Showing posts from September, 2017

Like a hurricane

"Here I am Rock you like a hurricane" - "Rock you like a hurricane" by Scorpions Differently-sized specimens of Cladorhiza gelida , the carnivorous sponge, photographed using a dissecting microscope. Friends, my first week back in Woods Hole was made significantly more exciting by the passage of hurricane  José.  My boyfriend actually started calling the hurricane "José Cuervo" because of its drunken, swerving path through the Atlantic. It parked off the coast of Nantucket for a good four days, giving us on the Cape the gifts of multi-directional wind and variable-severity rainfall for most of last week. To be honest, it wasn't quite as bad as I anticipated, but there was definitely rainwater getting thrown around from all directions. I made sure to stay inside and work in the lab while José had his way with the outdoors. It was a good chance to start measuring the sponge and crinoid specimens I brought back from the Arctic. Yes, all my spe

I will be back

"You made me swear I'd never forget I made a vow I'd see you again I will be back one day And I'll find you there by the great big lake" - "I will be back one day" by Lord Huron Returning home from a trip to the Arctic is always a surreal experience. The climate in the high north is so different that I feel disconnected from whatever's going on at temperate latitude. I'm completely out of touch with American news. Especially after long trips, when I return home to a different season than I left , it doesn't just feel like I've been away; it feels like I've been on another planet. Even though it's mid-September, it still feels like summer in New England. Temperatures are in the 70s (Fahrenheit), and I'm walking around in T-shirts for the first time in a month. Thankfully, most of the vacationers have gone, so the traffic in town is actually manageable. I'm settling back into my WHOI work, spending time with my boyfr

Staged and ready

Today is one of those days when I sit down in the evening and realize suddenly that I am exhausted. My body is drained of all energy, and I can feel that the muscles in my legs and back have been used. At first, I could not figure out why I was so tired, but when I thought back, I realized I have done a lot today. My day started at 7 am. I made sure I was moving early because I needed to get my larval samplers filled and prepped before a 10:30 meeting with the other scientists. I had sent myself a box with all the supplies to build the samplers, but they still needed to be put together. My poor hotel room turned into a mini laboratory as I spread out all my things, filtered water, and filled the samplers. As I worked, I kept thanking myself for thinking as far ahead as I did and not forgetting any of the necessary supplies. Once the samplers were in order, I hiked down to UNIS for a meeting with the rest of the scientists. This cruise is quite a bit smaller than my last one,

Scavenger hunt

Ah, the life of a scientist abroad. It is certainly never boring! Before I left for Polarstern , I had a box of supplies for the Norwegian cruise sent ahead to Svalbard. It was supposed to be delivered to the office of an Arctic logistics company, where I could go and pick it up. The box contained the larval samplers and fouling panels that I needed for the cruise, so it was critical to my project that I receive it. Well, friends, unfortunately international science is not that simple. When I showed up at the logistics company's office on Monday morning to pick up my box, I discovered it was not there and not in the company's system. Thus began my scavenger hunt. Where's Waldo World Championship It started in the company's warehouse. I described my box - large, black with a red lid, about 20 kilos. Two employees looked, but it wasn't there. Sometimes packages are routed through the Norwegian parcel service, they said. So we went to check with them. I gave


The aurora borealis, seen from the Peildeck of Polarstern Since I last wrote, several things have happened: 1) I stayed up with the rest of the scientists our last night at sea, watching the aurora borealis from the Peildeck. 2) The ship arrived in Tromsø, and I hugged my dear German colleagues goodbye. 3) I treated myself to my post-cruise ritual of a long walk, a long shower, and a salad. 4) I went back to my blog posts from sea and added photos (check them out if you haven't!). 5) I flew back up north to Longyearbyen, Svalbard! Now, you were probably expecting me to head south, not north, but I insist the back-track was for a reason. Do you remember the larval traps I spent so much time building in March ? If you remember, I shipped them to my German colleagues in preparation for a cruise - the very cruise that just happened. The samplers I built in March are now underwater on moorings in the Fram Strait, and I'll pick them up next year. What I didn'

