The majority of oceanographic cruises are centered around “stations”: geographic locations where, in a flurry of activity, scientists collect the environmental information and samples that are the base of our science. While we spend the time transiting between stations to do things like sort samples, filter water, dissect invertebrates (and maybe get some sleep and eating in there), most of that stops when we reach a station. Then, it’s game time. Much like a sports team, every scientific group has a task to do, a specific gear to work to get the station-machine going, as it were. And much like a sports team, getting all those gears working together efficiently so that the tasks all mesh together well takes time and a bit of trial and error. When this happens, though – when everything clicks and the station-machine is chugging along – it is awesome. It’s one of my favorite things about cruises.
The timelaspe video below is from a station about 2/3rds into the cruise. The station was a biology and chemistry station, which means that we did almost every task. We did this at 26 stations, plus about a dozen more where just the CTD and water collection happened. In the upper left corner of the video is the instrument we are deploying from the A-frame. Other text will pointo out other activities happening on the deck. Below the video, I have provided a glossary to help the viewer understand what is happening and why. Enjoy!
Amphipod Traps: Contaminants in the environment usually find their way into the bodies of animals that live there. We collect amphipods (relatives of shrimp) to get estimates of what kind of contaminants are in an area and in what concentrations. Did you know that amphipods love canned sardines?
CTD: measures Conductivity (salinity), Temperature, Depth, and chlorophyll (chlorophyll is a proxy for how much phytoplankton is in the water)
Niskin bottles: Collect water at specific depths. Arranged in a ‘rosette’ around the CTD so we can match water collection with certain conditions measured by the CTD.
Plankton nets: We deploy two of them: one with a super small mesh size for collecting phytoplankton, and one with a slightly larger mesh size for collecting zooplankton. We then have to sieve the sample further to make sure we keep only certain size classes.
Double Van Veen grab: Collect mud that gives us a whole lot of samples. The mud is subsampled for isotopes, sediment phytoplankton, DNA, trace metals, and other parameters that give us an idea of how productive the overlying water is. We then take the rest of the mud and sieve it, pulling out animals for stable isotope analysis, as well as measures of biodiversity. We want to minimize the physical damage done to the mud animals, so sieving can be a time-intensive process. It is made easier by the sieve table, which you can see part of on the bottom left.
Bottom trawl: Collects the animals that live on the bottom of the ocean. What comes up in the trawl is subsampled and sorted for measurements of biodiversity and stable isotopes. The trawl is how we catch Arctic Ocean fish and big invertebrates, like this urchin
and this amphipod
Clam rake: Clams are collected, like the amphipods, to measure contaminants. Sometimes, we also got rocks with kelp growing on them, which made me very happy 🙂