Tag Archives: Research Cruise

Bitter-sweet Bon Voyage

6 July 2018
Seeing an aerial photo of the CCGS Sir Wilfred Laurier and reading a blurb about an undergraduate studying chemical oceanography on the university’s homepage was the tipping point that helped me decide to attend UVic for my post-secondary education.
Like most students in grade 12, I had very few ideas of what I actually wanted to do with my life and career, but seeing what the possibilities were inspired me and I promptly enrolled in the Earth and Ocean Science program. Becoming that undergraduate who has the privilege to do scientific research on a cruise seemed like an unrealistic dream – unachievable for an average student like myself. But lo and behold, a little over three and a half years later, I somehow fooled the people in charge to let me participate!
After two months of working on the InFORM project in the lab, the cruise idea seems a bit more normal to me, but I am lucky to be constantly reminded of how much of a privilege this voyage is. Friends and coworkers all have similar humbling reactions when I mention what my summer job is and what part of the world I get to explore – “Wow, that is so cool! Take me with you??” My dad marveled at how I might be the only person in our family who will have crossed the Arctic Circle (before I reminded him that his own father is from Finland). My mom declared that I might be the coolest person she knows because I get to sail with the coast guard. (Sorry to my sister Marina. If you’re reading this, it’s official – I’m cooler than you. Mom said so!!)
Everyone in the EOS department has been so incredibly helpful in preparing me for my trip, especially Dr. Jay Cullen, Sue Velazquez, and Annaliese Meyer. They’ve helped me understand the procedures, both in our UVic lab, with the citizen science samples, and in providing insights to what my life will look like on the ship. From lab techniques to prevent samples from leaking, to the best seasickness meds to have on-hand, to preparing to eat my body weight in decadent fresh-baked pastries; I feel quite ready for what is to come.
Getting ready for departure!

I have stepped foot on the CCGS Sir Wilfred Laurier three times in the past few weeks. First, to set up the lab equipment with Jay. Second to give my mom and stepdad a tour of where I will be working and living for the next three weeks. Last, to bring my personal belongings to my room. It is a lot more spacious than I was expecting. I found out I will only have a roommate for about half of the time (I thought I would be sharing a room the whole time), and it has a little porthole (I had pictured I would be getting one of the interior, lightless rooms)! So overall, I’m already pleasantly surprised by the experience.

After we set sail tonight at 18:30, we will be having a full tour of the ship and a safety briefing. This will be followed by our first meal as a team. Then we get to work.
The route of the annual CCGS Laurier trip from Victoria, BC to Barrow, AK.

My project involves collecting seawater from what is called the loop sampler. This water runs through the ship  and gives us an accurate representation of the ocean conditions. The seawater is run through a resin which binds to the radiocesium in the water that is left over from the meltdowns of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants in 2011. Once all of the cesium is bound to the resin, I will send the resin to Dr. John Smith‘s lab at DFO’s Bedford Institute of Oceanography where they use gamma spectroscopy to determine how much cesium is at each sample location. These data will become part of the timeseries from the previous undergrads who have taken the same NE Pacific/Arctic cruise to see how the amounts of cesium have changed through time.

Well, all of my lab equipment is set up on board, I have a seasickness-halting medicated patch behind my ear, and I’m about to walk back to the Laurier‘s temporary resting place at Ogden Point where my feet will soon leave solid ground for the last time. I truly wasn’t sure if I would see this day, but here it is, and I’m ready (as I’ll ever be) to set sail!
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Update: Sampling for Fukushima Derived Radionuclides in the Northeast Pacific and Arctic 2015

By Jay T. Cullen

Locations where surface seawater samples were collected for the InFORM project in July 2015. Surface seawater temperatures at the time of collection are shown with values greater than 16C in the anomalous region referred to colloquially as “the blob”.


The purpose of this short post is to update readers on the activities of the Integrated Fukushima Ocean Radionuclide Monitoring (InFORM) project. This post is the most recent in a series documenting scientific research into the impact of the Fukushima Dai-ichi disaster on environmental and public health. Surface seawater samples were collected from the icebreaker CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier as it traveled between Victoria BC to Dutch Harbor Alaska during July 2015. These seawater samples will be analyzed to characterize the distribution of Fukushima derived radionuclides 137-Cesium (137Cs half life ~30 years), and 134-Cesium (134Cs half life ~2 years). As in previous years this information will help to determine how well model predictions of the activities and progression of ocean borne contamination across the Pacific Ocean match with observations. Understanding the spread of this contamination provides important information on the impact of the Fukushima Dai-ichi disaster on the health of the Pacific ecosystem and the North American public. The evolution of the contaminant plume in time and space also helps the scientific community to better understand ocean mixing which is a key parameter toward understanding the oceans role in mitigating atmospheric greenhouse gas increases and climate change.
Continue reading Update: Sampling for Fukushima Derived Radionuclides in the Northeast Pacific and Arctic 2015

Sampling for Fukushima Derived Radionuclides in the Northeast Pacific and Arctic 2015

By Jay T. Cullen

Bow of the CCGS Laurier. Great ship and crew for science operations in the Arctic.
The purpose of this short post is to update readers on the activities of the Integrated Fukushima Ocean Radionuclide Monitoring (InFORM) project. This post is the most recent in a series documenting scientific research into the impact of the Fukushima Dai-ichi disaster on environmental and public health. Today the icebreaker CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier will leave Victoria BC bound for Dutch Harbor Alaska and then up through Bering Sea and Strait to the Arctic Ocean. On the way the InFORM project will collect surface seawater to characterize the distribution of Fukushima derived radionuclides 137-Cesium (137Cs half life ~30 years), and 134-Cesium (134Cs half life ~2 years). As in previous years this information will help to determine how well model predictions of the activities and progression of ocean borne contamination across the Pacific Ocean match with observations. This provides important information on the impact of this contamination on the health of the Pacific ecosystem and the North American public that rely on the ocean for their food, livelihood and recreation. The evolution of the contaminant plume in time and space also helps the scientific community to better understand ocean mixing which is a key parameter toward understanding the oceans role in mitigating atmospheric greenhouse gas increases and climate change. Continue reading Sampling for Fukushima Derived Radionuclides in the Northeast Pacific and Arctic 2015