Showing posts from May, 2018

The voyage of the Dawn Treader

"Adventures are never fun while you're having them." - C.S. Lewis in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Carl pushed forward on the throttle and kicked the engine into turbo mode. Instantly, black smoke started billowing out of the exhaust pipe behind us. We let it go for a few seconds, watching the dark plume stretch behind us as we skimmed over the top of the water. The black cloud slowly lightened until it turned to white, then darkened again to gray. We looked at each other, confused. Friends, I write this blog to show you the ups and downs of science, and today happened to be one of the less-successful days. I'm not quite ready to call it a "down," because it was still overall a great day, but we were unable to reach our dive site because of mechanical issues. Sometimes, that's just how it goes. I'm training for a project this summer that involves diving at shipwrecks around Massachusetts, and I'm getting pretty far along in the process. I

Einpacken: part 2

Inside one of my cruise boxes Friends, it's that time of year again! I just packed and sent off two giant boxes of supplies for a summer research expedition. I spent a lot of time (admittedly much less time than last year) building my samplers to send , buying containers to bring samples back in, writing my customs declaration, and putting everything in the boxes. But I got it done! My packages were sent off today. One challenge I ran into was figuring out how to pack up my fouling panels. The frames they're on are too big for standard boxes. I had custom-built one for them in 2012, but it is currently sitting in a warehouse in Norway with some spare samplers from a cruise last year . I needed another solution. That's right. Plastic wrap. I called the shipping department at WHOI to ask for advice, and within a few hours, someone showed up at the door of my lab holding what looked like the world's largest roll of Saran Wrap. I was able to bind small groups of

Graves Light

Kristina rolled onto her side and peered back at me. She crossed her arms over one another across her chest and slowly drifted forward in the current. In that position, with her black drysuit and neoprene hood, she looked very much like an otter. I giggled at the thought of her cracking urchin shells on her chest with a rock. I beat my own fins and swam forward to join her. The seafloor beneath us was covered in boulders - giant, impossibly heavy rocks that played host to amazing biodiversity. I kept running into rocks throughout the dive, not because I was struggling to control my buoyancy (this dive was the first time I actually have felt in full control of my buoyancy in my drysuit), but because I was too curious about what was living on the stones. I would hover over one, exhale to sink, and get my face as close to the organisms as my mask would allow. There were giant ribbons of kelp rippling in the water. Every rock was covered in thin, branching strands of red algae, and attac

Construction day: part 4

Those white tubes are the casings for my larval traps, laying in the lab's fume hood until their PVC glue dries.  Friends, some of you may remember that last year, I spent a lot of time building larval traps to be deployed on moorings in the Arctic . It was a long process that required a lot of planning, figuring out , improvisation, and, ultimately, power tools . Well, I am embarking on a similar journey this year, with one key difference: this time, I know what I'm doing. I have my design for the larval traps all sorted out, so I can crank through the construction process and have the joy of just building the things. To be honest, it's very satisfying to spend a day in the shop. After all the days I spend in my office, it's a welcome change to slice and grind and drill things. I love washing the dirt off of my hands at the end of the day. I'm going much faster this year than last, which is good, because it's already May. My samplers need to be in Germ

In print

Friends, I'm proud to announce that another one of my scientific papers has been published. This paper has been a long time in the making. I collected the data during my PhD, way back in the summers of 2014 and 2015. I built moorings from concrete blocks , attached fouling panels to them, and deployed them off of the Oregon coast to see what would grow. I had high expectations, but the project was plagued by misfortune. I struggled with seasickness every time I went out on the boat to visit my moorings. Cancelled or delayed trips meant my blocks stayed out much longer than I intended . Even after all the trouble I went through in deployment and recovery, my panels were pretty much  just colonized by barnacles . It was disappointing data. I really struggled with the analysis . None of my hypotheses proved to be correct, and it felt like nothing in the project could go right. But things started to turn around when I talked to an oceanographer at WHOI. Together, we realized that t

The sugar shack

The sugar shack We turned off the country road and pulled into dirt parking lot. "We're here!" declared Julie, "the sugar shack!" I stepped out of the van and scanned around me. The first thought in my mind was, "Ok, this is what I expected Canada to be like." I was standing on a sloping hill. To my right was a wooden cabin with several kegs on the sprawling front porch. Two meat smokers vented silver plumes out front. I could smell bacon and fresh air. Behind me, a stand of maple trees was entangled with bright blue tubing - a capillary network funneling their sap into a processing center. Sugar shack, indeed.  Sap tubes strung between the maple trees near the sugar shack The sugar shack was the reason I had come to  Montr é al. My friend, Julie, had raved about it to me when I saw her in November. Her vivid descriptions of the delicious and exotic food spoke to my inner foodie, so I knew I had to try it out. She invited me to join her gr


As soon as I crossed the border, I found myself in rural Qu é bec. Flat fields extended on either side of the road, dotted with silos, farm houses, and barns. The landscapes and the structures all resembled rural Michigan; in fact, the highway I was on could very well have been the country road I used to drive to church growing up. I had an intense moment of déj à  vu. The only difference between  Qu é bec and Michigan I could see  was that all the road signs were in French, so it really felt like I had entered an alternate version of my childhood in which the British had never pushed the French out of the North American Midwest.  Row houses in Montr é al with external staircases I drove on for about another hour, and the traffic increased as I drew closer to Montr é al. Instead of farm land, I was surrounded by industrial infrastructure. Smoke stacks, metal tubing, and gray-colored buildings lined the highway.  To be honest,  Montr é al caught me a bit off-guard. I was expecti

The seminar

The opening slide from my seminar Friends, this week, I had the opportunity to present my research to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Biology Department, where I am currently working as a Postdoctoral Scholar. I gave an hour-long seminar outlining the major questions in my research, experiments that I have undertaken to answer them, and directions that I intend to go in the future. It was a great chance to show my colleagues what I was working on and open up a discussion about future plans. I've been at WHOI for about a year and a half and have been involved in a number of different projects. Preparing my presentation pushed me to summarize my work and integrate my ideas into a cohesive whole. Seminars always include a question-and-answer session following the presentation, so I received some good suggestions from colleagues about ways to refine my studies. The seminar really served as an assessment of where my research stands and where it is going. I was glad for th

The pond: part 2

As I pulled up to the gravel pseudo-parking lot at Hathaway Pond, I could see E's Jeep was already there. It's a bright red Wrangler with a light bar across the roof, a gnarly grill on the front, and custom tail lights. It's the kind of vehicle you can't help but recognize. I parked behind the Jeep and walked down to the shore. The water level in the pond was pretty high, covering even the dive rock (it's a rock that has a dive flag painted on it). I dipped my fingers in the water to feel the temperature. It was chilly. Thank goodness for my drysuit. We suited up and waded into the water. There's an underwater platform at about 20', so I turned my body toward the platform's approximate location and looked down at my compass. "Initial bearing is 50 degrees," I told E. He nodded. We were off. After making it out to the platform, we swam briefly in a circle and located a statue of the Virgin Mary. The underwater Maddona marks the beginning o