Thursday, July 26, 2012

Deonte' Thomas's Research Experiences for Undergraduates - Summer 2012 - Part 2

Since my last blog post many exciting events and discoveries have occurred. I have to admit, after seeing what some of the other REUs were experiencing I became jealous. Going to field work on the beach, boat trips, working with Arctic cores and scuba diving are just a few of the great opportunities that have been afforded to students like me. Fortunately, Virginia Eller, a graduate student whom I work with has a father who is Captain of the Checkmate fishing boat.

A few weeks ago on a cool Sunday morning, my research team drove out to Destin, FL, to catch fish and collect water samples. Little did I know that my first time deep sea (Deep C) fishing would be a treat. We made our way about 26 miles offshore and fished at many different spots in between. The deck hand told us exactly what to do as we all stood around trying to listen intently and gain our sea legs at the same time. Sooner than I expected there was a baited fishing pole in my hand. I spread my feet apart and planted them firmly as I could on the deck and placed the back end of the rod in my fighting to keep my rod sturdy. As soon as I dropped the bait, I got hit and began to reel it in. I could feel the weight and the fight of the fish. It was the largest thing I ever caught. They told me it was in the red snapper family and called a mingo. For the next few hours I felt like a master fisherman, catching a red snapper, two lesser amberjack, and a king mackerel. The king mackerel put up the most fight and topped out as the biggest catch for me. Vincent Perrot, a post doctoral student from France, caught a wahoo, in the swordfish family.

Dr. Salters, knowing that wahoo and king mackerel had pretty high concentrations of mercury, thought it would be a good idea to test these two fish. Also, these fish were higher up in the food web than any other samples that we had acquired. The next day we freeze dried our wahoo and king mackerel samples. Once dried, I used a mortar and pestle to grind down samples and prepare them for acid digestion. We believed the freshness of the samples allowed them to digest perfectly. After preparing the samples, the last thing to do was run them through the Neptune, a multi-collector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (MC-ICP-MS) instrument, for tracing of isotopic composition mercury. After weeks of lab time and hours of tuning on the Neptune instrument the testing would be a cinch. After compiling data from our wahoo, king mackerel, standards, sediment proxy and previous coastal samples acquired from Alexandra Harper, another graduate student at FSU, we had results! Our data shows that mercury from aquatic life forms undergo mass dependent fractionation (MDF) and mass independent fractionation (MIF) for odd isotopes, while mercury in sediments only fractionate mass dependently. Also, mercury in coastal samples (shrimp, sea bass, pinfish, pigfish) show significantly less MIF than in oceanic samples (wahoo and king mackerel). Furthermore, oceanic samples are higher up in the food web and greater photo reduction is seen in residual mercury in the oceanic water column than the coast. We know that mercury is passed through the food web, and our study is more proof that it bioaccumulates and affects aquatic organism differently.

In addition to this fishing trip, I have been to the FSU Coastal and Marine Lab in St. Theresa, FL, one of the most biologically diverse places in North America. There I learned a lot about how industries that use the Gulf of Mexico as a resource are impacting it. Another great place was the Antarctic Research Facility, probably one of the coldest places in Florida and the largest storehouse for arctic core samples. Then the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, where I work every day, is home to the strongest magnet. There is so much scientific diversity here. As my last week at the Mag Lab winds down I cannot help but to reminisce on all of the wonderful experiences. I am very appreciative of the exposure to geochemistry and marine sciences, the life of a researcher, beautiful places and great people.  
Sharing my research at the Mag Lab REU poster session.
Post Author: 
Deonte' Thomas

Friday, July 20, 2012

Stan Cutler's Research Experiences for Teachers - Summer 2012 - Part 5

Week 6 (July 16-20) 

Today is my final day in Tallahassee, so this is my last blog entry of the RET program! It has been a pretty quiet week, with many of the scientists at seminars or on vacation, but testing of the drifters has continued. It is very interesting to see the instruments on their “missions,” with the bladders filling up with oil as they think they are coming up to the surface (even though they are on land the whole time!). I also had time to share lesson plans and good conversation with Dr. Sophie Wacongne-Speer, the educational director of a local school, and to attend a wave seminar in the Dirac Science Library. I was able to finish my research paper/article on Drifters and Floats, and hope that it is decent enough to be published in the near future!
Testing telemetry of the drifters.
This morning, the Magnet Lab RETs held their “poster session,” which summarizes their summer research, and I displayed my fluid demonstration kit/lesson plans and research paper. We’ve all had a great summer and even managed to win some prizes during Trivia Night at a local establishment! I want to thank many people for going out of their way to make me comfortable this summer, and for providing such a tremendous learning experience: my two mentors, Nico and Kevin; Dan, Ruby and Cathrine in the GFDI lab; all the hard-working graduate students who were happy to share their knowledge and ideas; Roxanne and Jose in the Magnet Lab; and, of course, Tracy and Meredith, who are on the Deep-C outreach team and are continuously striving to make programs like the RET even better in the future. Goodbye Tallahassee, but I’ll see you again at Doak Campbell Stadium in the fall!

Sharing what I've learned with other teachers at the Mag Lab RET poster session.
Saying goodbye to some of the good folks I've worked with, including Tracy (Deep-C) and Jose (Mag Lab).
Post Author:
Stan Cutler

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Geomorphology/Shallow Shelf Seafloor Mapping Cruise - July 2012

Day 7 (July 18, 2012)

We tied up at the Palafox Pier Marina this morning about 5am CST. The science crew is headed home from here and the Bellows will transit to St. Petersburg where we will unload our equipment on Friday.

We have had a very successful cruise.

Science crew: RV BELLOWS, Deep-C geomorphology shallow shelf mapping, July 2012. (Pictured: Stan, Anastasia, Ryan, Shane, Kait, Alex, Kie, and Samira)

I want to thank the Florida Institute of Oceanography and crew of the R/V BELLOWS for their tremendous support for this cruise. Their professional and dedicated efforts made for a very successful and safe trip. I also thank the student volunteers who helped make the trip successful and kept the sonar off the bottom. 

Post Author:
Dr. Stan Locker

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Geomorphology/Shallow Shelf Seafloor Mapping Cruise - July 2012

DAY 7 (July 17, 2012) 

1330Z – our final survey day arrives and all is well. We are heading for the C transect off Choctawhatchee Bay which we will survey going northward. The systems have been running remarkably well. 

A little insight on the behind-the-scenes technical issues. I noticed a small calibration issue with the pressure sensor that gives us depth of the towfish. The way we know total water depth for accurate bathymetry is to combine the towfish depth with the depth measured below the fish that we get from the sidescan. As we are using GeoDAS acquisition software from Oceanic Imaging Consultants I have corresponded with them to confirm we can make any adjustments/calibrations to the data in post processing, they have a handy utility built into the acquisition software just for this. Good thing we have internet on the boat now days. We will do other calibration checks later today when we run a “patch test”. The patch test is a small survey of crossing lines that shows us the alignment of the heading, pitch, and roll sensors in the towfish. Why? – all this allows us to plot the imagery in the correct location on a map. Enough technical. 

Seas are 1-2 ft, with whitecaps. 

We passed south of these high-relief mounds near the Madison Swanson Marine Reserve. Dark is strong return and the white areas are shadows behind the mounds.

The north-south distance across this single swath is 500 m. 

Our final student guest blog comes from Anastasia Nienow, Valdosta State University. 

“I don’t think I was home for a full month before I found myself on the Bellows again. So far out of all the trips on the Bellows (once before with Stan and several times with Dr. Snyder) this one is the most relaxing. Most of the time on watch is spent watching the computer to keep an eye out for paleoshorelines and to make sure that data is still being recorded. The only difficult thing to do on watch is to make sure that the cable is placed neatly on the winch. Off watch I mainly read, trying to put a dent in my list of books to read. The Bellows feels less “cozy” this trip since there are only 8 scientists on board instead of 10. I think this cruise has spoiled me for any future cruises with Dr. Snyder’s group. –Anastasia” 

Thanks for going again Anastasia! – I really needed an experienced hand. 

