Tag Archives: Andrew

Babbin Blogin 5: The Joys of Color-Coding

By Andrew Babbin

Reliably by the third day of a cruise (let alone three weeks in), my brain is utterly frazzled. In those tough times, I must rely on a method of sorting understandable to any preschooler with an aptitude for crayons: group by color. I rapidly lose all capability to think rationally (in fact, I’m not sure I ever even had said ability), but the differences between red and blue and yellow and green (and even orange) remain apparent. So just like separating M&Ms and eating the icky green ones first to save the delicious yellow ones for last, I must with my experiments too match purple to purple and pink to pink.

Every color has a meaning – from which type of chemical gets injected into which bottle to which bottle gets sampled for which experiment – and each such meaning is as obtuse and unintuitive as the next. The system did make sense years ago, but the time has long passed since I remembered why something seemed so logical at one point and now is simply incomprehensible. Alas it doesn’t matter though, and therein lies the joy of color coding. Add blue chemical to blue bottle. Insert yellow needle into yellow vial. Use red pipette for red incubation.

I am always needled about my fondness for such use of color, but when the same people come begging for my spectrum of labeling tape, they leave with the only color of which I am able to part: the white one. White in my color palette is so plain (perhaps consistent with my propensity to sunbathe on deck to achieve some sort of pigment in my skin regardless of whether the hue is a member of the brown or red family). I use it sparingly when I must, because really, compared to the rich colors, it’s so very boring.

babbin sample vialsPerhaps the moral of the story here is that organization ahead of time pays off, although I don’t think I’m old enough yet (read this as I don’t want to be old enough yet) to impart wisdom. At least grouping things by colors are fun. I could have done everything just as easily using the Greek alphabet and paring the Chi to the Chi and the Phi to the Phi. Well that’s all for now – we’re about to head down the home stretch and I have six intensive samplings in six consecutive days. Perhaps my next entry will be about another joy of mine imparted as a toddler: rhyming. Or perhaps I’ll bite the bullet and finally write about my research. Nah, I sincerely doubt that.


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Ward Lab Research

by Bess Ward

About half of the people in my lab group at Princeton are on the ETSP cruise (Nick, Andrew, Amal, Bonnie, Jimmy), all measuring various aspects of the nitrogen cycle.  My own main project here is to measure the rates of denitrification and anammox, the two bacterial pathways by which fixed nitrogen is lost in the ocean.  This involves incubating a lot of seawater with stable isotopes of nitrogen and measuring the gases and other nitrogen compounds produced.  The seawater is incubated in big silver bags, which are composed of two layers of plastic and a metal layer.  Think giant Capri Sun.  We fill the bags very carefully from the CTD bottles and incubate them in the cold room for a couple of days, sampling every 12 hours.

Our goal is to figure out how fast the bacterial reactions occur and to try to understand what controls the rates.  Just like in your garden, we suspect that nutrients are the most important controlling factor.  More food, faster rates.  So we carry out various treatments in the experiment:  add different kinds of food, a bit of extra oxygen, etc.  Sure enough, it’s food that matters – everything goes faster with more food.

Bess sporting the Ward Lab t-shirt.  Design by Andrew Babbin, photo by Emilio Garcia

Bess sporting the Ward Lab t-shirt. Design by Andrew Babbin, photo by Emilio Garcia

The best food is stuff that Rick collected in his traps.  This is exactly the kind of food that the bacteria would normally get, we just make sure they receive an extra helping.  We just completed the big bag experiment at a five day station in the offshore water, and we plan to do it again at a coastal station.  The coastal ocean is richer in nutrients than the offshore water, so we expect faster rates at that station.  Still, we hypothesize that more food will be even better.

Our lab does research on many aspects of the nitrogen cycle.  These reactions are illustrated in the design on my T-Shirt. This is the lab T-shirt, which was designed by my Ph.D. student Andrew Babbin. See his blog entries for more nitrogen biogeochemistry and observations on life at sea.

Aproximadamente la mitad de las personas de mi grupo de laboratorio de

Bess and Brian sampling a CTD cast and adding water to the incubation bags.

Bess and Brian sampling a CTD cast and adding water to the incubation bags.

Princeton están en la ETSP crucero (Nick, Andrew, Amal, Bonnie, Jimmy), todos miden diferentes aspectos del ciclo del nitrógeno. Mi proyecto principal es medir las tasas de desnitrificación y anammox, las dos vías de bacterias por el que fija el nitrógeno se pierde en el océano. Esto implica la incubación de una gran cantidad de agua de mar con isótopos estables de nitrógeno y la medición de los gases y otros compuestos de nitrógeno producidos. El agua de mar se incuba en grandes bolsas de plata, que se componen de dos capas de plástico y una capa de metal. Piense gigante Capri sol. Llenamos las bolsas con mucho cuidado de las botellas del CTD y se incuba en la cámara fría durante un par de días, el muestreo cada 12 horas.

Nuestro objetivo es averiguar qué tan rápido se producen las reacciones bacterianas y tratar de entender lo que controla las tarifas. Al igual que en su jardín, sospechamos que los nutrientes son el factor de control más importante. Más comida, las tasas más rápidas. Así que llevamos a cabo diversos tratamientos en el experimento: agregar diferentes tipos de comida, un poco de oxígeno adicional, etc Efectivamente, es comida lo que importa – todo va más rápido, con más comida.

