Odds and Ends

Newsworthy events from the Sea Grant community.

Bluefin Acquired by Batelle

Bluefin Robotics Corp., the commercial spin-off of the MITSG Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV) Lab, has been acquired by Columbus, Ohio-based Batelle. As a wholly owned subsidiary of Batelle, Bluefin will keep its current management team and remain based in Cambridge, Mass., not far from the MITSG offices where the AUV Lab began in 1989. Founded in 1997, Bluefin is at the forefront of worldwide AUV development, designing advanced underwater vehicles for wide-ranging applications such as offshore oil and gas seafloor surveys, naval mine warfare, and scientific exploration and investigation of the oceans.

Jim Bellingham, the cofounder of Bluefin who spent ten years developing AUVS at MITSG, credits Bluefin's success to it roots. Says Bellingham, now the director of engineering at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute: "MIT Sea Grant is the reason that Bluefin exists. Not only did MITSG support AUVs in the early days, when few believed that anything untethered was going to have a future in the ocean, it also made a priority of moving systems out of the laboratory, into the hands of users. The strong follow-through by MITSG to bring the AUV research it had pioneered to the commercial world has been instrumental in turning AUVs from a promising technology to a working reality.'

Outsmarting Rip Currents

When a strong current is carrying you out to sea, your survival instincts might not tell you to go with the flow or swim parallel to the shore. But they should. Rip currents (channelized currents of water that flow away from the shore) are a powerful and dangerous phenomenon at many ocean beaches. If you're caught in a rip current, stay calm and don't fight it. To escape the current, swim parallel to the shoreline; when free of the current, swim at an angle away from the current, toward shore. If you can't swim out of the current, float or tread water. And if you need help, wave or call out.

MITSG is getting the word on rip currents out (in English and Spanish) to New England beaches. Working with the Cape Cod National Sea Shore, the Massachusetts Dept. of Conservation and Recreation, towns, harbor masters, surf clubs and other groups, MITSG has distributed posters about rip current safety throughout the state. For more information about rip currents, see www.ripcurrents.noaa.gov.

Intern Studies Marine Invasives

Isabel Guenette admits that she was prepared to be doing lots of filing this summer. "Instead,' she says, 'I feel like the work I'm doing really matters." Through the Hutton Junior Fisheries Biology Program, sponsored by the American Fisheries Society, the recent graduate of the Cambridge School of Weston has spent this summer conducting marine invasive research with MITSG mentors Judy Pederson and Brandy Moran.

To better understand why sea squirts are successful marine invaders, Guenette constructed plastic plates on which tunicates, mussels and other creatures like to grow. She then deployed those plates at the Maritime Heritage Center in Gloucester, home to MITSG's Finfish Hatchery, and examined the plates weekly to document settlement and interactions of four dominant species found in the region (three sea squirts and one native mussel). Come autumn, Guenette will start her freshman year at Yale.

Perfect Beachcombing Companion

Woods Hole Sea Grant's latest product is geared for beachcombers of all ages. Beachcomber's CompanionŠ (a fun twist on a field guide) was developed by Sea Grant educators and scientists to turn every trip to the beach into a unique learning experience. The set of 54 waterproof cards, held together by a clip, are packaged in a mesh collecting bag. Each set features 50 marine invertebrates common to the Atlantic Coast; nearly all can be found from Florida to Maine. Information for each specimen, ranging from the American lobster to the purple-spined sea urchin, includes the animal's typical size, common features and coloration, where to look for it, and fun and interesting facts. Did you know that a stack of slipper shells (Crepidula fornicata) is called a harem? that bay scallops (Argopecten irradians) have over 30 bright blue eyes that can detect light? that sea stars (Asterias vulgaris) eat by prying open the shells of their prey (bivalves) and inserting their stomachs into the gap?

Beachcomber's CompanionŠ cards come a special marking pencil that can be used for the species checklist card. A new companion website, www.beachcomberscompanion.net, offers E-postcards and, soon, the opportunity to go virtual beachcombing. To find out more about the cards, visit the website or send e-mail to info@beachcomberscompanion.net.

DVD for Shellfish Growers

If you are new to shellfish aquaculture or simply looking for some pointers, Woods Hole Sea Grant's new DVD, Shellfish Aquaculture: Tools, Tips, and Techniques, provides an introduction to the types and methods of shellfish aquaculture used by shellfish farmers on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Featured techniques include counting shellfish (both juveniles and adults) and quantitatively assessing shellfish habitat. Additionally, behind-the-scenes visits to nursery and grow-out operations highlight innovations and tricks of the trade from Cape Cod shellfish farmers and shellfish officers. For information on ordering the DVD, contact Woods Hole Sea Grant at (508) 289-2398 or e-mail seagrant@whoi.edu.