Thursday, July 11, 2013

BATS 295 Day 7

Yesterday morning we started making our way back to Bermuda from BATS. Thanks to everyone who has read this blog, its been a great cruise and I've really enjoyed blogging about working at sea! I want to thank the amazing crew for all their hard work. Without them this cruise wouldn't have been possible.

Sadly there is one member of the crew that we have to say goodbye to as she heads back to University to continue her studies. Marine technician, bananagrams extraordinaire and my cabin roomie Miss Emily Dougan! Emily has been working on board the R/V Atlantic Explorer for the past two years. We are all going to miss you loads Em! Here are a few pictures of Emily at work over the past few cruises!

Goodbye Emily, we wish you all the best with your studies! :)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

BATS 295 Day 6

Yesterday the ocean was amazingly calm! There wasn't a wave in sight! We had finished sampling in the morning and spent the afternoon washing bottles and sorting out samples as we sailed to various spatial stations to take CTD profiles. Spatial stations are points in the ocean that surround BATS. There are 25 spatial stations and by taking CTD profiles at these locations it gives us a better idea of what is happening in the ocean over a larger area.

The highlight of the afternoon was the freshly baked doughnuts by Greg and Dexter!

Whilst we were traveling between stations I spoke to BATS intern David Picton about his first research cruise experience. David is currently an undergraduate student at Newcastle University studying microbiology. Here is a quick Q & A about his time on the R/V Atlantic Explorer! 

Why did you choose to apply for a BIOS internship?
I applied for an internship because I wanted to get hands on experience in the field of oceanography. As an undergraduate I do not yet have a field of expertise, so I really wanted to get a perspective of oceanography. The reason I applied for a BIOS internship was significant, what better place to be introduced to oceanography than a world renowned research center in Bermuda, a country I dreamed of visiting. Applying for this internship has probably been the most rewarding thing I've done in years.

What has been your favorite thing about the cruise?
Being able to work as part of professional team that have offered so much in the way of aiding my learning. There are scientists from all backgrounds aboard the ship, each being able to give a fresh perspective and to help give me a better understanding of the various procedures going on.

David working on the back deck
What have been some of your favorite moments at sea?
Waking up to see the sun rise over a horizon untouched by land, with nothing but calm ocean water surrounding me was a pretty surreal experience. Watching it set the following evening was an equal spectacle.

Was going to sea like you expected?
Honestly, I had packed enough packets of sea sickness tablets to supply the whole crew, and I haven’t opened a single packet. I was expecting ten meter waves and having to strap myself into my bed. It’s a crazy vision to look down from the side of the deck and see your face in the water.

Have you enjoyed the cruise?
It’s a great environment to gain experience but it’s also a wonderful place to relax. There are views so beautiful and tranquil they’re hard to capture in a photograph. Whether I would be saying this if we had ten meter waves is another question.

Washing bottles! Every scientists favorite job!

Sum up the cruise in three words…
Tranquil, rewarding and coffee!

Do you want to work at sea again?
Definitely! This is my first time actually being at sea, and it’s something I want to repeat.

Can you picture yourself doing research at sea?
I would like to look into studying microbial oceanography; it would cross over my interest in microbiology and enjoyment for practical science. This cruise has changed my perspective on what I want to do. I would like to not be solely based in a lab but go out and practice research in the field.

I just want to say a big thank you to David for taking the time to answer my questions and also for being a brilliant help on this cruise! You definitely made 2am night tows more enjoyable! 

Day 6 finished with a beautiful sunset! A brilliant end to a brilliant day! Tomorrow  we are heading back to BIOS! 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

BATS 295 Day 5

Hi again from BATS! Yesterday was exciting with the recovery of the NBSTs, profiling floats and BATS sediment traps. Before we could start the recovery we first had to find them ... Luckily the sea was calm making the searching process slightly easier as the ocean is a very large place! The floats and sediment traps send location updates via satellite and radio so we know when we are in the right area but after that it’s down to lots of people searching with binoculars!

We first went in search of the floats… Once we had spotted them it was small boat time!!! (This is always very exciting!) Once the boat was in the water with Ronnie, Andrew and Meg on board they set off to pick up the floats.

Next stop PITS (the BATS sediment trap array)! PITS stands for Particulate Interceptor Trap System. It consists of three metal racks with tubes that collect falling particles from the upper ocean. The tubes have filters on the bottom which we remove and analyze when we return to land. The three racks are connected with rope and are at 300m, 200m and 150m depths. With Matt in charge of back deck operations we had the sediment traps back on board in no time. 

Finally we set off for the three NBSTs. These were slightly harder to find than the floats and it was David and Emily who managed to spot the floats! 
The NBST is in this picture... but you may need a magnifying glass to see  it!

We couldn’t pick them up in the small boat like the floats. Instead we threw a hook on a line to catch the string on the tops of the NBSTs and pull them in with the winch. 

Another picture to finish with!

Monday, July 8, 2013

BATS 295 Day 4

Dr Meg Estapa is a post doc at WHOI who is currently working on a project studying how much particulate carbon gets exported into the deep sea. I spoke to her yesterday about her new project and this is what it’s all about…

What is particulate carbon and how is it being measured?
Particulate carbon falls through the water column to the deep sea. It is comprised of dead phytoplankton cells, faecal matter from zooplankton and other substances. As it falls though the twilight zone (0-1000m) a lot of this carbon gets remineralized and only a small amount makes it to the deep sea. Meg is currently trying to measure the particulate carbon flux that gets exported into the deep sea  by using and comparing two different methods. She is also going to compare her sediment trap data with the BATS data.

