Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Correction/Back to School

8 September 2010

8:15 pm PST

Newport, OR

I have a correction to make to my September 6th blog. The machine that we used to measure the chlorophyll was a fluorometer, not a spectrophotometer. I have corrected the post, but I wanted to make sure that I mentioned it in case someone read it the first time. I think that there were so many new to me science terms, processes and technology, that I confused some of the vocabulary at times.

Yesterday was the first day of school for the 2010-11 school year. I have a class of 27 awesome sixth graders. It's going to be a great year. I've already shared many things with my students about my experience on the Kilo Moana and they seem to be really interested. In fact, one girl was so excited about microbes and looking at things through a microscope that she brought in some slides today from home. I love it when I can get students genuinely excited about something - enough so that they want to take their own time to investigate more.

Mrs. Spink

Monday, September 6, 2010

Day Four Aboard r/v Kilo Moana

5 September 2010

9:01 pm HST

Teachers Mark Shanahan and Davila Riddle using the fluormeter
Today is my last full day aboard ship. It was another fascinating day of science. We used a fluorometer to calculate the amount of chlorophyll-a in collected samples at different depths. A fluorometer beams blue light at a water sample, which causes the chlorophyll-a in the sample to light up red. The fluorometer reads the amount of red light and converts it to an amount in micrograms per liter (ug\L). We also calculated our dissolved oxygen amounts from plugging in the data we collected from automatic titration machine into a formula. We graphed both the chlorophyll-a and the dissolved oxygen in excell to look at trends in our data.

We passed the WHOTS-7 Mooring this afternoon several times to calibrate the CTD on board. The buoy is located at a radius of 6 miles away from Station ALOHA. The buoy has similar instruments attached to it that are in the CTD. The passes allow for comparison data between the buoy and the CTD. We watched several crew and scientists set lines to fish for Mahi Mahi and Ono. One scientist caught an Ono, which had a symbiotic parasite in its stomach.

Marine Engineer Blake Watkins and the Ono he caught

Parasite living in the Ono caught

Tomorrow, we will arrive in port in Honolulu at around 8 am. It will take several hours to unload the scientific equipment off the ship. There are three 20 ft laboratory vans and one 12 ft laboratory van that need to be hoisted off the ship with a crane. The ship will need to dock starboard side, then turn around and dock port side.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time aboard the Kilo Moana. I would recommend the STARS experience to any teacher that may be interested.  C-MORE Marine Educator Jim Foley is an excellent instructor who has a special ability to impart his vast knowledge of oceanography with classroom teachers. Oh... and the food... It has been magnificent! We had king crab, beef tenderloin, homemade sourdough bread, broiled corn on the cob and other delicious side dishes for dinner tonight. It was topped off with baked Alaska for dessert. Yum! Every meal has been superb.
Aloha from the Kilo Moana

Sunset on ship

Mrs. Spink

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Day Three Aboard r/v Kilo Moana

4 September 2010

5:52 pm HST


Donn Viviani and the incubator
We've had another full day of science aboard the Kilo Moana! We met Graduate Student Donn Viviani who explained the ocean acidification experiments that he is working on. He is measuring primary production (photosynthesis) in microbes by bubbling two different known concentrations of carbon dioxide through samples of water collected.  One concentration is 1100 ppm and the other concentration is 387 ppm (atmospheric CO2). The water samples are incubated on deck of the vessel. The question being explored is whether the addition of carbon dioxide will increase primary production.

Brandon Carter and the Flow Cytometer
We also talked with Technician Brandon Carter who is studying the presence of nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria. He uses a flow cytometer to look at microorganisms one cell at a time. Flow cytometry uses the principles of light scattering , light excitation, and emission of fluorochrome molecules to generate specific multi-parameter data from particles and cells in the size range of 0.5um to 40um diameter. Using the flow cytometer, he is able to differentiate cells and sort them to put on slides or on media to culture at a later time.

Automatic Titration Machine
Last night, the teacher group collected several water samples off of the CTD to look at the dissolved oxygen content at different depths. As with most scientific experiments there was a certain procedure to be followed. We used glass Erlen Meyer flasks that we rinsed three times with the sample water. Then we overflowed the sample water through the flask with the flask upside down. Next we overflowed the flask right side up and got rid of any air bubbles by bobbing the tubing that the sample water was coming out of up and down in the flask. Then, we overflowed the flask with the sample water, took out the tubing and put the glass stopper on the flask. Last, we added a salt water seal to the stopper to stop any gas flow between the atmosphere and the sample. Today, we used an automatic titration of iodine machine to help find the dissolved oxygen contents of each flask.

I have talked with many of the crew and scientists on board and have asked them how they came to this field of work. Almost all of them expressed an interest in the ocean, being able to problem solve, use their creativity and technical skills. They are, also, enthusiastic and passionate about their work. I've recorded some interviews with some of the technicians and crew that I will be able to share with my students.

We just finished decorating styrofoam cups that are going to be sent down 4800 m with the CTD.  The cups will compress and are a great way of showing the effects of pressure. Atmospheric pressure averages about 14 psi, as compared to the water pressure at 4800 m below the ocean surface, which averages about 6827 psi!

