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Karen's Daily Blog
Greetings from R/V Atlantis, DSV Alvin,
and the Extreme 2008 research cruise!
I’m Karen Romano Young, the education coordinator for this cruise. I’ve been explaining to scientists, the Alvin group, and the ship's crew that I’m going to be taking their pictures until they’re sick of it, asking a million questions, quoting them and writing about them and putting up their pictures on the Web site. You can imagine the response: some of them step softly behind another person and try to slip away. Others square their shoulders and say “Cheese!”
And then there are the ones you can’t say “cheese” to just now, because they’ll turn a little green at the thought. Yes, it’s the first day of the Extreme cruise, and we’re all making the necessary adjustments. Shy and bold. Salty or seasick. Science, sub, or ship. We’re in this together for the next three weeks. Even though some of the people aboard this ship may be shy, they are all enthusiastic about the Web site and about the idea that so many eyes are going to be on them and their work for the next few weeks. And I’m here to promise that the education team here on Atlantis and back at the “beach” at the University of Delaware (home of the Blue Hens) are going to try to capture it all for people on shore.
Today there’s extra excitement aboard, because NBC’s Today Show broadcast a special feature about the voyage their reporter, Ann Curry, made during Atlantis’s last cruise. It’s an enormous thrill to watch the Alvin Group and the ship’s crew of Atlantis receive their deserved share of the limelight, since they’ve made such a big contribution to our understanding of the oceans. And now Extreme 2008 will bring this cruise’s two destinations, 21 days at sea, 14 planned dives, and combined crew of 55 people into homes and schools worldwide.
Our Extreme Classrooms number 350, with the eyes of 20,858 students and teachers on our work on the microbial life –including the tiniest things yet discovered – living at the hydrothermal vents along the East Pacific Rise and Guaymas Basin. Extreme schools this year include the United States, Aruba, Australia (Tasmania), Canada, Costa Rica, Great Britain, and New Zealand.
Ordinary Seaman Kevin Threadgold tells me that Atlantis frequently visits Costa Rica, as well as Canada and the U.S., and Alvin engineer Jon Howland says that Jason, a remote-operated vehicle that is deployed by the University of Washington ship R/V Thompson, has studied deep coral reefs off the coast of Tasmania. And Kiwis can keep an eye out for scientists Conrad Pilditch and Craig Cary.
Our science crew includes two Mexican scientists, Ruth Villanueva Estrada and Fanny Reisman Moussan, who will act as Extreme Bloggers in Spanish on two days of the cruise. Busca el Extreme Blog de Ruth, el 15 de Noviembre.
Yes, there’s so much going on that it practically makes my head spin. During this first day of the cruise, the ship has been passing lots of turtles swimming along. “Do they swim with their heads up?” I asked Able-Bodied Seaman Jim McGill, who was pointing them out to me from the bridge. “No,” he said. “They pick their heads up when we come by, like they’re saying, ‘What’s THAT?’”
That’s Atlantis, our home at sea. Much more to come!
Today's Extreme Blogger:
I’m a fourth year Ph.D. student, and this will be my first cruise to a hydrothermal vent. I’m so excited to finally see these things up close! But first we have to travel 700 miles off the coast of Costa Rica, so we all have to wait for two days until we get out there. The scientists aboard this ship come from many different institutions in the U.S., New Zealand, and Mexico, so we will spend these two days getting to know each other, making sure our experiments are set up, learning about the safety features of the ship and trying not to get seasick! So far, I’ve gotten to see some of the experimental setups people will be using to collect samples from the hydrothermal vents. These include special spring-loaded syringes that can collect water samples right up next to the hydrothermal vent chimneys, while simultaneously measuring the water temperature. Since hydrothermally heated water will be swirling all around the vent site, this piece of equipment will allow members of Craig Cary’s lab to have precise control over where their samples are taken.
I have the added excitement of being able to go on the cruise that follows ours. At the end of Extreme 2008, we will land in Guaymas, clean up the ship, pack up our samples, and then the rest of the science crew will go back home to work on their exciting new data. I, however, will stay with the ship, and meet the rest of the members of my home lab, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, for another three weeks in Guaymas Basin. Because I have back-to-back cruises, I will be able to place experiments at the seafloor during the first cruise and then come back a few weeks later to pick them up. This means we can leave things like glass microscope slides in the sediments near the vents. In a couple of weeks, we can use the submersible Alvin to find them again, pick them up, and analyze the microbes that grew on them. This might give us a better idea of what types of microbes start growing when hydrothermal vent fluid reaches a new area.
I have been interested in studying hydrothermal vents since I first heard about them when I was a student at Swarthmore College. After getting my bachelor’s degree in biochemistry, I wanted to start working on hydrothermal vents, but I didn’t know who to contact! So, I just sent my resume to different researchers until I found Andreas Teske at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, who wanted to hire me as a technician. I’ve now been working on samples that other people have taken from vents for the past six years, and, now as a Ph.D. student, I feel lucky to finally go and see the real things!
Tie everything down, and then we're ready to go!
University of Southern California (alumnus)
Funding for this educational program was provided by the National Science Foundation to the University of Delaware as part of “Extreme 2008: A Deep-Sea Adventure” — the latest in the University of Delaware’s award-winning series of online expeditions to engage students and the public in cutting-edge research and the process of scientific discovery. This program was produced by the University of Delaware Office of Communications & Marketing.