Life At Sea

Question: What is the job like on the ship during an expedition? and, Are there scientiests onboard investigating material as it is brought up, or is it collected and brought back to labs?

From: L.Lawson, Annapolis, MD

Answer (from Dena Rosenberger – Education Officer Expedition 344, Costa Rica Seismogenesis)

First question: The website ( has a wealth of
information and photos in my daily blogs and also under "Expeditions",
but I can tell you more of the specifics that you asked for that would
not necessarily be on the "info" pages on the website. There are
currently 35 scientists onboard and about 90 crew/staff/support
personnel. The work is demanding but rewarding. Everyone works 12-hour
shifts, 24-7 for two months, either 6am-6pm or the reverse, or noon to
midnight or the reverse.  We have full lab facilities and the
scientists process/analyze the cores as they come in.  A full core is
9.5 m long, and it is cut into 1.5 meter sections to lay out onto the
sampling table.  We do paleomagnetism, microfossil and nannofossil
categorizing/counting, physical properties, and chemistry/biology.
Also, from each core, scientists ask for certain samples, like "10 cc
every 50 cm of core." These samples are collected and stored in the
fridge until we return when they are shipped to the scientist's
University. So, yes, to both of your questions about material data.

This from our Expedition Project Manager, (and I added some in, as well):
Pros of being a geologist: Science is exciting because the data are
unpredictable. The participating scientists get to travel a lot if
they are doing field work, either on land or on seagoing vessels. Most
are professors at Universities around the world.  There are 14
nationalities represented on this expedition, so it is very
interesting to listen to the ongoing discussions. It is an extremely
interdisciplinary science! Onboard, we have geologists, chemists,
physicists, biologists (for the fossilized plankton we find),
mathematicians, software developers, and database managers.  The
geologists all have specialties, as well, like sedimentologist,
micropaleontologist, seismic specialist, igneous petrologist,
structural geologist, and more.
Phew! I hope that answered your questions…don't give up on geology!
Even though it is rocks and mud, it is pretty cool to be out here off
the coast of Costa Rica on a ship full of geeks trying to figure out what makes earthquakes tick! 

Question: How much food do you have to store on the JR for your voyage…..and what supplies do you need?

From Arena Oian (Horse Creek School – NW Alexander, USA)

Answer (Alex Trota, Camp Boss): As you can imagine the amount of food needed to make meals for all persons on board (about 130) during the 60 days of the mailing is huge! Here is a brief list of what we have stored on the JR for Expedition 339: Meat ~ 6000 kg; Frozen fish ~ 1650 kg; Canned fish ~ 1100; Frozen vegetables ~ 1400 kg, Fresh fruit and vegetables ~ 4100 kg, flour (to make cakes and bread) ~ 5250 kg; beverages ~ 4500 litres, mainly orange juice! We can also make and store our own fresh water. We have 3 fresh water generators and as many storage tanks that hold a total of around 250 tons of water.

Question: Hi everybody! Did you sleep well on the first night on the ship? I think the first night would be hard to sleep because you probably would be so excited!?

From Giannini Susan (Escola Secundária de Loulé, Portugal)

Answer (Estefanìa Llave, Expedition 339 Observer): You are right, Giannini, The first night I was so excited that I couldn't sleep properly, but after a few days and especially when we started to sail, and with the smooth movements of the ship and with the waves… I do sleep quite better.

Question: How long are your days? Do you work at night?

From: PCDS Science Class

Answer: Everyone onboard works 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. There are 4 different shifts: noon-midnight or midnight-noon, and 6AM-6PM (“days”) or 6PM-6AM (“nights”). That way, there’s always someone available for whatever needs to be done, since the ship never sleeps!

Do you get vacations? Do you have another job?

From: PCDS Science Class

Answer: After 60 days onboard, everyone needs a little downtime! Some people like to take a few extra days and explore the port where we end up, but some people just want to get back home to their families. Some of the people work on the JR as part of their full-time job, so when they go back home, they work in an office until they go back out to sea again. Most of the scientists who are onboard work for a University or other organization, so when they go home, they go back to work there. Some of the engineers and other technicians are employed under contract, so when they get off the ship, they can choose to get another job in the meantime, or just take 2 months off!

