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Logo design by Charlotte Middag

Friday, July 16, 2021

After an overly complicated Schengen visa process, two weeks of self-isolation, a seafarer’s medical exam, a ship's safety training course, many confusing forms, lots of planning and equipment testing, I am finally at the airport waiting for my flight to Iceland.

In a few hours, I will be joining Research Vessel Pelagia along with 11 other biologists, chemists and geologists from the US, UK, Canada and the Netherlands to study trace metals and phytoplankton dynamics in the Greenland-Iceland-Norwegian Sea region. For an entire month, we will circumnavigate Iceland (!!), stopping at 40 different locations to perform experiments and to collect samples. The expedition has been dubbed MetalGate 2021 and is led by Dr. Rob Middag from the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research.



Each red dot represents a location where we will stop to do cool science

To say I am excited would be a huge understatement. I cannot wait to get to the ship, to meet new scientists, and to be immersed in science. I cannot wait to see a whole new ocean from a whole new perspective. I am so fortunate to have this opportunity and I cannot wait to start.

Monday, September 14, 2021

I didn’t realize the internet was going to be extremely slow onboard the ship prior to leaving, so unfortunately, I was unable to update this blog as the expedition unfolded. Granted we were in the middle of nowhere, and so we were still lucky to be able to send the occasional e-mail and text. Overall, the expedition was a great success. We did it! – we circumnavigated Iceland on a research vessel, conducted several large-scale experiments and collected thousands of samples to analyze in specialized labs around the world!


Scientists on the top deck after an abandon ship drill near Greenland


Quick stop in Ísafjörður harbor 

As part of the biology team, I collected many phytoplankton samples from various regions, and contributed to experiments that investigated how ocean warming and changes in nutrient availability affect phytoplankton growth. I also spent a considerable portion of time with each science group, learning about the research they were conducting, the instruments they were using and the questions they were trying to answer. For example, I learned how trace-metal-clean experiments are conducted onboard vessels made of metal, how dissolved nutrients in the oceans are measured, and how a few atoms of radium are collected from hundreds of liters of seawater - all of which are I had only read about in the scientific literature. 


One of several onboard lab set ups used to filter phytoplankton samples

Temperature controlled incubators used to conduct large scale bioassay experiments on the ship

Being part of MetalGate gave me a completely new understanding of how large-scale collaborative science is conducted, and a new appreciation of the enormous amount of hard work and coordination involved in studying climate change impacts on our oceans. 


Throughout this expedition, I asked a lot of questions, made many new friends and forged new collaborations. I left the ship with new curiosities, a bag full of samples and an entirely new perspective on science. 



RV Pelagia docked in Reykjavík

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