Day5: Monday 18.06.2012: Field work: quick, dirty… and early (?)

This is the title that I have chosen for today’s post I got from a post I wrote 4 years ago in my Pharmacy school students’ blog “Micro-Writers” talking about Mike (a.k.a., Michael B. Gregg) who was Chief Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer and mentored young epidemiology officers at Epidemiology Intelligence Service (EIS), describing field epidemiology to them as “Quick and dirty”. Although the post discussed field epidemiology, it has many things in common with field work in environmental microbiology… specially the quick and dirty part!

Apparently, the navigation officers decided to move faster once we entered the lab/container!!! We are facing some strong waves, just 2 meters but it is not very pleasant in the container at the lower deck of the ship. It is kinda rough sea and the ship is rolling. In the container, walls and ground are moving and it is really hard to manage working with water in heavy containers with such movement! We managed to complete our work though, of course, with some losses in samples and filters!
There is no doubt that we are working faster, we are stronger by experience. I believe that Katrin will make an excellent postdoc and project leader with a magnificent experience in environmental sampling study design. I learned a lot from people here; from Katrin I learned “Good laboratory practice!” –or is it good grad research practice?– proper labeling, proper note-taking. field work practicalities, keenness and alertness. From mammals and birds group I learned perseverance and organization; everything is done in shifts and everything they discover they share with the community, they are sharing the joy. I hope that I implement what I learned at some point of my life.
Now we have 7 free hours until our next station :). We will be above 77°N soon, so internet connection will be completely lost. It’s 6°C now! I guess should start my posts with a forecast and a location update from now on. I got the maps from ship’s measurement data management system and I will show the locations to you using Google Maps.
Group of the Day: Sea of Change

I think you know that group pretty well 🙂 It’s Katrin and me. As you know, the project is about the effect of climate change on eukaryotic phytoplankton (a.k.a., microalgae; who are responsible for nearly 50% of the oxygen production on our planet and major players in sea food web). It’s a composition/biodiversity (i.e., species composition; metagenomics) as well as adaptation/activity (i.e., gene expression; metatranscriptomics) study.

The project’s “running title” is “Sea of Change: Eukaryotic phytoplankton communities in the Arctic Ocean”. Sea of Change is funded by Department of Energy (DoE), Joint Genome Institute (US). PIs of the project are Drs. Thomas Mock (University of East Anglia; UEA), Vincent Moulton (UEA), Ahmed Moustafa (AUC), Gareth Pearson (University of Algarve, Portugal), and Klaus Valentin (AWI). It’s Katrin’s PhD project. Katrin has just got her Master’s degree conducting research at AWI under the supervision of Dr. Valentin and flying to the UK to join Mock’s lab.

During the expedition, we aim to have water samples at stations along a temperature gradient to assess the biodiversity and adaptation of eukaryotic phytoplankton as a function of change in temperature. We are currently sampling at 6 stations on the way to from Bremerhaven, Germany to Svalbard, Norway and aim to have stations in the Fram Strait area on the way from Spitsbergen/Svalbard, Norway to Greenland. I told you that it’s the water passage from the Arctic Ocean to the Greenland and Norwegian Seas. I also told you that Fram Strait is a very special ecological niche;  there is a massive water mass and heat exchange because there are two main currents, the cold Arctic Ocean surface waters flowing southward at Greenland’s coasts and the Atlantic Waters flowing northward at Norwegian coasts [Ref: Regional settings and relevance for local and global climate trends]. We collect water samples for DNA and RNA extraction, cultivation and live community examination as well as chemical and nutrients analyses. Once we get our “target” community on the 1.2-micrometer pore size membrane filters, samples will be shipped to AWI and afterwards to UEA where DNA and RNA will be isolated to be sequenced at JGI.

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