Question: How do they get fresh milk and fruit for 2 months?

From: St. Joseph's Academy, St. Louis, MO

Answer: We take boxed milk…you may have seen it in the store. It's in little square boxes like juice comes in, and it's sterilized and packaged so that it doesn't have to be refrigerated. It tastes a bit different from fresh milk, but it's still pretty good!

Fresh fruit is a lot more difficult to store. In the beginning, we had lots of fruit like bananas and nice green lettuce. We’ve still got apples, kiwis, pineapples and oranges, and crunchy vegetables. Soon, though, all of our fresh fruit will run out and we’ll have to make do with canned for the rest of the expedition.

Question: Do you ever catch fish or other seafood and eat it?

From: St. Joseph's Academy, St. Louis, MO

Answer: They don’t allow fishing off the boat. We've got 12 very expensive computer-controlled thrusters keeping us in place over our site, so they don't want fishing line to accidentally tangle up in there!

Question: Can you watch regular TV (so can people stay current)?

From: St. Joseph's Academy, St. Louis, MO

Answer: We get one channel via satellite: the armed forces network. It plays shows that might be interesting to service members abroad, so lots of football games, talk shows (not shown live, but taped and replayed), and ads for military service and resources. There’s another channel that shows a movie 24 hours a day, but it's never a current one. People get their info from the internet, although no one is allowed to watch youtube because it takes too much bandwidth.

Question: What is the best food you have eaten on the ship?

From: PCDS Seventh Graders

Answer: The galley staff does a great job to make sure that we get lots of good food to eat! Since there are people from all over the world onboard, they try to make sure that they cook dishes from all over the world, too. I haven’t been onboard that long, but so far my favorite thing has been the curry dishes. And the dessert cabinet, of course!

Question: Do you ever go swimming?

From: PCDS Seventh Graders

Answer: Even though the boat is really, really big, the main deck is actually not THAT far above the water (maybe 10-20 feet…like a medium diving board height). The weather at our current site in the Atlantic Ocean is really pleasant (and sometimes even hot), so it’s tempting to just jump right in! They don't allow swimming off the boat, though, because it would be too dangerous. There isn’t an easy way to get back onboard, and when you think about the fact that there’s 4500m of pure blue Atlantic ocean below you, with nothing to stop you until you hit the bottom, staying onboard sounds like a good idea!

Question: Do you have your own room?

From: PCDS Seventh Graders

Answer: Some of the scientists and crew have their own room, but I don’t. I share with another scientist…we have bunkbeds! Most of the time, the scientists and crew are working 12 hours a day on opposite shifts, so you’re working while your roommate is sleeping, and vice versa. 

Question: Do you like life at sea while researching the ocean floor?  Don't you ever get seasick?

From Noor at Cupertino Middle School:

Answer from Peter, a sedimentologist:
1. Yes! It is very interesting to work with friends from all around the world, that isn't to say that I don't miss my family though.
2. No, the seas here off of Costa Rica are very smooth and the ship is very large. We can occasionally feel the boat rock, not not that much. It is smoother than riding in a car.

Question: This may be a little revolting, but what do you do with your waste and garbage? Do you hold it in a compartment, throw it in the sea… what do you do with it?

From: Leawood Middle School


Paper and cardboard waste is burned in a furnace.  The ashes are stored for disposal in port.  All of the plastics – juice bottles etc. are stowed in the hold of the ship and are placed in recycling containers on land when we return to shore. 

The waste from the toilets passes through a three stage system called a Marine Sanitation Device.  First the waste is mixed with air, then it enters a container with good bacteria that eat the waste and break it down.  The last phase is to chlorinate the liquid so that all the bacteria are killed.  After this last step, the material goes over the side of the ship, and is certified to be non-harmful to any marine life.
Peter Cook – Camp Boss
Brian LeBlanc – Second Engineer

Question: What do you do for fun other than pulling up core samples?

From: Leawood Middle School


Take Pictures of Sea Birds – Simon George
Read Books – Helen Lever
Work out in the Ship's Gym – Martin Crundwell
Watch Movies – Maria Ciobanu

Ocean Drilling

Question: Is the water cooler on the top of the water or the bottom? What is the 
deepest you have drilled?

