School Email Exchange

Do you analyze your samples right away, or store them for later analysis?  How are they stored?

Posted on October 26 2012

Question submitted by Falmouth Academy

Most of the samples are counted, recorded and stored for further study back on shore.  Once the plastic pieces are counted they are kept in labeled glass vials.  Before being capped they are put into a closed container with a dehumidifier to dry them.  Finally, they are stored in a storage area below decks called the science hold.

Labeled glass vials containing counted plastics from different tows are stored in a container with a dehumidifier before being capped and stored in the science hold.

Greg Boyd uses a luminometer to quantify the amount of bioluminesecent bacteria growing on the plastics in a sample.  He will be able to graph the amounts found in these samples while aboard the Seamans.  He has cultured some bacteria and using a Raman spectrometer, is also able to identify some of the plastic samples aboard.  Both Greg and Kristen Mitchell are scraping biofilm (visible mats of bacteria) off of some of the collected plastic.  They will preserve their samples in the science freezer to be studied at their labs on land-Greg for RNA and DNA analysis and scanning electron microscopy; Kristen for the presence of selenium.

Mike Gil, who is studying the organisms, including possible invasive species, that colonize macroplastics (such as buoys), is able to count and identify many of the organisms while on board.  He takes reference photos and preserves samples for further identification in labs in Woods Hole, MA.  He is saving gooseneck barnacles from each float we bring aboard for analysis of plastics in their guts at SEA, and also samples of crabs for a lab in Florida for genetic research.  They are preserved in glass vials in ethanol.