Author: Julieta Schneider, Pictures: Giulia Faucher, Javier Arístegui and Julieta Schneider
The first days of the campaign are always a bit confusing and blurry in memories afterwards. People are running around trying to put together their respective equipment, finding boxes for their samples and space to store them. It’s all about getting ready for the big occasion: sampling day.
Once the experiment starts, we don’t really know which day of the week it is anymore. It only matters if it’s a sampling day or a non-sampling day (and whether you are scheduled to go sampling as well). In case you’re wondering: yes, we work on weekends. Nature doesn’t know about vacations, so (during the campaign) neither do we.
Why all the fuss? Well, there are several reasons. To start with, our experiment is limited in time, and this means that collecting as much data as possible is crucial. Fieldwork can and will always go wrong in the most diverse ways, from having to call it a day without samples due to strong winds and waves to having a submarine almost crushing into our beloved mesocosms. So, we need to make the most out of our time.
The first couple of sampling days are usually used as training. We need baseline values before starting any manipulation/treatment and we need to get ourselves trained to make the process efficient and smooth: people need to know how to take each specific sample and how to move on the boat. For this purpose, tasks are distributed, and teams assembled. The same couple of persons will rotate to take the gas sensitive samples, others for respiration samples, some to fill canisters and bottles, and others to drive the boat. Oh, and remember the rule of thumb: No bottles, no samples!
Getting samples is vital to any fieldwork experiment, and it is always a challenging experience. For instance, trying to get a tiny bottle full of water without any bubbles while the boat is moving and bumping against the mesocosm because of the waves is no easy task (and it never is just one bottle!).
I find sampling to be usually underrated. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how precise and accurate your machine can measure something, if that something was not collected properly.
In any case, most of us love being outdoors. We really enjoy our sampling days and, when the weather is nice, it is just delightful!