From Stacy ( Rose Shaw Elementary, Corpus Christi, Texas)

Answer (Virginia Jones, Education Officer, Expedition 340T Atlantis Massif)
1. The water at the surface of the ocean is warmer than at the seafloor. However, on this expedition we were measuring water temperatures in the boehole. The temperature increases as you go down in the hole. At the bottom of the hole that temperature is 148°C but at the top of the hole the temperature is only 2° to 3°C. 100°C is the boiling point of water at sea level, however at this depth the water will not boil at this temperature because of the high pressure.
2. The deepest hole drilled by the JOIDES Resolution is hole U504B. It is 2076 meters below the seafloor.

Question: Do you see any oil where you are drilling? If not, why not?

Answer (from Mike Bertolli, Chemistry Lab Technician): I assume you're asking whether we see oil because of our drilling; we don't. We actually aren't allowed to drill into petroleum deposits because we do not have a blow-out preventer (which means we can't handle the pressure released from tapping into a petroleum deposit). This is why we do pre-cruise site surveys.

I also test/monitor all of our recovered core for the presence of any chemicals associated with petroleum deposits. If we do start to see serious concentrations of these chemicals, then we will stop all drilling immediately.

Question: How far down can the pipe extend?

From: North Hollywood High School Zoo Magnet, Los Angeles, CA

Answer: The deepest water depth the JR has drilled in was 5,980 m (19,614 ft, 3.72 miles) in the Pacific Ocean in 1989. The maximum water depth the JR is capable of drilling in is 8,230m (27,000 ft, 5.11 mi).

Question: Have you ever broken it (the pipe)?

From: North Hollywood High School Zoo Magnet, Los Angeles, CA

Answer (from Adam Klaus, Expedition Project Manager): Oh yes. My first expedition as a staff scientist was Leg 149 off Iberia (Spain/Portugal). When retrieving the drill string, the pipe failed (broke off) at the rig floor with the bit about 3600 m below the rig floor. We lost 3600 m of drill pipe (about $500,000 in 1993 = a lot more today). 

Question: How can you detect how far down the ocean floor is?

From: North Hollywood High School Zoo Magnet, Los Angeles, CA

Answer (from Adam Klaus, Expedition Project Manager): We use sonar to bounce sound off the seafloor and listen for the returned sound—this gives us the time for traveling down and back. The speed of sound in water is 1500 m/s. From this info, you can get the depth.

We also use the drill string. We measure each piece of drill pipe and lower it down and touch the seafloor—we can also use the camera system to see this.

Question: Do the workers on board sometimes confuse the various instruments for readying the drill pipe?

From: Luke

Answer (from Adam Klaus, Expedition Project Manager): Sometimes people get confused, but only rarely. The work on the drill floor is not only super important, but it's REALLY dangerous. When we are coring in deep water (like this expedition), the driller is raising and lowering up to 550,000 lbs of drill pipe with workers all around. If they get something wrong, someone can get very hurt. They also check the “pipe tally” very carefully (that’s the number and length of each piece of drill pipe they have in the drill string); it's an important part of their job.

Question: What could have made the winch on the camera system break?

From: Luke

Answer (from Adam Klaus, Expedition Project Manager): Things break on the ship all the time. Many systems are used heavily and under very demanding and harsh conditions.

After the winch problems started happening, we recovered the camera system and the ship's engineers, machinists, drillers, and rig floor experts all started working to determine the problem. Evidently (I'm still learning) winches are not that complex and don't have many parts. First they replaced the motor. Unfortunately, the replacement motor only had one of the two required connectors, so the ship's machinist took some metal and actually made a connector from it. However, the winch still did not work after the motor was replaced. So, they replaced the hydraulic pump, which supplies high-pressure fluid to operate the winch. At first, all they could find on board was a pump that had been removed a long time ago and it didn't have any information with it to say why it was removed or if it was still working. They started by completely taking it apart and rebuilding the pump they found. Just when they were about to install it, one of the crew remembered to look in another storage area on the ship, and under some boxes in a corner, under some rags, they found a completely refurbished pump! They installed it and it's been working great ever since. We need amazing people and tools out here to be self-sufficient!

