Monday 2 May 2011 – Mystery Object

Today is another day of cleaning and packing. Before getting back to the packing job we decided to pack-up all our samples, get them into the dry liquid nitrogen shipper (See previous discussion in this blog.)  and attempt to send them home. If you recall we were concerned about this because the only shipper in Barrow, Northern Air Cargo, has temporarily lost their license to ship hazardous. Nothing about our samples is hazardous, but we were unable to procure official paperwork that documents this. Anyway, we thought it was best to ship as early as possible just in case we ran into a problem. Also, the earlier in the week that we ship the more likely it will be to have it arrive during the working week when there will still be someone at our home labs to receive them. So first thing this morning we packed up the samples and went to the NAC offices. They didn’t even blink an eye. So the samples we collected are now headed home to Savannah and we didn’t have to worry at all.

After our success at the NAC office we returned to continue packing. Our goal is to have everything organized and next to the packing crates where we will store them. Midway through the afternoon another group of scientists from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, who are investigating ice algae, arrived and began to set-up their labs for a month long visit. As is usual in scientific circles, it didn’t take long for us to find many common interests.

I was also very excited that, among their gear, they had brought some nice microscopes and agreed to let me use one to look at some water samples. Earlier in the week Lollie and Adriane, while filming with their underwater cameras, captured images of something that I couldn’t identify. They looked like they might be very large algal cells and one thought I had was that they might be ice algae beginning to bloom in the Arctic spring.

Mystery objects from under the ice. Frame capture from video shot by Lollie Garay.

I showed the video to the Juhl group, but they were a mystified as we were.  We came to the conclusion that perhaps they were developing eggs or larvae of something undergoing a mass spawning event. Unfortunately we don’t have a way of determining the size of objects in the images which might help us indentify them. Lollie is working on figuring this out though, so we should be able to determine size. Although the Juhl group had brought some nice microscopes,since we didn’t have fresh water samples our examination of water samples were also inconclusive.  If anyone out there recognizes these objects please let me know.

After this pleasant diversion it was back to packing.  Tomorrow all that is left is to clean-up the equipment and supplies that we are still using for Zac’s thesis experiments, finish our inventories, seal the boxes, and put them back into storage.

Speaking of Zac’s experiment, after packing and chatting with the Juhl group, it was time for us to take our last samples from those experiments. The incubations lasted for 6 days and we’re hoping that that will be enough time for us to see the effects of humic additions on bacterial activity, growth, and utilization of nitrogen and carbon. The samples are now all collected and Zac will be analyzing them over the next couple of months. We’re holding our breaths for the results.

Zac’s experiment. Bacteria inoculated filtered seawater with added humics (1), humics and organic nitrogen (3), glucose (5), and seawater only (7). Each bottle was duplicated, but only one is shown in this photo. Note that bottles containing humics are considerably darker than those not receiving humics. The bottles were incubated in the dark at just over freezing temperatures.

Finally, we are completely done with all our science activities and it was time for a celebratory dinner.  We invited the Juhl group to come with us to try out a relatively new Chinese restaurant in town; Sam and Lee’s.  It was fantastic, better than any Chinese restaurant in Savannah in my opinion.  I had a spicy duck dish that was both delicious and copious.  I took home a doggie bag for lunch for tomorrow.

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