Kelsy Cains’ Blog

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August 3, 2017

The morning started off with another CTD cast. This cast was at Slope Base and was down to a depth of 2900 m. A few days before, us students were given two Styrofoam cups each to decorate and send down to 2900 m to be crushed by the pressure. A few of us decorated or cups with sea related imagery and others adorned their cups with signatures of all the students on this leg. My two cups were decorated with Washington and UW themed artwork (go dawgs) and the other cup with a Japanese quote I enjoy adorned with a drawing of a cherry blossom tree. They came back so tiny!!

Once we started sampling, Orest Kawka, the co-chief scientist, allowed me to lead the sampling process and delegate the students with their collection. It was so great to participate in a CTD with another role and learn more about the process. CTD’s are by far my favorite thing we do aboard the ship. Most of the students seem to be enamoured with Jason and the exciting work and views that the ROV experiences on the dive, but I find that watching the profile of the water column to be the most interesting. Seeing in real time the oxygen levels, temperature, salinity, and fluorescence.

In some down time, Chris taught me how to sharpen my knife and a few of us, who he deemed ready, to make paracord bracelets. The three of us, Monique, Eve, and I, all had to master our Turkish knot before moving onto working with the paracord. It has been so nice of Chris to share his knowledge of knots and be so open to sharing his line and time to teach us different knots.

While Jason was doing a dive, it cut loose a science pod from the shallow profiler platform. During the dive, a few of the scientists were out on the deck looking for the science pod to breach the surface, but ended up spotting a Mola Mola, or sunfish! They were most likely resting at the surface in the sun, hence the name sunfish. With the glare from the sun on the water, I could only see the fins of the two sunfish, but it was still exciting!

Later that evening the currents picked up and that led to trouble for Jason. The ROV can only be put in waters at certain wave heights and current speeds. A dive was postponed all night for the seas to calm down. That meant no watch for me, but a loss for time for the Jason Science party. After the last dive at Slope Base happens, we’ll be transiting back to the 600 m site for three more dives!

August 2, 2017

Officially less than one week aboard the ship. It’s amazing to see all the progress being made on the cabled observatory and there’s still more to do! Now that my experiment is done being prepped and my bacteria are incubating I can really focus on learning about the cabled observatory and help out around the ship more. My plates of bacteria are happily, or at least I hope they’re happy, sitting in an incubator waiting for me to arrive back at lab and count them on the flow cytometer. The whole experiment should last about 21 days.

Today was a very laid back day. The early morning was spent transiting to Southern Hydrate Ridge, where Jason took another naked dive down to observe the location. I did forget to mention that Jason is an ROV not a human. Sorry for the confusion to my people back home lol. Down at the seafloor there were rockfish, hagfish, crabs, and lots of bacterial mats. Only one of the locations had bubbles of methane seeping out. In the spare time when Jason was diving down, we were re-braiding some polyester rope together to be used to hold things down on observatory equipment. They said we made enough for a long time.

There’s always thing going on day and night, whether it be a CTD cast or a Jason dive. The days have all been blending together and if it wasn't for this blog I don't really think I’d know what day it was. I do see the sunrise and sunset, but my days of the week have alluded me. Last night there was the most gorgeous sunset. We went out hoping to see the green flash, but sadly we didn't. There are still more nights to try and see it! We sure do live in an amazingly beautiful world!

August 1, 2017

What a long day. Up at midnight for a few CTD casts. This was our last day at Axial Seamount so it was time to collect my inoculum and start my experiment. I am hoping to do it during the day, but science waits for no one! We did 2 quick casts with no samples, but on the third cast we collected water samples for salinity, nutrients, chlorophyll, oxygen, and dissolved inorganic carbon. After all the sampling was collected, I snagged  1L of seawater from the chlorophyll max to start growing some bacteria. What a process! I was beyond exhausted but I got all five treatments made, inoculated, and ended up pipetting almost 500 wells of cultures. Midnight to 7AM. That’s how long the whole process took from sending the CTD down to getting everything cleaned up. There were a few bumps along the way, but they all got sorted out and now my plates of cultures are sitting in the incubator waiting to be checked for cell counts on my return back to the Morris lab! I’m excited to see what the plates will have in store for me.

July 31, 2017

The foggy weather that loomed around the boat couldn't put a damper on the awesome day we all had today! They took Jason down on a naked run to look at the hydrothermal vents at Axial Caldera! I sat eagerly in the Jason van watching the decent to the seafloor. The vents were spectacular! It was so interesting to see all the instrumentation down there to collect data. My favorite piece of instrumentation was the fluid and DNA sampler. The DNA sampler definitely piqued my interest. It would so interesting to see time series changes in the microbial community at the vents! Another exciting day in the books.

