Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Day 14: Appreciation of a milliliter

Today was sampling day - starting with the spiking the samples with nitrogen and phosphorus, discovering that the epindorphs (which is a pipette that allows me to accurately add really small amounts such as less than a milliliter, ml). 

So to put a milliliter (ml) in perspective, I hunted down this
water bottle which was surprisingly difficult. Most people up
here don't drink from plastic bottles, but luckily we got a
group from the south in today who disposed of theirs in the
recycling bins, which I dug through (thanks Rob for the hint!)
So, the cap of this bottle can hold 3 ml of water.
Sampling today, I really appreciate what a ml is since all of
my measurements have to be really precise in order to have
enough water for sampling at the end of the experiment!
(Behind me is my lab!)
Then I sampled the containers that sat in the pool. It took an hour for the first sampling at 0 hour (because we - LeeAnn and I - had to add the nutrients, take the sample, then aerate the container so that there is still oxygen in the water which is important for respiration and prevents the water from becoming anoxic - oxygen poor. The sampling became faster for the next two times I did it. I sampled at 6 hours after the spike and then again at 10ish hours after the spike. This way we can see how much of the nutrients are taken up by the algae, the sediment, or the bacteria that are in the containers and when all of the spike is consumed!

After obtaining the samples, we filtered! Oh did we filter! And filter... and filter.

This is the water filtering apparatus. We use an
air pump to suck out the air in the bottom container
which drags down the water we put in the top container.
As the water gets dragged down, it passes through a
filter that gets rid of the big stuff like zooplankton
and dirt. The water in the bottom container goes
into the hundreds of bottles I have to fill
which then get analyzed for the amount of nutrients
in the water - so we can see how much is consumed
and how long it takes to be consumed.
I also took 8 samples of the top layer on the sediment, which
is a layer made of algae and we affectionately call the benthic
algal mat or BAM! I use a little syringe to grab a BAM cookie
and then put it on top of a glass fibre filter which can then
be analyzed for chl a and other pigments. This will tell
us if it was the BAM that consumed the nutrients and grew or
if it was something else.
This is LeeAnn, she is awesome! She stayed really
late with me to finish up the labeling and the filtering
the last two nights. She also has my back when I make
really stupid mistakes, such as that epindorph incident,
she pulled out two more and only delayed us by
half an hour when my mistake could have cost
a couple days! I have many thanks for her!
 Two days ago I wrote a short post because I said I was doing something else but couldn't tell you yet. Well, now that it's later, I can reveal the surprise!

Happy Birthday, Kat! Yesterday was Kat's
birthday so the night before that, Carly, Krista,
Vanya and I made a diorama of the great plains
across her desk for her to see in the morning!
Dioramas are a bit of a tradition at CNSC,
and so much fun! Why haven't I made one of
these before?

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