The IMarEST awarded one of its £500 student bursaries to Anna Belcher, a PhD student at the National Oceanography Centre, to complete a science cruise to the Eastern Tropical North Pacific.
IMarEST bursaries are targeted at undergraduate and postgraduate students, cadets and apprentices studying or working in marine engineering, marine science and marine technology and related topics. The bursary can be used to support planned or existing projects, ranging from activities and events, promoting marine engineering, science and technology as a career, undertaking research in your country of residence or overseas, or undertaking other voluntary activities.
Read Anna's account of the trip:
In December 2016, I was lucky enough to join a group of American scientists and help support their research cruise to the Eastern Tropical North Pacific. The cruise was led by scientists from the University of Washington, Seattle and brought together scientists interested in the degradation of sinking particles. I was fortunate enough to be invited to join Professor Rick Keil’s group and help with particle trapping and in situ incubations, as well as collecting pumped water samples.
The night time trapping team
The ship left from Manzanillo, Mexico on 28 December, and once on board the work began prepping the floating sediment trap incubators (PHORCYS) and making sure we were all ready for the first set of deployments. It was great to learn more about the techniques they used and the different tracers that we would be using to monitor reactions in the incubators. We were working in the oxygen minimum zone off Mexico, so were particularly interested in the anaerobic reactions. After the usual couple of days to really get everything working correctly, we were catching lots of particles for everyone to use for their experiments. The research cruise lasted just over two weeks, we deployed a total of 42 traps and 60 water pumps, a great achievement for the whole group. It was really interesting to be able to learn about the different experiments happening on board the ship and was a great chance to network with some amazing scientists from the US and Mexico.
Deploying the sediment trap incubators
Working at night to deploy and recover the sediment traps, we managed to escape the intense heat of the day and got to enjoy concocting ourselves the curious meal that is ‘mid-rats’ where pretty much anything goes from cereal, to curry to ice cream! We’d start the day with breakfast, and finish with dinner, overlapping with the rest of the scientists on board and getting the chance to chat about what they were working on. It was a great chance to really learn more about American institutions and the process of getting post-doc positions etc., as well as just getting some great career advice from those who’d been in the game a long time. Despite becoming creatures of the night and only seeing a little daylight, we were treated to some beautiful sunrises, sunsets and moonsets. We also managed to find time to fit in the tradition of decorating polystyrene cups, attaching them to some of our water samplers, sending said water samplers down to about 4000 m depth, and remarking at the tiny cups that came back up having had all the air squished out of them – now added to the collection of tiny shrunken cups from each research cruise I have been on. Check out the cruise blog at hohohomz.wordpress.com to find out more about life on board and the science we were doing.
Cups from all the gang on board, decorated and ready to send to the ocean bottom and back to make them shrink!
Working to deploy the incubators whilst enjoying the sunset
One of the amazing sunsets
It was an incredible 3 weeks at sea, and I’d like to thank the IMarEST for the funding contribution they made towards my participation in the research cruise. I learnt lots of great new skills during the trip that I can apply to my own research and share with others in the UK. It was a great opportunity to work with the US scientists, and I know that from the strong friendships formed I will always be able to seek their advice in the future and will hopefully have many more collaborations with them in the future.