Good news! I finally got this in the mail!
It looks like some strange medical equipment, but it’s actually a specialized net used to concentrate plankton in water samples. Some of you might have seen this image floating around on the internet:
This photo, taken by David Liittschwager, is often accompanied by a caption such as “life in a single drop of ocean water!”. Not entirely true. The ocean is full of planktonic life, but not that much. What you are seeing is the concentrated sample of plankton, made possible by nets.
Speaking of which, I’m planning a trip to California next month and while I’m there I’m hoping to get some neat ocean samples. I’ll also visit an estuary, which are incredibly diverse ecosystems, and get some samples from there as well.