Monday, July 21, 2014

Christopher Horruitiner’s Internship, Summer 2014 – Part 2

From June 19th to the 28th, I was on a research vessel called the R/V Weatherbird II. The objective of our cruise was focused on identifying hardbottom habitat along the outer shelf of the De Soto Canyon’s eastern margin (Figure 1). The Chief Scientist on board was Dr. Stan Locker, and his team was primarily interested in using a Teledyne-Benthos C3D interferometric sidescan sonar device to map the sea floor and give us a better understanding of benthic habitats and paleoshorelines. My team from Valdosta State University and I were interested in capturing whole water samples across the water column using a CTD carousel, which also measured the Deep Chlorophyll Max, sound velocity, temperature, etc.
Survey Areas - DeSoto Canyon's Eastern Margin

Anastasia Nienow and I loading samples from the CTD.
On this cruise, we collected pigment samples to later analyze with High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) and discreet Niskin bottle samples from several depths across the water column to later be analyzed by FlowCAM imaging cytometry, and Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) to see how populations (primarily diatoms) change with depth and with season and hopefully we can compile that with a data set going back to January 2011 to identify/understand the temporal-spatial patterns of phytoplankton populations in the DeSoto Canyon region of the northern Gulf of Mexico.

While onboard, the science crew and I had to work two four-hour watches per day, where we helped monitor data acquisition, keep track of navigation, and took a log of activities. We also enjoyed three amazing and nutritious meals a day made by the onboard chef Thomas Lee, who took the care to make me separate vegetarian meals.

With only 8 or so hours of scientific obligations per day on the cruise, there was more than enough time to enjoy living out at sea in the Gulf of Mexico.

The whole crew came onto the deck to take a look at the formation of a water spout.  You can see the tendril of another to the left.
Dolphins were a regular phenomenon whilst on the R/V Weatherbird II.
And I also enjoyed my first real sunset (as well as my first real night sky and my first shooting star(s), which were impossible to photograph at night).
A pod of dolphins!  There was even a calf as well.  We thought they were made curious by the sonar device, but even after it was turned off they continued to show up.  
I am looking forward to analyzing our samples using the new lab equipment!

Posted By:
Christopher Horruitiner, Valdosta State University

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