Saturday, April 19, 2014

Thinking ahead

Just some of our equipment packed up and
ready to be shipped to Taiwan.
Just one month to go until we arrive in Taiwan to begin our 2014 field expedition. For the past month, we have been hard at working cleaning sample bottles, testing sensors and dive gear, and carefully packing all our equipment. Our preparations amounted to 51 boxes, clocking in at just under 1 ton.

What's so complicated about packing for field work that it took an entire month? Dongsha Atoll is remote. Any minute detail overlooked or item forgot could spell disaster in the field. Forget that 3/8" hex wrench to tighten the screws holding the pH sensor? Well there's no hardware store on Dongsha.

Putting all the equipment in boxes is the easy part. Most of the last month was spent meticulously plotting out what tools and gear we need to collect each type of sample and deploy each instrument. Details, details, details, and lots of lists. The other important aspect of preparations is testing instruments. We will deploy lots of instruments on Dongsha, measuring pH, temperature, oxygen levels, salt content, temperature, water movement, and light levels. Each instrument plays an important role in our experiment, meaning each instrument needs to work. Hopefully, no surprises in the field. The best way to make sure everything runs smoothly is to test each instrument ahead of time. To do that, we fill up some big buckets of seawater in the lab, program all our instruments, deploy them in the buckets, and download the data to make sure everything checks out. That's a lot of work ahead of time, but well worthwhile to avoid surprises in the field.

- Tom DeCarlo
Joint Program in Oceanography
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

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