Showing posts from March, 2017

Dancing on strings

"Dancing on strings above the abyss, I cry Reach for the skies" - "Faster" by Amaranthe My experimental set-up at the WHOI dock Friends, today is the day! I have been waiting for barnacles to start recruiting to my monitoring plates  before I could officially begin  my succession study , and I'm happy to announce that my study has now begun! I saw a few barnacle recruits on the monitoring plates last week, so I knew it was time to get going. I made the final preparations, cleared my hypotheses with my advisor, and headed out to the dock with my experiment. Working on docks is convenient because they're so accessible - literally right across the street from my office. I did run into one snag, though. My fouling panels are on large PVC sheets ( see this photo ), which were to hang parallel to the seafloor and upside-down, suspended from a corner of the dock by ropes on three of their four corners. However, as soon as I got the first sheet in place, I

The two-sided coin

I heard the lab door open and close, then three powerful footsteps headed my direction. Must be him. When I turned around, he was already in my office doorway. Man, he walks fast. "Hi. I have ten minutes. Show me your thing."  He was polite but matter-of-fact. I picked it up off the desk - a tube of white PVC with a cap on one end and three plastic tubes inside. "See, I want it to sit like this," I explained, turning the PVC tube upright, "and I have to screw the lids on and off." I unscrewed the bottom cap and removed the three plastic tubes. "But it's leaking." He held out his hands, and I handed him the sampler. He turned it over, looked inside, put the tubes inside, screwed the cap on. Unscrewed the cap, took the tubes back out, looked inside. "I know how to fix this," he declared. "I have another meeting to go to right now, but I'll collect you afterward and take you up to my office. It's an easy solution

Construction day: Part 3

Today was a long day. I've been on my feet for most of it, building lids to go on the larval traps I'll deploy this summer. Not many people realize how much construction science can involve, so I'll walk you through the process. Not exactly candy: my PVC lids super glued to neoprene For the lids, I needed a sturdy plastic that wasn't too bulky, so I pulled out some PVC sheet I had left over from an earlier project. I ordered a special hole saw (it drills giant holes) and set to work. I was actually using the hole saw for the opposite of its intended purpose, because I wasn't concerned with the holes themselves; I wanted the discs the hole saw would punch out. I headed to the shop to use the drill press, and two hours later, I had close to 90 little discs, the exact diameter of my larval traps. Step two. The PVC alone won't be enough to seal the traps, so I needed something a bit more waterproof. I super glued neoprene to the PVC discs - actually, more

Like a helix

For some reason, I always have a hard time leaving the lab. My days don't just end - they taper off. I'll get to the end of one task, feel the sense of accomplishment, cross it off my list, then scan around my office and inevitably find something else that needs to be done. I'll spin around and shuffle little items off of my list until my brain is convinced I can go home. I spent a lot of time on the computer today, analyzing a dataset from last summer. I've told you about these data before - they concern the behavior of oyster larvae in different water conditions, and I'm using a code-based statistical program called Matlab for the analysis. To be honest, one of the best parts of this particular project is getting to work together with the other scientists involved. The data were collected by my advisor, Lauren, and an intern in her lab last summer, Erin. Some of the codes for the data analysis were written by Lauren's former Ph.D. student, Jeanette, and of c

The cleansing wind

"The wind blows loudest when you've got your eyes closed" - "Organs" by Of Monsters and Men Me on the Polarstern pilot deck, 2012. There is something about cold wind that makes me feel clean. I breathe it in, sucking icicles deep into my lungs, and somehow, everything vanishes. I feel refreshed, calm, and hollow. I remember when I first discovered the effect that cold wind had on me. It was 2011, and I was on R/V Polarstern, at 78° N in the Arctic. Whenever I had a break from the lab, I would go outside on the pilot deck - the highest accessible point on the ship, essentially the roof of the bridge. I would face the bow, into the wind, and relish the piercing cold penetrating my lungs. It was best if we were steaming. Today, when I went out to check my monitoring plates  on the WHOI dock, I couldn't help but stop for a second and notice the wind. It's been wicked this week - we actually had a nor'easter on Tuesday - and the air is the col

Construction day: Part 2

Friends, I am back at it, building samplers for the cruise I'll go on this summer. No matter how simple the design, building samplers always involves a crazy number of steps. My lab actually looks like a disaster zone right now, with raw materials spread all over and two large bins waiting to be filled with the final products. Connectors I built to attach my samplers to oceanographic moorings. I had an interesting challenge when it came to one connector. I've been communicating with the lead technician responsible for the moorings my samplers will go on, and he suggested we use thin PVC to connect my samplers to the mooring lines (see photo). It was all well and good until I realized I had to cut slits into the PVC for the cable ties. How in the world is one supposed to cut 1/2" (1.3 cm) slits into 2" (5 cm) segments of PVC without having an accident? Stay away from power tools, for a start. I ended up using a soldering iron and just melting my way through th

Construction day

"You see, Kirstin, the great thing about biology is that you learn a lot of random skills. For example, I'm getting pretty good at plumbing." - one of my professors in college That is a LOT of PVC fittings! Ask anybody, and they'll tell you they want a job in which they're not doing the same things over and over again every day. That's the dream, right? I'd be curious to see how many people actually achieve it, but I can tell you with certainty that I do not do the same things at work every day. For example, yesterday. There was a giant box delivered to my lab, full of PVC fittings in various shapes. I was very excited to see the box arrive. The fittings are the raw materials for my latest project, constructing housings for samplers I'll use over the summer. The housings were designed by my Ph.D. advisor for deploying samplers in the deep sea. The arrival of my PVC fittings meant that I could steam ahead with construction. In addition to the