Showing posts from April, 2017

Like a bullet

"Happiness hit her like a bullet in the back." - "The dog days are over" by Florence and the Machine I am sitting on a bench on Water Street in Woods Hole. There's this little grassy area across from the WHOI/MBL library with a huge sun dial and a statue of Rachel Carson. A stone retaining wall separates the grass from a narrow sandy beach. I've heard it called Garbage Beach, because apparently some researcher back in the day wanted to study how garbage was broken down in the ocean and did so by covering the whole beach in trash. Ah, the good ol' days.  To my right, Nonamesset Island is shrouded in fog. To my left, R/V Neil Armstrong is parked at the WHOI pier. I  actually just ran into an oceanographer I had been to sea with two years ago, strolling along Water Street after arriving in port on the Armstrong . Small world. A red-and-white dive flag bobs on the surface of the steely blue water in front of me. My boyfriend is underwater, practicing d

More interesting

A juvenile barnacle on my fouling panels, photographed under a dissecting microscope at 50x magnification Another week, another check of my succession experiment! I have my experiments at two different docks, the WHOI pier and a floating platform in Eel Pond . Each week, I collect the fouling panels, examine what's on them, perform any experimental manipulations I need to, and change out the larval trap. I alternate docks each week (so each dock gets checked every other week), and this week, it was the WHOI pier's turn. I wasn't quite sure what I would find on the panels, since the last time I checked the WHOI pier, there was literally nothing on my panels . This week, I brought the panels into the lab, bracing myself for disappointment, but was pleasantly surprised to find I had a few recruits! I had four species on my panels this week. There was Folliculina , ( the same ciliate I had seen in Eel Pond ), two hydroids ( Tubularia and Obelia ,  both of which had b

Chainsaw carving

In Reedsport, Oregon, just north of where I used to live in Coos Bay, there's an annual chainsaw carving festival. Yes, you read that right. Artists from all over gather on the Oregon coast, where they carve delicate sculptures out of tree trunks. With chainsaws. The process always fascinated me. I was astounded at the complexity of the resulting sculptures, the level of detail they expressed, especially considering they were created with such a loud brute of a tool. I've previously described the process of scientific data analysis like making a pot . I've equated it with walking two steps forward, one step back, and one step sideways . As you know, I'm currently in the middle of a data analysis on larval behavior . But this time around, the data analysis doesn't feel like pottery or a crazy walk. It feels like carving a tree trunk with a chainsaw. These graphs are about 1/3 of what I started with. Each of them show valuable information about our larvae. For t

One of these things is a lot like the others

"Hey Lauren, can I show you something?" I called to my advisor. I was seated at the lab bench, in front of the nice dissecting microscope. "Sure," she strode over, and we switched places. She sat at the scope while I stood beside. Peering into the eyepieces, she could see one of my fouling panels. More specifically, she could see small organisms on my panel. The organisms were tiny - hard to see even with magnification - and green. Their hard shells were vase-shaped and translucent. I knew I had seen them before, on fouling panels I had deployed in the Arctic in 2014-2015 , but I couldn't remember what the organisms were. Four individuals of Folliculina , photographed under a dissecting microscope at 50x magnification "Maybe they're foraminiferans," I suggested to Lauren. I vaguely remembered the organisms being non-animals. They were single-celled, like foraminiferans, I thought. Lauren has much more experience looking at foraminiferan

Noticing beauty

Back in 2007, the Washington Post did an experiment . They asked world-renowned violinist Joshua Bell to pose as a street musician and play in one of D.C.'s busiest Metro stations. During the 45 minutes Bell played, over 1,000 people walked straight past him, completely ignoring the musician. Only a handful stopped to listen, and even fewer threw money into his open violin case. It's unreplicated and uncontrolled, but this experiment suggests humans have a hard time noticing beauty when it's not placed in a context they expect. Friends, I live in an incredible place, and I am determined to notice the beauty around me. Please enjoy the photos below, taken around Cape Cod in the past few months. Woods Hole, MA Sagamore, MA Sagamore, MA North of Falmouth, MA Woods Hole, MA

A tale of two experiments

My fouling panels today - empty Early this morning, I pulled on my rain pants and my field boots. I strode across the street, through the open gate, and onto the WHOI dock. It was time to check my experiment. I had set aside the entire day for it. I was expecting to spend hours at the microscope, examining the new recruits to my fouling panels. I was looking forward to counting and identifying little juvenile animals all afternoon. Kneeling on the dock, I loosened the knots that held my fouling panels in place. I tugged the lines free and lifted up the PVC sheet that holds them. I laid the PVC on the dock. And I saw...nothing. That's right; my panels were empty. I had exactly one recruit (a hydroid) on the 30 panels I examined today. Now, I know the lack of recruitment wasn't a mistake, for two reasons. First, the panels did have some detritus (organic dirt) on them, evidence that they had been underwater the whole time since I deployed them two weeks ago . Second, my

Dancing on strings: Part 2

Friends, if you had been on Water Street in Woods Hole, Massachusetts today, you would have seen a tall figure in an orange fleece and gray rain pants. She would have been carrying all sorts of random tools - a power drill, ropes, electrical tape, a long wooden beam. She would have disappeared into the side door of the Redfield laboratory several times, each time reappearing to carry her supplies across the parking lot and deposit them on a floating platform in Eel Pond. You would have watched her with curiosity as you sipped your coffee on the porch of the caf √©  across the street, wondering what in the world this woman could be doing. You would have seen her lay on her belly on the floating platform, scoot around on her knees, close her eyes in thought. Perhaps she was practicing a new form of yoga, you would have joked to nobody in particular.  And then finally, she would have emerged from the stately brick building carrying two large gray PVC sheets with ropes attached to each


When I lived in Germany in 2011-2012, I made a few notorious language mistakes. Obviously, anyone speaking their second language on a day-to-day basis is bound to. I remember the day I told a technician I was "enttäuscht" (disappointed) that he had helped me, when I meant to say I was "erfreut" (delighted). I regularly mispronounced "Kirchen" (churches) and "Kirschen" (cherries). And then there was the day I said "einpacken." I told a colleague how excited I was to "einpack" the ship. I thought I was saying "put boxes inside the ship," but "einpacken" means something more akin to "gift-wrap." I had told him how excited I was to cover a giant research vessel in wrapping paper. The image has stuck with me ever since. Well, friends, I've done a lot of packing in the past few days. I put together two large boxes of supplies for a cruise I'll be going on this summer and sent them off to my