Southern Ocean Iron Experiment (SOFeX) Cruise
January 5 - February 26, 2002
Skip to Log Entry 2 from the R/V Melville
February 25, 2002: Day 52
Position: 42 degrees, 32 minutes South, 172 degrees, 50 minutes East
R/V Melville Log Entry: After over 1400 kilometers in transit from the North Patch and few gales we are now stationed about 2.5 kilometers offshore, outside the Lyttelton Harbor Shipping Channel. We meet the pilot at 0700 and are scheduled to dock at 0800. We still need to clear immigration and pass the MAF (Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry) inspection, but this should not take too long. We spent the evening breaking out boxes from the hold so that we will be ready to pack and go. Things are winding down but still the spirits are high and people are very satisfied with the outcome of this landmark experiment.
Not only does this experiment enable the testing of some unique hypotheses but it also provides for some rare opportunities to meet people under some unusual circumstances. I have related something about the PIs and those whose research forms a key part of this program. But there are many others and they all contribute in different ways. In particular, the students who are out here have some of the freshest views. For some, the experimental results will form the basis of their graduate theses, for others it provides a field experience unlike many others. Before we go, lets see whom they are:
Cecilia Sheridan is a PhD student with Dr. Mike Landry, an expert in zooplankton grazing and growth rates at the University of Hawaii. Cecilia came to the University of Hawaii after completing her Masters degree with Dr. Cindy Lee at SUNY Stonybrook. While at Stonybrook Cecilia worked on the identification of organic compounds associated with particulate material collected as part of the US JGOFS Equatorial Pacific program in the early 90s. We are really going backwards here. Before that she did her undergraduate studies in biology at the University of Michigan where she wavered between Art History and Biology. So - Art/Biology-Organic Geochemistry-Bio - where will this lead? Currently Ecology - Cecilia is examining the relationship between a cute little harpacticoid copepod: Macrostella, and a nitrogen fixing blue-green alga: Trichodesmium at the Hawaii Ocean Time Series station (HOTS) - so this is ecology, for now.
During this trip, however, she hopes to use specific organic compounds as fingerprints for the grazing of phytoplankton by certain zooplankton species - so this is geochemistry again.
Although her parents may not find biological oceanography to be a pragmatic career choice, to Cecelia, the discipline is appealing for the aesthetics of being able to ask your own questions and follow them up. It is a lifestyle decision to pursue a career that brings satisfaction in an intellectual sense, engages one in topics that are of global significance and like this cruise, has science, policy, environmental, and international implications. In addition, it brings on closer to the oceans, and Mother Nature doesnt care what discipline you call it. Out here, biology, chemistry, physics, geology, and art history are all swirled together and poured over one blue/green planet. We use whatever tools we have to try to understand her.
Liza Delizo is a Masters student with Dr. Walker Smith of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. She was initially going to participate on this cruise when it was originally proposed but had to take on another thesis project when the cruise was delayed (due to funding) by one year. Her own thesis is on the taxa specific growth rate in species distributed across the subantarctic convergence just north of New Zealand. Using radioactive pigment labeling techniques she is investigating the hypothesis that diatoms, in particular, have growth rates that are dependent upon both macronutrients and micronutrients that are differentially distributed between the biogeochemical provinces characteristic of waters north and south of the Chatham Rise. Is that a run-on sentence or what? With her thesis samples already in hand, "just what is she doing on this cruise anyway?", you might ask. Well, the technician who was going to go on Walkers behalf, bailed at the last minute and she stepped in. The following is a version of our conversation, loosely recalled:
"So, why did you say yes? How do you like it? Is it anything like you expected? I asked."
For Liza, neither she nor her family ever expected her to go to graduate school and become an oceanographer. Going to sea was something that she dreamed about. Now being out here is almost surreal. "It is amazing" she says, "I cant see how anyone would ever turn down the opportunity to go to the Southern Ocean"
"Its not the Antarctic, with ice and penguins and stuff" I said.
"No, but the Southern Ocean and all its extremes, is a very special place" she says, "It is a privilege to be able to be out here and part of a program like this"
"So is it what you expected?"
"This is a huge program, three ships, all these people. I had no idea there would be this many things going on, all these different studies. It is very impressive"
"What does your family think of this, you being out here on a ship?"
"You know, I dont think they can really understand what it is like, as a profession, or what it is like for me. They know I am doing important research, and I think they are very proud of their daughter"
"Yeah, this interview is making me sound like a beauty queen contestant"
"Ok, From what you have seen aboard Melville over the last few weeks, specifically as it relates to the change in species composition and size fractionated growth rate, in both the North Patch and the South Patch, how have these results influenced your thinking regarding your own work with pigment labeling and the adaptation of phytoplankton to conditions north and south of the Chatham Rise, and lastly, how does this change your outlook toward World Peace?"
