Updates from Day 4 on the R/V Alucia – A transit day filled with presentations, preparations, and fun!

Hey everyone,

Greetings from Day 4 on the R/V Alucia! We are getting closer to our coral reef study sites and we are preparing for our first dives tomorrow! It’s a choppy day out on the water and we have a strong headwind, but I am enjoying the rolling waves!

This morning, the entire science team met to discuss our overall aims for this cruise, the locations of the reef sites we would like to visit, and the daily sampling/ diving  plans for the whole team. The current plan is to have two groups of divers diving in both the morning and the afternoon (4 sites a day). We will have different groups of people diving at both times – needless to say, we will be incredibly busy for the rest of the cruise!

In the afternoon, we also had a mini science symposium to learn about everyone’s research aims, methods, and science needs for the duration of the cruise. Eight of the scientists (including me), gave a 5 minute presentation about what we were studying, what samples we were collecting, and what to expect from us during the cruise.

We spent the rest of the afternoon preparing for our first round of sampling. Only a few more hours of transiting and then we can begin diving!

Highlights from today:

  1. Salsa dancing in the lab.
  2. Blasting soundtrack music with Tyler in the lab.
  3. Soundtrack guessing game with Tyler and Fredy.
  4. All meals (of course).
  5. Science presentations and answering questions!
  6. Getting interviewed.

Thanks for following along!


Sunrise this morning!

Mini science symposium on the Alucia!

My soundtrack buddy Tyler! Making labels for Amy’s samples!

A pic of Gerard from yesterday!


Updates from Day 3 on the R/V Alucia – Transit Day!

Hey everyone,

Greetings from the R/V Alucia! We left Havana last night and spent the day transiting to our coral reef study sites in the Gardens of the Queen, Cuba!

Some highlights from today:

  1. The Chief Diving Officer and Master Diver of the R/V Alucia briefed the entire science + media crew about diving on the R/V Alucia! Everyone is excited to dive and to see the reefs!
  2. In case you were wondering, I’ve thoroughly every single meal that we have had on the Alucia – everything is delicious. I also enjoy the chocolate bar buffet we have access to ;).
  3. I labeled and placed caps on 201 borosilicate vials (we call these vials DOC vials; we collect seawater samples in these vials to determine the concentration of dissolved organic carbon in the seawater). Mayelin and I also labeled 200 nutrient bottles (we use these bottles to collect seawater for *drumroll* nutrient analysis of the seawater!).
  4. Tyler and Kalina are champs and have been taking their midterms in the sub mission control room on deck. They are amazing and I am so excited to work with them!
  5. Tyler and I visited with Gerard, a rather attached frigate bird who kept flying by the bow of the boat.
  6. Amy and Maickel (co chief scientists of our cruise) have been busy planning out diving operations and sampling plans. There is so much cool reef science going on and I’m so excited!

Thanks for reading about our adventures!

Updates from Day 2 on the R/V Alucia

Hey Everyone,

We made it to Cuba!!! We woke up to watch the beautiful sunrise and arrived in Cuba around 8:30 am (EST)!

We spent most of the day waiting for the rest of our team members for this leg of the cruise (our Cuban science collaborators and the media team) to board our vessel. By mid-afternoon, they arrived, received a tour of the boat, and were welcomed by our team and the crew!

We had a joint meeting to discuss our overall plans for this cruise and to introduce our science to each other. Our shared goal for this cruise is to understand coral reef diversity (biological and chemical) from microbial cells, chemicals, and small animals to larger animals like corals and fish. We even managed to take a group science picture at the bow of the boat in our cruise t-shirts! We shared an excellent dinner of spaghetti bolognese and some excellent salads and vegetables and now we are all preparing to transit around Cuba to our reef study sites!

Views of Cuba!
Sunrise as we ride towards Cuba!



Updates and highlights from Day 1 on the R/V Alucia

Hey everyone and Happy Halloween!

Quick cruise update: The WHOI science team and the Alucia crew are spending Halloween somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean! Our WHOI science team boarded and mobilized onto the Alucia yesterday (in the midst of running around Florida doing errands like picking up liquid nitrogen, trying to get employees at Home Depot to cut rebar stakes for us -unsuccessful- and lugging heavy equipment around). We left Florida this morning and we are making our way to Cuba to meet and pick-up our Cuban science collaborators tomorrow!

Walking around Home Depot and trying to find an employee who will cut rebar for us. We were unsuccessful.
Early morning views as we depart!
Enjoying the sun on the top deck!
A skeleton @ sea and a banana

Alucia life update: Today is a ‘steam/ boat’ day – we are bound to the vessel and have no samples to process. To be honest, I’ve enjoyed having a slower day to familiarize myself with life on a boat, figure out where to store all of our science gear (and we have quite a lot of gear), and bond with the other members on our science team. Ashlee, Kalina, and I even dressed up for Halloween (but sadly, no one else joined us!).

Here’s a quick run down of my cruise experience so far:

  1. Food is amazing.
  2. Sleeping on my bed is like laying on a cloud.
  3. I am super stoked to work with everyone on our science team.

Thanks for reading!


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.