Last time I wrote about a perk of being a grad student. The topic of this entry is slightly less of a perk, depending on who you ask.
Its cold out. It seemed that winter came a bit early this year. Or maybe I was just spoiled by our mild winter last year. Anyway, I am a cold wimp. When winter comes I bundle up, a lot. Besides the air, the water in the ocean is also pretty cold. I think its around 45 degrees. So, when winter comes, the last thing people think to do is get in the water. However, when you study stuff that lives in there, its hard to avoid.
So last week, my labmate and I got in the water, and went SCUBA diving to continue our monitoring of Heterosiphonia japonica, an invasive red seaweed that our lab has been studying for a couple years. This summer, I helped set up an experiment in which we removed the invader from some plots, and left it in some, to measure its impact on the native community. After removing the seaweed, we surveyed and maintained the plots once a month. Our lab is really interested in examining the life cycle of this seaweed throughout the year, and since the seaweed lives sub-tidally, that means SCUBA diving in November – brrr!
Often when people dive in cold water they wear a dry suit. Unlike a wetsuit, it keeps your body totally dry, you can even wear regular clothes underneath! Unfortunately my lab mate and I do not have dry suits. They are pretty expensive, and you actually have to take a class to learn how to use them, because they can be a little tricky to get used to.
So we braved the water, in just our 7mm wetsuits. It actually wasn’t as bad as i had been anticipating. The worst part is when you first get in, and the cold water slowly seeps into your suit. After a couple minutes though your body warms up the suit and you have a nice insulating layer of warm water to protect you. The next challenge is, once you get out, your hands and feet are so numb that is hard to walk up onto shore and get all your gear off. Oh the joys of diving in the winter!
But luckily we aren’t the only ones still battling the cold water – others are still diving at the MSC. Some of the Three Seas Students chose to do a subtidal experiment for their Botany Independent Research Project, so they are still diving to finish up data collection for that. Also Chris Marks (a frequent guest blogger) is working with the Three Seas ASL Interpreter to get him SCUBA certified in time for their spring semester in Panama. Its always nice to have some camaraderie as you freeze your tail off for science!