Monash University Western Port nutrient sampling marathon

altThree Monash University scientists, Vera Eate, Victor Evrard and Ryan Woodland were joined by Australian Marine Ecology's Matt Edmunds to set up RV Orca II as a floating laboratory on Western Port. Loggers and current meters (ADCP) measured various parameters continuously. Water samples were collected every hour and pre-processed in Vera’s makeshift lab in the cabin. A net was mounted the bow and checked periodically to measure the amount of organics, such as seagrass, drifting in and out of the inlets. Shrimp were occasionally caught in the net and promptly boiled up by Victor for a breakfast snack. Large numbers of blubber jellyfish (Catastylus mosaicus) were about and Ryan was kept busy clearing them from the net in addition to his zooplankton sampling duties. alt

Ground water input to the inlets was monitored continuously using a radon detector – a very sensitive machine that required constant nursing from Victor. It behaved quite well, with only a single early morning drama interrupting its otherwise smooth operation. In between the routine scientific duties, time on the boat was spent eating, relaxing, fighting for the only hammock, and evenĀ  swimming. This relaxed existence life made up for the broken sleep, there only being time for short catnaps between sampling events. We were lucky in having good weather, although some afternoon rocking in the sea breeze kept a queasy Vera in bed for a while. The waves soon calmed off though and we were treated to some spectacular sunsets. This work will contribute to our understanding of how nutrients cycle between sediments, water column and plants and animals and the significance of nutrient inputs into Western Port from land runoff.

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