Shipboard Science 2015 Day 2: Rain, rain, go away!

July 13, 2015

Mike’s Day with Group #1

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The day started a bit dreary with lightning off in the distance, but we were still determined to get our sampling at Station 1 completed.  Though there were a few delays and some soggy scientists, we were able to get everything collected!

As many of the sampling techniques that we were using were either improvised or “new to us”, there was a huge learning curve throughout the process.  The scientists and crew were all awesome at working with us and explaining exactly what was going on, why, and how to do it.  The water samples all looked very clean (though after analysis, some plastic fibers were found).  The sediment, on the other hand, had a very unique texture to it.  We couldn’t really come up with a great way to explain it, but a chocolate pudding texture is about the closest that we could come up with.  Nearly every sample had a layer of mussels on top of a layer of sand, with a darker, silty sediment beneath it.IMG_0523

I was lucky enough to spend the majority of the day on deck doing sampling or analysis of some of the core samples.  After some experimentation with the core sample sediment extruder, we were able to get some great slices of sediment for future analysis.  These will be used to help determine the age of the sediment as well as how long the decomposition process of the organic material in the benthic zone takes.

Right before and after dinner, I was able to get some time in the lab with Dr. Tim working on analyzing the second station’s samples.  Because the morning group worked through the kinks, our process went much smoother producing much clearer (and quicker!) samples.  Though it has been a long day, the excitement of doing “real” science is very evident throughout our group!


Catherine’s Day with Group #2

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I have to admit…I was jealous this morning of Group #1!  They were all decked out in their rain gear, hard hats and boots – venturing out into the treacherous stormy weather to get their samples.  Fearless in the face of danger,  the rain beat down and they occasionally ducked back in when lightning postponed their sampling – it all looked so exciting!

Meanwhile, Group #2 hung around inside without a whole lot to do.  We played the Great Lakes Name Game to test our knowledge of Great Lakes trivia (I thought we did well!) and stole some peeks outside at the sampling.  But it was a disappointing start to the day…until the samples started to roll in and I infiltrated my way into the microplastics lab, which was not my “official” group.  I got to filter samples, used hydrogen peroxide and iron sulfate to digest the organic material in the samples, used salt water to separate the microplastics from the sample (by density), and filtered the remaining sample.  Others in the group scanned the filters for plastic and were able to find quite a few fibers and possibly a microbead.  We ran into some problems with the sediment samples as they were resistant to the digestion process, but overall the lab work went really well and was a lot of fun!  I was still a little jealous of Group #1, but not quite as much.

After a delicious Mexican feast at lunch, Group #2 finally got to “suit up” for sampling.  As we walked outside into the beautiful sunshine, all of my Group #1 jealousy faded away — sampling conditions for us were perfect!  We were introduced to a lot of sampling equipment:

– The rosette collected water samples from the upper and lower portions of the water column to be analyzed for microplastics and nutrients

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– A plankton net filtered through the water, but the filters were going to be analyzed for microplastics

– The ponar grab sampled sediment for microplastics and quagga mussels

– The sediment corer took sediment and water samples for nutrient analysis

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My day was topped off with some great curriculum ideas, including modeling the Great Lakes with string and relating population densities around the Great Lakes to pollution problems.

All and all I had a great day and I am looking forward to the rest of the week!