August 16, 2005
We have left the NY Bight area and we are headed to Georges Bank off the coast of Massachusetts. It's a great whale area so I'm excited.
Now seems like a good time to fully explain the entire station routine. At each station, we get a "10 minutes to station" announcement from the bridge. At that point we suit up (foul weather pants, rubber boots, hard hat, and either a pfd vest or a float coat depending on how cold it is). Actually Nora and I gear up and Joe's goes to the CTD room to man the computers and radio. The first thing we do is record the flowmeter readings from both nets to get the baseline for our set of data. After recording, we put a paper cup on both flowmeters to keep the flowmeters from spinning in the wind. Joe radios to the winch operator to turn on the CTD. When it's on and Joe is receiving data, we lower the bongo nets into the water. Joe monitors the depth from the CTD room. When the bongo nets are 5 meters from the bottom he radios the winch operator to bring the nets back up. As soon as the nets get back on deck, we take the ending flowmeter readings and record them in a book that is taken to Joe, where he records them in the computer. Next we hose down the nets and untie the bottoms so the plankton (and paper cups) can be emptied and rinsed into sieves. We do this with both nets. The nets, sieves, and jars we eventually put the plankton in are labeled with a pink or green label. The pink label is for the ichthyoplankton studies and the green label is for the zooplankton studies. When the nets have been emptied and retied, we take the sieves into the wet lab. At the sink (under the now-working hood) we rinse the sieve with ocean water and use a funnel to get all of the plankton into a jar. We add 50mLs of formaldehyde, close the jar, and gently turn it upside down a few times to make sure the formaldehyde gets mixed in. We do this for each sieve so we have 2 jars for each station. The jars are labeled on the outside (a label on the lid written in ink) and on the inside (label written in pencil). Each label tells the station number, the date, the cruise (we are on cruise AL0507- Albatross, 2005, 7th cruise), and the number of jars (1 of 1, 1of 2, etc. Generally it was 1 of 1).
At the first station after noon and after midnight (the first station of each of my watches) we take a water sample using a nisken bottle. The bottle gets attached to the wire with the CTD and the bongo nets get disconnected. The nisken bottle is open at both ends. Once it reaches a desired depth (determined by Joe on the computer), a weight (called the messenger) is sent down the wire. The weight triggers the bottle to close, trapping a water sample inside. Back on deck, we use this water to calibrate the CTD. We do this in two ways. First, we take a sample in a small clear bottle that will be used to test water salinity. Second, we take a sample and put it through a filtering system (built out of a vacuum pump, an Erlenmeyer flask and a funnel with a place for a small paper filter disc) to test for chlorophyll. The chlorophyll gets trapped on the filter disc, which gets put in a test tube with a small amount of ethanol and put into a cooler until it is read 24 hours later. I haven't done the "reading" part yet so I'm not sure all of what that entails.
3:45 A.M. (same day)- I just sat down for the first time since I came on watch at 11:45 P.M. I came up a little earlier tonight because the porthole over Joan's bed leaked during rough seas earlier today. Joan needs to switch linens, bunks, or both, since hers are wet.
When I came on watch, Don (EPA scientist) had just finished getting a bottom sample with the double grab. Nora relieved him and he went to bed. She and I sieved out the sample (which because of the sandy sediment took almost 2 hours) and bottled the remaining sand and organisms. After that we had to filter 3 water samples (bottom water, middle level water and surface water) for 3 things- nutrients, total suspended solids, and chlorophyll. The filtering of the water is a pretty easy process but it took forever because you can only do 2 of the 3 samples at a time (due to equipment limitations on a boat) and you can only filter 200mLs at a time. We need to filter 1000mLs so that the filters will produce a clear reading. So, the filtering process is repeated 5 times for each of the 3 different filters and for each of the 3 different water samples. It was really interesting to see the whole bottom grab and water sampling process (this was the first time I had seen it) but it was very time consuming. Nora and I worked for just over 3 hours processing one station. I now understand why the EPA is only taking a sample at every 5th station. Five minutes after we finished with the water filtering, we got a "10 minutes to Bongo" announcement so we went back to work. Time goes by really quickly when you are continuously busy.
As a teacher, I've been reminded of what it's like to be a student who is being introduced to a new concept. During the first bongo, and tonight working with Nora, the concepts intrigued me and I wanted to know more, but I wasn't educated enough yet about what we were doing to know what to ask. I know I have been frustrated with kids in the past that clearly don't understand but don't ask questions. I don't know how to help them. It was good to be put in that position again so that I can better help my students when they are in that position. At the very least I have a better appreciation of that feeling again.