Dr. Peter Auster: Data Collection
We used Hercules and Argus as flying video cameras. Uniquely, both vehicles have high-definition video which gives us incredible resolution to be able to identify fishes and make video records of their behaviors. We weren't able to collect the fish. Hercules isn't set up to be able to chase and capture fishes. Although there were a couple we would have liked to have been able to catch just in terms of identification. But it's really doing observational wildlife biology under water. The operations van is mission control for any dive. There's a watch leader. I served as a watch leader, one of 3 watches, and that's where we worked with the pilots and two other scientists to collect all the data for all the different projects that are being done as part of this expedition. Things were often very collaborative. If we saw something that was unique, scientist who had monitors in the lab would often come into the operations van and talk about strategy for trying to collect an organism or be able to run the ROV for collecting video or still image data. But then it was up to the watch leader to communicate that to the pilot... the Herc pilot, the Argus pilot, and the navigator.
At the end of the dive, Hercules would get back on deck, hauled back out of the water, and then we would go trough... There were people called the "bucket brigade" because had a number of containers on the ROV that had all the specimens that we collected during the dive. And so everybody pitched in and schlepped specimens back to the pool room where the people that were working on those specimens would then work in the lab. My specimens... my collections, were actually the video and the high-definition stills that were collected during the dive. So after the bucket brigade, while most people worked in the lab, I'd get those image files off the server, the computer server that's connected to Herc, and begin to go through the process of attempting to identify the individual fish species that we saw during the dive. That enable’s us, once we're back here in the lab, to begin to piece together their distribution over the seamounts.
What we've done on this expedition is a work in progress. We've collected all the video, now what we need to do is actually produce data from that video and conduct statistical analysis to look at whether there really are significant association between some species of fish and corals. The verdict is still out on their importance even for some species of fish.