Friday, June 17, 2011

Day 17: BAM! SPLAT! Arrrggg!!!

Today was the final sampling for stage one of my experiment. It was a long day... So to spice things up, let's add a bit of comic book styling!

This is one of my controls, so I did not add any nutrients to it. But
if you look closely at the sediment (the brown stuff), the grainy look is
actually fluffy and turbulent. That look is the benthic algal mat (BAM)
that I am most interested in. During sampling today, I found out
that I really can't tell the difference visually between the
different spikes and the controls with no spikes. They all
seem to have BAM. But that's where the sampling for the pigments
come in...
So first, I recruited Brent, Roland, and Lauren to carefully walk,
two at a time, the containers from the pool to the study centre
without them tripping or stirring up the sediment. As this picture
shows, they seemed to have done a pretty good job. The water
on top of the sediment is still clear! Thanks!
Ok, down to business. How do we sample for pigments anyway?
So we have this mud at the bottom of the container that contains
BAM. Also at my disposal is a spoon, a little syringe with
a flat head (not the needle type) and on the right, a filter
apparatus. Let's go!
So let's get a better look at the filtering apparatus. It has a water
collection container underneath the tray that holds the filter
then a lid in the background that will go on top of the filter tray
so I can add sediment and water without it spilling over.
Next I grab a glass filter, using tweezers so I don't contaminate
the filters with my filthy fingers! (Speaking of, do you see the
nice cut on my index finger? That was part of my first blood
experience, there were two other injuries in association, and this
was the second worse. I think I might get a nice scar from it!) 
Place filter on top of the filtering apparatus that was already
introduced while trying really hard to focus the camera with
one hand. Click!
The exciting part! I use that flat headed syring to obtain
the BAM cookie. SLURP! 
I then measured the height of the sediment in the tube. By
knowing the height and the diameter of the tube, I can figure
out the volume of the sediment I'm filtering! (The BAM
cookie is so fluffy that it easily seeps out of this small cylinder!)
I then plop it on top of the filter, which I forgot to take a picture of...
sorry. So here is the sound effect, SPLAT!

This is the sweet secret spy gun that they let me use! Not only
can it scare away polar bears, make me feel sneaky, and give me
some fun posing opportunities, but it also provides the suction
to pull the water down through the filter! Ok, so it's a hand pump...
Still pretty cool though, and a great finger strengthening work out!
In fact, I suggest to climbers that you should volunteer in a
water ecology lab, just to get the best finger work outs! You'll
be thanking the scientists (while they laugh at you behind
your back...). SQUEEZE!
So this is the sediment in the filtering apparatus on top of
the filter. Pretty sweet, non? SUCK!

Here, I took off the top of the filtering mechanism so you can
see the BAM cookie on the white filter. You can also see
where the hose attaches to the lower chamber. The hose is
connected to that hand pump that sucks air out of the bottom
chamber by blowing it out of the the hand pump. But as my
high school physics teacher taught me, there is no such thing as
sucking. The suction is caused by blowing somewhere else which
causes a vacuum. I'll always remember that with the phrase:
"Physics doesn't suck, it blows!" so... BLOW! 
Then I fold the filter in half, and wrap it up in aluminum foil
to keep it in the dark, keep it moist, and give it some protection.
Using the tweezers on this is so hard sometimes! CRINKLE!
A Whirl-Pak is a fancy sampling bag that we science-y people
like to use because they are sterile and durable. I suppose
that I am revealing the secret codes written here so I might as
well explain my evil plan... I'm put BAM into this bag!
Muhahaha! ... I guess you knew that by now... Thanks for
 sticking it out! Ok, so the 20-N2 is the code for this sample. I
spiked the containers with three different concentrations,
10 times the maximum nutrient that we recorded last summer,
20x that, and 50x that. So this is a 20x spike. The N (which due to glare,
looks like a U) stands for Nitrate. I spiked the samples with Phosphate,
Nitrate, and Ammonia to see which one will cause the
algae to grow the most. In this container, I spiked with Nitrate.
Left is the name of the lake that I sampled from. This is the
first of two experiments, hence the Exp 1. Then the date - you
should have gotten that. Then the label Chl a - Benthos because
this will be sent to the lab, and the chl a with be detected using
a spectrometer (detecting the wavelength for Chl a). Then I have
the diameter of the syringe and the thickness of the sample I
obtained in the syringe so I can calculate volume. I then threw it
in the freezer and packed it with ice so it can be shipped back
to Waterloo and analyzed!
 This is the sad part...
I had to dump all of my containers... (and
got covered in mud in the process!)

The dark splatter is what I have left of my experiment... :(

 And for the fun of the day...

Back by popular demand... Spot the ptarmigan! This one is
much harder since it is a female sitting on her nest and the
camouflage is amazing. Even knowing that she is there, I can
barely find her. Good luck! 
The crew! From left to right, Lauren - the PhD student, Roland
- my prof/supervisor, Brent - also my prof on projects, and me
with a bag of peat for Merrin who is back in Waterloo but is my
third prof/supervisor. My fourth prof/supervisor is probably somewhere
in the building above my head which is the new CNSC. The building
next to Lauren's head is the old CNSC. These three kept me up
playing Euchre after our hike with Vanya to the study lakes so I didn't have
time to write this blog until now! So here it is! Now to sleep! SNORE!

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