Question: What happens if nothing works (to fix the winch)?

From: Luke

Answer (from Adam Klaus, Expedition Project Manager): If nothing worked to fix it, they would have tried to use other hydraulic pump systems on board. However, each system needs a controller that is made for that system, so it's not clear they could have made it work. If not, then we would have had to take the ship to somewhere we could get a replacement pump brought to the ship…Doing that is a whole other story!

We could not even begin to accomplish the goals of this expedition without this winch. It was a SERIOUS problem.

Question: What equipment do you need?

From Anna:

Answer from a few technicians and scientists on the core deck:
We use all kinds of tools. Some that you can find in your home – hammers, hack saws, drills, flat toothpicks, spatulas, tweezers. We also use other tools that help us prepare the samples – a giant cheese cutter to slice the core on half, a rock saw to make very thin slices of rocks, and a vacuum sealer to store the small samples.

Question: What type of life is on the deep ocean floor?

From: Dhrumit at North Brunswick Township HS, NJ

Answer (from Heath Mills, Biogeochemist): There is a wide range of organisms that live on the floor. So many, that scientist have developed special names to group them based on where they live. If the organism spends most of the time on the bottom but does swim up into the water column, it is called a nekto-benthic organism. These would include flounders and other flat fish. If the organism only lives on the bottom, then scientists call it a benthic organism. Examples of these include oysters, crabs, sea urchins and worms. Because there are so many benthic organism and their lifestyles can be very different, scientists have subdivided the group into epifauna and infauna. Epifauna live on the surface of the bottom. These are more frequently found on hard surfaces like a rocky bottom. Epifauna organisms include crabs, oysters, snails, corals and sponges (corals are mainly in the shallow waters but recent discoveries have identified deep-water corals). Infauna are organisms that live in the sediments. They burrow down to hide from predators and find food. These include some polycheates (worms), mussels, and even some sea urchins. There are even some burrowing shrimp. These different organisms can be found at all depths with special modifications to allow them to survive.

Areas that are fun to study in the deep ocean are around hydrothermal vents and cold seeps. Both areas are where chemical energy comes out of the sediment allowing microbes (bacteria and archaea) to convert that chemical energy into organic matter. This reaction is similar to what plants do. The microbes represent the base of this deep sea food chain. Life around a vent or a seep can be highly diverse and very abundant. Many different types of fish, crabs, and tubeworms can be found in these areas.

On this cruise we will mainly focus on the microbiology. Some groups may be looking at microeukaryotes (single and multi-celled organism that will still require a microscope. I don’t believe that we will see anything larger than that given the area we are in.

Question: Is there anything that shows us about the land that changed over time?

From: Dhrumit at North Brunswick Township HS, NJ

Answer (from Victoria Rennie, Inorganic Geochemist): Over time continents move as the oceanic crust between them is created (at mid-ocean ridges) and destroyed (in subduction zones).  This means that the position of the continents has changed with time.  Scientists can track the position of land masses over time in two ways.

The first way is by looking at the sea floor.  As new oceanic crust is created, the magnetic minerals in the crust line up with the Earth's magnetic field.  The magnetic field of the Earth changes periodically over time, and so the orientation of the minerals in the crust changes over time, too.  If you make a map of the magnetic field in the seafloor, you can see a series of strips on each side of the mid-ocean ridge.  You can figure out how the continents have moved, by backtracking each strip of crust at a time.  We only have ocean floor for the past 130 million years, and so before then we have to rely only on our second technique.

The second method is also to do with magnetic minerals.  Magnetic minerals don't just orient themselves horizontally on the Earth's surface, they align with magnetic field lines, to point directly towards the closest pole.  Wherever sediments collect, or minerals precipitate, the magnetic minerals will orientate themselves in this fashion.  When the continents move, the minerals can't then change that orientation, so we can figure out where the continents were, based on the orientation of the minerals. 

Question: Can you explain what sort of instrument DEBI-T is?

From: Julie

Answer (from Everett Salas, Microbiology Logging Tool Engineer): DEBI-T is a fluorescence-based biosensor. DEBI-T shines a laser onto the surface and excites the organic molecules that are on that surface. When those molecules fluoresce, the detectors in DEBI-T record that fluorescence. DEBI-T has a small sapphire window that allows the laser pulse to exit the instrument and fluorescence signal to pass back into the instrument.