Actually, that’s Alex operating the C3D winch.
2030 UTC – We finished the C transect about half an hour ago and slowed to recover the C3D sonar. After putting equipment in the water and towing it around the Gulf for a week you hope that everything comes up in one piece. That cables aren’t beat up and nothing came loose. Also, sometimes the most dangerous part for the equipment, and people, is getting it back on the deck safely with the boat rocking around. We were recovering in 2-3 ft seas, so the Bellows was moving, randomly heaving 2-3 feet and rolling. As soon as the fish is lifted out of the water it starts swinging and we have to move quickly to snag it and get it on deck. It requires a lot of teamwork. With Captain Boomer and Dave on the 01 deck holding the ship steady, moving the A-frame in, and controlling the block our cable runs through, Alex on the C3D winch controlling the C3D cable in/out (all these are moving and need adjusting together), Shane and I on a tag line snagging the towfish, and Ryan standing by, we landed the fish safe and sound!

The C3D sonar home on deck.

Anastasia and Alex cleaning up.

Raising the tracking hydrophone.

Final track line coverage. There is a method behind the weird pattern.

Post Author:
Dr. Stan Locker

Corine Samaras's Research Experiences for Undergraduates - Summer 2012 - Part 2

Hello Again! 

My experiment is well under way now! I have set up all eight of the columns and filled four of them with sediment saturated with seawater and the other four with sediment and 100 ┬Ál of oil. I have run the pump at a setting of 18 mL/hr and collected data with the optode. I have also taken samples of my water at the end of the column to test for dissolved organic carbon and dissolved inorganic carbon. I am starting to get results and am very pleased with how my experiment is working out.
This picture shows my 8 columns and the device I use to test the oxygen.
I have learned so much while being here. Everyone in the Huettel lab has helped me tremendously, and I cannot believe my time is going by so quickly. I have also enjoyed talking with the other REU’s about their projects as well. It seems as though everybody is learning a lot and gaining a lot of hands on experience.

I look forward to working with Dr. Huettel further after my time in the lab is over to analyze the data that I have collected.

Post Author:
Corine Samaras

Monday, July 16, 2012

RV Bellows Geomorphology/Shallow Shelf Seafloor Mapping Cruise - July 2012

DAY 5 (July 16, 2012)

We finished the A transect a few hours ago and have begun an along-slope transect in the mid-shelf area to try to piece together paleoshoreline structures that are key hard bottom structure in the region. We have crossed the shorelines on several zigs and zags. With those points, combined with the previous multibeam maps by Gardner/USGS, we will try to connect some dots. Seas are 1-2 ft and calming more.

Kie learning some knot tying. The Stopper
Knot. By the way, it is COLD in the lab.
Hydrophone pole mount for the USBL tracking.

Trackline plot showing seafloor mapping progress so far, 500 m swath.

We continue to work the mid to outer shelf looking for interesting structure/habitat. It is a big area to try to sample with a 500 m swath.

Post Author:
Dr. Stan Locker

RV Bellows Microbiology/Shelf Sampling Cruise - July 2012

Final Entry by Cassie Wood, Deep-C REU

I’m back from the 3 day research cruise on the research vessel Bellows and, boy am I tired! I had lots of fun, though.

I enjoyed watching the land pass us by and seeing the occasional wildlife. Pods of dolphins would visit us and we even got pieces of jellyfish on our collecting tanks. We caught three Mahi, which were promptly turned into filets and countless Benito fish that were thrown back into the sea. I caught one of the Benitos myself. It was quite a workout. Unfortunately, we didn’t eat the Mahi on the ship, but our cook, Patrick, was fantastic. I also did not mind the endless supply of soda, chips, and ice cream provided to us.

