1 August 2007
Location:off Long Key and Hawk Channel
What a perfect day. The sampling schedule is fast paced and full with little down time. Chief Scientist Bob pointed out the cruise track and the sampling plans for the rest of the trip with daily transects of ~9 stations/day with 3 near shore, 3 middle and 3 deep water sites. Between sites we retrieve and concentrate the plankton samples. While the nets were in, Bob showed me his favorite place on the boat in the bow where the water between the twin hulls of the catamaran is the most magnificent blue.
In the morning, I had a chance to talk to deck hand Sarah Lewis, a recent graduate, who was onboard an earlier cruise studying deep sea larval ecology. She was asked to join the crew when a position came available. She had been accepted to Northwestern's Clinical Embryology Program but deferred acceptance for a year.
I also spoke with Dennis Ilias who installed Earth Stations in South America and the Philippines before getting a job on the Walton Smith. He said his summers are interesting and busy as he assures all the technical systems are operating and that the researchers' equipment is compatible with those onboard.
This morning, I helped deploy the massive MOCNESS plankton sampler. Actually, all I did was hold a line but it felt important. As the huge frame lumbers on the stern of the vessel, it reminds me of a massive leviathan being hauled aboard and lowered down onto the deck. Just before dinner tonight, I picked through a vast sample of zooplankton and preserved it in ethanol to bring back to class. A totally fascinating and diverse array of invertebrates and fish larvae. I can't wait to get it under the microscope once school starts.
We spent the evening searching for a subsurface buoy marking an array of expensive thermistors, temperature recording devices, and a current meter in 85' of water. Didn't seem to have the correct GPS coordinates and were unable to locate it, even though we had 15 pairs of eyes trained on the water. Finally, the small boat was put over the side and graduate student Katie snorkeled and found it just at sunset.
Second year graduate student Katie Shulzitski agreed to tell me something about her studies. She went to Appalachia State University in North Carolina as an undergraduate. Then got her masters degree at the University of North Carolina Wilmington working on mutton snapper genetics. Now she is in a PhD. program at RSMAS and is interested in how early life history traits affect survival in reef fish larvae. She will be writing her proposal next year while working on this research grant. She is a SCUBA diver and enjoys hiking and backpacking. After she graduates she would like to work in a research position.