By Julie Barker
Yesterday was the fourth day of our efforts sampling the benthic community of Chequamegon Bay. We all got a break over the weekend, but for the next five days, the Lake Explorer II (LE II) will be home to the nine of us contributing to the sampling effort.
What is life like on board? The LE II has five “staterooms” (bedrooms), four of which sleep two, and one that sleeps three (that’s my room). Each has a bunk bed, a small desk, a sink, and a space to keep your personal items (most rooms have high-school-type lockers). One of my favorite things about the staterooms is that each of the bunk beds has curtains that allow the occupant some privacy while sleeping, reading or just taking a break.
By now you may be wondering about bathrooms on the boat. Referred to as “heads,” there are two, and there are two showers aboard. We also have laundry machines available for longer trips. All of the potable water used on the vessel comes from a large storage tank that is filled before every trip.
The primary social area on the vessel is the “galley” (kitchen). There are always yummy snacks there. Often a group of us will spend time there in the evenings playing board games like Scrabble, or watching a movie (although we usually never finish because we are all too tired from the workday to stay up). On a typical research trip we eat all of our meals aboard the LE II because we are out in the middle of Lake Superior or docked/anchored in some remote area. However, since this research trip is based out of Ashland, WI, we have been eating breakfast and lunch aboard the vessel and going out in the evenings to explore the different restaurants in the area.
When you want to get a good vantage of your surroundings from the boat, the best place to go is the bridge (where the captain drives, controls, and monitors the vessel). We do all our sampling and sample processing (which we will describe in an upcoming blog post) off the large back deck of the vessel. Although we are not doing much laboratory work on the LE II for this trip, the vessel does have a large science area. We have been using this space primarily for research planning and organizing the benthic samples we have collected so far.
Overall, life on the boat is comfortable, enjoyable, and a unique experience. Sampling trips such as these have been a great way to get to know my co-workers, and I’m sure we are all creating a lot of good memories.
About the Author: Julie Barker is an ORISE fellow with EPA’s Midcontinent Ecology Division, part of the Agency’s Office of Research and Development. She has been participating in field study assessments of coastal embayments, and her research includes investigating how wetland-nearshore interactions affect coastal fisheries, and exploring if underwater video can be effectively used to detect invasive species.