Or to be correct: was on the Kilo Moana. Our research cruise went to station ALOHA. In total 42 researchers and crew members had a great time for 7 days.
During the first day (after some delay in the harbor) we went around Hawaii to reach the station and set up the labs. Followed by some sight viewing while passing the coastline. We students were assigned into smaller groups of 3-4 and were rotating through different labs and tasks. At the second day I was assigned to flow cytometry. This is a method were we can estimate the abundance of marine bacteria and algae from water samples. In the end we were sorting bugs and watching movies since the method takes a while…
Already on the third day, my shift started at 2 am to take water samples and let the primary production array into the water, before sunrise! Recovery of the same is after sunset and dealing with all the samples took until 11pm. Here we can estimate how productive/active the marine community is and having such a long shift was definitely worth it!
Day 4 was assigned to biomass, FRRF and oxygen measurements. I learned how electrons jump from one photosystem to the next in algae and how to extract oxygen from seawater. On day 5 my group was finally on deck and actively taking all the water samples. At home, we use a simple rottner sampler and muscle strength. However, for samples from 1000m depth this does not work. We use a sampling rosette, connected to a CTD giving us real-time data from the water chemistry and we can close bottles from the boat while slowly getting the rosette up to the surface. Once it is hanging in the air, it needs to be tagged with hooks and ropes to prevent it from bouncing too much with the waves. Also, the arrays need to be recovered, this was the most fun: throwing hooks at the floats of the array like a pirate!
During the last lab day, we were assigned to the diversity group. We took water samples and filtered them on small pore size filters to collect the bacterial community (just like at home). Them we extracted the DNA and amplified a certain region of the 16S gene to investigate who is out there. These techniques always cause problems but after successful trouble shooting, we managed to get enough DNA for sequencing from all samples.
The last day on board was used to find a sea glider that reported problems and was only floating in the surface. Yet, the last destination was reported 12 hours ago and we were really searching in the blue. The bridge has never been more busy: half the crew and all researchers were watching the water for a small antenna from the highest platform of the vessel (the bridge). After 7 hours, we were finally successful and could recover it.
Now we are back on shore and in the labs to analyze all our data. Within 3 days, the metagenomic samples were sequenced and treated with bioinformatics. So we sit inside in front of our computers, plot data, compare genes in different samples and hope to be enlightened by the hawaiian microbial genome.