Cecilia Balestreri, MBA Plymouth, Monday, 25 June, 2012
This is my third oceanographic cruise of the last twelve months and so far I have been really lucky. I have been to places that I would never have imagined, and lived extraordinary experiences together with passionate researchers. For the first time in my life I saw whales in the wild, big icebergs and the Aurora Australis. I travelled across South Africa and I visited Australia and now I have had the privilege to see the great white North Pole, real wild polar bears and I could step on an island among the most pristine places in the world! For all of it I have to thank a tiny coccolithophore, Emiliania huxleyi, which is the main subject of my research.
I am a D. Phil. student based at the Marine Biological Association in Plymouth and Oxford University, and I have been sent to the Outer Hebrides, the North Sea, the Southern Ocean and now the Arctic Ocean collecting samples of E. huxleyi and its DNA. As previously explained in this blog, coccolithophores are important organisms at the base of the oceanic food-chain and they can be useful to better understand how ocean acidification is affecting the sea life. E. huxleyi has shown very variable responses to changing carbonate chemistries in previous studies, so we want to determine if genetic plasticity within E. huxleyi populations already exists and what strains will be best suited to adapt to future ocean conditions. My work on board is to collect water from different CTD casts along the track and, after filtration, obtain in situ DNA of each sample. I also keep in an incubator on board a collection of different water samples and I will bring them back to England to isolate new cultures and maintain and use them for molecular and physiological analysis and to investigate adaptive features of E. huxleyi.
This cruise is another unique opportunity to obtain important fresh samples for our project and so far it is one of the best experiences I lived. I think, apart from the amazing places we reached, the people make this cruise time fun. There is Tingting with her tea-bottle always ready, or Ben who has special skills to rinse his water tanks. There is Jeremy, who is always available to advise me about coccolithophores and Frankie who gets as excited about animals as I do. And then Mario (another Italian on board, YAY! ) who always makes me laugh and Helen, who is able to share smiling our time in our tiny cabin! And also Laura, we share the lab and we have good chats and Fred, who is a friendly-proud-French. I cannot leave out the untiring Sophie, Mark and Alex. The list is long indeed and I want to thank everybody, scientists and crew, for the good time on board. Finally, no matters what are the sea conditions, or during a hard work night, you can be sure, if you ask Eric “How is it going?” he will reply “Fantastic!”.