Follow Dr. Katrina Edwards, as she explores the microbial life at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean
We have officially launched! You can learn even more about our expedition at the Joides Resolution website.
I will be honest: the last couple of days have really stunk for me. Seasickness. It is always worst at the very beginning of a cruise and then improves, but this time was particularly bad! Oh how I envy those who do not get seasick. Oh how I wonder how I got into this line of work in the first place! Clearly I was not thinking things all the way through.
While I’ve been under the weather, Team CORK has been hard at work preparing for our first observatory installation: Hole 395A. Hole 395A has experienced a varied and long background of study – which I will come back to at a later blog. First, we’ll have to use what is called a "pulling tool" to basically unlatch the existing CORK from the ground. There is a lot of anxiety – at least for me – in this very first operation. What if it gets stuck? Then what will we do? We do have backup plans and contingencies for every operation, but that would definitely not be the way I want to start this party out.
After that we log the hole using various sensors and instruments. This is an operation I’m very excited about, because of a new tool we’ve developed that will allow us to detect microbial life in-situ within the borehole. This has never been done before! What we want to do is to identify hotspots of microbial activity and understand from a quantitative standpoint how abundant these microbes are as a function of depth. Then, we would try to relate these hotspots of bioload to geological, geochemical, and hydrological parameters in order to begin to develop predicting indicators. Ultimately, that would enable us to extend our observations to sites we cannot access (as we obviously cannot core the entire ocean floor).
I’ll make a guess – hypothesis – about what we may find. First, bioload will decrease with depth. Second, that the contacts between the successive lava flows will be the hotspots. The reason for this hypothesis is that these contacts are where most of the water is flowing in the formation. So, this is a NASA-like “follow the water” hypothesis to look for life in the inner space of Earth. I’m sure we will have fun looking!