Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Feel invincible

"You make me feel invincible,
Earthquake, powerful
Just like a tidal wave
You make me brave"
- "Feel Invincible" by Skillet

There is something so satisfying about working with my hands. Starting with raw materials and shaping them into a product. I love having something I can point to at the end of the day and say "I built that."

In preparation for my succession study, I wanted to outplant racks of settlement plates on some docks around WHOI. The plates are really just for me to play around with - nothing quantitative or high-pressure. I'll monitor them over the winter and early spring just to see what is where and get familiar with identifying small recruits of the local species. I should also double-check if my assumption that barnacles recruit first to a substratum is actually true.

My creations
Well, settlement plates don't just fall out of the sky; I had to build them. Fortunately, my advisor had enough supplies from previous studies to let me scavenge what I needed from her scraps. We pulled out PVC from a warehouse, lexan from a nook in her office, and rope from an old, smelly crate in the lab.

To cut all the pieces, I needed some pretty hefty power tools, which meant getting an orientation from the WHOI facilities team. One particularly helpful employee found a chop saw and a drill press for me to use, then trained me on how to not lose any fingers. The plates had to be cut with a table saw, which was only available in the WHOI carpentry shop, so I also got an assist from some employees there.

It took a while to assemble all the necessary materials and equipment, but it was worth it! I plan on using a lot of settlement plates for various projects in the near future, so it's nice to have all the tools I need to make more. I'm grateful for the variety of facilities available at WHOI and for helpful people to show me around.

After assembling the PVC frames, I peeled the backing off of the clear plates, roughened each of the them with sandpaper, and tied them on with zip ties. It was a multi-step process, and by the end of the day, my hands were raw. Ah, but I could gaze on my creations with pride, and feel invincible.

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