I’m on a Boat

Bryce Penta, University of Notre Dame

When you think of scientists, you usually picture someone in a white lab coat holding a beaker full of chemicals. While that’s part of being a scientist, field work is our way of getting messy and calling it work. Going out into the field, we give up the comfort and stability of the lab and its carefully controlled conditions. Sometimes this work involves a real field, other times its an ocean.


For seven days, the lab and I cruised through the Atlantic Ocean collecting hundreds of samples. Over the course of the first five days we shifted from the greenish waters near the coast to the crystal clear waters of the deep ocean.

I spent most of the week running the samples through a flourometer to measure their photosynthetic efficiency. As we moved from station to station, I observed the shift in the productivity of the phytoplankton. Along with these stations, I measured the effect on photosynthetic efficiency by variations in nutrient levels of vitamin B12 and nitrate in a controlled experiment.

IMG_5989Fig 1. Setting up the experiment for nutrient limitation.

Though science was the main objective of the research cruise, I think that the trip provided a great way for the entire lab to bond, especially when Peter caught a 55 inch wahoo! Science isn’t all lab coats and fume hoods. Sometimes its a boat in the middle of the ocean.


This project is possible due to funding from the NSF College of Charleston Summer REU program and the Grice Marine Laboratory. Project ideation and collaboration with Dr. Peter Lee and the Di Tullio lab from the College of Charleston. Lab space and facilities provided by the Hollings Marine Laboratory.


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