July 2, 2003
Sleep is very elusive with the loud humming of the engines. I wish someone had recommended bringing earplugs.
The schedule for work assignments has been posted. I have been assigned to the CTD/Niskin bottle crew with Amy, Angie, Maura and Whit at 9 am, 5, 6, and 9 pm. We will also be reading the chlorophyll a filter as needed. When I first read the abbreviation, chla, looked like chia to me and I have had a hard time getting chia pets out of my head. My watch shift is from 9 pm to 3 am with Allan, Dave and Amy.
I spent this morning talking with Allan and Dave, a PhD candidate. I had been reading a preliminary copy of one of Allan's papers and I had some questions for him. He gladly explained everything I needed to know and then we discussed many topics from the procedure for giving scientific organism names in journals to ozone depletion, ecological disasters and George Bush. Later, I listened to a complete description of Dave's thesis project involving the predation of sand shrimp on flounder eggs and larvae in Narragansett Bay.
Amy, Angie and Carolyn are runners and Angie and Carolyn were surprised to discover they are training for the same marathon. Todd, the first mate, had informed everyone there would be no running on board. A stationary bicycle and a weight bench are available in the lower hole. A decision was made that jumping rope on deck might be the preferable activity.
This practice did not last long as the work schedule intensified and air temperatures dropped.
11 am Meeting: Shifts were explained. Starting about 1:10, we began the survey of stations in the Bay of Fundy. The large CTD would be deployed at each station. (insert best CTD,jpg) Additionally a plankton net tow (20 ?m) would be used to take samples from 10 m to the surface (insert collecting net samples. jpg and a bucket would be used to obtain surface water which would be filtered through a 10 ?m net.
At the first station, we obtained numerous diatoms and no Alexandria. These scientists were definitely not interested in diatoms.
At station 3, a few Alexandria were obtained. I learned how to process the samples for Allan.
This involves pelletizing the biomass: two 10 mL portions of the 800 mL concentrate collected from the net tow is centrifuged and then the supernatant is removed down to 1.5 mL. The remaining volume containing the organisms is transferred into 2 tiny cryovials and put into a micropore centrifuge. The supernatant is again removed leaving just the pellets of biomass in each of the vials. These cryovials are flash frozen in liquid nitrogen and stored in a freezer. Each cryovial has to be labeled BF 070(day) 03, the station # and a letter which indicates whether the sample came from the net or pump. I labeled an unbelievable number of cryovials and filter disc separators over 7 days. Additional concentrate is processed under two different procedures. If there are enough of the various phytoplankton which produce toxic chemicals in the net sample determined by checking under the microscope, a small volume is incubated for 1 hour in saline, ethanol buffer (SEt) and then divided in half. Each portion is filtered on a black micropore filter under slight vacuum.
which takes 9 minutes. These will be checked for fluorescence back in the home lab to determine toxin concentrations. A small room akin to a chemistry lab termed the special lab is where all this work is done and I feel most comfortable here.
There is even a hood for toxic vapors.
It is now 8:30 pm and we are on station 8. I am still working mainly in the lab preparing samples for Allan. A MOCNESS deploy was attempted again, but it had to be aborted. The device does not seem to be able to communicate with the computers once it goes into the water.
I have been making some attempt to recognize the plankton under the scope, but I do not like microscope work.
Seeing all of the microscopes set up in the main lab reminded me why I became a chemist. Let me back in the lab with the pipets.
During dinner (shrimp scampi, yum!) someone made a comment about it being day 2. No one could believe it, as it seems we have been here for at least 5 days. We have become a very close-knit group. Even the scientists could not believe that we just started our trip yesterday morning.
Some of the grad students have their own special experiments to do. Whit is working on his experiment, trying to determine the respiration rate of the copepod, Calunus which seems to be the most abundant zooplankton in the bay.
It is midnight-3 more hours to go in my shift and probably 3 more stations to go. We are getting very efficient. There are 4 on my team: Allan, Dave, Amy and myself. We had been wondering if we could possibly handle all the work with only 4 of us. Melissa volunteered to stay and help for a while. We have to deploy the CTD from the deck while Dave takes care of it on the computer. As soon as the CTD is in the water, we run to the back of the ship. Here we get a bucket surface sample and filter 5 liter of it, concentrating the organisms into 100 mL. Then we do a net tow up from 10 m and filter and concentrate the organisms in the cod end to 1liter. The colder it gets the faster we are able to complete these tasks. A 100 mL container of the net sample is preserved, labeled, and stored in the fridge.
The 100 mL bucket sample and another 100 mL sample from the net are used to determine which organisms are present at each station. Whichever scientist is available
puts a water sample in an ingenious Palmer Maloney cell consisting of a rectangular depression in a slide with a cover slip and slot which holds exactly 10 ?L when filled. The sample is surveyed under the scope in a grid pattern and the numbers of various types of phytoplankton are recorded in the logbook. The cell allows calculation of populations per L of seawater. Not many Alexandria are appearing. The remaining 800 mL net tow sample goes to Allan's special lab. Amy, Melissa and I take care of the various protocols which need to be accomplished with each 800 mL sample.
On leaving station 11, the ship had some problems so now it will be another 25 minutes of waiting for the next station. One more hour to go! I am getting very tired, but did much better than I thought I would working until 3 am.