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13 August, 1999

Summer meeting with research team in Alabama and Florida.

Question 3: What is a standard curve and what do you use it for?

I never knew that being chosen to help conduct research in Antarctica would lead to so much travel to warm locations. August in the southeast United States means humidity and temperatures in the 80s and 90s! This time I traveled to Birmingham, Alabama and Melbourne, Florida to meet with members of the research team I will be working with in Antarctica. Although it was great to get to know each other, the main purpose for the trip was to famiiarize me with the project and to take a practice run through the laboratory techniques we will be using in the field.

First I spent 5 days at the University of Alabama Birmingham with Drs. Amsler, McClintock and Iken. There will also be a graduate student from UAB going with us. Katrin Iken and I spent most of the time in the lab trying to set up a standard curve of sample concentrations of different types of plant extract. The perfect standard curve eluded us for a long time--Katrin finally solved the problem in October. We did every possible sort of trouble-shooting. The spectrophotometer (machine that identifies concentrations of substances in unknown liquid samples by comparing them to a known standard by measuring the samples' absorbtion of light at a certain wavelength) was working correctly, there was nothing wrong with the plant extracts, our math and solution concentrations were correct, and we were mixing the samples properly. Very frustrating! We also worked out techniques for preparing and testing samples of macroalgae. A fresh shipment of Fucus sp. (a common brown intertidal algae with knobby forked air sacs) was sent to us from the east coast of the US. As we cut it up and moved it from pan to bag to beaker, long trailing threads of seaweed slime clung to everything and anything! After several tries, we found an effective way to homogenize small samples of the algae using a machine that looks like it should be used for milk shakes.

Compared to the lab time in Alabama, Florida was a vacation. All outside! I met Dr. Baker at his house in Melbourne, and we drove down to one of his study sites in the Florida Keys. We collected and surveyed sponges while snorkeling and SCUBA diving. After Dr. Baker returned to Florida Institute of Technology, I stayed in the Keys and finished off the dives I needed to be okayed to dive at Palmer. On the eleven dives I made there, I went mostly to coastal reef areas and wrecks. The silvery schools of barracuda and dolphin fish at the wrecks were very impressive.

School starts in less than a month. My next journal entry will come in February.

Answer 2: It stands for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.

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