Question: How does the DEBI-T scan a borehole?

From: Julie

Answer (from Everett Salas, Microbiology Logging Tool Engineer): DEBI-T works the same way that other logging instruments work. These instruments are lowered and raised in the borehole and collect information as they travel up and down. In DEBI-T's case, the laser shines on the surface and causes the organic molecules to fluoresce. That fluorescence is recorded by detectors in DEBI-T. Because we know where in the borehole DEBI-T is, we know where the different fluorescence signals come from.

Question: Does DEBI-T have sensors or is it a camera of some kind?

From: Julie

Answer (from Everett Salas, Microbiology Logging Tool Engineer): DEBI-T has both a camera and sensors. That camera records what DEBI-T is "seeing" so that we have context for what the fluorescence sensors detect. That way, we know how dirty the water was, or what kind of rocks we might have been scanning, etc.

Question: How does DEBI-T determine the number of bacteria?

From: Julie

Answer (from Everett Salas, Microbiology Logging Tool Engineer): Before deploying DEBI-T, we did some calibration tests in the lab. We used known concentrations of bacteria to make a curve that told us how bright the signal would be given a certain number of microbes. In general, the more intense, or bright, the fluorescence signal, the more bacteria there are. We can then use that curve to make an estimate of how many bacteria we might have seen, based on the fluorescence intensity.

Question: Are the earthquakes centered off the Pacific Coastline picked up by the scientists working on the JR?

From: Lance (Costa Rica, retired, from New Jersey)

Answer:  (from Expedition Project Manager Katerina Petronotis) In short, no, they are not picked up by the scientists on the JR. We can't measure or feel eathquakes because we are on a moving ship. Seismographs have to be attached to solid rock to give accurate data. However, the data we collect will be used to understand why and where eathquakes happen and perhaps help predict them in the distant future.

Questions: In what way do the sediments deposited in the Gulf of Cadiz can help you understand: the opening of the Gibraltar Strait; the formation of the Mediterranean Outflow Water (MOW); the sea level variations; and the climate oscillations?

From Rafael Santos  (Escola Secundária Miguel Torga, Portugal)

Answers (Dorrik Stow, Expedition 339 Co-chief):

1. Sediments deposited by bottom currents, such as those produced by MOW, are known as contourites. They have particular characteristics, which allow us to infer bottom current activity. These are what we are looking for in the cores. We already know from seismic profiles and seafloor morphology (e.g. mounds of sediment) where the contourites should be found – and these relate closely to our direct measurements of bottom currents and MOW in the region.

2. MOW can only have started after the Gibraltar Gateway was open, so when we encounter contourite sediments in the Gulf of Cadiz cores, we know we have MOW. The age of the sediments (contourites) can be dated by microfossil assemblages – which is why we have micro-paleontologists on board.

3. We cannot infer precisely the time or place of formation of warm saline waters that make up the MOW from our work in the Gulf. But physical oceanographers have determined that these waters originate in different parts of the Med Sea, including the far eastern Levantine Sea. What we can see is when this MOW water starts to spill through Gibraltar.

4. In theory, there is a global cycle of sea-level change that has been worked out from many different studies. We are interested to see if the variation in contourites (you get sandier ones, muddier ones etc) and in other sediment types show any trends that can be related to the global sea-level cycles. And it's difficult!! In fact, our results suggest that tectonic factors have had more influence than sea-level change in the Gulf of Cadiz.

5. Likewise, climate oscillations are extremely well known and well documented through the past few million years of Earth history – and we wanted to see if the sediments showed any response to climate. Remarkably, they do show a very close relationship with climate oscillations… though this is an area for much more detailed post-expedition research.

Question: Although you are taking samples in regard to Earth's origin, etc., what are you doing to prove or disprove the polar shift? How long is it since the Earth shifted its polarity and what would be the effects if it shifted, say, within the next 20 years? Climate, flora, fauna, etc.?

