I woke this morning to brilliant sunshine and calm seas. Were it not for the empty desk and pile of stationary on the floor one might think that the ‘washing machine’ from the night before was a figment of my imagination. Not so, we lost a generator in the process and spent this morning drifting with the ocean until it could be fixed and we were on our way again. The sound of the stabilizers still occasionally whistles from inside the ship, so we are still rocking but nothing like the 48.63 degree rolling of the night before.
As we were steaming to our next station I was able to have my first (of hope many) tutorials with Dr Tim Williams from the ships microbial group. Tim’s team are pumping great quantities of seawater in a bid to characterize the bacterial community that lives in the deep dark ocean. Fascinating I hear you say. Well you are right, it is EXTREMELY interesting. Our knowledge of deep ocean processes is incredibly limited and one of the many difficulties we have with understanding our vast deep ocean is that we haven’t a clue who lives down there. Enter Tim’s genomic team. By sequencing the genes and proteins of organisms found at depth they will be able to see who is there, and how their metabolism works. This will provide great insight into the fate of nutrients that originate from the surface, and what I find much more interesting, those that are produced at depth i.e. in situ production.
Seeing that we have hours to spare between stations Tim kindly spent the afternoon giving me a Marine Microbial Ecology lecture. We then mulled over some papers that I had read but clearly not quite understood, and discussed how his field crosses over into mine.
Deep-sea corals are covered in bacteria! It was a terribly enjoyable conversation, and we got to say things like ‘recalcitrant’ and ‘labile’ molecules, and ‘promiscuous gene transfer’. We finished with a discussion of Proteus, the minor deity and prophet in Greek mythology who came from the sea and could change form in order to avoid answering questions. If I could only figure out how to do that before my PhD defense…..