So, yes, it’s true, another mesocosm experiment is on the go! Kind of harder this time, if you consider the cold, the wind, the amount of analyses being done, and… the local boats that transfer tourists back and forth from the cruise ship several times! Just to provoke us that they are on holidays!
Passenger ferry entering into the bay and soon followed by boats transfer passenger doing waves and taunting us by being in holidays!!
Cold is undoubtedly the worst enemy, not only during the sampling process, but also in general, as people during wintertime need more energy (more food, more sleep… or is it only my feeling??). Energy is flying away from our bodies a bit more easily this time in Villefranche and, after only a few days of work, exhaustion is apparent! However, this is just the ‘not-so-nice’ part of the experiment. The major part is an exciting event with new and old members participating, a lot of memories and many happy and funny moments. Exploring the city in the search for dinner (as the restaurant nearby is closed, which actually didn’t disappoint us too much…let’s be honest!) as well as in the search for super markets, which are all far far away from the port!
It’s a unique experience after all that for sure gets better day by day. People are now settled down in their labs and things are more convenient than at the beginning, when a slight panic feeling overcame many of us (hm was it me?). Just joking. Positive thinking is all we need! And love (don’t forget about it even when sampling!), as the song says…
As it was said, it`s been 4 days of sampling, until now with no major complications; only the weather and few inconveniences (loosing a hook and having to replace it by a peddle, one buoy to close to allow the cubi pass through -which the divers fixed this immediately-, and the autosampler coming only half full) this are minor things that the team have outcome fast and safe. When samples arrive from the 8:30am sampling, all the bottles for the 10:00am team are ready and the team waiting. The boat just change passengers and goes back to the mesocosms. Most of us had already experienced and get into the sampling routine and its rhythm which makes things easier. The fact that Lisa runs from her Lab. to prepare tea to those coming from sampling when is very cold also helps a lot!
After sampling, scientist disappear in their labs and the pumps start its melody. On this days, however, it`s very probable that a heavy rain would be listen even stronger.
Weather forecast for tomorrow isn`t very nice; rain, cold, some wind…. we will see.
As Lisa wrote in the last post, since the experimental period started, the weather isn’t very nice… Actually it’s the 4th day of sampling and sun didn’t really shows up since…
- Thursday (1st day) wasn’t too bad (the rain arrived after the samplings);
- Friday the same type of weather but for the first 5am sampling of the experiment it was very cold;
- Saturday rain for the 8.30am sampling and wind for the 10.30 sampling;
- Today: rain started with the 5am sampling and still haven’t stopped. On top of this we have a nice swell entering the bay (very bad for mesocosms)… Not very easy to do our job in these conditions….
At 7am this morning when the light of the day arrived, what did we see on the montains behind Villefranche: snow!!
Sampling under the rain with snow in background…
Also very impressive weather events was on Thursday around 4pm during 2-3 hours rain and thunder storm settle in the bay… This give very nice pictures and hopefully we didn’t have sampling at this time of the day:
Can you see the mesocosms?? A bit hard.. (thursday afternoon storm).
It’s maybe time to explain how our days are made with. We have a 2 days cycle: Day 1 and Day 2.
On D1 & D2 there is the 8.30 am sampling for what we call ‘core parameters’: carbonate chemistry; pigments; nutrient; particulate organic carbon, phosphorus and nitrogen; … And the CTD (Conductivity Temperature Depth instrument) cast at 11am.
Than, on Day 1 there is, in addition of the normal sampling, the 10.30am for every two days parameters such as taxonomy and coccolithophores assemblages.
On D2, there is the 5am sampling for processes. In this we have all the nitrogen fixation realized by Plymouth Marine Laboratory (see Lisa post, Friday 22nd); microbial metabolism (OGS Italia); Viral Production (HCMR, Greece) and Primary Production (local team).
This is a little bit of organization (who is going when, prepare the boxes, put the right bottles into the boxes …) but in few days (if the weather get a little bit better) everything will run like clockwork!!
The Story so far:
In the Mediterranean Sea (not) far, far away………
It’s been 6 months since our intrepid scientists last visited the mesocosms. How will they cope with the change of location, the change in temperature & (more importantly) the change in sea temperature? There’s only one way to find out!!
Ok, joking aside, I’m sure that more than a few of us were a bit apprehensive about the change in sampling conditions; the last MedSeA mesocosm experiment took place in June/July last year in Corsica. The weather was mostly hot & sunny & most people sampled in shorts, tshirts & swimsuits with our feet dangling off the side of the cubis (our small floating sampling platforms). The water temperature was warm and comfortable and some even swam or kayaked to & fro.
