Archive for July, 2011

Packing up

Written 7/22/11

It is strange to be on a research cruise and get 10 hours of sleep… 2 nights in a row! Since the last 3 dives of this cruise belonged to the geologists we have been able to work on other things for the last day or so. I spent most of yesterday talking working on my thesis proposal for my qualifying exam. Te good thing about being at sea with your advisor is that he is a captive audience with minimal distractions. We talked about my project for a few hours yesterday, which was really helpful. After that meeting I spent the rest of the day at my computer. Rocking back and forth (we had a couple of rough days) I tried to turn my proposal into s compelling story. I’m not sure how well I did with that, however.

Today Charles and I started packing up. We get into port tomorrow evening, and our flight is just about 24 hours later, so we won’t have much time. I think we got a good head start though. The sub is in the water scoping out lava flows and collecting rocks. Kinda makes me nostalgic for my geology days. In about an hour the sub will come up, and we will start the steam back into shore. It has all gone very quickly. It’s hard to believe that my qualifying exam is only 6 weeks away!


Time flies

Written 7/19/2011

It’s hard to believe that our science on this cruise is almost over. This morning The sub picked up the last three iSmacs (my mineral samplers) that we had deployed and set out the three that we are going to leave out there. We are hoping that a colleague who will be working in the area in a month or so can pick them up or that we can get back out here next summer to collect them. I hesitate to write this because I don’t want to jinx things before the last 3 are in hand and sampled, but it’s pretty exciting how well things have gone with these samplers so far. Who knows if I will be able to extract DNA from them, but the deployment and collection has been pretty smooth. A couple have gotten broken by the sub arm during deployment, but nothing that I couldn’t fix.

This afternoon we take the final sample with the big instrument (the ESP) and tomorrow the instrument gets pulled, and the remaining couple of dives are not ours, so we will begin packing things and making sure we have all the necessary data files etc.

We have been able to collect lots of different types of samples at the same time or at least in the same area. Between ESP, iSmacs, niskin water samples that get preserved in a variety of ways, sulfide rocks, and tube worm collections we will be able to put together a nice picture of the microbiology of the area with good geochemical data to go alongside. Hopefully this will form a compelling story and translate into a nice paper or two.

It has also been fun to peek over the geologists shoulders. There is a group out here studying lava flows, so I have enjoyed talking with them and seeing how they do their science. The portions of the dives that they have controlled have been fun t watch too, because they go away from the vents and look at the area surrounding the vents that I would probably never see otherwise. Believe it or not, those lava flows are beautiful and very diverse in terms of shape and size of features and general texture.

I have to say that I am feeling scientifically rejuvenated. It’s easy to get discouraged after a year of lab work with out any great successes, but being out here watching the video feed from the sea floor every day gets me excited, once again, about the work I am doing. This is probably a good mindset to be in right before my qualifying exam (scheduled for September 6th).

Written 7/16/11

No dive today. Something happened with the cable getting caught this morning and they had to pull back Doc Rikits. Hopefully they will be able t make the repairs, and we qcan dive tomorrow.

Yesterday was a great tive. We deployed all 9 iSmacs: 6 in one location near the ESP, and 6 right near a chimney called Marshmallow. S nice the dive today was cancelled, there will not be a 42 hour deployment, but that is probably fine. The question is when to collect and which ones to leave out there. As soon as I get the first few back I can start to prepare the last 3.


Yesterday was an exciting dive even though we spent more than 6 hours sitting in one place charging the big instrument that this cruise is focused on. The instrument is called the Environmental Sample Processor (ESP), and is really cool because it does molecular biology that we normally do in lab on the sea floor. The downside is that it takes hours each day to charge, which is a bit boring from the control room side of things.

Anyhow, the dive was exciting because we brought up 3 of my iSmacs.


One of my samplers ready (almost) to go.


Nice clean “ship-shape” lab space, we’ll see how long it stays that way.

Written 7/12/11

We set sail tomorrow, and despite frustrations 24 hours ago, I feel pretty good about things. Charles (aka Dr. C) spent most of the day helping me repair and prepare my samplers for deployment, and I think we are just about good to go. I even had a couple of pictures to show you, but of course I am having Internet issues. I am thankful that I had today to get things organized, and didn’t have to do it while traveling and seasick!

Luckily for me (although maybe problematic down the line if bad weather continues) we have an extra day in port.  We set “sail” tomorrow morning, and I have no doubt that by tomorrow around noon I will be feeling un-awesome.  The first dive of the cruise is scheduled for Thursday around noon, and the microbial samplers that I have built over the last few months need to be ready to go by then.  The only problem is that the epoxy that I used seems to have been screwed up when I soaked them in ethanol to sterilize, so I have to re-do a lot of the creation of little mineral tubes that I did in lab weeks ago.  Awesome.  We can’t get on the ship until 10 am because they are re-fueling.  Awesome.  It’s cool – I always love a challenge, and what better challenge than drilling holes, working with toxic epoxy, and not spilling tiny mineral grains while steaming out in no-so-great whether, while sea sick.  Bring it on.

It’s that time again!

I’m sitting in Logan airport, waiting for the flight to Phoenix, where I will wait for the next flight to Portland. This year I will be sailing on the Western Flyer rather than the Atlantis. It is a smaller boat, which probably means I will be more seasick…sigh.

This year we will once again be on the Juan de Fuca Ridge, but we will be further South at Ashes vent field in Axial caldera. I’ll see if I can find a map for the next post. We will be deploying an exciting instrument to do some molecular biology on the sea floor in a hydrothermal diffuse flow. I also have a side project planned that involves deploying microbial samplers filled with diffrent minerals to see if different microbial communities grow on different minerals commonly found in vents.

More soon… Hopefully the boss shows up soon and doesn’t miss our flight!