For the past couple weeks I have been in the midst of preparing for two experiments that I will run this summer. While working out all the details and plans for these experiments I have been reminded of one of the more unique aspects of studying marine ecology: learning skills you never thought could relate to marine ecology. For instance in the past couple days I have: helped build a storage shed, wired a cut-up extension cord to a timer, become an expert in shipping frozen seaweed and been to home depot more times than I can remember. The best part about learning all these new skills, for me, is seeking out help and interacting with the people who are experts in these respective skills.
For example, the friendly people at Patriot Lobster Company were more than happy to share their expertise on how to ship frozen things, giving me the run-down on how much dry ice to use and even selling me one of their special styrofoam containers that they use to keep seafood frozen on long journeys. They also seemed to enjoy hearing about my project and the reason I was shipping the seaweed, even though they regretted that I was not working to eradicate the smelly algae in Nahant. Thanks to them, my seaweed arrived still frozen at Grice Marine Lab in Charleston, SC, and is ready and waiting for me to grind it up into agar foods when I visit Dr. Erik Sotka’s lab next week.
Luckily for me, I didn’t need to venture far to find advice on electrical wiring, because the grad students in the Ayers lab have gotten pretty good at it, building their biomimetic robots. After puzzling over it for a couple days, I enlisted their help and Anthony was able to quickly and easily explain what I needed to do. They even lent me a wire stripper, and I quickly became a proficient amateur electrician. Now my timer is wired and ready to allow me to control the rise and fall of the water in the outdoor seawater tables, so I can mimic natural tides in my experiments.
While “shipping frozen seaweed” and “wiring” are not skills I am rushing to put on my resume, it is always great to learn new things and feel a sense of accomplishment for solving a tough problem.