Mrs. Spink

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Day Two Aboard r/v Kilo Moana - Evening

3 September 2010

7:08 pm HST


We have been holding position at Station ALOHA since late last night.  Station ALOHA is A Long Term Oligotrophic Habitat Assessment.  The term oligotrophic means a low nutrient, low biomass area.  The reason why scientist have been studying this area since 1988 is because it is upwind and upcurrent from the Hawaiian Islands, it is easily accessible and it is in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, one of the largest ecosystems on the planet.  The Kilo Moana makes trips out to Station ALOHA about every month to take measurements of ocean physics, chemistry and biology. The time series study data can be accessed by the public at the HOT-DOG website

Plankton Tow
Shrimp like zooplankton
Today we were able to take samples from a plankton tow. When Marine Engineer Blake Watkins took the plankton tow sample off the net, he promptly spotted a species that was not easily identifiable to him. It was a small, blue shrimp like zooplankton that he scooped out of the sample with a spoon.

Sea Soup
copepod with eggs
We looked at the microbes under microscopes with the range of  7 to 45X. At first, it looked like sea soup! We were given dichotomus keys to determine what type of microbes we were looking at. We found zooplankton, phytoplankton, bacteria and viruses. Keying out the microbes is an interesting, but slow process for people new to the microbial world. After a while, one starts to recognize certain microbes that are more abundant. One of these is a zooplankton named copepod.

Microbes are among the oldest organisms on earth. They comprise 98% of the biomass of the ocean. Much of the earth's cycles are dependent upon microbes. They provide oxygen, maintain global climate and are the start of the food chain. Bacteria help recycle the ocean. There is thought to be 36 nonillion bacteria in the ocean. That is 30 zeroes!

Niskin bottles that didn't fire closed
One interesting thing that happened this morning was that the deepest CTD deployment, 4800 meters, had Niskin bottles that didn't shut as was planned. The scientists had to figure out what the problem was and try to fix it.  Through a process of inquiry, they discovered that the communication cord had corroded and was not working properly. They were able to replace the cord and continue with CTD deployments. CTD deployments are vital to most of the scientists research on board so it was very important to solve the problem.

I am wanted out on deck to help with dissolved oxygen sampling from the CTD right now.... I'll post more tomorrow.

Mrs. Spink

Friday, September 3, 2010

Day Two Aboard r/v Kilo Moana - Morning

3 September 2010

7:04 am HST

Good Morning!

After my post last night, I was able to experience what it was like to look at the stars with very little light surrounding me. We don't realize sometimes how much light pollution we have, even in our rural areas. After meetings, we went up on the first level deck to gaze into the sky. At first, I was a bit disoriented, being surrounded in pitch black. Soon, my eyes adjusted a bit and I saw a density of stars like I never have before. It was easy to pick out the major constellations and the Milky Way was beautiful. It is an experience I will cherish and never forget.

After star gazing, I went to bed in my snug little bunk. I am sharing a cabin with an eighth grade science teacher from Hawaii. We are making plans for our students to become e-mail pals to discuss earth science, possibly using voice thread as a way of communicating, too. I had a very comfortable sleep. The r/v Kilo Moana is a double hulled ship that uses SWATH (Small Waterplane Area Twin Hull) technology to create a much smoother ride. Canadian Frederick G. Creed invented this technology in 1938, but it wasn't widely used until after his death in the 1960's and 70's. Still, there are only about 50 SWATH ships active around the world. The r/v Kilo Moana uses Creed's technology to be able to conduct precise experiments in rough seas with crew and scientists that don't become seasick. It has allowed the Kilo Moana to conduct monthly research cruises to Station Aloha to collect data since 1988. This body of data and research is vital in seeing trends in our ocean and making predictions. People have said once you have been on a SWATH ship, you will never want to go back on a single hulled ship. Mr. Creed is a shining example of how people can use science inquiry and engineering to help create a product that improves our lives. Thank you, Mr. Creed!

We arrived at Station ALOHA in the middle of the night, last night. I will post more about Station ALOHA tonight. CTD deployments and investigations continue 24 hours a day aboard ship, so there are a lot of sounds to get used to and I woke up frequently wondering what the scientists were doing. Thankfully, I was exhausted so it was easy to fall back to sleep.

Mrs. Spink

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Day One Aboard r/v Kilo Moana

2 September 2010

6:44 pm HST


This has been an exciting day, packed with a lot of information. I am learning r/v Kilo Moana’s day to day policies and procedures on top of all of the science. One of the first things we did when we were all on board was to do safety trainings. We donned life jackets and immersion suits so we would be prepared in case of an emergency. We learned what to do if we needed to abandon ship, also.  As we were heading out of port, two common dolphins were swimming in front of the hull of the boat. One dolphin kept spinning and spinning, then would jump out of the water. Quite a sight to see!

Common Dolphin

Mrs. Spink trying on the immersion suit.

I learned a lot more about the CTD (Conductivity Temperature Depth) rosette and how it collects samples. The deployment of the CTD took a concentrated effort of a team of crew and scientists to get it safely into the water.  The CTD was comprised of twenty four Niskin bottles that took water samples from a depth of 5 meters to 1000 meters.  The scientists then took samples from these bottles to do their analysis.  Temperature, dissolved oxygen, nutrients and chlorophyll are some of the parameters measured.  The STARS teachers even did their own Niskin bottle deployment and we have started chlorophyll size fractionation where we filtered our sample water over increasingly finer filters.

CTD deployment

One of the best perks of the ship is the food. Believe me, we are eating well! It has been a full day and we still have meetings tonight to learn more about the HOT-series and the data that is being collected.

A hui hou.

Mrs. Spink

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Preparing for the Research Cruise

10:37 pm PST
Aug. 31, 2010
Newport, Oregon

The past few days, I have tried to prepare myself for being aboard ship and the types of sampling and data analysis I will be doing in the coming days. One way I have done this is by taking a "virtual cruise" with the Hawaii Ocean Time - series. If you are a student of mine or just an interested person, you may want to take a virtual cruise online, too. Here is the link: