Brandyn Lucca    08 November 2018    Tracing for Science

Not all of us are blessed with artistic abilities. In fact, you could easily mistake my stick figures for those drawn by a second grader – no insult intended to any second graders who may be reading. Since I am interested in studying how sound reflects off of different animals, understanding their shape, size, and other internal features is really important. Although I couldn’t draw an animal shape to save my life, I am a fantastic tracer (as my adviser, Dr. Joe Warren, constantly reminds me and everyone else). With a few (dozen) clicks by a mouse and keyboard, I am able to extract the shape of all of the animals we catch, which can then be used to predict how different marine critters will look on our sonar (a.k.a., fish finders).

animal shape

Figure 1. An example photo of a krill captured from one of our IKMT trawls on 06 November 2018. Photo by Brandyn Lucca.

Something you may have noticed in the above photograph is that there is a number and scale bar. In this case, the number allows us to reference if the animal has been used for other experiments and which trawl we captured them in. Likewise, we always have a scale bar in our animal photographs so we can easily extract length, width, and other measurements from when we draw the shapes. It’s good practice to add a scale to animal photographs to provide context for size. For example, when people think of anglerfish, they think of these monstrous denizens of the deep that are akin to murderous piranhas. In reality, the ones we have caught have been no larger than a 25 cent quarter. As we continue to catch more animals, it is critical that we are able to track where each of our animals go. 

tow board

Figure 2. Our counting board to keep track of the animals we capture and conduct experiments on. The actual number is easily in the tens of thousands now if we include all of the microscopic copepods we have caught. Net TowsTM is always looking for outgoing resesarchers and scientists to help us process our catches. Photo by Brandyn Lucca.