Part of what makes the MBL unique is that its biologists are able to learn so much from the marine animals found just offshore. Fundamental biological processes in these creatures are often similar or identical to those in other species, including humans. For example, MBL scientists use sea urchins to study embryo development, sharks to study the neural basis of behavior, and squid to study nerve cells.

Last week, members and guests of the MBL Board of Trustees and Board of Overseers enjoyed a tour  aboard the MBL’s collecting boat, the R/V Gemma. Below is a photo tour of their excursion, as sea urchins, starfish, and other model organisms destined to help MBL scientists in their studies were netted. Animals collected on the R/V Gemma are brought back to the MBL’s Marine Resources Center, where they are maintained until they’re used for research.

R/V Gemma crew members prepare to haul in a net used for catching plankton.

R/V Gemma crew members prepare to haul in a net used for catching plankton. The boat leaves from Eel Pond in Woods Hole and heads two miles offshore into Vineyard Sound for sample collection.

____________ explains the importance of plankton as copepods, small crustaceans, swim around in his sample jar.

Ed Enos, superintendent of the MBL's Aquatic Resources Department, explains the importance of plankton in the food chain as copepods (small crustaceans) swim around in his sample jar. Looking on is William (Bill) Zammer, a member of the MBL Board of Overseers.

Crew members bring in a net after dragging it along the seafloor to catch crabs, sea urchins, starfish, and other creatures.

Crew members bring up a scallop dredge after dragging it along the seafloor to catch crabs, sea urchins, starfish, and other creatures.

A crab tries to escape across the deck, away from the sea urchins and shells piled up behind it.

A crab wanders away from the sea urchins and shells piled up behind it. Crew members will sift through the pile, keeping some animals for MBL research and returning the rest to the ocean.

One catch of the day is this slimy set of translucent squid egg cases.

One catch of the day is this slimy set of translucent squid egg cases.

This sea star is regenerating a lost leg, a process that has been studied at the MBL.

This sea star is regenerating a lost leg, a cellular process that is studied at the MBL.
Back in Eel Pond, the Gemma is docked near the Marine Resources Center. Ebert Hall is in the background.

Back at Eel Pond, the R/V Gemma is docked near the Marine Resources Center. Ebert Hall is in the background.

For more information on the R/V Gemma, visit http://www.mbl.edu/mrc/outreach/gemma.html.