31 January, 1998
Yesterday evening, I watched as sediment traps that were placed on the ocean floor last year were recovered and new ones deployed. Sediment traps are the only thing besides the automated weather data stations that take data all year long. It is too rough and dangerous for science personnel to try to collect oceanographic data in the winter, but there are important biological and chemical changes that go on during that time. The sediment trap has a built-in computer system that rotates sample cups under a large cone area that focuses the sediment from one meter of area to the cup's mouth. The cups are timed to take in samples all through the year. From looking at the debris and the water collected during a set time, a systematic and comprehensive analysis can be made of bioelements (life's building blocks), carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, silica, as well as other lithogenic (rock based sediments) phases.
Studying these and other parameters of oceanography and microbiology is Dr. Dave Karl from the University of Hawaii. Dr. Karl is not only the PI for this study, but the Chief Scientist for the entire cruise. That means he oversees and coordinates all the research going on during this LTER (Long Term Ecological Research) cruise. More importantly to me, he is my mentor as I attempt to learn more about the new methods used in oceanography. Dr. Karl was born and raised in Buffalo, New York. Following a desire to do something to improve the environment, he might have worked with wildlife had he not seen the ocean. It was love at first sight. A brief touch at teaching and then he went on into graduate studies at Florida State University and then to a doctorate at Scripps Institute of Oceanography. He first studied in Antarctica in 1976-77. Since that time, he has been "to the ice" over 20 times. Although very learned, he does have another side: he has been riding Harley-Davidson motorcycles for over thirty years!
Part of the studies that he is researching now is the "microbiology and carbon flux" component of LTER, as described in a previous journal. In addition to the sediment trap work, he and his graduate students study all pools of carbon in the sea (the largest are dissolved inorganic and dissolved organic carbon) and they make inventories of the numbers and metabolic activities of microorganisms from protozoans on down to viruses. He uses this data to define the microbial loop or microbial food chain that is so vital to the economy of the sea worldwide. He compares and contrasts this data to that which he collects in Hawaii, which of course is a warm, sunny area. You can access his home page at the following address: hahana.soest.hawaii.edu
Today was a rather calm day compared to what the previous two have been. The systems are working reasonably well now and we are back on schedule. We are about a hundred miles offshore as we follow the LTER grid off the peninsula. Out of the window, I just spotted two large icebergs.
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