Paige's CO2 Adventure

UCLA is in the final four?

On the boat the only source of news is a little pdf that is posted online daily with the top stories in the New York times. I check it every coupe of days and from what I can tell March has been a relatively uneventful month… Still, what small amounts of news I do consume have been strange to hear. The shooting in Boulder really hit me hard, and its been difficult having such limited resources and not being able to be there for my friends in the aftermath. On the opposite end of things, I just got an email from UCLA about buying final four tickets!!?? I thought we didn’t even win the PAC 12 tournament!?

Being disconnected is for the most part wonderful, but sometimes rather strange.

CO2 and water? Whats the big deal?

Seeing as this newsletter is titled "Paiges CO2 adcenture" I think its time we talk about carbon dioxide and the ocean. Strap in, its time to tie together CO2, ocean acidification, and pH.

How does it happen?
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a gas, soluble in water. (if this seems strange, think about soda! Those bubbles are CO2!) When it dissolves in water, it reacts with another inorganic carbon compound, bicarbonate, and water. Through a series of carbon reactions, a Hydrogen atom is freed. Hydrogen (H+) decreases the pH and increases the acidity (1 being something very acidic on the pH scale)

Why is it important?
Do you like things with shells?? Those things like bicarbonate. When CO2 reacts with bicarbonate, that means that less is available to our shelled friends. As a result, those shells are not able to grow strong or big, or grow at all. Acidification has impacts that are further reaching than merely shell forming organisms, but its in those organisms that we are seeing the most immediate and tangible impacts.

How do we measure it? (on this cruise at least)
Water samples are collected. This sample is gas sensitive. This means that we must get the water out of the bottle quickly after it is opened before it is contaminated with the ambient atmospheric CO2 concentrations. The ambient atmosphere will impact the carbonate chemistry and therefore the pH.
On this ship they are using a Spectra-photometric analysis. A dye is injected into the sample, which is sensitive to the acid base ratio of that sample. An image is captured of the dyed sample. The spectra, or unique wavelengths of light, present in the image indicate how much acid or base is in the sample, which therefore tells us the pH.

The dye being injected to the sample

Where the spectral image is captured
What might this cruise tell us about it?
Nothing earth shattering. GO SHIP cruises are repeated tracks of swaths of ocean done so that we have a better temporal resolution, meaning we can watch how the ocean has evolved over time. The surface measurements of CO2 would be what I suspect would be the most interesting compared to previous cruises. Have we increased CO2? (spoiler: yes) How much if so?
Part of the machine we use to measure pH! Red circle is the sample, Light blue is the dye, and black is the machine that captures the image of the dyed sample and determines a pH from the ratio of colors in the image.

Captians Log

Wednesday 3-31-21
We made cold brew!! The coffee culture on this ship is impressive! I’ve heard some horror stories of coffee that would make paint melt on other ships, and I was bracing for the worst. I should have remembered that coffee is the fuel of science, and scientists treat it much like they do their other valued experiments. Good equipment, quality supplies, methodical practice. The beans are good, there’s plenty of supplies, and everyone is happily caffeinated. Cass, my shift partner and emerging closest friend on this ship, and I want to complete the circle and add cold brew to the ships coffee supply. Our experiment began with a French press sitting in the biolab over night. The result? Perfection. As the temps and humidity rise we plan on scaling up our operation. The galley provided us a pitcher and we’ve acquired some large bean donations. I will keep you updated on this rapidly evolving venture.

The morning shift has left us little treats, and in return we leave them notes and drawings. Last night they learned how to use the label maker and immortalized me with the nickname “Grandpa Paige” for my love of maritime history, taste in jazz, and affinity for “classic” movies (all of which make me get along great with the 70-year-old marine tech on board. His name is John and were becoming best friends). I have never been so honored. Finally, at the end of my shift tonight I made a Singing in the Rain joke over the radio and it landed.

Where is the Thomas Thompson right now?

Lets find out!


Clockwise from left: Abby and Daniela enjoying the doldrums and the sun, a pretty afternoon CTD drop, myself and this wonderful piece of science, and the sample bay on a morning shift. 
XOXO Paige Hoel

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