From Peggy (via the JOIDES Resolution facebook page)

Answer (from Katerina Petronotis, Expedition Project Manager/Staff Scientist): We are now in what we call the Brunhes normal polarity chron. The Earth's field has been in the present orientation since 780,000 years ago. During field reversals the intensity of the field gets smaller. If the field were to reverse it would not happen overnight and during that time we should expect more electromagnetic radiation to reach the Earth as the magnetosphere that shields the Earth gets weaker. If the reversal took a long time to complete plants and animals including humans would be exposed to harmful radiation and we could see increased rates of mutations. The climate could also be affected by changes in the incoming radiation. It's also not clear what would happen to animals that use the Earth's field to navigate. However, because reversals take a long time to complete (hundreds to thousands of years), the effects would be gradual and animals should be able to adjust. 


Question: Why are cores cut into 1.5 m sections?

From: Sylvain (Paris, France)

Answer: Caitlin (Education Officer, Expedition 342: Paleogene Newfoundland Sediment Drifts)

I found out many reasons why the core is cut to 1.5 m lenghts! These are the top two:

1. The cores were originally measured in feet, but then when IODP converted to the metric system 1.5 meters was the length that would fit into the instruments that were already being used. 
2. 1.5 meters is the largest core you can carry and handle without it being too heavy. You want the largest core so that you have the least number of cuts within the section.

Question: What experiments do you conduct on the cores once you bring them up from the ocean floor?

From: Leawood Middle School


Tests are done on the whole cores to test things like density, magnetic susceptibility and how fast heat moves through the core.  After the cores are split, samples are taken for things like making microscope slides (smear slides).  These are gathered by scraping a tiny bit of sediment with a toothpick and smearing it on a slide with a drop of water.  This allows us to look at microfossils and things like what minerals are present in the sediment.  Tests are also done to find out the volume and mass of the samples, and from this we can figure out density of the material.  Many of these experiments will take place on land once we get home.  Scientists will be gathering data from this expedition for a long time after it is over!  – Michelle Kominz

The JR

Question: How many journeys has the JOIDES Resolution been on?

From José Diogo Matos (Academia de Música de Santa Cecília, Portugal)

Answer: Until now The JR has been on 111 legs for ODP and 27 expeditions for IODP (including Expedition 339). You can find more the details on the following webpage:

Classroom Discussions

Question: What is the weather like there?

From Juree (Rose Shaw Elementary, Corpus Christi, Texas)
Answer (Virginia Jones, Education Officer, Expedition 340T Atlantis Massif)
During the time we were on site at Atlantis Massif the weather was breezy with daytime temperatures in the 60's Fahrenheit.

Question: How did the mountains get there and are the mountains changing?

From Jillian (Rose Shaw Elementary, Corpus Christi, Texas)
Answer (Virginia Jones, Education Officer, Expedition 340T Atlantis Massif)

The Atlantis Massif was formed by a fault where the crust was being pulled apart and a piece was pushed up to form the mountain. The mountain is changing mostly due to landslides.

Question: How high is the mountain you are looking at?

From Christopher (Rose Shaw Elementary, Corpus Christi, Texas)

Answers (Donna Blackman, Chief Scientist, Expedition 340T Atlantis Massif)

I assume that you are talking about the Atlantis Massif. It rises between 4000 and 4500 meters above the seafloor. That is about as high as Mount Rainier, is above sealevel.

Question: How often do earthquakes happen in Japan?

From: Reganne

Answer: Small earthquakes happen in Japan often. We are near a place where one piece of the ocean floor slides underneath Japan. Several times a year, we get earthquakes of magnitude 6.0 but once in a great while we get very large quakes like the one that happened in Kobe.

Question: What is it like to work with microorganisms?

From: Rolando

Answer: You really can't see the individual microorganisms because they are so small, but we can stain them and see some details. It is exciting to work with them but it does take a lot of work to prepare the sample for analysis.

Question: Have you ever worked with Thiomargarita up close? Do you go under water to discover more about these microbes and their habitats?

From: Mariah

Answer: No, I have not worked with this. We bring the sediments up to the ship so we don't need to go down into the water to get them. They come to us.

Question: How does it feel finding all those microbes or looking at them?

From: Brenda

Answer: Well, first of all, we can't see individual microbes very well. We use some science techniques, such as staining, to see them. It doesn't feel any different than usual.

