Illuminating Biodiversity of the Ningaloo Canyons

New Discoveries, Experiences and Friendships

Alex Ingle/SOI
Apr. 14 2020

Our exploration of the Ningaloo Canyons sees us return with amazing new discoveries and an abundance of data. Working with the amazing team from the Western Australian Museum (led by Dr. Nerida Wilson) provided me with the opportunity to gain valuable knowledge on deep sea marine life from experts in the field. All in all, my time aboard R/V Falkor was an adventure that I will never forget.

Memorable Moments
The trip was filled with highlights, a special moment being the giant siphonophore recorded on the ascent of the ROV, which we soon discovered was likely to be the largest specimen ever recorded. During my stay on the Falkor, I met people who I knew I could rely on for anything, be it constructing new equipment for my own research or just making sure I was doing okay in the lab! Falkor’s crew always went above and beyond to ensure that the science team had everything we needed to work efficiently and safely. Working alongside a team like this was fantastic in itself, not to mention some of the amazing sights we saw along the way. Another moment to remember came after ROV SuBastian returned to the surface on one of the last dives – everyone stood out on the aft deck and witnessed one of the most magical sunsets that I had ever seen in my life.

Left to Right: Neil McNaught (3rd Engineer), Jason Rodriguez (ROV Team), Kaycee Handley (MSc Student, Macquarie University) and Georgia Nester (Student Opportunities Participant, Curtin University).Georgia Nester

Looking to the future, we have a tonne of data to get through! Over the course of the trip I filtered close to 2000L of water in the lab, leaving me with around 200 samples to process upon my return home. I plan on applying multiple metabarcoding assays to be able to compare what the team found with the ROV to what I am able to detect using environmental DNA methods. I am super excited to see the results of this trip and to hopefully detect some interesting species that we were unable to see using the ROV.

A spectacular sunset to mark the end of the cruise.Georgia Nester

Thanks to the Team
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. As we approached Broome I was filled with mixed emotions, excitement to see my family again but utter heartbreak at the thought of having to leave the crew aboard the Falkor. During my stay I made some lifelong friends. I have to thank Jenelle Ritchie and Rachel Przeslawski for being the most amazing cabin mates I could have ever asked for, Andrew Hosie for always checking in on me, and Jason Rodriguez and Neil McNaught for making my trip so memorable and fun. I have to especially thank Kaycee Handley, without her help in the lab I would not have been able to achieve the amount of work I did in the time frame. Her knowledge of the ship, its systems and equipment, and her willingness to always lend a helping hand made a world of difference. I am truly grateful to have met these people that I love dearly, and will cherish my time aboard the Falkor for the rest of my life.

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