On March 12th, I joined Dr. Hennon on a research trip to Bermuda. We had planned to join some scientists from the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS) on a week-long time series cruise through the Sargasso Sea. Each month, BIOS researchers take a record of several dozen environmental factors at the same sites off the coast of Bermuda for the Bermuda Atlantic Time Series (BATS). This data, after being compiled over time, has allowed scientists to gain an understanding of the long term biological, atmospheric, and physical cycles in the subtropical Atlantic.
The Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences
Our goal for the March cruise was to culture wild Prochlorococcus on the deck of the R/V Atlantic Explorer at both ambient and predicted future carbon dioxide levels. These samples would then be sequenced allowing us to determine how certain genes are differentially expressed in the presence of increased carbon dioxide. This will allow us to understand how Prochlorococcus and other marine bacteria will react to climate change.
Jake at a beach near BIOS
The day after our arrival at BIOS was spent unpacking equipment shipped from New York. This included setting up two on-deck incubators and several peristaltic pumps to be used for filtering Prochlorococcus. We had just finished setting up our spacious lab when the R/V Atlantic Explorer was ordered to remain in port due to the rapidly-expanding coronavirus pandemic. The cruise had previously been shorted from seven to five days due to concern over the virus, and all other visiting US researchers had abandoned their spots on the cruise, both events which foreshadowed the total cancellation. Our final day in Bermuda was thus spent repacking our lab equipment and storing it to be used on our upcoming cruise in September. Upon our return we both spent 2 weeks in self-quarantine and fortunately did not develop any symptoms.
The R/V Atlantic Explorer
While my first research trip with Dr. Hennon did not result in data, it was still an excellent experience. I learned how to set up and use equipment that will be vital to my future research, and I got myself adapted to life at sea. I also had the opportunity to explore the island of Bermuda, which served as a welcome respite from late winter Vermont. I’m excited to return in the fall and contribute to our knowledge of the microbiology of the Sargasso Sea!