Thursday, February 27, 2014

Meaghan Faletti's Internship, Spring 2014 - Part 4

Hello from the Sorting Lab!

We have been working very quickly lately and have piled up many many samples! Now that we have succeeded in filling Arvind's desk with piles of vials, we've taken a step back to organize the lab! Though to some this may sound like "busy work," I've found it to be extremely important when it comes to research. Correct labeling and archiving can be the difference between a successful project and a sloppy one, as I've learned with past projects. Everything is in order, jars of sediments are all accounted for, and two more groups of cores are out and ready to be sorted!

I recently got a chance to take a peek at some of the more specific classification that Arvind can narrow the organisms down to and I was amazed! As of now, I can sort out the bigger groups into maybe ten different vials or "classifications" - little did I know, there are hundreds of taxa that Arvind has found in these samples! I find it incredible how diverse these little piles of sand can be. With each day, I am learning more and more about life in the ocean. As it has since I was a little kid playing at the beach, it astounds me with each and every discovery. 

Posted by:
Meaghan Faletti, FSU

Friday, February 21, 2014

Emily Hladky's Internship, Spring 2014 - Part 3

In the previous blog I mentioned that I picked benthic foraminifera from cores that were collected in the Gulf of Mexico in order to determine the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. I wanted to give some general background on foraminifera, what they are, why they are used in science, and so on. Foraminifera are protists that create an external shell or test, often made of calcium carbonate or agglutinated sediment particles. They are very small, about 100 micrometers, but can range in size. There are hundreds of different species that vary in appearance and may only be found in certain environments. Some factors that control the location of specific species include temperature, salinity, wave action, depth, sedimentation rates, turbulence, oxygen concentrations, organic flux, etc. (Gooday, 2003).

Foraminifera play an important role in science, specifically in paleoclimatology and paleoceanography. Foraminifera are used because they are found throughout all oceans, they evolve very quickly, their shells are hard and are therefore preserved in the geologic record, but most importantly, they are very sensitive to changes in the environment and can serve as indicators of the health of a community. The diversity of the community changes with a changing environment, which is what I am currently researching in the Gulf. I have seen changes in species diversity and abundance in the Gulf as a result of the oil spill. As mentioned in the last blog, diversity seems to decrease, and we found the dominant taxa present in all three cores to be Bulimina aculeata and Uvigerina peregrina. Bulimina spp. are often found in environments with low oxygen (Miller and Lohmann, 1982), and Uvigerina spp. are found where there are low oxygen levels and high organic carbon flux (Miller and Lohmann, 1982); pictures of these species can be seen below. I recently began looking at cores collected in February and September of 2011 and will be comparing the foraminiferal assemblages from these cores to the ones already completed to determine how these communities are recovering, if they are recovering at all.

Bulimina aculeate

Uvigerina peregrina
Gooday, A.J., 2003. Benthic Foraminifera (Protista) as Tools in Deep-water Palaeoceanography: Environmental Influences on Faunal Characteristics. Advances in Marine Biology, Academic Press.

Miller, K.G. Lohmann, G.P., 1982. Environmental distribution of Recent benthic foraminifera on the northeast United States continental slope, in: Lohmann, G.P. (Ed.). Geological Society of America Bulletin, pp. 200-206.  

Posted by:
Emily Hladky - St. Petersburg, FL

Monday, February 10, 2014

Meaghan Faletti's Internship, Spring 2014 - Part 3

Greetings from the Sorting Lab!

 I am unfortunately slightly behind due to a short sickness and a "snow day" that FSU announced last week. Now, I am back in the lab and picking up my rhythm again.

I'm now fully trained to do all the work I can in the lab! First, sediment samples are rinsed of the formaldehyde used to preserve them from collection time, then it is stained with a pink-colored dye to make the animals visible. After the stain has taken effect, samples are rinsed again and viewed through the scope. Animals are picked out and put in separate vials according to categories - polychaetes, nematodes, isopods, etc. To the right is a picture of the vials with organisms sorted out! We've been working hard and getting a LOT of samples done this week!  

Posted by:
Meaghan Faletti, FSU

Ben LaBelle's Internship, Spring 2014 - Part 2

Hey everyone, I thought you might like to see what it’s like collecting the sediment cores Arvind, Meghan and I are working with. Back in September I had the opportunity to help out with the collection cruise to the Gulf of Mexico aboard the RV Weatherbird.
Once we were on site, we would connect the multicorer to the A-frame of the ship, maneuver it to the edge of the deck and then man the guide ropes as the wench lowered the corer over the side of the ship.
As we were sampling in very deep water (1000-2000M) we then had anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours to get ready to process the samples that came back up. Once the multicorer was back at the surface, we assisted in retrieval and then removed the cores for processing.
There were several different labs represented on this cruise, and each processed their cores differently, as necessitated by the types of research they were conducting.
We did have some rough weather that made work challenging some days, but all in all it was a great experience.  

Posted by:
Ben LaBelle, Florida State University