Monday, July 13, 2009

more test

today was our second test of the term. it went well, maybe could have gotten a few more points on it but i don't think it will be a problem. i knew the material pretty well, so i'm not worried.

last friday our class gave presentations on aquatic invasive species. mine was the Asian carp, which i knew very little about until i did my research. apparently a big problem in a lot of places, and probably moving into the great lakes during the next decade. army corps of engineers spent about $10 million on an electric "fence" in the illinois river to keep them out, but it's far from guaranteed to work. if the carp make it into the lakes, we'll probably lose more than one species of fish.

outside of projects and tests, we've been spending a lot of time on aquatic chemistry, which is fine by me. i get along just fine with chemistry. carbon and oxygen and nitrogen and phosphorus and iron and sulfur... mostly we've been discussing it in lecture, but we've done some lab work as well. mostly titrating... adding tiny little drops of acid to a colored mixture until we just reach the point when the color turns clear, and then using the volume of acid added to calculate how much oxygen was originally in the water. it's not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

and only ten days left until the term's over. in that time, we have a paper to write, some labs to finish, and a final and a lab final to take. probably going to be a little bit busy.

beyond class, work has been keeping me busy-- although my scheduling supervisor cut me some breaks at the end of this past week, and thank god for it. i was starting to feel overwhelmed for a while, working so much and having to get my presentation together... it was tough to find time to breath. but i ended up getting an hour or so off on thursday and only worked a half day on saturday, so i was able to relax a little bit and get some studying done. this-coming week i get to go in a little later then i'm used to, so that will be nice too.

in other news, we had a big storm come through over the weekend, which had the added effect of knocking out the internet for a few days. always a bummer.

haven't had any field trips lately, but i think we might have one coming up on friday. we'll probably find out more about that soon.

and, as always, the food here is amazing. some folks are critical and overly-picky, but it's their loss. i think it's great.

but mostly, i'm looking forward to going home and seeing my cat.

Friday, July 3, 2009


yep, today was a test. kind of a hard one, at that, but we'll see how it went. certainly not terrible, but maybe not as well as i could have hoped.

two days ago was our boat trip out to sandusky bay and back. we dropped anchor at a few points along the way to give us a chance to toss some instruments in the water. we measured water clarity, oxygen content and temperature, and pulled up some water samples as well. one interesting part was to take about a soda can's worth of water and pull it through a small paper filter to strain out the algae. we also got a good view of cedar point from the water.

long day, though. we left a little before 8 and didn't get back until 3. it was actually pretty nice, but after lunch i had a hard time staying awake.

yesterday was a good day. for work i staffed the fish hatchery, which is sort of a small museum/science exhibit that the lab operates for the general public. at first i didn't really like it-- i had already watched some other lab folks talk to the visitors, and my first impression was that i was supposed to give the same general talk... the hatchery dates, how it operated, stuff like that. after a while though, i started to realize that i knew a lot more about the exhibits than i had given myself credit for. once i stopped trying to recite the talk the other staff had given and just chatted with the visitors about aquatic science, i really started to enjoy myself. it was not a bad way to spend the day.

now it's friday, and i'm done with class. i kind of want to row over to the big island (south bass, put-in-bay) and stop at the general store, but dinner's in an hour. probably i'll wait until after i eat, then row over after my food's settled. i don't really want to row back after dark, but i don't think it will come to that.

and tomorrow: fireworks!

Sunday, June 28, 2009


whew... finally-- some time to sit and think. (and write, of course.)

it's been a busy week. my coursework hasn't been that difficult, but the days i haven't had class i've been working my student job, so sometimes i feel like i'm constantly on the move.

limnology has been fun. we haven't gone outside as much as some of the other classes, but i think we needed to get some lecturing in so we had a basis for understanding our fieldwork... plus a guest lecturer our professor knew happened to be on the island on thursday and friday, so we adjusted our schedule so he could come tell us all about fishes.

the class did go out on friday. after lunch about seven of us boarded one of stone lab's boats and we spent a little over two hours on the lake. we familiarized ourselves with a few instruments and dipped them in the deep blue; one measured the oxygen dissolved in the water as well as the temp, another was just a painted disk on a very long rope used to measure how far down we could see. one tool was a very (very) fine mesh net attached to a jar used to strain and collect tiny little insect-like sea creatures, which reminded me very much of sea monkies once we had them swimming in our jars. after we moved to another site we also towed a net and caught a few fish for later study. last, but not least, i filled in my tan a bit.

