Tuesday, 10 April 2012

There's more to microbiology than white coats and petri dishes

There is more to being a research scientist than being locked up in a lab in a white lab coat and scaring undergrads with the occasional sinister laugh. I work on photosynthetic microorganisms that are important for the environment and are present in large numbers in seawater. Once or twice a month the lab door is left unlocked and I get to go and sample the tiny phytoplankton that do all of the heavy lifting in the global carbon cycle.

When the weather is not too bad we prepare a small vessel with a few other people and steam out as far as 5 miles off the coast taking water samples from different depths using the fancy bucket in the picture (more about that in another blog). Sometimes the weather is great and we need to make sure we do not get too sunburnt with litres of sunscreen, unfortunately other times the seas are a bit choppy and the whole episode becomes an outing of very green researchers. The Port hacking reference stations are the longest continually sampled time series on the Australian Coast. Our aim is to use the 'microbial perspective' to understand what factors drive the seasonal cycles of primary production along our coast. 

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