Final thoughts for future SSFer’s

All good things must come to an end, and with the changing weather comes an ebb and flow of students in the Woods Hole community. Unfortunately, I am in the former since I will be leaving Saturday morning. For the next round of summer student fellows, consider some practical tips for living at Woods Hole in the summer:

  • Program dates: most students arrive from mid May to mid June and leave sometimes in August. In terms of the pros and cons of arriving/leaving earlier vs later, I’ve found that arriving in the middle of the pack was fantastic because of it maximizes the amount of time spent with other SSFers. However, if I had to choose between arriving later or earlier, I’d choose later because of the availability of advice for living logistics/getting settled in your project from SSFers who have already been there for a few weeks. Having said that, it does get lonely towards the end of the summer when most cohorts start leaving/taking their end of August vacations
  • Living tips: try to share supplies with roomates. The end of the summer not only brings me sadness in the friends that I will miss, but also at the dramatic amount of food and household supplies that are wasted by merely 30 people. A little bit of planning can save quite a bit of money down the road
  • no worries about the lack of things to do in a small town. It never fails to amaze me how busy I’ve found myself with work and recreational activities, so much so that I haven’t even opened the GRE books that I lugged from Canada with high hopes of studying. I would suggest planning to take the GRE’s at another time rather than the summer, since the summer on the Cape is much more enjoyable outside or meeting the wonderful scientific community rather than reading GRE books
  • many bikes are bought and left neglected since there are so many short-term visiting students in the summer. Ask around before purchasing one at your own expense
  • do not be afraid to speak with other scientists about their research or offer to volunteer in other scientist’s labs to gain more experience. WHOI is a refreshingly welcoming place, and the scientists take time to speak to interested students about their research
  • take time to make friends in this area. In addition to beautiful sailing trips they can take you on, the people are very kind and offer a potentially lasting network should you decide to return
  • Travelling tip: consider avoiding purchasing a return ticket from Peter Pan (just the one-way from Boston is enough). i. you do not get much of a discount with a return purchase (I think one way is $32, while return is $56). ii. their customer service is terrible – you cannot return tickets, and could only exchange them for a fee. Tickets are also non-transferrable. iii. there are many people driving out of Woods Hole at the end of the summer and it is incredibly easy to arrange a ride, since the housing arrangement is somewhat flexible as well. Should I have known this, I would have saved a decent chunk of money that could have been spent towards other more justifiable purchases (such as spending time at the Kidd!)
Last sunset at OP!

My last sunset at Oyster Pond!

This was one of the most enriching experiences of my life. I’ve met a very diverse and intelligent bunch of scientists, fell in love with the community here, and found that this is a great place to pursue graduate studies. Fingers crossed!

R/V Tioga

The Summer Student Fellowship program includes a day trip on the research vessel Tioga to show us various sampling techniques used in oceanography. The day trip starts out at 8:30am and sailed out westward to Buzzard’s Bay. Many students had a chance to have a hands-on experience on using one the sampling equipments.

Using a probe to measure water temperature, salinity, and dissolved oxygen.

Using a probe to measure water temperature, salinity, and dissolved oxygen

Looking cheeky as the probe descends

Looking happy as the probe descends

Using a claw-like apparatus to sample sediments

Using a claw-like apparatus to sample sediments

The sediments collected were clay-based and described as "very good for your skin"

The sediments collected were clay-based and described as “very good for your skin”

fellow SSF Vincent obviously took that above comment to heart as he examines the critters under the microscope

Fellow SSF Vincent obviously took that above comment to heart as he examines the critters under the microscope

Tubeworm that was extracted from the mud

Tubeworm that was extracted from the mud

It usually hides its soft, fragile body within this hard casing

It usually protecs its soft, fragile body within this hard casing, but we took it out for examination

Other cool critters

Other cool critters

Using a net to catch ctenophores, a jellyfish-like bioluminescent cnidarian

Using a net to catch ctenophores, a bioluminescent, jellyfish-like creature that glow up when you accidentally bump into them during night swims

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Ctenophores are very cute but definitely prettier at night when they bioluminesce when you accidentally bump into one. Since they are so abundant, the crew encouraged us to taste them and they tasted exactly like one would expect - a bag of salty seawater. Guess these guys are pretty good at keeping equilibrium with the seawater to minimize the energetic costs of osmosis

Cute ctenophores. Since they are so abundant, the crew encouraged us to taste them and they tasted exactly like one would expect – a bag of salty seawater. Perhaps these guys are pretty good at keeping equilibrium with the seawater to minimize the energetic costs of osmosis?

