Thursday, April 26, 2012

And Nerds Shall Rule the World

Life at the lab has been pretty boring lately.  Fish catches have been less than stellar, and there's only so much excitement to be had at the lab.  Of course, as scientists, we get excited about some pretty nerdy things.  Last Friday, you should have heard us exclaiming over the 58mm standard length Microgobius gulosus we caught.  "Holy crap!"  "That's the biggest gulosus I've ever seen!!!"  "Put it in the bucket so we can observe it!"  Yes, we did actually put it in the bucket to observe it.  It was spectacular.  And for anyone who actually cares to know, the common name is clown goby.

They're awesome and you know it.
Well, I had some excitement at the lab.  We have had the same old LI-COR instrument since before I started working here.  It's a little persnickety at times.  It's been used and abused as only boats and saltwater can do.  We do our best to take care of things, but in the field...well, things get beat up, corroded, and bounced around.  So...*drum roll please* the agency that pays for our water sampling grant just got us a whole new setup to use!!

What is LI-COR you ask?  Okay, maybe you're not asking, but I'll tell you anyway.  The sensors measure photosynthetically active radiation (PAR).  Oooooooooh ahhhhhhhhh.  Why is this useful?  Well, in an estuary where seagrass is important, it's good to know how much light those little blades of manatee food and fish nursery are getting.  The actual data gets put into complicated equations that I don't understand.  That's for those math nerds to figure out.  I just put the stick in the water and write down the numbers.

My brand new beautiful lowering frame built by Scotty, the resident PVC genius at the lab.
My glorious new data logger.  I don't care who you are.  Pulling plastic off of new electronics is awesome.

  Yesterday, I got to take it for a spin.  I must say, it did a fabulous job of measuring photons.  We still have the old one.  It does still work, even if I have to whisper sweet nothings to it sometimes to coax it into working.  It will be nice to have a spare, since we have to send the sensors off the the company every 2 years to be calibrated.  The old one is due this year, so at least I don't have to schedule sampling trips around that!

Why do you care?  Well, you probably don't.  That's okay, because you're probably excited about things that I'm not excited about.  You should care that we're collecting this water quality data though, because it helps maintain a healthy estuary!

The LI-192 Underwater Quantum Sensor.  It accurately measures Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density!  It's cosine corrected!  It's corrosion resistant!
Turtle grass says, "Gimme photons!"
All hail the nerds.

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