The passing of the fifth week marks the half-way point for the interns of the REU program and with it, a more focused approach to our various research projects. Research proposals have been created and reviewed for strengths and weaknesses, and clear questions have been formed to act as an anchor for our remaining work and studies. The question I am asking is how vertical distribution of pyrosomes is affected by environmental parameters including oxygen content, salinity, temperature, and fluorescence (a measure for phytoplankton productivity in the water). This question will most likely be edited somewhat over the coming weeks, but the framework is present and I am able to begin the work that will fill the majority of the coming weeks: counting pyrosomes. All of the field work for my research was completed during the cruise once the final footage was recorded, but now that information must be transformed into numbers if any conclusions are to be reached. Until somebody develops an automated pyrosome-counting technology, that process of transformation resides in good old-fashioned human observation and recording.
One extremely useful aspect of data processing that I am currently immersed in, is that I am forced to critically evaluate the way I present information and whether the information is actually useful. I have known for several weeks now that my research will focus on the relationship of pyrosome distribution and environmental conditions outside of Oregon and California, but I had yet to put real thought into how collected data could be presented in a way that highlights that relationship. The questions that I am asking myself now are those like ‘What data do I ultimately need to take away from each sampling station?’, ‘How can I summarize huge volumes of data without altering it?’, ‘Is every parameter going to tell us something useful when processed?’, and of course, ‘How much data will I actually be able to process with the time that I have available?’. The question of time constraints is one of the most pressing as it will ultimately serve to force me into deciding one way or another which questions I will be able to approach and which of those I will have to dismiss. I may not have time to compile the data for the primary and secondary sampling of each station during the day and night, so I have the option of leaving out the secondary sampling, which in turn may cause me to miss an important trend. These are tricky questions to answer and have given me greater insight to the sort of issues that a researcher can run into when trying to explain or apply their data.
Hello there! My name is Matthew Gimpelevich and I am currently an undergraduate student in my third year of oceanography and engineering at Seattle Central College in Seattle, Washington. I’m lucky enough to be working in the Sutherland lab at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology where I get to formulate my own methods of studying the pyrosome, Pyrosoma atlanticum, which has recently migrated up the Pacific coast from warmer waters! As an REU intern, I look forward to developing research techniques and methods of organizing and maintaining my own projects!