Today (July 30, 2012) we awoke to a silent giant, for most of this trip we have seen the majestic and powerful ocean, with swells, that although not enormous, are good enough to make some of us catch our balance and play with us like a see-saw.
Yet today, it was very calm…….no seriously, it was extremely calm. Like being in a lake on a windless day, the Pacific Ocean took time to rest today. We therefore were lucky enough to begin work on station 5 under a sea state of zero. We were able to perform a drone flight and dingy retrieval mission that netted another buoy, various pieces of plastic that were definitely at sea for a while and a single water bottle that was very visibly new; new visitor to this environment. Luckily we removed it before it became a permanent tenant.
The rest of the crew was well rested after a great day of work yesterday. Since the age of 5 I have known that I wanted to be a Marine biologist, since the age of 15 I knew that I wanted to deal in areas of human impacts. I was fortunate enough to have a great Professor; Kevin M. Kelley at CSULB who nurtured that intrigue by allowing me to basically construct my own project, which I have continued to work on since I graduated. The way we impact this world goes beyond adjectives and description. The lack of understanding and knowledge in some cases is tough to swallow but that’s why most of us are out here and why we do what we do.
I have been fortunate enough to be allowed the chance to try and change this world for a better one with all the students I teach and all schools I visit. More importantly the work that I do with my organization (Pacific Coast Environmental Conservancy) is something that I think also helps people understand what we are actually doing to the environment. Thus far, I have been able to sample fish from many different locations to look for any potential impacts that the debris may have on them. Whether the organisms are being impacted through the chemicals that leach out of the debris items themselves or by the lipophilic compounds that are attracted to the debris items, my job is to determine how severe that impact is. Unfortunately, chemicals like these impact the endocrine systems which regulate important physiological mechanisms that control growth, stress, development, immunity and reproduction. Blood sample after blood sample, liver sample after liver sample and parasite after parasite, I get excited every time we obtain a fish. Not because I take joy in the sampling process; in fact that’s a bit of a stretch (documented by the thousands of times I’ve apologized to the fish before I sacrificed it to collect my samples). But I know that each sample gives us a better picture of the extent of impact we have on the organisms that call this environment home, and how much potential strength and power each sample may have to make someone; whether it’s a parent from inner city or a public figure in office, say “I cant believe that’s what our actions are doing, we need to do something about this”.
Thus I write this blog coming down from a high of excitement after sampling myctophids in the wee hours a few days ago with Captain Moore, and from a successful dingy ride with Dale Selvam yesterday that allowed me to sample 8 pelagic fish followed by another successful purse seine tow that obtained another 9 pelagic fish of the same species…….yet the excitement of the next time I get to sample is still there. Far beyond my fatigue from late nights and inability to sleep is the energy I get from being out here in a beautiful world that few see and too many affect without thought. We are on our way to station 6 and on the way we know the drill, a copious amount of debris both large and small and information for us to obtain. Although I am still completely focused on the work at hand, I look forward to the next step; analyzing what we’ve obtained and using the information to make change happen. Just as I know the Great Pacific Ocean won’t stay calm and quiet for long and will return to her powerful self, we too will follow that lead once we return home.
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