Farewell, Hausgarten

I’ve been referring to the Arctic long-term ecological research station by its proper name, Hausgarten, but I’m curious if any of you know that that word translates to. The closest English equivalent is “backyard,” and yes, that’s meant to be ironic. My German colleagues who founded the research station actually took it one step further by planting a garden gnome , a staple in every German garden, on the seafloor. The gnome has stood since 1999 right next to the long-term settlement experiment that was just recovered. He’s now quite alone. Of course there are other long-term experiments in the immediate area, so the gnome with be visited every few years. As ironic as it is to name an Arctic deep-sea observatory “backyard,” reality is, the Hausgarten is a backyard for many of my German colleagues. The scientists who monitor the ecosystem up here every year feel quite at home in the Fram Strait. With practice, the annual expeditions become familiar experiences. After my third expedi


Right now, I am on the ship’s bridge. I have my laptop on one of the windowsills so I can look out over the bow as I write. The sea surface is calm and blue-gray, rippling absent-mindedly beneath a similarly-colored sky. The waves are irregular, or rather, there are several different waves laid on top of one another. One is slow and rolling, another short and sporadic, all barely affecting the texture of the dampened ocean. A flock of gray-and-white birds is circling the ship, coasting on wide-spread wings just inches from the water. I haven’t spent much time outdoors lately, but I know we’ve had bad weather. Sometimes, I could feel the ship rolling side to side as I sat at the microscope. Other times, I felt the ship pitch forward as we steamed. Unexpected waves or thick ice floes would send my swiveling chair into a spin and my poor, microscope-bound eyes into a frenzy. Still, I made it through. I have just finished the analysis of the deep-sea settlement experiment, and I a

Lily of the sea

Friends, I would like to tell you about another common species on the settlement plates. Its scientific name is Bathycrinus carpenterii , but you can call it a sea lily. Sea lilies are echinoderms, related to sea stars, brittle stars, sea urchins, and sea cucumbers. Like all echinoderms, they have radial symmetry (they look the same no matter which way you turn them) and arms in multiples of 5. The main difference between sea lilies and other echinoderms is that sea lilies live on stalks and filter the water for their food. They look very flower-like, with a long, tall stem and narrow, finger-like petals. Up until the mid-1800s, sea lilies were only known from the fossil record. The discovery of living, extant sea lilies in the deep sea lead to a hypothesis that the deep sea was a sort of refuge for “living fossils,” ancient organisms that had died out everywhere else. The hypothesis has now been disproven, but sea lilies mark an important step in the history of deep-sea biology.

Where the pink sponge grows

It is 9:45 pm, and I have been at the microscope for 10 hours today. I knew the analysis would have to happen fast, before the animals on the settlement plates rotted and wasted away. I saved half of the plates in ethanol to buy myself some time and kept the rest in cold water, sitting in nature’s refrigerator on the deck of the ship. After two days of work, I just finished the refrigerated plates, but I already have some very cool results. A Cladorhiza gelida recruit on one of the plates For starters, I’ve found about 15 species on the plates. That’s not very many in the grand scheme of things, but it’s actually more than I expected. Every time I find a new species, I photograph it, pick it off the plate with my forceps, and save a sample to identify later. Some of the species I can recognize and identify right way because their adults occur on rocks in the area, but others have me clueless. It’s going to be a fun adventure to figure out what they are! One of the most co

The main event

Friends, my day has finally come! I’ve been waiting for an ROV dive to recover the long-term deep-sea settlement experiment so I could begin my analysis, and I’m happy to announce the frame has been recovered! It is now safely on board, and oh, how cool are the samples! It all started yesterday around dinner time. We were at the central Hausgarten station and the weather was cooperating, so we went for it and sent down the ROV. Got to be honest, I was expecting the dive to take a lot longer than it did. It was a tricky operation but went very smoothly. The ROV had to first dive to the seafloor and find the experiment, then the ship lowered a weighted cable with a spool of line on the end, which the ROV had to find, grab onto, unspool, bring to the experiment without getting tangled, and hook onto the top of the frame. Imagine putting a hook in an eye underwater without getting tangled up. Lots of things can go wrong. Thankfully, the ROV team already had experience with the man