Monday, May 19, 2014

New Surroundings

From left to right: 
 Dr. Mark Wells (Univ. of Maine), Dr. Charles Trick 
(Western Univ.) and Dr. William Cochlan (RTC-SFSU) 
plan our next sampling station.

The morning began with some of the scientists on the back deck, surveying the outdoor conditions.  It was overcast and cool, but the seas were calm.  After transiting during the night, we stopped at a sampling area that we referred to as Davenport.  It's located over a shallow shelf, with a depth of no more than 100 meters.  It is considered to be a high iron environment.  While we knew that we were about to get busy,  we were amused to see some humpback whales in the distance.  It was as if we were being welcomed to our new surroundings.

From left to right: Charles Wingert, 
Maribel Albarran, Dr.Cochlan 
and Heather Richard (all from 
RTC-SFSU), are discussing
 sampling protocol.

Rachel Vander Giessen 
(Univ. of Washington-APL) is
whale watching while Dr. Wells (Univ. of Maine) 

is removing a messenger weight from 
the recovered GoFlo bottle.
After breakfast, we prepared for our morning CTD profile.  When we perform these casts, we take samples from a variety of depths.  In the case of this morning, we sampled from depths of 90, 75, 50, 30, 15, 10, 5 and 0 meters.  At zero meters, we try to sample just below the surface, which can be challenging due to the ship's rocking motion.  This causes the Rosette to rise and drop within the water column, like someone bobbing a fishing rod in the water.  Keith Shadle, the restech aboard the R/V Melville, will stand watch and keep an eye on submerged equipment while communicating with the winch operator and lab via his hand held radio.  As we communicate over the radio, we call the position of the person we are talking to. For example, if we want Keith to "recover" the Rosette, we would say something like: "deck, this is can recover the package."   His role is to make sure that all of our scientific equipment is operating properly -- our success depends on his help.  He's very personable, and takes the time to ask us questions about our research.

Maribel Albarran (RTC-SFSU) 
is taking nutrient samples from the 
Rosette's bottles.
The acidification experiment 
is underway.
Dr. Wells (Univ. of Maine) and
Dr. Trick (Western Univ.) are
monitoring an incubator.

Brian Bill (NOAA-NWFSC)  is
inspecting his sample with his

Much of the buzz today centered around the numerous experiments going on.  The GoFlo bottle is used to take "clean" water for  trace metal analysis.  As soon as it was recovered by Dr. Wells, he took it to a lab known as "the bubble."  There, he will set up his iron experiments.  He uses iron-59, a radioactive isotope that must be carefully handled, to track the movement of iron in phytoplankton. When analyzing his samples, he does so in a lab room called the radiation van (shortened to "rad van").  After donning a white lab coat, special gloves and goggles, he disappears into the rad van to conduct his work.  It is not uncommon for him to be late to dinner so that he may finish his time sensitive work.

Brian Bill (NOAA-NWFSC)and Kathryn Ferguson (NOAA-NWFSC/FSU) are still conducting their domoic acid experiments. Today I noticed while I was processing their samples, that the filters had a much darker green hue to them.  That's usually a good indicator of more "stuff" being in the water.  While I was filtering, Brian was looking at a sample of water recovered by a plankton net.  He connected his laptop to the microscope and recorded the darting objects under the lens.  A  small audience of scientists gathered around Brian to check out the tiny critters that only a few minutes earlier, were drifting in the Pacific. During lunch, Brian confirmed the presence of the neurotoxin, domoic acid, at the station we were sampling in.

CTD recovery.

Chris Ikeda's (RTC-SFSU) acidification experiment is up and running.  After a long evening of final set up and weather proofing of his equipment, he can now shift his attention to the study's progress.  Trey and I filtered the first samples from his experiment immediately after lunch.  This is an important study, so I feel that I have to be extremely careful with my measurements and data records.

Shortly after dinner, Dr. Cochlan held a brief science meeting with us in the ship's library.  He informed us that the sampling in Davenport was complete, and that we will now steam up the coast past San Francisco to a station called the Bodega Line. With several experiments going on at the same time, tomorrow is expected to be busier than today.  Even though we expect to have good weather, he warned us about forgetting to secure our equipment.  It is good practice to be prepared any sea state condition we may face.  Broken glassware is expensive and could severely impact our work. 

Tomorrow will bring new surroundings, new experiences, and possibly new discoveries.  Please check back to keep up with all that is going on with our research and thanks again for reading.

Dr. Cochlan giving an update on the project's progress.


  1. Sounds like everyone on board is utilizing every second of the day. Tell all of them thanks for looking after our oceans.

    1. Thank you Josslyn. "We're taking the pulse of the oceans." ~Dr. Cochlan

  2. I notice that some people wear t-shirts while others have jackets and sweaters. Are the pictures from different times in the day? It doesn't look like you are too far away from the coast, so I imagine the weather would be warming up unless you are far North.

  3. What we wear is mostly personal preference. The pictures are taken throughout the day, so we layer our clothing to suit the conditions. The air temperatures tend to stay in the 50s to 60s during the day, but it's the water that's cold! We've had great weather thus far, although we will continue to move toward Oregon in the next few days.