16 Aug 2012

CCE LTER Cruise: Day 19, Trace Metal Group

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Written by Dana Lebental, Teacher at Sea & Dr. Kathy Barbeau, Iron Expert at Sea & Rhyming Queen

August 15- Day 19

The amazing tale of four people, adrift in the sea, trying to study the oxygen produced for you and for me…


Team Barbeau

Team Barbeau

Dr. Kathy Barbeau

Iron Binding Expert in the Open Ocean

Dr. Barbeau was the best, and up for the task, of measuring the iron, adrift in the sea…

Not the iron your mom uses to flatten your shirts, but the element iron, that is found in the earth,

The most abundant element found on this earth (at least by mass). Iron is used in many  things, from ships, cars and boats, to airplanes that go fast.

In the ocean, iron is special, for it is indeed, an element used by phytoplankton as a nutrient they need.


Iron Team

Iron Team: has an awesome task of finding out how much dissolved iron is in the water at different depths.

This team that you see, it is a team of three.

Angel, Adam & Teresa, you see, and Jon who hangs out with them when he can’t seem to find his key.

In order to accomplish this task, the task of measuring iron adrift in the water, they must be dedicated (and fast).

Water can be contaminated by other water at sea, so this is the job of this team, since water that has been touched by the ship is no longer clean.

The ship that we sail, is made of steel, a form of iron, you see, which will contaminate our samples at sea.

Special equipment is used, and not shared, for this equipment is covered in plastic for the metallically impaired.


They obtain their water from a special “clean” Conductivity, Temperature, Depth (CTD) device, that is covered in plastic parts and special paint to prevent rust from forming on the device.

Then they go into their “clean van,”  which is a trailer strapped on the deck, their space away from the “rusty can”…(ship didn’t rhyme).

Clean Lab

Clean Lab

In the lab the bottles are strapped, on the plastic racks attached until they are tapped.


All-plastic Niskin bottles


Emptying Bottles

Emptying Bottles

Angel is pumping the bottles with gas, not the gas that you had after beans late last…

But the gas is nitrogen, which is of course clean, this gas helps push the water to the next scene.



The water passes through a tube to a filter, a filter held only through plastic gloves, I’m  telling you sister.

Teresa is certain the water is clean, since she is also standing under an air filter that hums like a hive of bees.

This filter ensures that air in the lab is as clean as can be, so that the water won’t be contaminated and look like tea.

Water Filtering

Water Filtering: Teresa holding the water under an air filter, to ensure that there are no particles in the air that is touching the water.

At the end of the day,  some of the water is stored, in these funny containers which we keep on board.

Iron in Water Incubation

Iron in on-deck Incubations: Sometimes iron is added to water (as a control) to see how much more phytoplankton might grow with added iron. This water in incubated for 72 hours at time.

The reason we are interested in iron (yes why?), is because it is the metal in short supply,

Iron is known to help phytoplankton grow, this growing is important as so many know,

Phytoplankton, feed zooplankton, who feed fish big and small, in addition phytoplankton produce oxygen for us humans, the big and the small.






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One Response to “CCE LTER Cruise: Day 19, Trace Metal Group”

  1. […] 04:00 Conductivity, Temperature and Depth (CTD) device deployed into the water, when it returns I have had to collect the water, each bottle opens […]