Day Two on the R/V Atlantis

Calan Taylor is a high school teacher participating in the Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) program on board the R/V Atlantis. See other posts in this series using the navigation tools at right.

DAY TWO: July 15, 2019
By Calan Taylor

Stayed up too late reading. It’s easy to lose track of time on a big ship with few portholes and lots of fluorescent lights. I spoke with Melissa during breakfast. Until last year, she was a teacher and Athletic Director at Waldport High School (In the Sunset League with Bandon) and is now working on her Post Bach/Masters at Portland State. The breadth of representation onboard is impressive. The 21 folks on the science team (of which Andy and I are included) represent 5 academic institutions (UO, OSU, Portland State, Humboldt State, and UW) along with two NOAA labs, an artist from Sitka, the head of the Hatfield Marine Science Center, and the chief editor from the Newport News Times.

The day has been filled with safety/conduct meetings in the morning and scientific briefings in the afternoon. Highlights of the morning included abandon ship drills, emergency protocols, shipboard procedures and expectations, and various other general info. It was interesting to watch 20 people in various stages of sea sickness/scopolamine stupor-struggle into survival suits on a moving vessel. I felt fortunate for having had so much practice on F/V Chasina in the past.

In the afternoon we learned about the overarching goals of the research, which are to compare trophic webs in two locations. The first transect will be off of Trinity Head in Northern California where upwelling conditions are prevalent throughout the year. The second is off of Newport Oregon where upwelling conditions are seasonal, occurring mostly in the summer months. By sampling in winter and summer, they hope to address questions of how trophic relationships and spatial distributions of phytoplankton, zooplankton, and mesoplankton are affected by wind/upwelling conditions in the two locations.

One of the things that is most impressive is the amount of resources that are going into the project. To begin, it costs around $55,000 per day to operate the ship. This does not include the HOV ALVIN which is aboard, but not a part of this research. Second, each piece of equipment is a state of the art, one off, that must be handled with precision and care in potentially challenging ocean conditions. A good example is the MOCNESS (Multiple Opening and Closing Net Environmental Sampling System) which is basically a mid-water trawl similar to what you’d see in commercial fishing, but modified to catch organisms in the 100 micron range. It opens and closes five separate nets at discrete depth intervals of 20 meters, ranging from the surface to 100 meters deep.

MOCNESS in the water

We will work round the clock in two teams 12 hours on and 12 hours off.  I have been assigned the 3am-3pm shift and we will begin tomorrow morning. I’m looking forward to seeing how this whole operation functions. First though, I’m going to head up to the weight room and get a workout.

Calan Taylor teaches Physics, Chemistry, and Physical Science at Bandon High School and is part of the Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) program on the R/V Atlantis cruise taking place July 13-27, 2019. Where is the R/V Atlantis now?

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