20 November, 2001
Most of the day was spent on science. It takes a lot of preparation and planning to "do" science, which is part of the learning process. This morning, Dr. Pawlowski and I put together gear and set up a tent to check before taking out into the field this week. Plans are being made to melt a dive hole near the Herbertson glacier (about one and half-hours away from Explorers Cove by Ski-Doo), as a comparison study of forams with those at Explorers Cove. Explorers Cove has an abundant population of forams. It will be interesting to see whether other areas have a similar population, especially in relation to the rare Astrammina rara, which is seldom found in other places. I sorted foraminifera (forams) today, which require that they be kept at a cold temperature at all times, less than 6 degrees Celsius (< 42 degrees Fahrenheit). The specimens had to be kept on ice while I sorted through a tray of these one-celled protists to find two species: Astrammina rara and Crithionina. The organisms living within are about one-half the size of the shell.
Astrammina rara is found on the bottom of the ocean in the top one centimeter of sediment. The round shape and grains of sand make this species easily recognizable. It is big enough to be seen without a microscope, but a visor-type magnifier worn on the head helps a great deal! These one-celled organisms attach sand to itself with a secreted "glue" that adheres in a cold underwater environment. The Astrammina builds an elegant spherical shell. What a surprise, especially since it is only one-celled! (We have billions of cells in our bodies.) The Astrammina is specific about the size of the grain it selects for its shell, but not the type of grain. This foram species is apparently a "sit and wait" predator. It doesn't appear to move around, but rather sits in the bottom one-centimeter of sediment and extends its pseudopod "web" out around its body. It will eat whatever lands in this branching mass of cell-stuff (cytoplasm). The Astrammina rara will eat everything, such as microscopic algae, bacteria, and baby marine organisms (starfish, worms, sea urchins). Viewing Astrammina under a microscope only enhances the beauty of this amazing one-celled organism.
Crithionina looks like a tiny mud ball. This little one-celled protist doesn't secrete glue, but rather mud sticks to its surface as it actively crawls through the sediment. It is a vegetarian. It doesn't eat marine organisms, but it gobbles up algae in its path.
After sorting forams, I went to the "marsh" area to try the PASCO data logger and temperature probe in this cold environment. The moat is starting to melt, which enables me to collect hydrology (water) data, such as water temperature and pH. I selected three sites to investigate. Site A is water backwashed from the sea during the tide. Site B is fed by a runoff stream, and site C is a pool of water near the transition zone (where the land and sea meet). The water sites still have a thin layer of ice on the surface. I have noticed that "site A" has an orange algae growing near the surface under the ice. When I brought a small sample in to view under the microscope, I noticed cynobacteria and a black sediment with a sulfur smell under the algae.
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