Big hopes.- Steve Blatnica

At sea for 3 days. Work level on board continues at a feverish rate, and geologists during the day are running around the deck like ants (it is understood that I’m an absolute fan of ants, and this in no means is an attempt to lessen their work). That was important to explain. Researchers and crew have been preparing the piston core for two days now. It has been explain to me this is one of the most dangerous sampling techniques on this cruise. Safety was apparent as the piston core was being deployed. I was made aware of this when the resident technician mentioned the tension on the wire was so strong as it moved out of the sediment 200m below, that it would cut a person in half if it were to break. Therefore, staying within a safe distance was relatively important. I listen when I hear things like that.

With the sediment collected by the research teams they will be able to look back close to 10,000 years into earths history. From the samples they hope to uncover clues to changes that have taken place. From climate changes to magnetic field changes on earth. Some scientists are interested in isolating DNA from the sample, still others hope to extract fish scales and teeth to calculate population numbers. Those numbers will allow them to look back thousands of years to how many of a particular species (like sardines) was living at the time. That’s a powerful ability!

It will exciting to see the research that’s going to be happening during the night watch (5pm-5am). I will be switching to that time schedule starting on Wednesday. In the mean time I’ve had a great time helping with the daily video capture and editing process. I have to admit, it’s much easier talking to a group of high school students, than it is talking to one camera.

S. Blatnica

Midpark High School, Cleveland OH.

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54 Responses to Big hopes.- Steve Blatnica

  1. Dylan Pachla says:

    Why is it easier talking to a group of high school students than one camera?

    • Cassidy Broz says:

      That’s really interesting how the researchers can look back and determine how many types of animals were living at that time just by digging in the sediment.
      Are they going to research prehistoric species and how they went extinct, or if they have decendants that may be living today?
      You know they did do an experiment on Mythbusters about cords cutting people in half, of course they did pig carcases instead.

  2. Taylor Hunt says:

    I think it is interesting that the piston core was so dangerous and you still went on with the experiment

  3. claudia sladick says:

    I was wondering, why are the techniques of piston coring so dangerous?

  4. Michaela Charlton says:

    It is interesting what you are doing with the sediment. It is also werid that you have different shifts. Do you kow what you will be doing on the night shift? (And be nice to your researching friends who scurry around like ants.)

  5. katie bainbridge says:

    how do you isolate DNA?

  6. Torrie K says:

    Are there any more sampling technics that you can do? And if you can why don’t you use the easier or less dangerous one than the piston?

    • Scotlynn Morgan says:

      I like the part in your blog about the people running around like ants! This was very interesting about the piston. Have fun with this experiment!

  7. Becca Sharp says:

    how can a fish tooth help you find out population numbers?

    • calechoes says:

      Fish teeth are well preserved in deep sea mud. So if we weigh a given volume of mud and know how many years is represented by that mud sample, we can calculate the “rate of sedimentation” [how long much mud landed on the bottom in a given year in a sample. Then, if you count the number of fish teeth in the mud, you can calculate the rate of accumulation of teeth in the bottom sediments. That rate can be converted to an estimate of the fish population that produced all those teeth. Dick Norris

  8. Haley Klier says:

    I think it’s interesting how you can look at one sample and learn so much. I hope you’ll be able to adjust to the crazy schedule.

  9. Jessica Barnes says:

    How does the piston core work?

  10. Erica Morgan says:

    why is it so dangerous if the cord were to break? like how could that cut someone in half?

    • calechoes says:

      It’s not the core, but the wire holding the core. When we pull the core out of the bottom, we exert some 12000 lbs of tension on the wire. If the wire breaks it snaps like a big rubber band–that whipping wire is mighty dangerous. Fortunately I’ve never seen that happen…hope I never do… Dick Norris

  11. Bridget Jackson says:

    What are you going to be doing on the night shift?

  12. Stephanie S. says:

    Wow, to read that if the wire breaks the tension could cut someone in half seems very scary.

  13. Jessica Noe says:

    What would you do if there was an accident while piston coring?

    • calechoes says:

      If it was really bad, we’d drop what we are doing and head to Santa Barbara or to Los Angeles…safety first. Most of the time, it is just a few cuts and scrapes…. Dick Norris

  14. Taylor Charvat says:

    When going to work on the night shift, what will you be observing that cannot be done during the day?

  15. Brittany Randolph says:

    How can you deturmine population numbers of the fish from the sample?

    • calechoes says:

      If you comment is about the fish record in sediment, the answer is–we look at the fish scales! By counting the number of scales preserved in a given amount of mud, we can get a pretty good idea what the population of fish was like that produced the scales. We can also use fish teeth the same way. Dick Norris

  16. Kayleigh Berendt says:

    What will you be researching during your new shift?

  17. Kyla Johnson says:

    How can you use fish scales and teeth to find populatin numbers? And how does the piston core work, I wouldn’t have finished the experiment after seeinf how dangerous it was!

