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25 August, 2004

Bits and Pieces From Aboard the Oden

As we await the next set of core samples here on Oden I spend a little time with Erik visiting the Main Lab and talking to some of the micropaleontologists. Itsuki Suto from the University of Tsukuba shares his doctoral work on marine diatom resting spores. The parcticular diatoms he works with are plant-like microorganisms that form long chains when nutrient conditions are favorable. When conditions are poor they can form thick-walled spores and go into a resting state. Itsuki shows me some of these species that he has found in the sediments here on the Lomonosov Ridge. In addition he shares his beautiful illustrations of these resting spores with me. I promise to take the drawings back to my classroom and display them for the students and other teachers to admire.

We also spend some time with Ted Moore from the University of Michigan. Ted is parcticularly interested in radiolarians and fish teeth buried in the sediments. To extract the teeth from the sediment is a fairly tedious process; Erik and I give some assistance in processing these samples that will later be analyzed onshore. The process requires taking small samples of sediment of the same volume and manually breaking them into small pieces in a large glass beaker. While some samples in the lab are treated with chemicals to dissolve away carbonates and phosphates, these are not, so that nothing of the fish teeth is destroyed. Some of the sediments are hard and rock-like and very difficult to break; others are like modeling clay and come off in small sticky pieces. After the pieces soak for some time in hot water, we sieve them out until we are left with a very small quantity of what looks like sand grains. These we store in very small glass vials and set them aside to be brought back. They will be analyzed for the amount of strontium isotopes among other things, from which scientists can determine the age of the fossils.

I am preparing sediments to sieve for fish teeth.

Itsuki Suto at work in the Main Lab of the Oden.

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