afterwards, the captain of our little boat was kind enough to drop a few of us off on south bass island. apparently, an organization out of erie, pa, maintains a replica of an 1813 sailing ship, the US Brig Niagara [which fought the british in the battle of lake erie (war of 1812) under commodore perry] which happened to be visiting put-in-bay this week. the captain of the vessel had extended an invitation to stone lab to take a few of our staff along as they gave educational cruises... and as a student employee of stone lab, i was invited as well-- so after class on friday we stepped off of one boat and immediately on to another.

we had a lot of fun, too. we were sailing for what seemed like forever... a good five and a half hours. the captain gave some talks about the ship and about the battle that took place here at our little islands, but mostly we just sailed. it was a nice way to spend the evening... calm water, sunshine, sea breezes, a sunset over the lake... i'm glad for the experience. i don't really know how to convey the experience to you, but one thing i'll note is the smell of the ship... very woody. almost sawdusty. something about it reminded me of my time studying in finland. good memories...

and oh. we fired some cannon blanks at some "pirates". turns out cannons are very, very loud.

otherwise, i've spent a lot of my time working. well... i've spent a lot of my time at work, but not always working. for example, right now i'm working in the bookstore... but since nobody's buying books, i'm writing this entry. afterwards, assuming nobody is still buying books, i might study, or play a game on my laptop, or read a book. we'll see.

i do have mixed feelings about work sometimes, though, but overall i'm glad for the opportunity. it pays for my room and board, so i figure it's worth about $100 per workday. some of the jobs we have to do are tedious, but by luck-of-the-draw i haven't had to do much cleaning or kitchen work, mostly clerical tasks like sorting papers and organizing things. so i'm "paid" very well for easy work, plus there's that little cruise i just mentioned that was a nice fringe benefit. on the other hand, and perhaps this is a minor concern in the grand scheme of things, i'm kept busy a lot, and i get a little jealous when i see people with free time. i have my evenings free, but never before four pm.

*shrug* but again, this job is allowing me to come to stone lab without having to take out extra loans this year, and otherwise i'm not sure i would have chosen to come here at all-- and i'm very glad that i came. so it's worth it... i just get tired sometimes.

in other news, i finally got a little poison ivy... for maybe the first time in like umpteen years. usually i manage to avoid it, and there might be a change that i'm not very sensitive to it, but i was crawling around in it the other day trying to scrounge up some firewood and i now have a small blistery spot of rash on my ankle. =/ but i survive.

and next weekend is fourth of july. i'm hoping that i might convince my sister to come up and visit, as there's supposed to be one heck of a fireworks show just off the island. i'm told we have very good seats.

my mom said she might try to come up the following day, and we'll try to bum around put-in-bay for the afternoon or evening.

so that's been my week in a nutshell. one down, three-and-a-half to go!

Monday, June 22, 2009

departure, arrival


i've made it to stone lab.

yesterday was sunday. i didn't get much sleep that night, but i caught an hour of ZZZs on the car ride up. my parents drove us from canton to one of the ports of departure, then we ferried to south bass island (put-in-bay). we had a nice lunch, then the osu staff boated us the few hundred feet to gibralter island and stone lab.

i haven't done too much "school" stuff yet. yesterday was mostly settling in. i probably got here around two or three, then had an hour of orientation at four followed by dinner, then we were free for the night.

i had a good time, too. it always kind of strange to leave everything behind and drop yourself into a new setting with a bunch of strangers, but everyone's in the same boat (so to speak) so it's a good chance to make new friends. some of the other students invited me to play (scoreless, let-it-bounce-as-many-times-as-you-want) volleyball, and in the evening we had a small fire before heading to bed.

today was the start of classes. breakfast was at 7, and lecture was at 8. with a few short breaks, we went until 11:30, then lunch at 12, then lab from 1 to 4.

which is... different than regular school, to be certain. it actually went smoother than i thought. i kept getting sleepy during class, but i've since learned that coffee and tea are available around the cafeteria... so on wednesday i'm probably going to have to fill a cup to take with me.

the lecture was good, though. we're starting off by discussing some of the physical properties of lakes, particularly temperature/energy and density and looking at how wind and sunlight can set up various circulating currents and psuedo-tides in bodies of water. some of it is review material from previous courses, while other stuff is new, but i'm sure as we progress i'll be looking at lakes in much more detail than i ever have before. personally, i'm a chemistry and biology buff, so i'm looking forward to reaching those sections... but this physical stuff is interesting as well. i'm already realizing that lakes are much more active than i ever thought.