  18. Stephen Prusa says:

    What other type of system would the scientists conduct to get the DNA out of the sediment rocks?

    • calechoes says:

      This is very “Jurassic Park” like stuff. We use “pyrosequencing” (also called 454 sequencing) to collect the genetic code from little strands of DNA extracted from the sediment. These short genetic codes are then fit together with powerful computers that look for overlapping strands of the genetic code. That way we can reconstruct the genetic sequences of relatively long strands of DNA that can be matched to the DNA of living organisms. It turns out that DNA can be quite well reserved in sediment if the DNA strands get stuck to sand grains.

  19. Nicole Bito says:

    When you say that you are excited to see what research will be happening during the night, does this mean that you do research during both the night and day? If so, why do you do the research at night? I find that interesting.

    • calechoes says:

      To collect mud we work in the day when it is easier to see what is happening on deck (and hence, is safer). At night, a lot of animals like fish as squids come to the surface to feed making them easy to collect with nets. These animals swim back into the depths during the day where it is dark and they are relatively safe from predators.

  20. Ellie Johns says:

    When you go on the night shift will you still video tape what is going on around you, or will it be too dark?

    • calechoes says:

      There are lots of spot lights on to make it safe to work at night. We work 24 hours of the day because it costs about $35,000 a day to run the ship. No time to waste merely sleeping! Dick Norris

  21. Kaitlyn Mazzola says:

    What are you and the crew going to do if there is an accident with the piston?

    • calechoes says:

      Every ship has people trained medically on board. It is very rare that there is an accident at sea, but the ship is very close to shore and help could arrive quickly.

  22. Tia K. says:

    why is the pistion core work so dangerous?

    • calechoes says:

      The piston core is very large and dropped into the seafloor with quite a bit of force. This means it can go deep into the sediment. When the core is pulled back out, there is a lot of tension on the metal cable being used to pull the corer back out of the mud. If the tension gets too great, the cable could snap, so they watch the tension very closely on board the ship to make sure that doesn’t happen.

      Sometimes a piston core will get stuck in the seafloor and they just can’t pull it back out again without putting too much tension on the line. Rather than risking a cable snap somewhere on the ship, they will general cut the line. However, decisions like this are not made lightly. These devices are expensive, and as much as possible we try not to leave any equipment behind in the ocean!

  23. alexis holt says:

    I am interested in learning how the Santa Barba has changed over the years.Why do you believe it is easier to talk to a group of high school students than one camera?

  24. Marina Honkala says:

    It’s amazing how much information can be collected fro just that one piece of sediment and also how dangerous it is to get that piece. All the information collected from that sediment will be so good for the field of science though.

  25. Baylee Stepien says:

    I think it is interesting how much you can learn from sediment. I think its incredible how one sample can tell you about a place so many years ago.

    • calechoes says:

      Yah, that’s why I’m a paleontologist! I like the idea of using pollen from plants, ash from fires, and other evidence to see what California was like when mammoths roamed the landscape! Dick Norris

  26. Amani Dakdouk says:

    Were you expecting to come accross any problems involving danger?

  27. Sam Neric says:

    I think that the information about the sediment and what is trying to be studied is very interesting. Also, I was wondering, what make the piston core sampling so dangerous?

    • calechoes says:

      The core weights about 6000 lbs when full of sediment. That is a lot of tension on the trawl wire. When we pull the core out of the bottom, the tension goes up to 12000 lbs. If the wire were to snap, the broken end would go flying across the deck–bad news for anyone in the way….Dick Norris

  28. Kristen Stupka says:

    It is interesting that it takes two days to prepare the piston core. Why does it take that long?

    • calechoes says:

      There are a pile of bolts! The outside pipe is also very heavy. However, once the core is assembled once, we can use it over and over just changing out the pipe. That takes ~1 hour. Dick Norris

  29. Emma S. says:

    What will you be researching during the night shift that is different during the day shift?

  30. Kaylie S says:

    Is it really possible that you could look back 10,000 years into Earth’s history with the sediment that is collected?! That’s really cool!

  31. nathan harper says:

    I think everything you guys are doing is pretty cool. let me know how the piston core is so dangerous and how that goes for you guys.

  32. Michael Schuller says:

    I was just curious, how the techniques of the piston coring be so dangerous and are there any more efficient ways to receive the same sediment.

  33. Kaitlin Pierse says:

    I wanted to know what would happen if something went wrong with the piston core since it is so dangerous?

  34. Torrie Bailey says:

    what can be found at night that is different from anything during the day?

  35. Sam lopez says:

    Is there any other method to collect sediment then using the piston core?

  36. Brandon Sours says:

    Did you find what you were looking for in the sediment?

  37. Josh Pituch says:

    That is probably a good idea, that you listened to that. What are you hopeing to learn from these piston cores?

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