16 June, 2004
Let the experiments begin!
The whirlwind started on Tuesday evening as we got our experiment
running, fine-tuned the equipment, and prepared for a conference call
on early Tuesday morning with some of the students at Amy Clapp's
school. (Amy is a fellow TREC who just returned from her studies on
the Lena River in Siberia. Check out her journals at the following
On Wednesday morning, we had a good conversation with Amy's students
on a six a.m. conference call. Although 6:00 came early, the
conference call was a useful chance for us to share our work with
others. (Check out the PowerPoint presentation we prepared if you're
). The rest of the day went by in a blur (no, not because we were
tired - or at least not only because we were tired). We ran through
the rest of the day like crazy people. The first day of our
three-day experiments was underway and each first day calls for
frequent sampling and has LOTS of associated chores.
1. Here Yo is injecting samples into the gas chromatograph.
7. The fish is over 50 cm (20 in) long! Today we caught up on testing samples, washing dishes and responding to emails. I also learned to use the gas chromatograph (and gained a whole new appreciation for the sophistication of the technology used). Interesting Fact to Make You Smarter: If you like looking for Waldo, you'll appreciate the following: the gas chromatograph we are using is sensitive enough to detect one gram of pollutants in 1,000,000 liters of water: one itty-bitty, tiny, eensy-weensy gram in 1,000,000 liters (300,000 gallons). I bet you still don't have a picture of what that looks like: Take a transparent die (one of a pair of dice) and throw it in the water of one of 10 large swimming pools. Now, find the die. Our gas chromatograph could. That's cool! If you're trying to impress your friends, talk about the sensitivity like the scientists: micrograms per liter (micro- 1/1,000,000 or one-one millionth, gram - the mass of about one quarter sheet of paper, liter - half the size of a two-liter bottle (duh)) Amanda's Limerick Penney, Scott, Amanda and Yo Are cool scientists, always on the go They brave the weather And work well together Even when spirits are low.
3. Penney is at the start of the "extraction" process, removing the pollutants from the water. She is carefully measuring the mass of an empty jar, the mass of the jar and water (with pollution), and the mass of the jar and water and hexane, the chemical we use to take the pollutants out of the water. (Bad idea to try in your local stream: hexane is a flammable and poisonous substance.) --
4. HawkLunch tries his hand at injecting the "extracted" pollutants into the gas chromatograph, and gets smashing results.
5. Science is SO interesting! By the way, I got a Super Smelling Scientist award yesterday. (No, I'm not clean as a whistle. no one here is; we're hundreds of miles from civilization!) While we were preparing samples, I noticed a chemical-y odor coming from the jar into which we were pouring our sample; our sample jar had been cleaned but not thoroughly rinsed: mon Dieu! The methanol left in jar could have ruined our experiment! My nose saved the day and three experiments! Amanda, Yo and Penney have been gracious teachers at each step of the process, patiently explaining and modeling good lab protocol. Every step of the process has special procedures, even (perhaps even especially) washing dishes! More about this in a later post. On Wednesday, Amanda and Penney also helped me write the detailed procedure for an experiment for which I will be responsible.
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