Data collection may have ended, but that certainly did not mean the end of the work. Our tech, Mike Foy, returned from Seattle and Sunday was spent removing the mesocosm bags and frames from the water after which the bags were rinsed and scrubbed with biodegradable soap. We were covered in algae and biofilm which had formed on the outside of the mesh bags. And while we were happy to have the bags out of the water, the thousands of shrimp which had been using the biomass as a nutrient source were not. As we heaved the bags out of their frames they flew back into the water in droves. Within a few hours we had the bags out of the water, loaded onto a truck and transported back to the lab for the first round of cleaning.
The dock is now quiet. Our tent is gone, the bags are removed and the frames are secured awaiting transport to their winter storage area. It doesn’t seem possible that six weeks have gone by and we are no longer meeting on the dock every morning to sample.
The mesocosm bags, unlike the dock, cannot simply be moved to winter storage. To say this is a process is an understatement! The bags were rinsed on the inside with fresh water at least five times, while scrub brushes were used on the outside. The mesh bags were rinsed with fresh water and laid out to dry.
Monday and Tuesday were spent acid washing the bags and hanging them off the second floor of Fernald to remove any remaining contaminants. The bags were then rinsed twice with RO water and hung upside down to drain overnight. Now, one-by-one, the bags are being dried down the length of Lab 2. Reminiscent of a wind tunnel, the bags are inflated with a large fan for about 12 hours to ensure no moisture remains.
We no longer are spending time in the lab, but every day many of us meet at ‘our table’ in the dining hall to discuss results and our upcoming presentations and final papers. While we are no longer busy with the experiment, we feel the pressure of being able to present our data in a way which makes sense.