July 17, 2007
Today I arrived at the lab at 9:00. Today was testing day. Hannah and Katie had also just arrived and were setting up for the day's lab work and Matt was out on the dock taking water and air temperatures for the day. Log sheets had to be printed, temperatures of incubators had to be recorded and reagents had to be checked. When Leslie arrived, a quick gathering of all hands set out the "to do" list for the day. I would be running the spectrophotometer measuring the amount of dissolved oxygen in the sample sets. Leslie had devised an automatic pipette system that would automatically fill and empty the cuvette chamber in the spectrophotometer thus eliminating replicate pipetting and a source of error. Again, a clever idea born out of a need for a better method.
The radio was located and the appropriate station cranked up and the fun began. Hannah and Katie fixed each of 16 samples from each site along with their standards and controls then passed them to me to run on the spec. It took us probably about two and a half hours to process the previous day's samples for just the dissolved oxygen. Leslie would then take the test results and plug them into the computer model she was using. She then had to analyze the trends she was seeing in the test results and compare them to previous testing days. This is where the hard work really begins.
In the midst of all our rockin'n'rollin Leslie found out that she would not have a boat captain for the next day's scheduled cruise. She began making many phone calls to try and line up a new captain for the next day. Complicating her search was the fact that divers from the University of Connecticut were also scheduled to go out and the forecast for Wednesday was for severe thunderstorms. After playing phone tag with many people, she did manage to find a boat for the UConn divers for early the next morning before the forecasted thunderstorms were expected. It wasn't until the last phone call of the day that she managed to find some room on the DEM cruise scheduled for Friday. Her sampling schedule would remain intact.
To finish the day we cleaned and rinsed all of the sample bottles and straightened up the lab ready for the next run. The waste from all of the dissolved oxygen testing also had to be totaled and packaged as hazardous waste. I helped Leslie categorize and label the containers so that she could fax the list to the hazardous waste company that would then pick up the materials the next day.
The cost for disposing of these test materials was something that she had to account for in her project budget. We talked a bit about how chemical handling is becoming an increasing concern in all laboratory work. Just as there are regulations governing research labs, high school chemical use and storage is becoming an important concern. New guidance and regulations are coming from the Rhode Island Chemical Safe Schools committee that makes all science teachers accountable for the use, storage and disposal of chemicals.