Sometimes it’s easy to forget about other parts of your life when you are living in a laboratory and analyzing data 24/7. Thankfully, where we are living also happens to be on a biological preserve full of beautiful animals of all shapes and sizes. In bits of downtime I’ve had over the course of the quarter, I was able to draw some of the little critters that live in the area, carefully maintained in the sea tables in Lab 3.
T21 has been that magic number for the OA students since we learned that it was going to be our last day a week ago. After three weeks, it seems like we’ve been doing this forever – waking up and being on the dock by 8:30, rain or shine. We’d laugh at the (sometimes ridiculous) LICOR readings, chat around the sampler, exclaim over the weather, look for sea creatures around the dock, and try to catch photos of our tech, Barbara, and her seriously awesome sunglasses.
In some ways, I’ll really miss that – the familiarity of it all, how we’ve bonded over this experience and each found a bit of a niche in the early-morning dock environment. But I won’t miss waking up at 7:30 every morning, regardless of the day of the week. I’m looking forward to having weekends again. I’m also excited to begin looking at the data we’ve been gathering for the last 22 days, where before I’ve been too busy processing samples to truly look at and analyze the data we’ve been collecting.
Ever since Amy and I rowed to town and saw a small waterfall, we’ve wanted to find the source. We began our expedition with Natsuko and Collin after dinner. Walking toward the entrance to Friday Harbor Labs we searched for a path to lead us to our destination. After a bit of walking we found a path and began to explore.
Initially, we tried to head down toward the water, but the path was steep and we didn’t want to risk getting caught at the bottom when sunset arrived, so we took a path heading in the opposite direction. This path happened to be a pleasant surprise. We found a bunch of young Madrona and the majority of an animal skeleton before heading back.
After the stormy start this quarter graced us with, the past few days have been an absolute pleasure. After deciding to lower the mesh surrounding the mesocosm bags, things have been looking up – the weather, our moods, the chlorophyll counts! After spending hours in “The Cave” (the dark-room in lab 6), I decided I needed some sun. I was walking along the shore with a friend when we noticed something: empty shore(?) crab exoskeletons, handfuls of them, floating in the waves. There were quite a few of them bobbing back and forth, so as bored science students are wont to do, we decided to collect and compare them. We noticed that they were all sorts of colours and had slightly variable patterns on their backs. Excited, I took them with me and arranged them all sorts of silly ways in a white wheelbarrow, snapping a few photos before sending them back on their way.
It’s T10, and you know what that means? We are half way through the originally planned experiment length! As a small celebration, Natsuko, Collin (a ZooBot student), and I took a trip to the bone yard. This is not your traditional bone yard – though we did find a young deer skull – but rather a collection of parts. This bone yard is where experiment go to die. The idea is that scientists can store items here that still have some like left in them, but it no longer required for their experiment. Unfortunately, this method of recycling ended up being much better in theory than practice.
The bone yard is accessed by a muddy trail which has quite a bit of foliage growing on it. The entrance is framed by rusted pipes and metal sheeting. The bone yard itself is quite a bit large than I thought; the three of us spent over an hour explore. Strew across the ground are old nets with bouys, PVC piping and parts, and various other discarded items. There was even a trailer, left so long ago that it is now over grown with underbrush. The whole time I was walking through I thought: this is great because the next time my experiment requires eight broken boat motors and a bunch of rusted pipes I’m in business! Add some broken, mud caked plexi-glass and I could really get the ball rolling on my experiment.
In last year’s experiment, around this time, chlorophyll levels were at a bloom-peak in the 40 range. Same time this year, we are averaging a low 3. The reason for this is a simple change in the mesocosms – a mesh bag covering the entire surface of the bag, and a cute “shower cap” on the top, which aim to correct light intensity by lowering it around 55%.
The reason for these mesh bags was to slow down the progress of the bloom, so we could get more data points during the huge increase in biomass that happens during a phytoplankton bloom. And since autotrophs (read: anything with chlorophyll) need light to photosynthesize, our chlorophyll readings show that these covers have been doing a pretty good job of cutting out a lot of light from the system. We do this by filtering the water we collect from the mesocosms, and analyzing the amount of chlorophyll present using a fluorometer.
…it pours, quite literally. We began the second day of sampling not-so-bright and early. The rain audibly pelting our rain gear and wind blowing fairly ferociously – looking at data from the FHL Weather Station, they have recorded morning wind speeds of 10.91 m/s, or roughly 37 mph!!! Though the Weather Tower is not at the mesocosm site, I think it is safe to say winds were still fairly fast. The dock was bobbing up and down dramatically, and my body continued to feel like it was swaying for several hours after sampling was complete.
Here is how sampling works: we have two groups, Group A and Group B, and they alternate coming early every morning. They take off the domes (one at a time or all together depending on the weather), run the light core with the mesh caps on the mesocosms, and mix each mesocosm so that Amanda can come through with the CTD. Then sampling begins. Two people run the integrated sampler while another two take off and put on mesocosm domes and caps. Mike goes back and forth between our mesocosm dock and the sampling table carrying the water from the integrated sampler. There is a lot of rinsing involved, and the wait to either collect the sample or get your personal sample for Mike can seem like a millennium when you have raindrops hitting your body at roughly the same speed as a motor vehicle.