A Summer Diving in WHOI’s Sumbersible Alvin

For those of you who missed it, one of our fellow shoalers had a busy summer (at least part of it) diving in the U.S. Navy-owned Deep Submergence Vehicle Alvin and living aboard the R/V Nautilus (based out of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution).

Check him out during his pre-cruise interview where he describes his research into the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on deep sea ecosystems:

Erik Cordes, an associate professor at Temple University, is a collaborator in the ECOGIG project which works to understand the impacts of oil and gas—naturally occurring and accidental—on the deep sea ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico. Find a photo album and description of their work on the Nautilus web site here.

As for Erik’s summerwhich may also have yielded footage for the film he is working on with other Star Islanders, Acid Horizon—his quote on the Nautilus Web site summarizes it well:

“I have loved exploring the oceans since I was a kid playing on my grandfather’s boat in the Gulf of Mexico and in tide pools on the Isles of Shoals in the Gulf of Maine. I am always excited to join the Nautilus as we go more places that no one has ever seen!”

Follow the Nautilus all the time here: http://www.nautiluslive.org/
Find the ECOGIG album here: http://www.nautiluslive.org/album/2014/06/25/ecogig-beginning
Find Erik on the Nautilus here: http://www.nautiluslive.org/tr/node/6487


Inspire future young shoalers by supporting Acid Horizon

Have you heard about Acid Horizon? If you haven’t yet, there’s no time better than now.  Learn how you can help a group of our very own shoalers share an important and visually stunning message about one of the major threats facing our oceans (click here or like it on Facebook). First watch the video below and then read on.

Dr. Erik Cordes (Photo courtesy of Erik Cordes).

Dr. Erik Cordes with Alvin in the background (Photo courtesy of Erik Cordes).

Awesome right? Today we’re lucky to present an interview with Temple University Assistant Professor Dr. Erik Cordes, who specializes in the ecology of cold-seep and deep coral communities, about his work examining the impacts of ocean acidification. A Star Island Corporation Board Member, he’s enlisted the help of life-long Star Island friends Kurt Langer and Ivan Hurzeler to film his cruise in the Gulf of Mexico next April-May on the E/V Nautilus and the dives he’ll be making in the well-known deep sea submersible Alvin.

The dives will give him firsthand evidence on how the deep sea corals he studies have been able to better withstand the changing chemistry of the ocean. Now I know it’s hard to think about how ocean acidification might impact our time on Star Island. Dr. Cordes, who traces his love of the ocean to growing up on Star, explains:

Ocean acidification is going to impact everyone’s life in the near future, if it isn’t already. This past year saw the fewest young oysters settling in Washington state in history. In the Gulf of Maine, ocean acidification will result in increases in disease in lobsters. No one wants to see lobster night affected! (Except maybe some waitrae). The problem in the deep sea is that we are just beginning to understand just how connected it is to the surface.

But to get this message out (more from Dr. Cordes on ocean acidification below) and make the full-length film, they need our help raising funds. They’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign which has only 24 days left. (Kickstarter is a way independent artists fund their creative projects by reaching out to their own communities). As part of their campaign, the filmmaker’s shared with us this appeal to the Star Island community for your help:

A film like this has the potential to inspire young people (and future shoalers) to be better stewards of our oceans and the world’s climate. (The Sundance Film Festival agrees, recenty featuring it on their web site.) Just listen to how the film’s producer and Star Island Corporation Member Kurt Langer describes it:

This is a film we are very proud of because it not only informs the public about Ocean Acidification, but tells a riveting story about the perils of deep-sea exploration and what that means for the scientists and their families.  We will be capturing images from the abyss that no one has ever seen before, and at the same time we’ll be painting an intimate portrait of one of our fellow Shoalers.

Clearly the Star Island connection is very important to the filmmakers. Langer adds:

In a very real sense, this film is a product of Star Island.  All three of us (Erik, Ivan and myself) have been going out to Star since we were in kindergarten.  Our love of the ocean and our sense of responsibility for its well-being are values that we learned on Star.  We know that every Shoaler reading this feels the same sense of stewardship, and that’s what makes Star Island such a special community and unique backdrop for portions of our film.

Continue reading

Live from a research cruise on the Vessel Nautilus

Hi, this is Erik Cordes, writing live from sea on the Exploration Vessel Nautilus. Come check us out online here: http://www.nautiluslive.org


My early time on Star Island, from the age of 8, greatly influenced my future career choice of marine biology. I spent most of my time below the high tide line lifting up algae to look for crabs, searching tide pools for sticklebacks, and turning over periwinkle shells to check for hermit crabs. Any treasures that were discovered made their way to Rutledge Marine lab, where I quickly became friends with the naturalist that summer. Once I graduated from conferee to Pelican, and high school to college, it only took a few years to become the naturalist myself. Through graduate school, I often returned to Star and made my way into the marine lab to see how things were going. I eventually volunteered for the Rutledge Marine Lab committee as I became a conferee once more. Now I have the pleasure of sharing the marine lab with my children, watching their interests begin to mirror my own.

In my off-Island life, I am a Professor of Biology at Temple University, and I am currently the Chief Scientist on a research cruise in the Gulf of Mexico. I am leading this cruise as part of a large research consortium called ECOGIG, which is focused on determining the fate and effects of the oil and gas released during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. On this cruise, we will be visiting a number of sites where we have found impacted deep-sea coral communities on the sea floor. When we return to these sites, we will be checking up on corals that we have marked to see if they are recovering from the damage of the spill, or if their health is continuing to decline. We will collect some of the deep-water corals for ship-board experiments on their physiology and the effects of oil exposure. We will also be taking water and sediment samples with our remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and alongside another ship, the RV Endeavor, to look at the impact of natural oil seeps on the ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico.


The most exciting thing about this cruise is that you can all follow along with us live! We will be on board the Exploration Vessel Nautilus using the ROV Hercules, and every minute of our time on the seafloor will be broadcast live on their website: www.nautiluslive.org  There will also be daily logs, interviews with the scientists and educators onboard, and all sorts of other exciting content. Please tune in and say hi when you can!