Gearing up for a research cruise: stream of consciousness edition!

Hey there!

I have been brainstorming blog post themes since I last posted and I thought that you may enjoy reading about thoughts that I have had running through my consciousness as I pack for a month-long research cruise in the Caribbean!

A little background before I begin. In addition to the other types of samples and data that we will collect on this cruise, my advisor and I will collect large volumes of seawater from different reef sites. After we collect this water, we will preserve and “process” the samples accordingly so we can get an idea of the microbial and chemical diversity in this water and how it changes between different reefs. To do this, we need quite a few supplies. To give you a sense of the wide diversity of things we need to do this seemingly simple task, I’ll just list out a few random things that we are bringing with us!

We need:

  • Niskin bottles and/or groundwater pumps- to collect the seawater (I am lovingly standing with a Niskin bottle in this pic!)

  • Pipettes and pipette tips – to preserve and transfer small volumes of seawater and chemical reagents
  • Cryovial tubes – to store the samples
  • Many different types of tubing-to filter seawater and separate microbial cells from the seawater “filtrate”
  • Sharpies
  • Hose-clamps – to keep the tubing from leaking and fastening connections between different types of tubing
  • Bins and buckets
  • Really really clean water
  • Glass vials that have been combusted up to 450 degrees celsius – to incinerate any particles inside of the vials that may contaminate samples
  • Swim suits
  • A lot of polycarbonate bottles (also see other picture).

I could continue with this list for the next couple days and not be finished. Basically, we have to pack-up bits and pieces of our entire lab so we can establish a make shift laboratory on the vessel. That amounts to four shipping pallets of boxes filled with scientific equipment!

Okay – and now onto the content of this post!

Here are some of my thoughts:

“How many pencils should I bring?” I take out 5 pencils, tell myself that’s enough, leave the lab, go to my office, immediately panic that 5 pencils is not enough, run back to the lab, and pack the entire box of pencils before I forget to. I do the same thing with thin-tipped, regular, and silver sharpies.

“How in the world can I open this Niskin bottle by myself?” – but seriously though, if anyone has any tips, I would really appreciate it!

“How do I acid wash this Niskin bottle and do so in a way that I don’t spill things everywhere?”

“Does my wet suit (that I need for diving still fit)?” Wet suit fits.”Okay, but does my Buoyancy Compensating device (BC) still fit over my wetsuit?” Everything fits *thank goodness*

“Packing equipment into Ulines (the boxes that we like to ship our gear with) is like the best game of Tetris in the world.”

“Our lab isn’t big enough to accommodate all of our boxes!”

“Who took the leftover cardboard boxes that I have been hoarding just in case I need more boxes to ship things inside of???!!!??”

“Packing for research cruises is the best version of CrossFit!”

Thanks for reading!


Hey there and stay tuned!

Well hey there and welcome to Reef Motif!

I’m your blogger, Laura, and for more about me and my purpose for beginning this blog, please visit my ‘bio’ and ‘about’ pages!

I’m currently preparing for a cruise in the Caribbean in 2 weeks and I thought that blogging would be a great way to chronicle what goes into preparing for a cruise and the day-to-day cruise/field work experience, practice my communication skills, and record my experience and adventures.

If you stick with me and this blog, you will meet fabulous scientists and people, see beautiful things, hear funny stories, and learn about coral reef science!

Thanks for reading . . . and now I need to go acid-wash some bottles for the cruise!

A picture of me sampling coral reef seawater in St. John, U.S.V.I.