"I am glad you asked that question. Although my observations over the Chatham Rise can be interpreted to represent covariation in species growth rate and biogeochemical parameters such as dissolved iron concentrations, correlations in themselves do not a hypothesis prove. This experiment in particular enables one to test the influence of iron on specific growth rates in natural assemblages of phytoplankton from two distinct regimes. The results will provide a very powerful insight into the structure and function of phytoplankton communities as well as their physiological response to added iron otherwise inferred from natural systems. By essentially raising more questions than it answers, this experiment will provide additional hypotheses to test thereby opening more careers in marine science and saving me from a career in international relations. I am afraid World Peace is a concept that now only applies to phytoplankton."
At least I think thats what she said. Or did she say whirled peas?
Jodi Brewster hadnt even thought about going on this cruise until her advisor and I posed the possibility to her less than a month before the Melville sailed from Lyttelton. Posed probably isnt a fair word, it was more like imposed. One of our participants had a family emergency and was no longer able to come. We needed someone to collect and analyze chlorophyll samples, help out with casts and be responsible for the underway fluorescence measurements. Jodi had finished all her course work towards a Masters degree in Marine Science from Moss Landing Marine Laboratories and was looking for a project to call her thesis. Part time employment at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and with the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey had provided many cruise opportunities for her and researchers there had generously made available to her, data from which a thesis could be crafted, if one only knew what it should be. It was an answer in search of a question. Unfortunately her funding had dried up and we were offering a student assistantship and a chance to craft a Masters thesis from scratch This was a difficult choice. Or was it?
After several considered conversations and private deliberations, she agreed and will be looking at the physical evolution of the bloom, the development of the pigment signal in a dispersive and advective field using ADCP and SF6 to help characterize advection and diffusion and the underway parameters to help characterize the geochemical development of the patch signal. Although she has sailed locally on coastal cruises, this is her first long trip and it seems to be going fine. "Having a great room mate helps"
Vanessa Koehler was in her senior year at University of Miami (see Log entry 2) looking for some field research experience when she came across a flyer at the undergraduate center: "Free research trip to New Zealand, hope you dont get seasick, no whiners, inquire within" or something like that. It caught her eye - free trip - New Zealand. Bill Hiscock (log entry 8) sure knew how to advertise. Vanessa inquired and found out that a space had opened up in the Millero lab and they were seeking someone to pull a shift on the underway nutrient/pCO2 analysis system. She had taken Chemical Oceanography from Frank Millero and had Bill as a TA - she was accepted and flew to New Zealand with applications in to Veterinarian Schools across the country.
Having never been to sea before this was quite an experience. Almost surreal she says about the passing of time, almost like ones real life is in a state of suspended animation. On another level, she says, "its like the show survivor, only no one can get off the island - you just get through it." Vanessa is now anxiously awaiting an e-mail interview with the Vet School at the University of Illinois, her parents Alma matter. "Has it been a good trip?" I ask. After a pause she replies carefully "So far" (we only have 2 days left) but she is cautious and open for any possibilities. Would you ever want to go again? Again I await her considered response for, it seems like, half a microsecond: YES!
Nicolas Ladizinsky is a Masters student at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories working with me, not on iron, but copper, well maybe a little of both, but mostly copper. Nicolas, whose undergraduate degree is from the University of California at Santa Cruz, is testing the hypothesis that certain diatoms produce a chelator in response to high intracellular levels of copper ion as a detoxification mechanism (a chelator is a compound that binds metal ions). The irony is that this chelator is incredibly toxic to other species and blooms of this diatom have been known to kill birds, fish, marine mammals and causes amnesiatic shellfish poisoning in humans. Why is he here? I needed help and could lean on my students. Well that is one reason. The other reason is that in many of the iron enrichment experiments so far this group of phytoplankton grows up. Its genus is Pseudonitzchia and there are several species some of which produce this toxin (chelator), some of which do not. Nicolas has collected some samples from the experiment and will analyze them for species identification and toxin production. Especially here in cold polar waters, iron deficiency may be exacerbated by high copper concentrations. This is just a part of a larger thesis he is now writing up. And this is his first large oceanographic expedition.
So what does Nicolas think about big oceanography? Not to be overdramatic Nicolas likened oceanographers to some of the last explorers, like astronauts. "Not as if the oceans are uncharted", but really much of them are uncharted, "it takes something of an adventurous spirit to come out here and try to do science. The Southern Ocean does not yield easily, her secrets and unlike working in a laboratory, this is risky business." This has also brought Nicolas in contact with people whose lifestyle is the oceans, as scientists, engineers, technicians or officers.
This is a different kind of life. It is more about exploration and discovery than regular lab work. I like it.
