By: Cameron Ogden-Fung
June 21, 2015
For the past 10 days I have been aboard the R/V F.G. Walton Smith assisting with research on the OSTRICH cruise and developing my summer research project for the NSF REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) program. In this past week, I have created new friendships, celebrated my 21st birthday, enjoyed delicious meals, spent hours on the bow overlooking the ocean, and learned an incredible amount about how to do fieldwork at sea. From deploying and operating DPI-2 and MOCNESS, to collecting samples, to following lab protocols on chlorophyll and jellyfish experiments.
My day starts with helping deploy DPI-2 and MOCNESS by tightly holding tag lines to ensure that the large equipment does not swing and get damaged. After the MOCNESS has entered the water, I am sometimes in charge of “flying” MOCNESS so that the nets open and close at the correct depth and time in order to collect a variety of planktonic organisms. Once MOCNESS is back at the surface of the water, I help safely recover it onto the deck, then pull the nets and cod-ends (jar at the end of the net that contains the sample) onboard so that they can be rinsed down and preserved (see photo). The preservation process includes emptying the planktonic organisms in the cod-end onto a sieve and using ethanol to preserve the organisms in a jar for later identification and analysis. Another part of my day includes watching the real-time images DPI-2 transmits (via fiber-optic cable) to the computers on the boat. I watch images of plankton fly by on a computer screen and note any important or interesting trends that appear during the transect.
Recently, I have also been helping my mentor, Kelly Robinson (OSU, Post-Doc), with jellyfish experiments in order to determine digestion rates of certain jellies throughout the Straits of Florida. I plan on using the data for my summer research project to understand the spatial distribution of gelatinous plankton and their predation effect on prey species (i.e. predator-prey interactions). I will also examine how these food web dynamics vary from East to West, due to different environmental parameters and oceanic features.
This whole cruise has been an amazing learning experience and I couldn't be more grateful to every member of this research team for their helpfulness and kindness. I am gaining essential experience for my career in biological oceanography and I hope to work with these scientists again in the future.