By Lauren Ball – Senior, NC State University
As an senior at NC State University in Biological Oceanography, I only required one class to graduate in May. At the beginning of the semester, Dr. Joe Zambon and Dr. Ruoying He brought up an opportunity in our class for undergraduates to participate in two research cruises. Embarking on a cruise would allow me to gain experience that a normal marine science internship couldn’t provide, and boost my resume as I seek a job for after graduation. I also wasn’t about to pass up a chance to spend the rest of my class days working on a research vessel.
I knew coming into the cruise that I would primarily be working on physical oceanography, allowing me to expand beyond my concentration. Another one of my professors found out about the cruise, and sent her research technician, Marco Valera, to collect plankton to bring back to Raleigh. Marco being on the cruise has allowed me to also have a hand in biological research while at sea. We collect water from a pump on board and also from the CTD casts to initially retrieve our samples. From there, we preserve plankton and water in various solutions, prepare samples for flow cytometry, and also filter the water to analyze chlorophyll amounts at various depths. Back in Raleigh at NCSU, the flow cytometry vials we prepped will be put through a machine that will use lasers to tell the chemical and physical characteristics of the tiny plankton inside, invisible to the naked eye.
As I was getting ready for the cruise, I found out I would be on night shift (12am-12pm) with Dr. Joe Zambon and others depending on the night. Shifts are spread out so that several scientists are “on duty” at all times because we only have a small amount of time to complete a long list of tasks on the ship. Depending on the day (or night), we may be conducting research that doesn’t require us to be hands on (such as during the bathymetric survey), so I have adjusted my schedule accordingly in the hopes that I will be able to participate in or observe as much as possible.
I personally have worked with XBT and CTD launches, and plankton collection, filtering, and preservation. Being able to watch ADCPs and PIESs being put on the seafloor, and buoy and glider deployments allowed me to put together my class’s learning outcomes with real world applications.
I’ve greatly enjoyed this opportunity and the experiences that came with it. A research cruise isn’t being in a bikini in the sun on a boat all day – a research cruise is comfortable clothes, long hours with spurts of a lot of activity, dealing with all kinds of weather, eating quickly, sleeping when you can, and loving every minute of it.
For more information on the PEACH project, please click HERE.