School Email Exchange

What are the most essential pieces of equipment for your research?  Why?

Posted on October 23 2012

Question submitted by Packer Collegiate Institute

Chrissy Dykeman models the boat hook, essential equipment for hauling large pieces of floating plastic debris aboard.

There are many different research projects on plastics being carried out aboard the Robert C. Seamans.  One piece of equipment that seems universally important is the GPS.  When there is no landmark, just blue ocean as far as you can see in every direction, this piece of equipment becomes essential to document the coordinates (latitutde, longitude) where sampling was done.

I asked the science crew aboard for answers more specific to their own work:

Mike Gil, studying organisms that colonize large pieces of plastic (macroplastic), felt having a camera was essential as we have no internet aboard and he is able to document specimens to identify when back on land.

Zora McGinnis, who is doing visual surveys of macroplastic said her eyeballs are most essential.  For dissecting fish to see if they have ingested plastic, fishing gear is most essential.

Chief scientist Emelia DeForce and first assistant scientist Katy Hunter chose the neuston tow as most essential because plastic floats at the air-sea interface sampled by this net.

Kristen Mitchell, who is collecting samples of bacteria from macroplastic to test for selenium, finds the boat hook most essential as it is used to wrangle large floating plastic objects on board the boat.

The boat hook snags a large floating sheet of plastic and, with the dip net, allows Katy Hunter and Chrissy Dykeman to bring it aboard.

Research assistant Greg Boyd, who is studying the biofilm on macro- and microplastics, needs the freezer to preserve his specimens for study with his collaborators at SEA, Marine Biological Laboratory and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. (See Greg’s bio for more information on this NSF-funded project.)

Chrissy Dykeman, second assistant scientist, chooses data sheets as the most essential piece of equipment.

Third assistant scientist, Tommy Wootton, points out that without the Robert C. Seamans, none of our science would be possible.