La mejor comida es algo que Rick recoge en sus trampas. Este es exactamente el tipo de comida que las bacterias que normalmente conseguir, nos aseguraremos de que reciban una ración extra. Acabamos de terminar el gran experimento de la bolsa en una estación de cinco días en el agua marina, y tenemos la intención de volver a hacerlo en una estación costera. El océano costero es más rica en nutrientes que el agua en alta mar, por lo que esperamos que las tasas más rápidas de esa estación. Sin embargo, la hipótesis de que más alimentos será aún mejor.

Nuestro laboratorio realiza investigaciones sobre diversos aspectos del ciclo del nitrógeno. Estas reacciones se ilustran en el diseño de mi camiseta. Esta es la camiseta laboratorio, que fue diseñado por mi doctorado estudiante Andrew Babbin. Ver sus entradas de blog para más biogeoquímica nitrógeno y observaciones sobre la vida en el mar.

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Arts and crafts: Babbin Bloggin #3

by Andrew Babbin

Cups before shrinkage

Cups before shrinkage

Shrunk cups.  Better to shrink cups than human heads...

Shrunk cups. Better to shrink cups than human heads…

Today was absolutely a fantastic day for all of us to reconnect with our kindergarten youths. We decorated Styrofoam cups with a full rainbow of colored markers in a variety of designs, with some of our party displaying their artistic talent and some of us (namely myself) showing why we chose to go into science instead of some sort of aesthetic expression. The primary purpose of these cups (some might say the cups themselves are the primary reason for cruising) is to shrink them into smaller sizes by allowing the exceedingly high pressures 3500m below the surface compress the foam and make our drawings tiny. If only Picasso knew he could deform a Styrofoam canvas in such a way, he needn’t have had to paint so strangely.

But, as if coloring in five cups of my own with poorly-constructed geometric shapes weren’t sufficient diversion for the day, I also decided to break out the crochet hooks my mother bought me and make some bracelets out of spare rope. Just a simple chain of slip knots, but they look pretty good to me. They also double as a layer of protection against sticking yourself accidentally in the wrist with stray needles. At least that’s how I justify spending time on them…

Even with all these enjoyable activities inside, I couldn’t not go on deck and take in the sea air. And it sure did pay off! A whale off the port side, swimming opposite the boat, blowing water high into the air as it opened its blowhole! So crazily fantastic. No video of this except the one I recorded in my mind unfortunately because of the suddenness of the rendezvous. *Makes mental note to keep eyes peeled for more whales for the remainder of the voyage*

My cups before we shrunk them.

My cups before we shrunk them.

Hoy fue un día absolutamente fantástico para todos nosotros para volver a conectar con nuestra juventud kindergarten. Decoramos vasos de plástico con un arco iris lleno de marcadores de colores en una variedad de diseños, con algunos de nuestro grupo mostrando su talento artístico y algunos de nosotros (es decir, yo) que muestra por qué nos decidimos a entrar en la ciencia en lugar de algún tipo de expresión estética. El propósito principal de estas copas (algunos podrían decir que las copas son en sí mismos la razón principal de navegación) es reducir su tamaño en tamaños más pequeños, al permitir las altísimas presiones 3500m por debajo de la superficie de comprimir la espuma y hacer que nuestros dibujos pequeña. Si sólo Picasso sabía que podía deformar un lienzo de espuma de poliestireno, de tal manera, que no tiene por qué han tenido que pintar una manera tan extraña.

Pero, como colorante en cinco tazas de mi propia con formas geométricas mal construidas no fuera suficiente diversión para el día, también decidí romper los ganchos de ganchillo mi madre me compró y hacer algunas pulseras de la cuerda de repuesto. Sólo una simple cadena de nudos corredizos, pero se ven bastante bien para mí. Ellos también sirven como una capa de protección contra pegarse a sí mismo accidentalmente en la muñeca con agujas perdidas. Por lo menos así es como yo justifico pasar tiempo con ellos …

Incluso con todas estas actividades divertidas dentro, no podía no salir a cubierta y disfrutar de la brisa marina. Y seguro que valió la pena! Una ballena de la banda de babor, nadando frente al barco, que sopla del agua en el aire, ya que abrió su espiráculo! Así locamente fantástico. No hay videos de este, sino el que grabé en mi mente por desgracia, debido a la rapidez de la cita. * Realiza nota mental para mantener los ojos bien abiertos para más ballenas para el resto del viaje *

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30º3’S 71º57’W

30º3’S 71º57’W by Andrew Babbin

Well, we’re underway, steaming northward at 10 knots. We are spending the next few days preparing for all the multitude of samples we will begin collecting as soon as we are allowed to start conducting science, at 20ºS. This involves typing down all of our gear, hooking up gas lines, mixing chemical reagents, and drinking as much coffee as we can get our hands on. To this last point, the Palmer does not have coffee cups (a surprise to us all!) so during our stay in Valparaiso, most of us bought mugs so we can keep caffeinated. I felt the need to personalize mine so no one confuses it for their own. I’m including a picture of it (the clean lab space behind it is the “before” picture, as in before the chaos that is science at sea begins – we’ll see just how long we’re able to keep the space looking so pristine).andrews clean lab space

Andrew Babbin’s “pre-science” lab space. Brian Peters is peaking his head out from behind a refrigerator.

We have a bit of downtime given just how many days we have before we start sciencing, so a bunch of us have filled the spare hours reading, practicing knots, or singing My Heart Will Go On at the bow of the vessel… Coolest thing so far is that I spotted a penguin swimming yesterday in Valparaiso harbor! I actually didn’t realize that there were penguin species this far north! I guess that’s why I study microbiology. Ciao for now!

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