Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Day 15 (Aug 13 2012)

Apologies.  This is a truly photo-free post.  We were all too tired yesterday (from the late night working sessions) and had too much work to do, it being a sampling day and the team being short of Jussi (who was in Trondheim picking up our last new arrivals), and Briva and Morten (who were still trapped in the aggregation lab somehow not slowly losing their sanity).

With Jussi and Morten thus occupied, and Nathalie and Juli in need of sleep after the 2:30 am termination of their first experiment, it was an almost entirely new sampling team out on the water at 6:30 in the morning, and we were sampling 16 mesocosms instead of 12 (because Juli and Nathalie team needed extra water for their next experiment).  Despite this (and despite the fact that their, ahem, fearless leader totally forgot that you need buckets and giant funnels in order to effectively empty our integrated water samplers into the carboys we put the water into to bring it back to the lab), we had finished the sampling by 8:10 in the morning (although it took us a further 30 minutes to haul it out of the boat and down the dock and up a small hill to the car and then to drive it up the road to the lab and unload it all again).  Not only was this excellent time, we were the first team to properly work the extremely challenging lever that opens the bottom of the water sampler (top tip:  first you have to pull it out away from the side of the tube, then you can pull it up, easy as pie) (and I should give Juli credit for being the catalyst the other day that led to comprehension that this is how the levers were supposed to work).

(Totally parenthetic note:  While trying to find a good picture of the integrated samplers, I discovered that if you Google "integrated water sampler" and scroll down the images a bit, an old picture of my friend Peter pops up.  Small world.  Although that thing he is toying with is a million times fancier than our water sampler, which is essentially a clear plastic pipe, about a meter and a half long, that is hanging on a rope and has handles and sort of flapping disk closures at the top and bottom that allow water to flow up through the tube as you lower it, but then close when you pull it up, to contain the sample as you raise the whole thing back up out of the water.  Then you have to lift the thing high enough so that your partner can tip it back so it spills out over the top of you while they futz with the lever (which had defied us until now) and then finally get the bottom end open so that the water can gush half into the buck and half down your front, testing the efficacy of your gore tex (if you are wearing any) and filling up your rubber boots; as Morten put it on the first sampling day, "if you need to measure chlorophyll concentrations, (there is no need to put a sample on a filter) I can just give you my pants.")

At not quite the end of a long day of filtering and zooplankton collection and fecal pellet and egg counting and egg hatching counting and more fun with suspending aggregates in a constant flow of water, Jussi appeared with Morris the dog and Marja and Julia.  Everyone's ears instantly perked up because if you were French, you knew Julia, hurrah!  And most of the rest of us know Marja because we have worked with her at sea, or in the lab at DTU Aqua or in working group meetings and Marja is not just awesome she has this incredibly funny sly, dry, whimsical humor.  In a similar manner to Jussi and Morten, but with her own special style.  (Her recap of a German children's book where a little mole goes around the farm trying to figure out who pooped on its head had us in tears last night, as did her recounting of coming home from a vacation to discover that her rabbit-sitter had accidentally killed the pet rabbit and then, worried that Marja would want to pay her last respects, put it in the freezer and upon Marja's return, gave it back, its little paw frozen up in one final stiff wave.)

Starting at about 10 pm (or later for the teams who worked well into the night filtering samples), we finally managed to have the little party we tried to have several nights ago but failed because we were just at the start of a marathon work session.  It was simultaneously a goodbye to visitors who were departing, a hello to Marja and Julia, a welcome back from the weekend to Jussi, a temporary goodbye to Morten who is disappearing to a conference for a couple of days, a yay we survived a multi-day marathon work session, and a hey it's nearly the half way day party.  There was rum, sugar, and lemon concentrate that seemed to become more palatable to everyone as the evening progressed.  There was a bottle of almost diet Coke (Coke Zero).  There were Pringles and "paprika" flavored potato chips.  And most incredibly of all, there were these gigantic, godawful, chocolate-covered marshmellow teddy bears that were sort of palatable if you sandwiched them in between two Pringles and ignored the peculiar sour cream and sage flavoring (of the Pringles).

Needless to say, on the morning after (i.e. Day 16, which is right now as I am writing this) there was again nary a soul at breakfast, save for a finally exhausted looking Morten and a still slightly sleepy Jussi who headed out together in Jussi's car for Trondheim just after 8 (one to the airport and the other to examine a graduate student on the topic of bio-optics) and a still enthusiastic and not yet entirely sleep deprived Julia and Marja.

In terms of the science, the results from the first aggregation experiment and from the pictures of Morten's gel traps are very encouraging (everything else we have to wait until we get back to the equipment in our labs to analyze).  It looks like we have managed to set up two slightly different zooplankton populations in our mesocosms (half with small copepods that produce small fecal pellets and half with enough calanoid copepods that the sinking flux of material is full of the skinny, long fecal pellets that they produce).  What is happening with the phytoplankton populations is less clear (we don't have quite the right sort of microscope here to assess this directly, but will figure it out from preserved samples when we get home), but we are still hoping that we have a population of diatoms in half of the mesocosms and a population dominated by non-diatoms in the other half of the bags, giving us a matrix of four different food webs.  But it was nice to get yesterday's informal report from the aggregation team (or at least from part of the aggregation team, the other parts of it being busy with sample filtration at the time) suggesting that we have not just set up replicates of the same conditions in all 12 of our mesocosms.

And now, for your viewing entertainment, the story of the little mole who wanted to know who pooped on his head.  Sadly, there is nothing in there about zooplankton fecal pellets, copepod or otherwise:

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