I have the privilege of cruising back on a transect from Tuxpan, Mexico to St. Pete aboard the RV Weatherbird II, collecting planktonic fish eggs for DNA barcoding. You should know, as I told someone a few days ago: this IS my first rodeo.
My previous experiences have been in the realm of freshwater systems, so I am accustomed to grabbing a bucket, a net, and a notebook and wading in a creek for just a few hours collecting crayfish, grass shrimp, and sometimes mussels.
Given the lack of experience at sea, and being the type that obsesses over detail, preparing for this trip came with some degree of anxiety. I spent several weeks prior to flying into Mexico planning, packing, and making lists. Of the meticulous planning, I now say: That’s cute. Those best laid plans are for naught in the face of circumstance.
Sometimes circumstance can be small and inconsequential: I brought a whole box of Breathe-Right-Strips to combat my snoring in consideration of the bunk mates I don’t have. Other times, circumstances can be heartbreaking: red-tape and delays causing several reschedules had my wife and I hoping that I would be home for our first wedding anniversary.
Alas, I was at sea on September 27th for our first year together. Then there are times when an effect on the science is to be had: someone (who shall remain anonymous, but definitely is not me) was ALMOST done processing and preserving a plankton sample when he/she dropped it and spilled all over. To paraphrase words of wisdom shared by one of the veterans aboard: it is easy to criticize a data set and lament “Oh! Why didn’t they sample there?!” without context.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the experience thus far, in spite of 2 days battling sea-sickness; sleeping 3 to 4 hours at a time; and enduring the Plankton-Dropper’s awful improvised renditions of 80’s rock or soundtracks while washing down plankton nets in the wee hours of the morning or the hot afternoon sun. Everyone on board has been very pleasant and quite accommodating of my inexperience at sea.
I couldn’t have asked for a better captain, crew, and group of scientists to take me into tutelage. As for the circumstances: we’ve had wonderful weather and conditions (knock on wood); there’s no use crying over spill plankton; and I can’t wait to get home to my wonderful wife (I LOVE YOU SHELBY!) and celebrate our first anniversary.