Bedford Basin water tested by Dalhousie researchers

The Bedford Basin was a outdoor science lab for a group of Dalhousie University researchers who spent Monday testing water samples for Ocean Sampling Day.

Ocean Sampling Day coordinates international scientists to get a better picture of the underwater life

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      The Bedford Basin was a outdoor science lab for a group of Dalhousie University researchers who spent the day testing sea water for Ocean Sampling Day.

      Ocean Sampling Day is an international initiative that coordinates scientists around the world to get a clearer picture of what's going on beneath the water's surface. 

      On small, crowded boat in the basin, the group of researchers spent the day filtering microbes. 

      "We can look at the microbial communities in the basin," said lab manager Jennifer Tolman. "There are all kinds of microbes that work and basically live together, and kind of feed off of each other."

      Multiple rigs were used on the boat to perform a wide variety of tests to gain a better understanding of the support chains for underwater life. 

      Researcher Jude Van Der Meer used a bio-optic package, which tests for pH levels, oxygen, organisms, and even the ocean's colour.

      "We also use it for depth," Van Der Meer said. "So, we drop these Niskin bottles which collect water samples for us at different depths, and I've just been going up and down all day basically." 

      A clear picture

      Tolman said the tests can tell researchers details about the ocean that can't be seen with the naked eye. 

      But, she said that's not always the case. On Monday, Tolman explained their water filters were working a little harder than usual.

      "It's not as long to clog the filters as it does sometimes, that means there's a lot more stuff in the water that's been clogging up the filter quickly," she said.
      Inside the boat, researchers got a glimpse of a small part of the bigger picture. A special holographic camera was used to sample different microbes.

      "The microscope's underwater and collects holograms and the holograms show up [on a computer]," said John Samson of 4-Deep Submersible Microscopes, adding that samples were primarily taken from the first five metres of water under the boat. 

      When the Dalhousie researchers finish, they will send their samples to Germany, where they'll be DNA sequenced, and turned into data that will be used by scientists for years to come.

      Though they were busy for hours today, the researchers are, in fact, out on the water conducting tests every Wednesday — rain or shine. 


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