July 10, 2009
Thursday afternoon we arrived at the Rock of Ages just off the shoreline of Isle Royale; the wind was a howling 25 knots, and the waves were building. An attempt to deploy the ROV was unsuccessful, too much current, waves and wind. We headed for the Kewanee Peninsula and the waves were building and the boat was rocking. The scheduled 20:30 Mysis relicta hunt had to be postponed to 00:30 (12:30) and moved to a location on the west side of the Kewanee to get out of the waves. The bed was calling me as my gut churned with the waves. I came back down to the wet lab shortly after midnight where the crew had the tunes cranked and getting ready to go on a Mysis hunt. Only a few of us made it to the event. Once on top of the collection site the Guardian shut off all her deck lights as not to scare the Mysis away, a red light was lit on the fan tail of the boat, and the hunt began. The net was sent to 83 meters, after waiting two minutes, the net was brought to the surface. A successful hunt, we filled a jar with the Mysis relicta. We awoke this morning to the calm waters of the Portage Ship Canal and a sun filled sky.
A most memorable day.
July 9, 2009
It’s 9:00 PM, and the Lake Guardian is cruising along the Keewenaw Peninsula on the way to Houghton, Michigan. Today’s highlights included working with Michigan Tech professor Marty Auer and his microscope attached to a flat-panel television. We viewed and identified phytoplankton and zooplankton from the Duluth-Superior Harbor compared to some that had been collected farther out in Lake Superior. Marty is an excellent teacher who often uses the technique of storytelling to keep his students focused on the topic at hand. He frequently checks for understanding throughout his lessons making sure no COSEE learner is left behind.
The marine technicians on board deployed two remote control devices into the water. Off Isle Royale, we watched as Steve Delworth steered the ROV. Later in the day, the Triax went for a “swim” sending several kinds of real-time data back to the onboard computers.
Stay tuned for more updates from other members of the expedition (I like the sound of that - sort of makes me think of Jacques Cousteau). TWS
The pace of today is much slower then yesterday. We are all doing our own thing as we increase our depth of understanding and start to digest the information we have received from day 1 and 2. Before lunch Howard had teachers make a concept map out of the words we came up with on day 1. This was interrupted by Matry’s Last lecture, which many of us where sad about. We learned about phytoplankton and zooplankton and he challenged us with the “Paradox of the Plankton.” This left many of use with a lot to ponder and a possible direction for research questions. After Lunch group 3 was “on Station” working transect 3 which has made them better know as the Pelagic group. The rest of use have kept ourselves busy decorating our flags, journaling, identifying plankton and counting diporia. The after noon was also highligted by the deployment of the Triax, collect multiple water quality information in a horizontal direction rather then the vertical. We continue to witness life on see as the Marine Tech run into problems with the equipment.
July 8, 2009
We just had a couple of great lectures. Before dinner we heard Cindy Hagley from Minnesota Sea Grant. I learned a lot about limnology (like what it is!) and Lake Superior. It is awesome to hear the lecture while watching the Lake right here on the deck. As I type we are traveling north along the North Shore of Superior. We can’t make out distinctive trees from this distance; but, you get a clear view of the overall tree coverage on the hills. The water surface is like glass. If you were sitting inside the Lake Guardian, you wouldn’t even know the boat was moving. Just a constant, low thrum and a vibration. Cindy knows so much and is able to pull all of the content together and have it make sense.
We broke for dinner. Wow. I’m going to gain 5 pounds on this trip. Smoked salmon, pork loin steaks in gravy, fresh grilled vegetables. Donna makes an unbelievable chocolate cake. Butter cream frosting with dark hershey chocolate. My mouth is still watering.
Dr. Marty talked to us again about diporeia and the food web after dinner. Cindy gave us color posters of the lake food web that matched his lecture and that are perfect to teach students with. We will be working in the biology lab tonight counting diporeia from our earlier sampling and from tonight’s transects.
We have finished transect 2 and are moving to transect 3. We will be on-station at midnight and will sample until 4 or 5 am. We are heading toward shallow water and will have to move slowly because of the risk of fishing nets. It is hard to imagine how quickly you can get from very deep to very shallow water on Superior. We are at 180 meters right now.
The transects are the way the scientists organize data collection systematically. We have anywhere from 8 to 4 stations on each transect. The transect is a straight line created by plotting points with longitude and latitude coordinates. They are chosen based on bathymetry (not topography, since it is under water). We are moving from offshore to inshore, so from deep to shallow water. The transect keep the data organized–we label samples based on where the sample was collected and can match the samples to time of day, date, depth, temperature, longitude/latitude, and even who the personnel were that collected and analyzed the data.
We are using electronic sensors to measure depth, water temperature, dissolved oxygen, and fluorescence (which is a way to measure the abundance of algae at a particular level). At our different stations on each transect, we collect water samples based on the location of water layers. The thermocline is where the temperature layers. This signals a location where plankton and potentially fish may be more abundant. At these stations, we also collect algae with a vertical towed net and bottom grabs to get samples to look for diporeia. The scientists are monitoring these amphipods because they are a critical component of the lake food web. The other great lakes have serious problems with diporeia, but so far Lake Superior is doing well. Later this week, we have another set of scientists coming on board to move us further up the food web by looking at the fish populations. More later.