and the seal team had a much more fruitful experience finding crabeater seals (they found/worked on 8 seals and named them all after fruits!). The highlight of this second cruise for me was getting to accompany the seal team onto an ice floe in the Lemaire Channel to assist them in their work on the crabeater, a female juvenile who they named Mango!

Figure 7. Watching Mango’s nose to calculate and record her breaths per minute (US NMSF Permit #25770).

Returning to Palmer for the final time on the LMG was just as exciting as arriving the first time, especially with the knowledge that we’d have one last night of celebration with our friends from the ship at the Cross Town Dinner – a night to celebrate the solstice with both the Palmer crew and LMG crew. Although the dinner and subsequent party were a blast, I felt a lingering sadness knowing that the majority of the people I spent almost two months with would be heading north, back to their respective homes while Kim, Rachel, and I stayed at Palmer for the next few months. The next day, after saying our goodbyes, the three of us stood on the Palmer pier with tears streaming down our faces, waving frantically at the ship to our friends on the deck. In spite of my sadness, I knew that the coming months would be a thrilling series of new experiences in one of the most magical and special places that I have ever had the pleasure of being in. 

Figure 8. The LMG departs Palmer Station for the last time this winter!