Shelf Sea Biogeochemistry blog

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

An Irish Observer onboard RRS Discovery

By Finn Ni Fhaolain

As an Irish Observer, my role onboard is to see that the scientific work being conducted and that the locations being sampled, are the same as those outlined in the initial report submitted to the Irish Marine Institute before the cruise began. Should the need ever arise, in certain situations, I am also to act as an intermediary between Irish officials and the ship. Irish Observer positions on foreign research vessels in and around Irish waters provide a fantastic opportunity for early career level researchers to gain experience on international projects and they are encouraged to actively participate in the research efforts of the cruise.

Finn (blue hat) onboard RRS Discovery: Image Credit: Torben Stichel

During the initial day of the cruise I found out which areas I was needed most to help with. This involved filtering water samples from the CTD stainless steel rosette for organic and inorganic, dissolved and particulate nutrients and chlorophyll in the water column. These samples were taken and filtered, as part of a small team, and then frozen for later analysis by different research institutes involved in the BSS project. I spent the rest of the time helping with the sediment coring and some species sorting as I’ve some experience in these areas. I tried to lend a hand with as many other activities as possible, like core slicing and Radium sampling which I had never done before. I also enjoyed photographing the deployment of landers, buoys, the Auto Sub and gliders.

Deploying the CTD rosette: Image Credit: Torben Stichel

Having previously sampled for macrofauna in deep sea and freshwater environments, I looked forward to sampling in shelf seas in a variety of substrates. I got to observe very different fauna, those more associated with soft substrates such as starfish and flat fish.

Caught by the trawl! 

It was very interesting to see the deployment of SMART buoys and landers having read so much about them at university and having used their observational data for college projects. I particularly enjoyed learning about the set up of the Auto Sub as autonomous equipment of this kind had not been present on any cruises I have been previously part of.

The cruise not only gave me the opportunity to observe different disciplines of marine science all working together – marine biology, chemical oceanography and biogeochemistry, to name a few – it made me more aware of the division of job types between technical and academic. I felt this was a significant differentiation to become aware of, as it aids early career level scientists in deciding where on the scientific spectrum they wish to work. 

Autosub: Image Credit Richard Cooke

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