|The low-hanging moon reflects on the|
sea surface, 27 July 2015, western Atlantic
The ship feels a bit different at night. Most people are still awake, but they’re working slower and having more fun. Tossing things across the room instead of carrying them. Taking a minute to chat between samples. Grabbing a snack in the galley, playing a board game, watching a movie, then disappearing one by one to go to sleep.
There’s a group of us that gathers on the bow before bed. We finish all our samples for the day, then step outside to escape the fluorescent lights. The group is different every night – there are some regulars, but there are also a few that have come only once or twice. We chat and laugh and decompress under the stars. I find it helps to have a few minutes of darkness before I go to bed, because I have to convince myself it’s time to sleep. There’s so much stimulation inside the ship - lights and people and things going on - that it’s sometimes hard to unwind. A bit of moonlight does good for my brain.
As I write this post, it’s approaching midnight on my last night at sea. This cruise has been relatively short compared to others that I’ve done - only three weeks instead of five or six – but it’s time to go home. We're all exhausted, and even though I feel fine, the reflection of my bloodshot eyes reveals my tired state every time I walk past a mirror. It’s going to be an abrupt ending, considering that we got our last samples at 4 pm today and will hit port tomorrow morning by 9. The transit takes no time at all. To be honest, the cruise feels a bit like some of the organ music that Philip Glass wrote in the 1970s, pieces like “Two Pages” and “Contrary Motion” and such. Give some old-school Glass a listen if you have a chance, because it’s really strange music. There’s no introduction and no finale, no development, no climax, and no direction. It just starts; then it stops.
|Every day when we finished sorting larvae, we printed out|
photos of the species we found and hung them up in the lab.
So much diversity!
This cruise has been a learning experience for me. I’ve actually noticed a lot of things about OIMB that I had never seen before, and which were only made apparent by contrast to other institutions. OIMBers are curious; in fact, if I had to describe my labmates in one word, that would be it. We’re curious. We’re interested in natural history, in morphology, and we know our larval forms like nobody else. We can tell a planula from a pelagosphaera and a pilidium from a pluteus. When someone walks into the lab with an invertebrate in a dish (which happened a lot this cruise), we jump up, take a look, turn it over, examine it, stick it under a microscope. We love invertebrate diversity.
I’m going to walk away from the ship tomorrow with a much greater appreciation for my institution. I guess I never realized it before, but OIMB has a very unique culture. The elements of community that are normally scattered across our campus to the point of being invisible were for the past three weeks concentrated in a 12 x 12’ lab space, and it rocked. The dynamic among the 9 of us was positive, team-oriented, non-competitive, and respectful. I can say that all of us on board are genuine friends. We worked together; we were curious together. We sorted larvae; we spawned adults. We investigated new organisms and pursued interesting side-projects. We were a team.
|The OIMB team with Sentry and the SyPRID samplers|
I’ve been in grad school for three years now and this is my ninth cruise, but I have to say, it’s been one of the highlights. For crying out loud, I got to dive in Alvin, but even more, I can feel myself growing. It’s a process that started in Norway and has only intensified since I got back: I’m getting more scientifically mature. Now granted, I’m a biased observer and completely unqualified to make that assessment, but I definitely know I feel different. Recently, I’ve found myself thinking in different patterns, thinking about bigger concepts, asking bigger questions.
The good news is that I still have one more year of grad school, one more year to appreciate OIMB for all that makes it unique. One more year to be curious, to indulge in interesting tangents, to explore the diversity of invertebrates around me. One more year to soak up all that I can and carry it with me into my career. Because no matter where I end up working, an attitude of curiosity will pervade my lab.
That’s a promise.
Bonus: Listen to a piece for string quartet that I wrote in 2013 called "On Curiosity." It's meant to capture the energy in the lab when someone walks in with a new specimen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tBkoELbxvP8&feature=youtu.be