31 July, 2003
Perhaps I shouldn't admit this, but the most fascinating part of this cruise has not been the science, but rather, the people. Oh sure, this icy seascape where you never know when you may see the next bear or walrus is pretty exciting, but for me, it's the people that I'll remember the most when I return home. A group on board that never ceases to surprise me, for example, is the four graduate students that are part of the science team. Compared to the "old salts" with numerous voyages already behind them, these highly capable and enthusiastic young scientists are in the beginning stages of their promising careers.
One of these very memorable "oceanographers-in-training" is Jeremy Mathis from east Texas. Simply put, he enjoys everything about the sea. Jeremy's passion for sailing and SCUBA diving led him to study oceanography. An undergraduate degree in chemical engineering gives Jeremy a solid foundation in the physical sciences which will come in handy as he pursues his Doctorate at the University of Miami under the supervision of Dr. Dennis Hansell in the Marine and Atmospheric Chemistry Division.
This is Jeremy's first major oceanographic cruise and he's determined to make the most of it. To this end, Jeremy is doing everything he can to help the science team achieve their goals. Depending on the time of day, you can find him directing and monitoring a CTD cast from the dry lab, or drawing nutrient, salinity, and oxygen 18 samples from the rosette in the Baltic Room.
But there's much more. Jeremy is responsible for two kinds of samples that he will describe in own words:
1. Dissolved Organic Material Samples or DOMS- These samples will be analyzed for the amount of dissolved carbon and nitrogen that they contain. This is useful in identifying different water masses and their interactions along the Arctic Shelf Basin. To catch these samples I use an in-line filter called a drip filter to obtain approximately 50-mL of water from the Nisken bottles on the rosette. Once I have drip filtered the sample into a container it is placed in a minus 80 degrees Celsius freezer for the duration of the cruise. This is necessary to preserve the sample for its long trip back to Miami. DOM Samples are being taken at all stations where the water depth is less than 250 meters. Each sample is obtained from the deepest depth of the cast; and,
2. Parcticulate Organic Material Samples or POMS- For these samples I catch 1 liter of water directly from the rosette and filter it using a special filtration device back in my lab. After all the water is filtered I recover the filter pad that contains all of the organic material that was suspended in the water. The water is disposed of and the filter pads are dried to preserve the material that is on them. These are then also placed in the freezer for the return trip home. These samples were only taken during a special section of the cruise called the East of Barrow Canyon Section. During previous cruises sampling has indicated that there are several interesting features occurring near the East of Barrow Canyon Line. By doing an in-depth study of the area (approximately 260 samples), a better understanding of the area will be obtained.
If that's not enough to show how highly motivated Jeremy is consider this: during the east Barrow Canyon stretch of our cruise, he worked around the clock for three-plus days! While the rest of us enjoyed easy 12 hour shifts, Jeremy worked continuously to obtain and filter his POM samples, catching only a few cat-naps between stations. And when I inquired about how he already knew so much about oceanography, Jeremy sheepishly described several books that he had read in preparation for the trip. I recognized one of the titles- a descriptive physical oceanography text- as it had been recommended to me by Chief Scientist, Jim Swift. The difference being that Jeremy has not only read it once- but twice- while I'm still working on chapter 4 (which is not even close to the end).
Better than reading about oceanography, however, is the opportunity to practice it first-hand. To be at sea with the likes of Dr. Swift and the rest of the science team and technical staff is giving him experience that no amount of reading can do. And that's what Jeremy is most excited about for the practical knowledge gained on this cruise is what he can take home and apply to his studies. If you travel or read about the oceans I suspect this won't be the last time you hear about this impressive oceanographer to be.
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