What is going to be used to measure this particulate carbon in the deep sea?
They are going to be using both neutrally buoyant sediment traps (NBSTs) and profiling floats. NBSTs operate like the BATS traps however instead of the sediment traps being attached to rope the NBSTs are free floating allowing them to drift with the ocean currents reducing hydrodynamic effects. They have four tubes which collect the falling particles. 

one of the NBSTs being deployed
They also deployed two profiling floats which have transmissometers attached to them. Transmissometers shine a beam of light through the water to tell the concentration of suspended particles. Particles that fall onto the upward-facing window of the instrument block the light beam, causing a measurable signal we can relate back to flux. 

Profiling float in the water
The floats can drift in the ocean for months and measure other parameters such as salinity and oxygen. The data from the float is relayed via satellite to Meg's computer. The NBSTs also have transmissometers attached to them so they can compare the sediment trap flux data with the flux data from the transmissometers. This will allow them to see whether transmissometers accurately determine particulate carbon flux. 

One of the four sediment trap tubes contains a gel – what does this gel do?
The gel in the tube is a soft landing for particles that fall in the trap. It preserves the size and shape of the particles so you can identify and chemically analyze the particles.

Close up of a sediment trap tube - the transmissometer is on the left! 
Why is it important to monitor this carbon flux in the ocean?
It is important to monitor the particles that are raining down from the ocean because they are an important part of the carbon cycle. It is difficult to measure carbon flux frequently and if it is possible to measure flux using just profiling floats then this would reduce the need for vessels which are expensive and allow more continuous measurements. There are large parts of the ocean where there is very little data on particulate carbon flux which is why it is important for more continuous monitoring.   

A big thank you to Meg for taking the time to talk to me about her project! Tomorrow we will be recovering the floats, NBSTs and BATS sediment traps – even more photos to come!

Bye Bye NBST number three! See you soon!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

BATS 295 Days 2 and 3

This post was actually written last night but unfortunately I couldn't get the internet to work - so you will be getting another post this afternoon as well!  

The past two days have been very busy here at BATS! Friday started with net tows for both the BATS and Princeton University groups. The afternoon was exciting with the deployment of WHOI’s neutrally buoyant sediment traps (NBSTs) which I will talk about in a post tomorrow! We also deployed the BATS sediment trap array which we will be recovering in a couple of days. 

Attaching a host to the CTD to pump water up to the ship from 200m

Day three started nice and early for the BATS team at 3am with the deployment of the production array. After one of the smoothest and quickest deployments I've ever seen we went back to bed to get some sleep before a busy afternoon. This evening we recovered the production array and currently there is a phytoplankton net tow in the water which the Princeton Uni group will be sampling from. 

During the day we sampled the CTD. Here is a little explanation about what a CTD is…  

The CTD going into the water
CTD stands for Conductivity, Temperature and Depth. It is a large oceanographic instrument that we use to sample for water. It has twenty four niskin bottles which can contain 12 litres of water each. Niskin bottles open at both the top and bottom to sample water of a known depth. As the CTD goes through the water column it is attached to the ship with a cable which allows us to close the bottles at depths we want to take water samples from. It has the ability to measure depth, temperature, salinity, fluorescence and oxygen concentration and relays the information back to the ship.  After we take our samples from the CTD we start the filtration process!... (see image below)


To finish this post here are my five best things of the day:
1. Seeing a whale! No photos unfortunately!
2. Freshly baked cinnamon rolls by the amazing chefs Greg and Dexter! (There will be a whole post coming soon dedicated towards food on the ship!)
3. Amazing sunset across the ocean!
4. Seeing squid swim around the ship at night – so cool!
5. A big thank you to Matt for bringing me snacks whilst I wrote this blog post! – You’re in my top five!

Sorry about the short update – I finished work 10 minutes ago and I am a very sleepy BATS tech so I'm off to bed! Tomorrow I am interviewing Dr Meg Estapa about her new exciting sediment trap project! There will be lots of photos!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

BATS 295 Day 1

Hi from the R/V Atlantic Explorer! It was an early start this morning with the ship departing BIOS at 6:30am to set sail on the 295th BATS cruise. The seas were calm and we got to see an amazing sunrise as we left Bermuda.

Sunrise as we left BIOS

The Bermuda Atlantic Time-Series Study (BATS) and Hydrostation S started in 1988 and 1954 respectively. These deep-sea time series studies investigate the long term role of oceans in the global carbon budget. Sampling occurs every month which makes BATS cruises an ideal research platform for visiting science groups.

On this seven day cruise we have on board the BATS research team and visiting scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI), the University of Miami and Princeton University. Here is a brief overview of some of the interesting research that will be happening on this cruise:

Mark Stephens is from the university of Miami and is looking at Beryllium 7 an isotope that is formed in the upper atmosphere and gets into the surface of the ocean through rain water. Studying this isotope allows scientists to look at mixing processes between surface and deep waters.

Meg Estapa, Colleen Durkin and Jim Valdes are from WHOI and will be looking at particle flux in the ocean using neutrally buoyant sediment traps and autonomous floats. 

Darcy McRose is a grad student at Princeton University and will be collecting samples to look at nitrogen fixation in a phytoplankton called Trichodesmium.

Sarah Fawcett, Kieran Swart, Dario Marconi and Tiffany Cheung are from Princeton University and will be using net tows to compare the isotopic composition of organisms called foraminifera with organic matter that you find in microfossils.

I will be talking in more detail about all of the research on this cruise and its importance over the next seven days. So far it’s been a relaxing day 1 with the sun shining and calm seas throughout the day. Let’s hope the weather stays this way for the rest of the cruise! 

Sunset at Hydrostation S