Day 6: A Day of Small-Group Research

July 25, 2011

A new day starts that 12:00 AM and so does this blog entry. Due to the type of research that we are conducting, all of our testing needs to take place after sundown. By this point in the trip all of us are pretty use to staying up late, waking up in the middle of the night, and getting up before dawn to do our part in the research. At midnight, we were dropping the rosette for water analysis, taking benthic samples from the lake floor, and trawling for larval fish and macrofragments of plastics. We have been doing these things for days now and have them pretty down pat, but for some reason getting soaked with water is just part of the process. After collecting all the samples, we spent the next couple hours scraping nets, filtering water, examining samples under the microscopes. Before calling an end to the beginning of the day the handful of us still up went to the front of the ships to view the moonless night sky unfettered by light pollution from the northern cities.

Being on a ship gets you used to many oddities; sleeping in bunk beds, sharing a bathroom with five other people, NOT flushing the toilet when you are done using it, having every meal prepared for you and not even having to do the dishes, the constant rocking of the boat, and the loud hum of the engine. With almost all of the researchers sleeping at 7:30 in the morning after a long night of sampling, one of those oddities got us all up. The engines stopped and the boat slowed and that was enough to wake us all up wondering why we had come to an unscheduled stop. Due to a calculation error we had arrived at our next research spot an hour and a half early. Within minutes, the deck was alive with teachers ready for another set of samples. Everyone was excited because this spot was going to be testing waters at 237 meters deep. Think about that. That is 777 feet. Only twelve of the fifty states have buildings that are taller that! One of the reasons we were so excited about this spot is that we all decorated Styrofoam cups, shoved them in pantyhose to secure them to the rosette, and lowered it down the 237 m offshore of the Keweenaw Peninsula. The pressure was so great that the cups were compressed to nearly half their size!

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We then headed off to the mouth of the Bad River of the Chequamegon Bay without stopping, which took the rest of the day. That was fine with us because we had a lot of work to do on board. We are all presenting our small group research projects on Wednesday and needed the time to wrap things up.

Janet, John, Paul, and Jim have been researching the presence of plastic in Lake Superior. Using a mantatrawl drug to the side and behind the boat to avoid the wake, a sample is taken for one hour at 2 knots. They also have been taking shoreline samples for plastics.

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Lori W., Jillian, Lori S.D. and are collecting zooplankton samples and comparing nearshore samples to offshore. They are looking for difference in abundance and biodiversity in relation to possible nutrient and temperature differences.

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Mark, Diane, Sara, and JoAnn are collecting phytoplankton samples and comparing nearshore samples to offshore. They are looking for the relationship between phytoplankton and nutrient loading and therefore human population centers.

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Sandy, Lynn, Cindy B., and June are researching different chlorophyll levels using the hydrolab (data sond) that we were trained with earlier on our voyage. They are comparing different levels and different locations to find the greatest abundance of chlorophyll in the lake.

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We also learned a few lessons with Cindy H. and Rosanne to bring to our own classrooms covering watersheds, fisheries, and aquatic habitats to wrap up our day.

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