after lunch, i wasn't really looking forward to heading back to another three hours of class, but the lab was pretty laid back. there's only five of us in the course, so we were able to relax and discuss stuff with the instructor while we worked. we tried to simulate lake currents by filling two fish takes with water and ice, then shining heat lamps down on them while blowing on them with fans. we had thermometers at different depths in the water, and eventually dumped in a little flourescent dye for good measure.

what struck me most was the temperature layering. i've read and been taught about this before, but water changes density with temperature, so cold water tends to sink while warm water floats on top (although ice floats on top of both, it should be noted). well... as the experiment progressed, the fish tanks gathered a lot of condensation. a LOT of condensation. a while later, though, as the top layer of water warmed, the condensation cleared from the top inch of glass, while the rest of the tank stayed as wet as before. there was a very definate dividing line where the condensation stopped, and we could feel the temperature difference very clearly when we touched the glass. and again-- i'd like to point out that i'm not talking about a difference in temperature between the top and bottom of the tank, but between points just an inch apart. it was very strange!

tomorrow: no class, but i start my student employment. i have no idea what i'll be doing, but i have to meet at 7:30 (am) to find out. honestly, i'm not a huge fan of work, but i'll manage. ; )

in other news...

this is turning out to be an easy-going experience. the food is regular and good, and by no means meager. the student ages range from a few high-schoolers to folks in their thirties. i would think most of the folks here are between 20 and 25, but that's just a guess. i think that the rooms are at least partly arranged by age... everyone in my room is 25 or over. i haven't asked anybody else about theirs, though, so i really couldn't say for sure.

and everybody has been friendly. the faculty genuinely seems to enjoy working and teaching here, and while everyone here has work to do, it's a vacation on a tiny island at the same time. and what more does anybody really want out of life? (well, a lot actually, but that's a topic for another discussion.)

and oh, i've met several folks hailing from westerville, ohio, which happens to be where i spent several years living and studying before coming to ohio state. that doesn't happen to me very often, and it always brightens my day when it does. (otterbein pride!)

otherwise, though, i have no idea what the next couple of weeks hold in store. i'll try to keep you posted on that. for now, i'm going to go poke my head around the island.

Thursday, June 18, 2009




i don't think there's much to say just yet-- i won't arrive at stone lab yet for several days, but i thought it best to post anyway. letting my blog sit empty would be too sad.

to start, hello again. my name's gary. i'm a student. soon, i'll be at stone lab.

which is exciting, i think. i'm looking forward to the upcoming term. i've never spent much time around lakes, but i'm definately a water person. not much of a swimmer, perhaps, but i enjoy water regardless. and guess just what i'll be studying at the lab? you guessed it-- water.

or more specifically, limnology... which is the study of inland waters, or at least that's the impression i'm under. rivers, lakes, wetlands... basically waters that are not the ocean. or perhaps, those waters which *are* the ocean but are temporarily removed by time and space.

for the time being, i'm taking a short break from school at my parents' house in scenic canton, ohio. i spent the last two years studying environmental science at ohio state's agricultural technical institute in wooster, ohio, and graduated with my associate's degree less than a week ago. prior to this, i studied english (creative writing) and received my bachelor's from otterbein college in westerville, ohio, just outside of columbus. following this summer term at stone lab, i'm moving back to columbus to continue with environmental science at ohio state.

and i won't lie... i'm more than a little burnt out at the moment. last quarter was tough... my courses weren't too hard, but on top of three classes i also had a practicum studying water quality indicators in the little apple creek in wooster, plus i spent a lot of time tutoring chemistry and organizing events for our honor society at ATI, phi theta kappa. so i was a busy, busy bee for the last couple of months... and they're only letting me have a week off before heading off to stone lab. how brutal! =(

but really... i'm looking forward to it. i plan on being tired a lot... class starts at eight in the morning, three days a week, and breakfast is at seven daily, ten on sundays. but otherwise, i think it will be a fun little adventure... and i dig adventures. i also enjoy digging, but that's another story altogether.

and besides... three meals a day! can you believe it? i haven't eaten like that since, well... since a long time ago, i'm sure. and it's true what they say, about a man's stomach being the way to his heart. believe that.

in other news, i went to the dentist today. no cavities, and positive comments from my dentist and the dental technician who scraped my tartar. now if only i could travel back in time and convince my younger self of the importance of tooth-brushing... then maybe i wouldn't have all of these pesky fillings. oh well, lessons learned the hard way...

and that, dear friends, is my first "official" stone lab post. i hope you enjoyed myself.