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  • José H. Leal

Meanwhile, out in the Gulf of Mexico…

The weather may be lousy, the seas may be rough, but, to me, nothing compares to working aboard a ship doing field research on marine mollusks, sharing the findings with others, and learning from the experience. And this is what I did for four days last week, joining a short cruise led by Dr. Greg Herbert (University of South Florida, Tampa) to the northeastern Gulf of Mexico, mostly following a track (or transect) due southwest of Carrabelle, Florida.


With Drs. Steve Geiger (left) and Greg Herbert (chief scientist), aboard the R/V W.T. Hogarth.

For more than ten years, Dr. Herbert has been organizing cruises aboard the research ships operated by the Florida Institute of Oceanography. The cruises combine field training for students and acquisition of data for Dr. Herbert’s project on the biodiversity of mollusks from the Gulf of Mexico. This most recent cruise took place between October 2–5, and the ship we sailed was the state-of-art, 78-foot Research Vessel (R/V) W.T. Hogarth.


Dr. Greg Herbert unloading a full dredge.

In addition to several graduate and undergraduate students, also participating in the cruise were Dr. Anthony Menicucci (USF), Dr. Stephen Geiger (Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission).


Sorting the mud for samples.

I joined as an researcher/observer, seeking to collect Junonias for our Living Gallery and research (the existing ones in our aquarium were also collected during past cruises led by Dr. Herbert), helping with molluscan identification and photography, and brainstorming new projects with Drs. Herbert and Geiger. We ran out of luck with the Junonias this time, as much of the bottoms initially sampled were muddy, and Junonias prefer sandy areas. Next cruise, perhaps? (A few of the species collected in the cruise are shown below.)


The Lightweight Murex, Favartia levicula, 12 mm.

The Royal Bonnet, Sconsia grayi, 30 mm.

The Flame Cone, Conasprella delessertii, 55 mm.