Today was a busy day as we completed our first full day on the ship. The ship set sail from the Duluth port in the morning and headed out to start our adventure. Traveling under Duluth’s famous Lift Bridge was quite an experience and most of us were on the upper deck to capture the moment. We were definitely the envy of many tourists lining the channel waving at us. Before we started to sample, we first had to cover safety procedures which included what it means to ‘muster’ at the deck and how to properly don a lifevest and a cold weather safety suit. This made for some rather humorous pictures. You can definintely understand why they call it a Gumby suit! It was also comforting to know that there were more than enough life rafts aboard should we need them.
After we felt comfortable with the safety procedures of the ship, we had our first guest speaker. Dr. Lorena M. Rios-Mendoza from the University of Wisconsin-Superior, who came to talk to us about plastics in marine and large lake ecosystems. We will be collecting samples during our cruise which will aid her research, the first of its kind on the Great Lakes. Her research shows that in 1999 the mass ratio of plastics to surface phytoplankton in the Pacific Gyre was 6:1, meaning that for every 1 kg of phytoplankton in marine environments, there was 6 kg of plastics. In 2007, this ratio had increased an amazing to 44:1!
Dr. Jay Austin from the Large Lakes Observatory at the University of Minnesota-Duluth then spoke to us about the lake temperature structure in lakes. We also watched the retrival of a glider which is the newest technology in gathering CTD (conductivity, temperature and depth) data on large lakes. The glider swims in a zig-zag motion through the lakes on a pre-determined course, taking continuous readings. Using GPS scientists can pinpoint its exact location and easily retrieve it. The glider is the first in use on the Great Lakes and is fittingly named “Gitchie Gumee”, which is the Ojibwe name for Lake Superior”. This vessel is provides a cost-effective way for vertical, lateral and temporal coverage of the Lake. The other two methods of collecting CTD data are moorings and CTD casts. Our group will be using CTD casts to collect data.
The Guardian next took us to our first sampling location and the teachers donned steel-toed boots, hard hats and life vests to learn how we would be collecting data. Evidently we were a somewhat slow group as the Captain starting moving the boat in circles simply due to boredom. Sorry, Captain Bob!
The group learned how to collect water samples from the Rosette Sampler that will be tested for water chemistry, how to net both zooplankton and phytoplankton, and how to collect and sort sediment for benthic organisms. Many thanks to our marine techs for their patience and expertise.
Wish us luck as we begin our “real” work tonight with shifts beginning at midnight. Its been an amazing day! Teaching: its not just a job, its an adventure!