However, the trip wasn’t all fun and games. I was there to work. My main job was to repetitively filter water that was collected during our voyage. It was easy work and satisfying to watching the water go down through the filters. Another part of my job included erratic sleeping times. Our schedule was governed by transit times between stations (aka collection points), so the only times we could sleep were when there was a several hour gap between stations.
The filtering ensemble I used the entire trip.
Finally, something interesting happened the last day. A major part of our equipment, the device we were using to collect water samples failed. This was a mixed blessing because, although it was difficult to collect samples now, we were at the point in our voyage where we did not need to collect many anymore. Also, the students got the rare treat of seeing how researchers collected water samples the “old school” way.

The “major part of our equipment,” the conductivity, temperature, depth instrument (CTD).
I had a great time with such a host of intelligent people and I hope to do it again sometime in the future. Just not in the near future because I need my beauty sleep.

Post Author:
Cassie Wood

Sunday, July 15, 2012

RV Bellows Geomorphology/Shallow Shelf Seafloor Mapping Cruise - July 2012

Bow where the dolphin hang out.
DAY 4 (July 15, 2012)

Another good day on the water. Seas calmed down today allowing for a more comfortable ride just in time for running the A benthic transect survey (off St Andrews Bay). Yesterday we could not have run this direction as the roll would have been too much.  1538 Z, seas 1-2 ft, running northeast on a transect.

A good weather day.

The student blog today is by Kaitlyn Toebe, recent graduate, University of West Florida.
“ The sea has calmed down a lot today. Much easier to move around and shower (No falling today :))  So far things have been running smoothly. It’s an easy trip with lots of time to read. The highlight so far was early this morning (during the 12 am – 4 am shift). Shane and I watched a bunch of Dolphins feeding on flying fish. Even saw a baby dolphin swimming with it’s mother! The flying fish glow bright blue in the boat lights, and the Dolphins are so quick! Very cool to watch! Hopefully they will be out again. It makes the time go by much faster.   – Kait”
Never too many of these.
Post Author:
Dr. Stan Locker

Saturday, July 14, 2012

RV Bellows Geomorphology/Shallow Shelf Seafloor Mapping Cruise - July 2012

Hard bottom site.
DAY 3 (July 14, 2012)

Day 3 finds us heading south into increasing sea state. We continued heading south along the deep 120-130 m transect toward the Madison Swanson area where we planned to do some hard bottom searching around the previously mapped areas of the reserve. The weather is a factor today, with winds out of the southeast pushing 3-4, and some 5 ft seas at us - we will not be able to work on across shelf lines. Towing a fish at depth limits the maneuverability of the ship on turns – quick turns can crash the fish into the sea floor. The sea state also limited the course we could take. With the high relief bottom topography in the MD area and we had to be careful how we progressed. The decision was to make our way up wind, and then chart a zig-zag course downwind to the northwest across the MD area to get some coverage there. This would be a good way to try to find paleoshorelines (important habitat) that we expect to find between 80 and 60 meters water depth.
Had some time to do some initial data review. Here is some interesting hardbottom we found on the P transect south of Pensacola in about 25 m water depth. In the “Hard bottom site” figure – the dark is high backscatter hard bottom. A transparent overlay of the bathymetry in color shows that the hard bottom is topographically low, surrounded by sand dunes of higher elevation.

Today the student guest blog is by Markietta Butler-Hill, FSU.

The Galley:  The food is great, and colorful!
“ What did I get myself into? Just minutes ago I was thinking to myself “I shouldn’t of come”. But, in a way, I’m glad I did. Three home cooked meals for a whole WEEK. Plus ample thinking time. The water’s been choppy all day. I see why Samira’s been below the whole time. The worst part of the trip is the sleeping arrangements. Its soooooo cramped. Dr. Stan compared it to camp. Glad I’ve never been. Overall, this has definitely been an experience so far. Can’t wait to see what comes next!  -Kie”
Post Author:

Dr. Stan Locker