Sunday, July 18, 2010

Your taxpayer dollars at work

Research cruise. Does that sound oxymoronic? Halfway through our first research cruise, Tanner and I reflected on what we think so far. It is a uniquely intense and exhilarating scientific experience. Our purpose for these ten days is to gather as much data as possible - sampling, running experiments, turning around the data with a quick analysis to make choices about further experiments to conduct in the dwindling days left. While we might enjoy beautiful sunrises and the grandeur of the open ocean, more often than not the members of the science party are in the lab, shouting to be heard (or not) over the roar of the hood, in a dark room measuring respiration rates in incubating samples, isolated in the van for radioactive work, or waking up every few hours to collect data for kinetics studies. Perhaps not quite the "cruise" most people think of, but we have the privilege to do science on systems that can best be studied in the field.

The scientific camaraderie is critical to the success of the cruise. With the different research groups conducting complementary studies, there is great potential for collaboration. In the galley or on deck, scientists share their preliminary data, their ideas, and their expertise. While the Van Mooy/Mincer group is doing enzyme assays in one lab, Solange and Noel are across the hall studying one of those assays in greater depth. In the wet lab, after helping troubleshoot a frustrating titration experiment, Georg modestly stated, "I've done a few of those in my life." And of course, we all rely on the particles collected in the UW group's traps and the voices of experience of the Station ALOHA regulars from UH.

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