Yesterday the two students Ben and Claire came in to help Britt and myself to process the first sediment core (see below). Science can be enormously complicated and technologically advanced, but this afternoon it was more about getting mud out of a tube and slicing it into pieces with a kitchen knife. Having said that, our method of getting the mud out was quite creative:
Claire and Ben pushing the mud out using a vacuum cleaner rod with a plastic bag around the dirty end pressed against a wad of paper followed by a punched piece of oasis (the weird green stuff you can stick flowers in). This improvised contraption worked perfectly. (btw, ‘ball’ or ‘wad’ do not sound right, isn’t there a specific word for it in the context of a sheet of paper in English? ‘vacuum cleaner rod’ sounds odd too but you know what I mean…)
Slicing off the mud went better than expected. We used a bunsen burner to work sterile and caught the disc of mud in a square sterile plate.
(Part of) our time series! The discs are relatively thick (3-5 mm) and so could span a considerable number of years. We thus will be pooling quite a lot of generations within discs, which hopefully will not interfere with our comparisons through time (between discs). As our coring tube was not sterile to begin with (it was open when travelling through the water column) and contamination between depth layers must occur (as mud slids through the corer), we carefully removed the outer layer of the disc, keeping only the inside that has not been into direct contact with the sides of the corer. Lastly, Ben and Claire divided the mud into three small tubes, for isolation of bacteria, phages and potential later sequencing, and one large tube for backup.
We hope to plate out the lowest/oldest mud sample on different types of growth media next week to see what grows, more pictures then!