Friday, May 23, 2014

Controlled Chaos

The schedule.

I rose from my bed shortly after 07:15 this morning.  I was up late, so I tried to squeeze in every last minute I could.  I knew that I had to get on deck for the start of our day.  I greeted Dr. Cochlan in the lab and asked him how he slept.  "Great...until three o'clock in the morning." he said.  That's when the fog horns started sounding off again--three powerful blasts, every two minutes.    I heard the noise while in my state room--in the aft section of the R/V Melville.  Dr. Cochlan's state room is located directly below the horns.  We were obviously still covered in fog.

View of the main lab after breakfast.
Shortly after breakfast, we got right to work.  At this point, we have found our rhythm.  The schedule for the day is always posted on the whiteboard next to the freezer.  We check the board every morning to make sure that we are all on the same page.  Tests tubes were set up, log books were updated, and sampling bottles were at the ready.  Keith Shadle of the R/V Melville, passed through the lab shortly before 08:00. We knew what that meant--it was go time!  The Rosette was going in the water.

Trey worked on deck with the CTD crew while I processed chlorophyll samples. Members of the CTD crew have to monitor the deployment of the Rosette.  This requires two people on lines to keep the Rosette from swinging over the deck. Another person manages the A-frame which is used to raise the Rosette over the water.  Keith communicates with the winch operator via hand signals.  At this point in the cruise, the team is able to deploy and recover the Rosette at a moment's notice.

Batch sampling from a few days ago. Photo taken by
Keith Shadle, R/V Melville. 
Heather Richard is still working with her biofilm/pollution experiment.  She's up early and often stays up late.  For the past few nights, I've watched Heather finish her work, only to get online and grade papers for a class she teaches at San Francisco State University.  Hannah Glover (Univ. of Washington/NOAA-PMEL) has pitched in to help Heather with her work.   It's not uncommon to see people help each other on cruises.  We've all spent so much time around each other, that we have a good idea of how and where to assist.  Sometimes, it's hard to tell which scientists are from the University of Rhode Island and which are from UW/NOAA-PMEL.  Today, the UW/NOAA-PMEL group helped URI collect some samples for dissolved inorganic carbon, which they will take back to their lab for later analysis.  It wasn't part of the original plan, but together they managed to get these samples, which can be later used in the project's final analysis.  Being able to collect unexpected samples or data is always a plus.  

Dr. Cochlan (RTC-SFSU)
filters his N-15 samples.
We had a brief  meeting around 19:30.  We gathered a tight circle in the lab as Dr. Cochlan gave us updates on the project.  With two weeks left, we have completed the first at sea batch acidification experiment.   Although there were some electronic glitches early on, Chris Ikeda was able to address them and perform a complete run of the experiment.  Each group's contribution to the data analysis indicates that the experiment went well and that things went as expected.  We will still have to wait for the copious amounts of data to be processed, which could take months.  Chris has already started breaking down the OA experiment.  I can tell that there's a sense of relief from Chris, although he knows that this process is about to start all over again tomorrow morning.  Brian Bill (NOAA-NWFSC) and Kathryn Ferguson (NOAA-NWFSC/FSU) will also start another domoic acid experiment.  Dr. Cochlan concluded by expressing his appreciation for the collaborative effort and gave the science party the rest of the evening to retire after everything was prepared for the morning.

Xena watches over seafaring
scientists.  She has been on many
oceanographic cruises and stands 
on Julian's nutrient analyzer.

More than a week ago, we were at Point Sur, CA -- an area with low iron and high biomass concentrations. In a few minutes we will cross into Oregon and head to an area that is iron stressed and high in biomass.  We will start tomorrow at 08:00 for a fish deployment, and will slowly move toward shore to collect water.  During that collection time, samples will be run simultaneously to confirm the area we want to be in.  Once the conditions are confirmed, we will stop, and deploy the Rosette.  We hope to complete our collection by noon so that we can steam toward Newport, Oregon.  While in Newport, we will launch a small boat to pick up two additional scientists:  Dr. Vera Trainer (NOAA-NWFSC) and Kathy Thornton (Univ. of Maine-Darling Marine Center).   

Spirits are good here aboard the "salty ship."  We all understand the importance of this project, and we have hit our stride.  As I am wrapping up this entry, Julian is working at his nutrient station, singing along to Andrea Bocelli.  Drs. Cochlan, Trick, and Wells are talking logistics.  Others are watching movie, doing laundry, or reading a book.  Today was a long day, and we are all tired.  At times, it was quite chaotic, but it was always under control.  We can pat ourselves on the was a good day.

Maribel Albarran (RTC-SFSU)
is preparing solutions for
nutrient analysis.
Julian Herndon (RTC-SFSU)
stands next to his nutrient analyzer.

The fog has cleared at the Oregon border.
Thanks for stopping by again.  All of us aboard the R/V Melville appreciate your interest in our scientific adventures.  

Be sure to also check out Trey's blog at Science Shorts II.

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