13 July, 2004
Today I began some of my work helping to collect and process water samples. At the beginning of the cruise, we ran two CTD lines (see the map below and look for the red dots outside of Kodiak and toward the end of the Aleutian Island chain where we turned north). Others took water from those, but we began to take samples today from the Bering Sea line. The "we" includes Ari Balsom, Rebecca Pirtle-Levy, Alicia Clark and me. At each station, we took samples for oxygen 18, nutrients, and chlorophyll. The CTD rosette is a ring of 12 bottles set to collect water at different depths. At some stations, we took water from all the bottles, and at some stations we took only selected depths. The tiny amounts of water we take for oxygen-18 will be returned to the University of Tennessee for analysis. Oxygen-18 used to trace the origin of the water to tell if it is from fresh water or salt.
It takes a bit more time to process the water samples for chlorophyll. (Note: we'll also gather mud samples later on for chlorophyll analysis.) The amount of chlorophyll present is an indicator of the productivity (food availability) since chlorophyll is present in the phytoplankton, the tiny plants that use photosynthesis to produce food. Each of these samples must be kept in the dark as much as possible so photo (light) synthesis is shut down. Once filtered, they are kept in the freezer for one hour to burst the chloroplasts (the tiny structures inside plant cells that hold the chlorophyll). The addition of acetone at the end of an hour releases all the pigments and the samples can then be incubated for 24 hours. At the end, they are "read" with a fluorometer to find the amount of chlorophyll-a in each sample.
The nutrient samples are the easiest. They are only taken from the surface, bottom and the area of maximum chlorophyll. They are then frozen and sent to a lab in Santa Barbara, California for analysis of the various nutrients present.
This is my second cruise with Ari Balsom, research coordinator from the University of Tennessee. Ari and Rebecca Pyrtle-Levy, a graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Tennessee, came to the Laurier after a 6 week spring cruise on the USCGC Healy. And, once this cruise has ended, they will return to the Healy for another 6 week cruise! Alicia Clark, an undergraduate in ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of Tennessee, is on her first cruise. Both Rebecca and Alicia are working on projects of their own which I'll tell you about in a future journal.
Since this is a short cruise, I won't have time to tell you about all the interesting aspects of the Sir Wilfrid Laurier, but I'll try to add a little to my journal each day. One thing that always seems to be a morale booster is good food, and the Laurier has it in abundance thanks to the cooks, Herb (desserts) and Harold (main meal). Herb Lynch is from Fogo Island, Newfoundland, and Harold Steed is from Surrey, British Columbia. Between them, they turn out gourmet meals three times a day and add home made snacks for those who still get the munchies in between. Right now, they're cooking for the 43 members of the crew and science team on board. The ship stores provisions for 12 weeks at a time, although fresh produce is brought on board when the crew changes after 6 weeks. According to Harold, the low carb craze has even taken hold on board the ship where only a quarter of the crew eats potatoes, and the favorite meal is steak. There's no question that mealtimes are popular on board the Laurier!
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