Our final activity was learning how to navigate by measuring angles of three landmarks. This gave us three lines on this map that located us to the area where they crossed. The GPS (star) confirmed that we were right on!

Our final activity was learning how to navigate by measuring angles of three landmarks. This gave us three lines on this map that located us to the area where they crossed. The GPS (star) confirmed that we were right on!

Out and about and having a grand old time

Out and about and having a grand old time

Overall, it was a beautiful day spent with a wonderful crew!

Provincetown sunrise

The perfect sunrise finally happened for us in Provincetown, one of the easternmost points on the Cape that’s about an hour and a half away from Woods Hole. No words can describe this beauty: 20130804_05271120130804_052642 20130804_052911 20130804_0543012013-08-04 16.45.36It was low tide so my friend and I basked by the sailboats while waiting for the sunrise. All photos by Jack Hildick-Smith, a Cornell student who works at the Marine Biological Laboratory this summer and takes amazing panoramic shots.

MBL open house

The MBL (Marine Biological Laboratory) celebrates its 125th anniversary today. The MBL is another marine sciences institution situated in Woods Hole and everyone in the village was invited to join the festivities.

2013-07-17 17.00.45 2013-07-17 17.00.53 2013-07-17 17.01.03 2013-07-17 17.04.18 In addition to the festivities, Dr. Osamu Shimomura, Nobel Prize Laureate and discoverer of green fluorescent protein, gave a talk on his scientific career. He was incredibly humble and said that he wanted to study bioluminescent jellyfish simply because it was “cool”, and I couldn’t agree more. They’re awesome (and ctenophores are so fun to poke around because they bioluminesce more when disturbed – an hypothesized antipredatory response).

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Experimental crunch time

Since our experiments are highly dependent on when spawns of larvae are ready, once they were finally developed, we visited Martha’s Vineyard shellfish group to pick them up. I’ve never been to Martha’s Vineyard (MV for short) and was extremely excited at the prospect of getting on the ferry, especially since I hear MV was simply a more touristy version of Woods Hole and wouldn’t have went out of my way to visit there otherwise.

Martha's Vineyard ferry (Steamship Authority)

Martha’s Vineyard ferry (Steamship Authority)

Yup, looks like Woods Hole

Yup, looks like Woods Hole

Algae grown at the hatchery, which we took some with us to feed the oyster larvae

Algae grown at the hatchery; we took some with us for feeding the oyster larvae

After getting the larvae, which were collected on 200um filters so we have a lower size limit, we check for their competency to settle by looking for eyespots (which develop in late-stage larvae).

Can you see the eyespots?

Can you see the eyespots?

Since these larvae are already competent to settle, our experiments are extremely time-sensitive. We have to transfer them into bleached culture buckets, set up the airstone system, feed them, and start the experiment as soon as possible. We typically have 2-3 days after larval acquisition to perform the experiments, and multiple people in the lab take shifts to realize the continuous stint of data collection in these 2-3 days.

One million larvae transported on filter paper

One million larvae transported on filter paper

Jeanette and I adding larvae into the tank prior to experimental data collection. The camera is to the left of the tank and the laser is calibrated to the right. Photo by Tom Kleindinst

Jeanette and I adding larvae into the tank prior to experimental data collection. The camera is to the left of the tank and the laser is calibrated to the right. Photo by Tom Kleindinst

Safety first! This caution light always have to be on outside of our environmental chamber when the laser is turned on for data collection

Safety first! This caution light always have to be on outside of our environmental chamber when the laser is turned on for data collection

These laser goggles look pretty badass, no?

Don’t these laser goggles look pretty badass?

I have to admit that it was a tiring three days, but Lauren, our advisor, was super supportive, took quite a few shifts herself, and was kind enough to bring us food and munchkins (did you know that this was the “Timbits” of the US? so cute!). Additionally, after some level of sleep deprivation, random things become hilarious, so we had a pretty great time derping around the lab while waiting for the data to finish downloading after each collection (each dataset contains several gigabytes of images). Overall, the experiments went very well and we’ve successfully collected enough data to work on through the next few months.

