II. DAY EIGHT: Wednesday, July 14, 2004
I began my day sorting my creatures. I'm actually getting pretty good at it. I found the tiniest sea star and was able to put it into the vial totally intact. After lunch I was invited to observe an experiment going on in the cold lab downstairs. It was being conducted by Kelly Dorgan a PHD candidate working with Peter Jumars on the process of bioturbation in worms. Bioturbation is the process of burrowing and eating mud, sand or soil depending on the animal's habitat. There is a good reason why they call it a cold lab even with a jacket on I was freezing. They had set up a clean tank filled with clear gelatin. Light is deflected through the gelatin causing a color spectrum. They make a small hole in the gelatin and place the worm on it. The worm begins to burrow into the gelatin, as he works to burrow a blue aura radiates from his head. As the worm becomes more comfortable in his new environment the aura disappears. They explained that when the color is present the worm is under stress. Interesting, research on the stress levels of worms? Not really, the group hopes to improve our ability to predict when, where and how mud and sand on the sea floor will be mixed. When asked why it had to be conducted in a cold lab I was told it was needed to keep the gelatin consistent. To understand the importance of worms I quote Darwin, who studied earthworms and published his last book on the subject "worms have played a more important part in the history of the world than most persons would at first suppose". I spend the rest of the day sorting creatures. That evening we attended a lecture on changes in patterns of circulation caused by salinity in coastal areas.
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