Question: What kinds of ocean life do you get to see during you're expedition? Different kinds of fish?

From: Haley

Answer: You never know what you will see. So far on this expedition, I have seen sharks, Mahi Mahi, tuna, and whales.

Question: Is it fun being on a boat for a long time?

From: Madison

Answer: Yes, it is fun being on a boat for a long time, but I like getting back on land to see family and friends. While out on the ship, I cannot go to the mall or the beach, etc.

Question: Do you ever think becoming a scientist isn't worth it?

From: Anna

Answer: Certainly not. Science is important to all people and I feel honored to be able to studying things that help people all over the world. It is a very rewarding career.

Question: Do you feel weird about finding microbes, bacteria, or anything like that?

From: Migdalia

Answer: No, bacteria and other microbes are all around both you and I everyday so it doesn't feel weird.

Question: How long have you been a scientist?

From: Jacob

Answer: I have been a scientist for about 27 years.

Question: Have you ever worked with a Thiomargarita namibiensis?

From: Garrett

Answer: No, I have never worked with this bacteria.

Question: About how many animals do you think live in the sea?

From: K.C. Ward

Answer: Far too many to count. There are millions of animals living in the oceans. Some live near the surface while others live in the deep, dark, and cold waters of the ocean.

Question: Have you ever been sea sick and want to go home?

From: Reid Wortham

Answer: No, I have not been sea sick. I'm feeling just fine.

Question: Does the crew regret they got on the boat?

From: Jackson

Answer: No! It is great being out at sea.

Question: What do you do when you're not working? How many times have you thrown up?

From: Indiah

Answer: I like to walk around on the deck and look at the ocean, especially the sunsets. I also watch DVDs down in the small movie room that we have. I have not thrown up yet.

Question: Have any of you actually handled the Thiomargarita namibiensis?

From: Cassidy

Answer: Yes, one of the scientists from USC has handled this.

Question: What do you do for fun? What is your favorite food you eat on the JR?

From: Abby

Answer: I like to read novels in my spare time and it is nice to sit out on the deck when I'm not in the lab. All of the food is good; I don't think I have a favorite.

Question: What made you want to work on the JR and is it fun being on the JR?

From: Jacey

Answer: The JR is capable of drilling deep into the ocean floor and can collect samples of sediments in waters that are very deep. This excites me and it helps me to solve some of the questions that I have about the seafloor microbes. I could not get these types of samples on other ships because they don't have the same capability. It is a lot of fun being on the ship in my spare time.

Question: What's the best part of getting to research at sea? Have you discovered anything new on your most recent trip?

From: Jessica Bryant

Answer: The best part of being out to sea doing research is that I can collect many samples to analyze. I can collect them from parts of the ocean floor that I normally can't get too. I haven't discovered anything new, but samples collected on previous voyages help me with my research.

Question: What do you eat? Have you found anything new?

From: Jessica

Answer: We eat the same type of food that you eat. We have a galley where the chef cooks all sorts of food. No, nothing new has been found yet.

Question: I have a question since you guys are studying our microbe Acrobacter Sulidicus. What if you were to find out so much about our microbe that you decide to catch it. Would that be possible at all?

From: Fayth

Answer: Your microbe Acrobacter sulidicus, would be in the core sediments so there would be no need to trap it.

Question: I would like to know if you have found any new species in the last couple of months? Also, do you ever get tired of being on the ship?

From: Amber

Answer: No, I, nor any of the other scientists has found any new species in the last couple of months. Actually our voyage is only two weeks old at this point. Sometimes it gets tiring after about 6 weeks, but I am not at sea everyday during the year.

Question: What do you do if you get stuck in a storm?

From: Taya

Answer: If the storm is not too bad, such as a thunderstorm, we just sit here and work. If it is like a hurricane, then we move the ship to a safer area and then return.

Question: Have you found any new microbe recently?

From: Daniel

Answer: No, I have not found any new microbes recently. I have looked at some but we are not equipped to determine if they are new ones.

Question: What do you do when the weather gets too extreme to sail through if you're in the middle of the ocean/sea?

