Monday, May 12, 2014

Settling In

Leaving home is never easy.  As I was preparing for my flight, I felt a roller coaster of emotions.  I was excited to get started with my journey, yet saying goodbye to my wife proved to be much harder than I expected.   She has always supported me in pursuits such as these, even if it meant being away for weeks at a time.  I am a lucky man.

I arrived yesterday to the R/V Melville, on a warm, sunny day.  Within fifteen minutes of my arrival, I was issued my security badge, was shown to my state room and then promptly got to work.   It was nice to see familiar faces, some of which I haven't seen for almost eight years.

The R/V Melville docked outside
of the Exploratorium at Pier 15.
This sign is posted for the general public.

We spent most of last night, setting up the labs and securing equipment.  All equipment must be strapped down so they do not shift during rough seas.   During the last part of the evening, I prepared our fume for making solutions, which required me to wear special protection just in case I came across some nasty chemicals.

Safety first.
View of the main lab.
 This is where I will be collecting 
chlorophyll samples for analysis.
By the time the morning came, there were scientists walking around the ship, moving boxes of supplies.  Once the ship starts sailing, it will become less safe to move things around.  The plan is to set sail tomorrow, so the time we have left to place items where we want them is limited.

Trey Joyner and I spent most of our afternoon putting together the incubators--large tanks that will be used to house water samples taken directly from the ocean.  While in the incubators, the seawater will be treated to test the effects of acidification on phytoplankton.  Phytoplankton are microscopic plantlike organisms that serve as the base of marine food chains.

I finished my evening by setting up the fluorometer, a very sensitive piece of equipment that I will use on a daily basis for measuring fluorescence.  These absorbance readings are a function of relative biomass, which gives us a sense of the "health" of  the phytoplankton sampled.

Setting up the incubators.
What I learned from today's experience is that performing science at sea requires a great deal of improvisation.  What most of the public does not see is the amount of time it takes to set up all of the laboratory equipment.  It goes beyond the standard placement of computers and analytical equipment--it also requires a great deal of handy work.  Connecting hoses with the proper parts to prevent leaking, cutting wood to make things fit and using heavy plastic sheets in order to make a room within a room, are just a few examples...   All of this has to be done before the science can even start.

Tomorrow, we will start off our day with a fire drill, followed by our final check around the labs before we finally sail under the Golden Gate Bridge and head south toward Monterey Bay to begin our research.

Trey Joyner inspects the clean room,
also known as the "bubble."


  1. Hey this is Eric Ruiz.( From your fifth period ) I just wanted to thank you for the award. I am eternally grateful (toy story reference). I hope you enjoy your trip and return in atleast one piece. By the way, 'at sea with mr.c.? That is friggin GENIUS!!! (Should put it on a t-shirt) anyways, that's all I wanted to say. Thank you for the award, have a nice trip, hope the surgery goes well, dont look at blood and don't get eaten by a shark.

  2. Thank you Eric.
    All is well out here. The weather has been great and we are ready to do science. Keep up the good work!