Casey and Mary Ann’s research

Mary Ann is a SSF from Ohio Wesleyan University, working with graduate student Casey this summer with advisor Dr. Aran Mooney in the Biology department. Their lab has a fantastic ocean acidification (OA) setup and are investigating how OA affects the development of squid paralarvae. Casey’s project entails subjecting the developing larvae to acidified conditions, then measuring several developmental and morphological traits to quantify the effects of OA on their development. Mary Ann is then looking at how their subsequent swimming behaviour may be influenced by these changes. Since I am interested in investigating transcriptomic responses to OA for a PhD and most likely will be using a similar OA setup, I was interested in how the Mooney lab’s setup looked like and Casey was kind enough to give me a tour of the lab.

Casey looking proudly onto his work baby, which he built from scratch

Casey looking proudly onto his work baby, which he built from scratch

Wild squid during spawning season (now) are caught and kept in tanks until they deposit the eggs mats, pictured here. The developing egg mats are kept in specific CO2 conditions using the setup

Wild squid during spawning season (now) are caught and kept in tanks until they deposit eggs mats, pictured here. The developing egg mats are kept in specific CO2 conditions using the setup

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Various CO2 concentrations are colour coded and delivered individually to the small holding tanks

CO2 tank and filters

CO2 tank and filters

Regulators, which control the concentration of CO2 through the mix of normal air with that from the CO2 tank

Regulators, which control the concentration of CO2 through the mix of normal air with that from the CO2 tank

The Mooney lab also does research in sensory ecology using cuttlefish, which are very interesting creatures that can change colours use their chromatophores

The Mooney lab also does research in sensory ecology using cuttlefish, which are very interesting creatures that can change colours using their chromatophores

Squid paralarvae under the dissecting microscope. You can see the small chromatophores as coloured dots, and the two stratoliths (calcified bones used for balance) as the white dots in the head region

Adorable squid paralarvae under the dissecting microscope. You can see the small chromatophores as coloured dots, and the two statoliths (calcified bones used for balance) as the white dots in the head region

Since the statolith is made from calcification (and may be hence impacted by OA), their size is one of the morphological traits Casey will be looking at. After Mary Ann’s swimming behaviour observations, Casey will be dissecting the larvae and taking measurements of the statolith to try to address weather a smaller, poorly developed statolith under OA may be correlated with abnormal swimming/balance in the larvae. Keep in mind that these larvae are about 2-3mm across, so dissecting them would definitely be an interesting endeavour. I will certainly try to drop by again one afternoon to witness it!

Katie Skinner’s research

Katie Skinner is a SSF from Princeton University working with Mike Purcell in the Applied Physics and Ocean Engineering department. Her project is to design a lightweight REMUS, which stands for remote environmental monitoring units. It is an autonomous underwater vehicle with a range of uses including ocean exploration, environmental monitoring, and scientific sampling. She is working with the REMUS 6000, which is a deep ocean vehicle that goes up to 6000 meters. It is autonomous and untethered, so missions are preprogrammed for the vehicle, which then follows these directions on its own.

the REMUS 6000

the REMUS 6000

Her main goal this summer is to extend the endurance of the REMUS 6000 to up to 36 hours, a 50% increase in endurance. This will allow the vehicle to carry out longer and more efficient missions to search over larger areas or collect more images or samples. The longer it can stay in the water, the fewer times it has to be recovered and relaunched to complete a given mission.

Solving this problem starts with reducing the weight of the vehicle. Once it weighs less, the syntactic foam that provides buoyancy can be cut back to decrease the diameter and size. Cutting back the foam we will reduce drag, leading to increased efficiency while maintaining stability, security, and control of the vehicle. To reduce the weight of different components of REMUS, she is working from a solidworks model to go through different parts of the whole assembly. Potential changes include looking for materials with a higher strength-to-weight ratio or higher buoyancy.  In addition, integrating more recent designs to some instruments (the original 6000 was designed about a decade ago) results in smaller instruments. Changing various sensor attachments and supports also cuts down on weight. With a smaller vehicle, some of these parts can be reduced. Overall, her project entails developing new technological methods for sampling and surveying, a frontier for oceanography.