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SEA Currents Blog

SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer


May 02, 2018

Sargy Success!

Jenny Renee, B watch, University of Washington

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Dani, Kendra, and Helena processing the dip net collection - first of many steps!

Current Position
26°44.1’N, 062°34.9’W

Course & Speed
c/o 010°, 3.25 knots
 
Sail Plan
Four lowers (jib, forestays’l, mainstays’l, mains’l)
 
Weather
Heaping seas (large swells), blustery, partly cloudy
 
Taffrail log
1021.75

Souls on board

I'm happy to report Sargy Success from the Sargassum group (Alena, Dani and I)! Sargy, as we have affectionately started calling Sargassum - ok, maybe it's just me - is a seaweed that spends its entire life floating in the open ocean.  This floating Sargassum supports a diverse community of mobile and sessile fauna, small islands of diversity within a blue desert. In the Sargasso Sea, there are two species of Sargassum which can be broken down further into several morphological forms. Each Sargassum species and form holds varying significance to things like hosting organisms, providing shelter for migrating fish or sea turtles, or washing ashore in inundating amounts. We can tell them apart using techniques that target morphological (how they look), and molecular (how their DNA varies) characteristics. Explorers and scientists such as Humboldt and Darwin, have been drawn to the fascination of Sargassum in the Sargasso Sea as early as the 1400's. Even yet, there is still so much to learn about this unique ecosystem!

Our group is continuing long-term data collection with SEA, extracting DNA from samples collected by dip nets and neuston tows to differentiate the main forms of Sargassum (and any other odd balls we may find). We can differentiate among Sargassum forms using particular genes within the Sargassum genome. Once we collect the Sargassum, we extract the DNA, amplify our gene of interest, quantify our results, and test our DNA samples for purity and nucleotide concentration. Then, if the concentration is high enough, we send it off to a lab where they will sequence that DNA and translate our data into genetic code with letters that we can interpret!

Each group has a goal of completing 10 successful DNA samples on the organisms they're studying prior to arriving in Bermuda - which at this point, is just a few short days away! As of now, the Sargassum group has completed the 6 steps with 9 samples, all successfully, and we have 6 additional samples in the process now.

We've managed to purify high concentrations of DNA from field samples while sailing through the Sargasso Sea on a moving sailing vessel-believe me, that's no easy feat! We couldn't be happier. As a group, we've been approaching our extractions with caution, as we are ever afraid of contamination on a not-so-sterile ship. However, as our test results have proven, we have been successful in the 20+ steps per sample it took to get
to this point and we must be doing something right!

To say I'm proud of my team is simply an understatement. As others have hinted to, life aboard the Cramer can be trying, more so for some than others. Success can be difficult to measure in an environment such as this, where every task is new, things you thought you knew how to do (like doing laundry and showering) now take on a new form. And for most of us, myself included, sail handling and molecular work are additional brand new, yet integral parts of our lives now. However, (especially for my friends aboard) I'd say there are plenty of successes waiting to be measured; if you just keep your pipet out and ready, and your heart and mind open you'd be surprised how much we've already achieved and how much we've grown. Remember to pat yourself on the back for all the success, big and small, and remind each other how great it can be to live in a community with like-minded people all striving towards the same goal.

I think it's safe to say that everyone has grown some attachment to the Sargasso Sea, whether it be from the shiny flying fish piercing in and out of the water, the awe of looking out to the open ocean with nothing else in sight but water and the horizon, the interesting organisms we find in our collections, or steering this impressive vessel through the night by stars. The latter is probably my favorite thus far. For me, it's a way to know
where you are in this world yet also a reminder that we are all connected, if at the very least by the ocean and skies.

- Jenny Renee, B watch, University of Washington

P.S. Happy 30th Birthday Seester!! Can't wait to celebrate when I get back. Mom and Uncle, I love you and miss you - I know you would love being out here! Abuelita, te amo mucho <3 and to the rest of my friends and family following along, thank you for reading our blog it means a lot, sending my love always!

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Reactions

#1. Posted by Julie Leslie on May 07, 2018

Your blog post is amazing - you are such a wonderful writer grin I am muuuuuucho proud of you, and thank you for the birthday shout-out! <3

XOXO

Seester


#2. Posted by Liz Gill on May 07, 2018

Good work sargy team! Say hi to Geoffrey for me!


#3. Posted by Jenny Levin on May 15, 2018

Great post Jenny! Learned a lot about sargassum! Much love and enjoy the rest of your studies in Bermuda.

Cheers,

J. Levin


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