July 30, 2017

No midnight watch for me since we were steaming to Axial Seamount. We arrived to station at about 0330. I was woken up for an early morning CTD cast! Perfect time to collect water to make my media with and watch a beautiful sunrise. We went all the way to depth, 2634 m, which took about an hour just to get down that far, then an hour back up. After the CTD got back on deck, a few other students and I helped collect water samples for oxygen, nutrients, and chlorophyll measurements. I also took this CTD opportunity to collect some more water and filter it for the OOI lab. Two samples for them so far and I hope to collect three more.

Once the sun came up there was the most amazing sunrise I’ve ever seen. The sun rose just above the horizon and soon after disappeared behind the layer of clouds. The hues of pink and red were stunning. No photo could do it justice. Sun rose and the ship got busy once again. Jason went down and retrieved a package. The lot of us students helped it up. Oh boy, you couldn’t even imagine the smell. Yuck. We all put up with it and got all the growth off.

Right now I am sitting in the biology lab watching my TFF system filter acid. After running acid, I’ll run some MilliQ water, then seawater, and finally collect the filtered seawater in 1 L bottles to be used to grow bacteria! It is definitely a long process, but Eve and Willem helped me with the set up (big thanks to Willem and Carlos for helping me move around a carboy with 45 L of water!!). Another hour or so and I’ll be done and ready to grow.

Deb said the weather might worsen in a day or two so we might steam over to some hydrothermal vents and scope that out! I can’t wait to see all the amazing biology down there.

July 29, 2017

My first shift of real work! The shift from night before got cancelled because of the latching issue. The first two hours was mainly watching Jason dive down to the seafloor. Once there we saw the weird ugly fish!! It was gnarly looking. We also saw a few sea cucumbers swimming around because we frightened them. They began work unplugging and placing the new junction box but my watch ended before they completed the dive. Oh boy. The Jason control fan is FREEZING. Self-note to wear a couple more layers during my shift.

The shift after my watch shift they brought up Jason and found the cable to be twisted into a hockle. Bad news for the cable because it can potentially rip the fiber-optic cable and they can lose communication to Jason. In order to fix they problem they have to cut off a length of the cable and undergo a process called retermination. The whole process takes about 12 hours. To make the most of the time Jason will be down, we are currently undergoing the 19-hour transit to Axial Seamount. The plan was to originally do another dive with Jason at slope base, where we were just stationed at, but sometimes you just have to go with the flow.

Since we’re transiting, there isn’t much work to do. I took a wonderful nap to catch up on the sleep I missed from watch last night. We had our student meeting to talk about our projects and it was really interesting to hear all the different scientific and outreach problems the other students have planned. Truly an eclectic group of scientific minds. I feel so thankful for this amazing opportunity to be out at sea and learn from so many highly intelligent scientists and crew.

July 28, 2017

My first real day of science!! As the Jason crew was doing repairs to the latching mechanism, it was decided it would be an opportune time to get the CTD in the water near the 600 m Oregon Offshore site. Perfect time for me to collect samples for the Morris Lab back at the Center for Environmental Genomics. Seawater was filtered through a 0.2 µm filter so they can extract environmental DNA. I also collected two bottles of raw seawater so they can do some carbon chemistry when the bottles get returned. It’s great that I can help out a fellow CEG lab. It really shows how collaborative science can be.

Based on the timeline given to us aboard the ship, I’m thinking my experiment will start in a few days once we reach Axial Seamount, but first we have to stop at Slope Base for some more underwater operations with Jason. It’ll be exciting to see what lurks beneath the surface of the ocean. Maybe the weird fish that they’ve seen the past few years! Who knows what we might observe?!

July 27

Normally I’d have been in bed at around 8:30 or 9 (thanks Kyle for getting me used to going to bed early), but here I am up at midnight. I got assigned the midnight to 4 AM watch. I feel like Jon Snow. “Night gathers and now my watch begins.” It’ll definitely take a bit of adjusting, some caffeine, and strategic napping throughout the day to keep me awake for my shift. My job would normally be to watch the cameras attached to Jason, but there seems to be a latching problem so my watch might get to end early… Fingers crossed for my sake and REM. At least you can see the twinkling stars above head. Worth it?

The first full day aboard the ship went smoothly with only some mild nausea as we first set sail. Being out on the bow really helped. The weather couldn't have been better! The sun was out and it felt amazing to be out. I swore I saw some porpoises or something off the  starboard side of the bow, but when I went for a closer look they disappeared. Hopefully we’ll see some charismatic megafauna soon!