FeMO2 Dive Cruise 2007
Microbiologist and post-doc Suzanna Brauer has been cooking up bacterial media by the gallons down in the hydro lab of the R/V Kilo Moana. This soupy brew she will use to let Fe- and Mn-loving bacteria from Loihi Seamount grow and multiply so she can study them in her laboratory back home in Portland, Oregon. Follow Dr. Suz's adventures in this special FeMO blog ...
My First Days at Sea
It's my third day at sea. I find it hard to describe just what it's like being at sea because it's so different from anything I've ever experienced. Perhaps it comes close to the time that I climbed the summit of Mt. Adams. Both gave me a feeling of being in another world, sort of like being in outer space. The first thing that struck me about the boat was the immensity of it all: There are several large cranes on the boat, not to mention the ones that came to load all of the equipment on board. I spent the first day photographing cranes and equipment, including the Jason II submersible.
Jason Dive 308
I awoke at 10:30 to a knock at my door, "Jason is back down, it's time for our watch" the voice said. It was Alexis one of our collaborators. I had crawled into bed just 20 minutes before, and at the time I was told that Jason would probably begin to surface around midnight and come on board around 2 AM. They were going to shorten the dive because of a broken propeller on the boat, but apparently they had repaired it and were able to resume the dive. The science happens 24 hours on the ship, whether you are sleeping or not.
Jason Dive 309
The samples come back from FeMO deep and that means I need to get busy setting up experiments. The problem is that we had expected Jason to take 8-12 hours longer to surface and I have an entire day planned working in the cold van. We did a CTD cast, which means casting down through the water column an instrument that measures Conductivity Transmission and Depth. The CTD measurements didn't tell us much, but after long hours of filtering the water (many, many thanks to Carolyn, because she did the filtering) we tested the filters using a compound that reacts with manganese oxides to turn blue. One of the tubes turned fairly blue indicating a water sample that was high in manganese oxide particles- Yeah! I will try to capture those particles and analyze the bacteria that are on them. That means roughly 8 hours of standing in a 4-12°C temperature metal container and watching water drip through a funnel, when it is 25ºC and sunny outside with beautiful blue water just off the Hawaiian Islands. Now just why did I sign up for this???
Jason Dive 310
It's exciting to be in the Jason van, so it's easy to see why some scientists (Craig) stay awake the entire time during a Jason dive, although I don't think you'll ever catch me doing that. My task in the Jason van is to catalog the videos. Six are generated every two hours. I do this from 8 AM to noon and 8 PM to midnight. My last Jason watch was probably one of the most exciting for me (or perhaps I just feel that way because it is fresh in my mind). We were exploring a new site for FeMO, "The pit of death," a site that Craig Moyer, the chief scientist, had visited 14 years before (1993). It was really exciting to witness the establishment of a new marker: Marker 56! The site also has some really interesting features including a diversity of rock types: some that are beautifully striated with Fe-rich and Mn-rich layerings, and some that are coated with a white patchy sulfur(?) compound. There are microbial mats growing all over and engulfing the rocks, and there is some diffuse venting that provides some warmth to the mats. In the past the microbial communities have been very different here, so it will be interesting to see what turns up this time.
Lobster tail, prime rib, beef with red wine and garlic sauce, tempura shrimp, crab cakes, crab sushi, calamari steaks, chicken katsu, homemade cookies everyday at 10 AM, chocolate mousse, cream puffs, pineapple upside down cake and as many peanut M&M's as you can eat -- the food on the boat is amazing! I feel like I'm at a fancy wedding buffet everyday. One morning, Kuhio, one of the Restek's (resident technician, the science-boat crew liaison) caught a Mahi-Mahi off the back of the boat around 8 or 9 AM, and by 11:15 it was breaded and fried and ready to eat! Good thing there is a small workout room on the boat!
Jason Dive 311 to Pele's Pit
Another recent highlight on our cruise was the replacement/deployment of Marker 39. My lab mate, Rick Davis attached the rope and fashioned the marker, while I got to color in the number and bring it out to the Jason crew for deployment. I now have my very own marker in the deep-sea: Long live Marker 39!
Jason Dive 313 to Ula Nui
The past several days have been very exciting. On one of the recent dives I saw two monkfish, the deep-sea bottom-dwelling fish with spines -- very cool! Yesterday, Jason dove down to Ula Nui, a 5,000-meter deep mat. We discovered many new expanses of mat, including one area, the "moon mat" that appears to have vent holes left from past or current venting. There are many areas of diffuse venting at Ula Nui, but the succession of the mats, the sources and extent of venting and the age of the mats remain very mysterious. The area is relatively flat and the Jason pilot, Jimmy, let several of us take turns driving the Jason ROV forward across a transect -- this was definitely one of the cruise highlights for me!
We collected several suction and scoop samples of mat material at Ula Nui and I tried my manganese-oxide probe on this material to see if I could pull out the oxides and associated bacteria. I'm using a magnetic bead technology for the separation. The results were very exciting! Below you will see two images from my experiment. The first show the magnetic beads and associated mat material binding to the magnet. The second image shows the bound material from three experiments after washing away all unbound material. Pictured left to right are tubes containing 1) the endogenous metallic particles in the mat consisting of small black particulate material, 2) magnetic beads without a manganese-oxide probe (negative control), and 3) magnetic beads with an oxide probe. The negative control appeared to have very little non-specific binding, if any, whereas the beads with the manganese-oxide probe seems to have bound a significant amount of material. It will be exciting to see what microbial sequences are enriched in the Mn-oxide bound fraction!
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