I, the Narcotizer

This week began with the first trials of our Pyro Oxygen Logger tools and software. To test the critical oxygen level of the invertebrates, we put them in special test tubes fitted with  optodes from the Pyro Oxygen Logger set. The tubes are filled with pure seawater, sans air bubbles. Then the fiber optic optodes go to work detecting oxygen levels. Over a period of several hours the levels decrease before plateauing at the critical oxygen level, when the organism inside shuts down.

I mean, that’s what’s supposed to happen. But we’re still perfecting the procedure. Finding the right sized test tubes, precisely calibrating the optodes, and maintaining healthy organisms are delicate matters.

It’s important to preserve the organisms that we’ve collected data from, this way, you can later return and identify any physical anomalies. I was assigned to narcotize and fix the anemones—a new and strikingly sinister concept to me. First, you place the creatures in petri dishes. Then, you slowly add menthol and a bit of magnesium sulfite to relax them. Lastly, before they slime up and contract, but after they’re relaxed enough to not react to formalin, we throw them in the fixative.

Anemone mid-narcotization (sorry it’s out of focus)

During the process, I noticed a tiny spinning speck in a tentacle of an anemone. Eric, who is teaching me an impromptu invertebrate zoology course as well as helping me with the narcotization process had no clue what it was, and that’s saying a lot because he really knows his invertebrates. Leanne pulled it out and under closer inspection it appeared to be some sort of ciliate. We found a couple other similar organisms. Probably a common parasite, but exciting nonetheless!

After a couple days filled with anemone narcotization, caprelid execution (we had way too many in the bucket) and repeated optode calibration, we went out to the Thimble Islands for a day of field work. Yale maintains Horse Island as a field station, so Rich Boardman, the Peabody Operations Manager, kindly took us out in a little whaler for a day on the island.

Alas, our search for anemones ended fruitless. But we did fine some diverse tidal pool biota, plenty of ticks, and even a pig. Another school’s class sunk a dead pig as a decomposition experiment, unfortunately, it washed up.

We stopped by Outer Island on the way out. Part of a national wildlife refuge and open to the public, the beautiful island is easily accessible by kayak, canoe or the Thimble Island Ferry.

Leanne in the field
Horse mussels amid pink (potassium feldspar rich) “stony creek granite”
The washed up decomposition experiment

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