Mark Demarest was an undergraduate student at Sacramento State, spending his senior year as a caretaker and taking classes at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories before he went to Cal Poly San Louis Obispo for a masters degree in biology. In reflecting on his last year as an undergraduate, Mark says that he didnt appreciate the international reputation of MLML until he left and then found MLML graduates everywhere. This is easy to understand because at the time of his senior year, MLML was scattered about 34 different locations in North Monterey County following the Loma Prieta Earthquake of 1989 and MLML looked more like a trailer park than it did a marine lab.
For his degree at Cal Poly he statistically evaluated the genetic differences in populations of bacteria distributed throughout the North Pacific Ocean. From there he went to UCSB where he is in his second year as a PhD student with Dr. Mark Brzezinski. On this cruise Mark D. was making measurements of silicate dissolution. These measurements will be combined with others throughout the Pacific in order to inform a model of silicate cycling in the oceans.
So how is this trip going? "Its been a good experience, but I didnt realize six weeks would be so long!" I think its especially long because Mark is recently engaged to be married (congratulations!) and the engagement is now only a couple of months on. Yet he is excited to be part of this research.
Adriana Cabrera isnt a marine science student at all; she is a masters student in Marine Policy and Marine Affairs at the University of Miami. Her advisor (Dr. Maria Villanueva at the University of Miami) told her about an internship with Dr. Milleros group and she responded immediately. Adriana has an undergraduate degree in Marine Affairs and Policy with a minor in Broadcast Journalism. As an undergraduate, a trip to Costa Rica helped to galvanize her career choice. Here the need to communicate relevant environmental information in a manner that people could use to make more responsible decisions was brought into sharp focus. So Broadcast Journalism took on a new and deeper meaningthat was to inform and educate rather than to entertain.
But what does it take to inform and educate? Ya gotta be there and understand what is going on. So Adriana jumped at the opportunity to sail on a major oceanographic expedition, to see what it takes to do science at sea and what was that like? "I didnt realize how much work was involved in making these kinds of measurements" she says "It is really trying and now I can appreciate the major undertaking of many that is required to extract good data from the sea" What were your concerns? "The only other trip I had taken was a three day trip from the Keys to the University and I was sick for much of the time. The Southern Ocean is not the Caribbean and I was worried I would be miserable. Fortunately, I havent been sick once" What is the most difficult thing to explain to others about being out here? "When people hear the word Cruise they tend to think Loveboat or Princess Cruise Lines. This is not like that (see log 14). Policymakers need to understand the complexities of the science, the value of the data. Being at sea you can understand this. This is an important experience that really gives you an appreciation for the effort and the value of good science."
Julian Herndon was working on his undergraduate degree at the University of Costa Rica, majoring in Architecture before he was lured into biology by a dynamic local shark population and lots of time in the water. While in Costa Rica he was recruited heavily by USC and sold on their fine marine science program. He moved. While at USC he helped to establish their new San Pablo Bay time series program and worked with Jed Furhman, Dick Dougdale, and Will Berelson on a variety of projects. He got to know Bill Cochlan while at USC and finished his undergraduate degree there. After graduating, Julian worked as a technician at RTC with Bill Cochlan (RTC/San Francisco State University) before he decided to quit his lucrative job and go back to graduate school. Julian already gained some Southern Ocean experience on the US JGOFS AESOPS program as Bills technician. More recently, he has developed a Masters thesis in toxic phytoplankton blooms off Vancouver BC. He is studying Heterosigna akashiwo, a naked biflagellate raphidophyte that has been implicated in fish kills. Specifically he is studying the nitrogen physiology of this organism to try to understand its distribution, ecology and possibly keys to its virulence. Apparently these organisms cause toxicity on the West Coast and in Japan, but not on the East Coast!? With respect to this cruise, he has very much enjoyed the rapidly evolving nature and the data generated that drives the tactics. But frustrating to Julian, as frustrating to all, is not really knowing what we are doing until we are doing it.
I can relate to this. For me, however, it was more like not knowing how to do it until we were doing it.
It has been a privilege getting to know all of them
Kenneth Coale, Chief Scientist
Jodi Brewster writes: This will be my last update from the RV Melville. We are on our last station outside Lyttleton, waiting until 8am tomorrow to make port. Since we arrived so late, we have to wait until the pilot comes back to work tomorrow to guide us back to the dock. The last few days have been full of packing and waiting and watching movies to pass the time. Everyone is ready to leave the ship, and excited about getting home. Before coming to our last station tonight, we were sailing up the southern coast of the South Island of New Zealand, with a pretty sunset behind the mountains. When we arrive tomorrow, it will be three days of crazy unloading using cranes for the heavy stuff, and arms and legs for the small boxes. Lists of what are in the boxes have to be prepared for the inspectors to see.
I will be traveling for a week in New Zealand to the cities of Wellington, Rotorua, Waitomo Caves, and Auckland. Then I will be visiting my sister for four days on the North Shore of Hawaii. I am ready for some relaxation, on solid ground.
See all of you soon,