Thus, a few of us greeted the news that these mesocosm experiments would be taking place in February with not a small amount of trepidation. What would be most practical to wear sampling? How could we still manipulate the integrated sampler & sampling bottles whilst still maintaining some feeling in our fingertips? Just how cold would pre-dawn sampling actually be?
Two days into the experiment, I can reveal that our fears were (mostly!) unfounded. After wrapping up warm & wearing either waterproof clothing or wetsuits it was as if we’d never been off the cubis.
Yes, it is cold, but it’s given us the chance to try various hot beverages from around Europe. So far we’ve had English Tea & Italian coffee, we look forward to Greek coffee tomorrow!
Now we can only hope that the air & water temperatures increase & bring on the start of the spring bloom – a period typically occurring in early spring where the abundance of phytoplankton increases significantly. The timing, size & length of a spring bloom can alter due to a variety of conditions such as nutrients & temperature, so it will be interesting to see the effect of ocean acidification. For me in particular it will be interesting to see the effects of the spring bloom under these conditions on various mechanisms within the nitrogen cycle – namely nitrogen fixation, nitrification & nitrate uptake.
In the meantime I’ll look forward to warming up with next hot beverage!
You might, as a conscientious reader of the blog, think that we are not working and don’t have anything to tell..but it isn’t the truth!!
Sampling will start tomorrow morning at 8am followed by the 8.30 and 10.30 am samplings. All participants are arrived and have set up their own lab space. Still have to organize the small details !
From now each day, one of us should be able to write her/his impressions, tell a nice story of science or life in Villefranche. Every day ??! …well, will try 😉
Since Friday, the nine mesocosms are installed on site and they’ve been deployed. That’s mean that the divers have detached the bags from the drum and fill the bags with the surrounding seawater. And finally the bags have been closed at the bottom with the sediment trap system (we’ll soon detail more our home made mesocosms in ‘About the project’).
Now we can see them from the road and do nice pictures!
Mesocosms view from the Corniche
We still have lot to do before starting sampling inside. First sampling are planed for the end of the week (21st). For the next days, we’ll have to acidify everyday by adding ‘acid’ water into the bags. We also have to finish to prepare the laboratories. Not that easy to fit all the scientists with their material!!
Teams are launching the last mesocosms of one cluster.
After the bad weather of Monday, sun is back in Villefranche! In two days we have been able to install all the mesocosms at sea. They are now all set in front of the station (thanks to all the guys who have sea side view for the pictures!) for more than one month. This step require a good synchronicity between shore and sea teams.
Preliminary work for the diver team, was to install 11 anchors of 2m, by hand at 21m depth. Than they had to install the buoys at the surface. When 3 mesocosms are ready (shore team), from the pontoon we give them the mesocosms and they attach them together before towing on site. For the shore team, once all what we explained yesterday (preparing drums and bags) is ready we just have attach the bag to the drum. However it’s not that easy because we first have to deploy the whole bag on the pontoon.
A group of mesocosms being tow by the Vellele.
One bag deployed on the pontoon
The group is very happy of the good weather condition (except maybe Monday…) and the fact we can keep the schedule. The next two days will start an another important step: deploying and close the bags…
Perfect conditions to start the MedSeA mesocosms experiment….
Samir preparing the bags under sleet
Even if we are working in Mediterranean Sea, extreme weather condition events can happen … today we had to build 3 new mesocosms under rain which was nearly snow (sleet)! It change a lot from what we had in Stareso where we had high temperature (25-30°C). But the view from the pontoon worth all the freezing hands and wet feet! The weather didn’t delay the progress in land but we couldn’t put the 3 first (ready since Friday) to the sea. However this part (put them to the sea) is relatively fast so we should keep the schedule!
Margaux, Samir and Justine assembling a bag with its ‘drum’
It’s also time to let you know about the progress we did since February 1st (when the experiment officially start!). First of all was to build what we call the drum: it’s the upper part of the mesocosms. This was relatively easy and fast like playing with giant Lego! In one day we were able to do the 9!
The drum on the pontoon
The bags need to be equipped at the bottom with a circle and a net to allow the bag to fill with water but without big organisms such as jelly fish or small larvae. This step required high artistic skills to draw lines, cut the bag and attach the net. Only a women team can do it properly!!
Justine and Laure preparing one bag
Justine and Laure attaching the net to the circle
But this, also imply to carry everything…
Amélie and Laure carrying one bag ready