It is currently raining/misting here in Newport. It is strange to me that just a few hours ago I was in nearly cloudless, sunny weather in the valley. We drove from near Eugene to Newport from the Oregon Country Fair and from Corvallis we could see the clouds layered over the hills as we drove toward them. Such are the drastic weather differences on the coast vs. the valley. Yesterday I also experienced my first heat of the summer at the Fair (mid-80s) and got to see thousands of very interesting people. This fair is known for its eccentricity. There was also great music, food, dancing, and lectures. I heard part of a talk by the author of a book called Biology of Belief whose talk went from discussing Native Americans to religion to the House of Representatives to the Higgs Boson to support his ultimate point…but I had to leave before I could hear it. I may look into the book sometime.
My work has also been going well this week. It has been very busy with the overnight trip to Bandon to do our experiments in the Coquille estuary. The logistics were complicated as I had expected. We had tons of water to keep cool and samples to keep frozen and equipment to wash outside of the comforts and convenience of our home laboratory. But we were flexible and it all worked out in the end.
One problem we are having is the water in some of our chambers is draining before the hour can be completed. To get a realistic representation of the rate of nutrient flux in these marsh habitats we need the water to stay around, but the ground drinks it up too fast. We had this problem at Coquille where the sediment was very sandy and we are having the problem in our projects at the Aquarium Marsh where the marsh is high and rarely gets wet by the tide, so it less saturated with water already. It is frustrating as a lot of work goes into preparing to go into the field, getting to the sites, setting up the experiments, cleaning up from the experiments, and analyzing the data, and sometimes we get nothing for all our efforts. For instance, on Monday 5 of 6 chambers drained early. Our final sample ends up getting taken with only a centimeter left of water and we take up part of the sediment, which is probably leading to the strange results I discussed last week.
Knowing that hard work is not always leading to results is difficult, but such is the nature of research and often life in general. Our lab group is still pushing forward, though. We plan to try a different instrument next week to analyze nitrogen amounts and we may try staying lower in the high marsh to where the soil may be more saturated. Next week we carry out more experiments and I think we are going to the Nestucca estuary. Friday is also the mid-summer check-in with the Oregon Sea Grant. It’s amazing how fast the time has gone by!