My name is Rui Meng, and I am a graduate student at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in Shanghai. I was born near Beijing area and got my M.S. degree in Qingdao, China before coming to Shanghai. This is my first international oceanographic cruise, so things are very different from what I am used to in China. This blog is to give my impressions about how things are on the cruise from my perspective.
I study phytoplankton, the microscopic photosynthetic organisms that support the entire food web off the coast of Norway. Without knowledge of their abundance and growth, we cannot understand how to manage the removal of fish from the coastal waters. My job at sea is to sample the water, and measure the concentrations of phytoplankton in a number of different ways. We measure chlorophyll, as it occurs in all photosynthetic organisms, and we relate the chlorophyll concentrations to the abundance of phytoplankton. We also do a number of other measurements that measure different aspects of the numbers of phytoplankton. When we sample, we use a CTD – conductivity, a temperature, depth sampler (conductivity is converted to salinity). The instrument is lowered by a wire through the ocean, and temperature and salinity are measured continuously and the data sent to the ship. When we get to a depth we want to sample, water bottles are electronically closed, and when we are done, the instrument and the sampled water is brought back onboard. We then collect our individual samples and process them in the lab. For chlorophyll we filter a known amount of water through a filter, freeze the filter, and analyze it in the lab. We do this for every depth – ten depths per station. Each filter takes about 15 minutes to complete, and one entire station takes about 3 hours to finish, since we have to do different types of samples. And then we do it again. And again. And again. So it is not too exciting and becomes routine, but it is the only way we can understand the distribution of phytoplankton and how they control the food web. The picture below is me and my supervisor filtering a sample in the lab. And Michaela said the filtering instrument looks like a line of wine, like we all in a bar. Interesting!
I work on a 12-hour shift, meaning I work for 12 hours in a row and then can sleep. That means I get to eat two meals a day, unless I get up specifically to eat the other meal. And I usually do that! The food is good, but I miss Chinese food, I had tried Western food in China, and never thought it was that good. But the food on the ship surprised me at how good it tastes. The one dish I miss from China is a hot pot – where you cook your own food at the table and where there is a lot of variety that you can have. I really like the cod that we have had.
People are very nice, and that is good because we eat, sleep and work together in small spaces. My room is especially small, and I share it with two other students. So we are crowded, and we all have different schedules, which means we often disturb each other when we come and go from the room. But it works out, and we all try to be thoughtful of each other.
I am impressed by all of the researchers on the ship, because they are experts at their own fields and have extensive knowledge of the ocean. It is a great chance for me to learn about their work and how they do their work, as well as the value of their research. We also have talks at night by various scientists where they describe their work in more detail, which also is a great learning experience.
The sampling plan changes with each day, and that gives us a chance to relax some when we are not sampling the water. The cruise is still beginning, and we have another two weeks to go. I look forward to learning much more as we continue, and being able to experience more Norwegian food!