Sampling Week: Preparation

Things have been really busy around lab the last couple of months, and I have (regrettably) been lazy on the social media front. I’ve been in the lab more than usual the last month as our wonderful lab technician decided to move to Seattle with her husband, and I needed to get as much information out of her as I possibly could before she left! Now that she’s gone, I feel like I have about 20 more things to do each day. Now more than ever I realize how much we needed her in lab! (But I wish her the very best, especially with the new job!) With spring coming and exciting developments in the project, I think it’s time to get back on social media!

preparationThis year my advisor and I have decided to skip a few months worth of sampling (February and April) in order for me to spend more time in lab and to see what direction sampling needs to go in the coming months (i.e., I need to start actually looking at all the data I’ve been collecting!). This week is field week and I’ve been getting prepared for that so that the fieldwork Thursday and Friday goes off without a hitch. In order to be ready for the field, a long list of supplies needs to get cleaned, organized, and labeled. For each sampling, we deploy (along with the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve) an ISCO automatic sampler that collects water at programmed intervals. Our ISCO is set up with 51 feet of tubing that needs to be acid washed and 12 glass jars that need to be muffled (heated at 450° C for 4-5 hours). We also collect 30-40 liters of water at high and low tides during the sampling period, so those containers (or carboys) need to get acid rinsed and labeled. The pump that we use has tubing that needs to get acid rinsed, filters we use to filter the sampled water need to be muffled and labeled, etc. There is quite a bit of prep work that needs to be done before we can actually go to the sampling site. This week has been devoted to that and data analysis (which hopefully I’ll be able to display on here soon!).

After all of this prep work, we (myself and one lucky volunteer) will go to the site, deploy the ISCO and monitor it to make sure it has no errors (no instrument is perfect) and collect water samples at the first two high and low tides. We generally sample over a 25-hour period, starting at a low tide around noon and ending at on a low tide the next day. These we collect into large water cooler jugs (the ones you see on top of water coolers in offices and such), wrap in black trash bags (these samples are light sensitive), and try to keep cool with some ice, so that they can be filtered back in the lab once we are done with sampling. If the weather is nice, sampling days are generally a great time of exploring the sampling site’s many hiking trails, possibly kayaking Taskinas Creek, and getting to know my volunteers, which are usually fellow graduate students, over movies and junk food.

After fieldwork, I’ll get to work writing about what happens when we get back from the field, but until then, check out the twitter (@Taskinas_Carbon) for live updates on sampling prep, fieldwork, and field sample processing!