From: Megon

Answer: If the weather is extreme, the ship leaves the research area for an area that is calmer. We then return to continue drilling after the weather improves.

Question: What is the most exciting thing that you do?

From: Katelynn

Answer: It is actually very exciting to analyze samples. It is one of the few opportunities I get to spend most of my time doing science. Back on shore, much of my time is taken up teaching and doing other related things, which does not leave much time for science research.

Question: Have you discovered any new sea creatures (as in fish)?

From: Alex

Answer: No, I have not discovered any new fish, nor have any of the other scientists.

Question: Have you seen anything out of the ordinary on your travels?

From: Michael

Answer: It sort of depends on what you mean by out of the ordinary. I have seen plenty of sharks so I would call that out of the ordinary. We haven't seen any sea monsters or anything like that! Overall, no I haven't seen anything unusual.

Question: Does Archaeglobus fulgidus move?

From: Christina

Answer: No, it does not move. Remember, microbes are extremely small.

Question: How do you guys feel in the sea?

From: Maria Sanchez

Answer: We love it out here! It can be very relaxing when not working.

Question: How many microbes have you discovered yet and how many do you expect to discover?

From: Kenneth

Answer: None of us has discovered any new microbes yet and we actually don't have the equipment on board the ship to do that. I don't really know how many to expect. We work together, rather than as all individuals and we are more interested in how the microbes function and the overall number of them, referred to as biomass.

Question: Do you miss your family on the trip? Do you get to contact them?

From: Cara

Answer: Yes, we all miss our families on these long expeditions. We do have email and there are several telephones on board but it is difficult to actually get on the phone since it is in constant use.

Question: What are you looking for in your research?

From: Juleigh

Answer: I am looking to see if microbes are using hydrogen gas as a source of energy. I analyze the sediments to see if hydrogen is passing through them or not.

Question: Do you ever go swimming in the sea?

From: Jacob

Answer: No, first of all, it is not safe, especially with sharks around us and secondly the deck of the ship is very high above the waterline. It would be difficult to get back onto the ship.

Question: What kind of microbs have you found?

From: Tali

Answer: Colorful ones! Actually, it is difficult to identify microbes without doing DNA testing and we do not do that work on the ship. That is done in labs back on shore. We do stain them so that they can be counted, so that is why they are colorful.

Question: Do any of you get into a fight?

From: Sarah

Answer:  No, we don't fight, argue maybe. We don't always agree about the science results or interpretations but eveyone is friendly. Since we are all together, it is important to learn to get along with others. Many of us are meeting each other for the first time.

Question: What type of food do you eat?

From: Jennifer

Answer: The food is the same that you eat. We have choices at every meal.

Question: How many hours of sleep do you get every day?

From: Addison Bradley

Answer: We have 12 hours off everyday, I generally get about 7 hours of sleep during those 12 hours.

Question: When do you get to see your family?

From: Gillermina

Answer: We get to see our family when we get back into port, which is about 8 weeks.

Question: What do you do for entertainment?

From: Phillip

Answer: I like to read but others like to watch DVDs or listen to music. There is a small movie room on board where we can watch videos on a large screen.

Question: Is sleeping on the JR hard at night or whenever ou go to sleep?

From: Tyler

Answer: No, it is not difficult to sleep. The beds are comfortable and the ship rocks a bit so it makes it easy to sleep actually.

Question: Do you get water sickness often or not at all?

From: Taylor

Answer: I don't get seasick at all and most do not. A few get seasick for the first several days until their body adjusts to it.

Question: Do you ever get lonely?

From: Dianna

Answer: I get lonely for my family and friends but there are many people on board and all are friendly so I don't get lonely in that sense.

Question: Do you like being at sea all of the time? Doesn't it ever get boring?

From: Sky Zacharias

Answer: I am not at sea all of the time; most of the time I am at home. I teach classes in college and come out to sea occasionally. It is not always on the JR. There are many other research vessels; the JR happens to be the largest one and is capable of doing things that the others can't.

Question: What do you think about having schools participate in some of these activities? Isn't it slightly distracting when you have so much work to do out on that ship?

From: Conner

Answer: It is not too distracting. We like to tell others what we are doing. Our work comes first, but when there is time, we can answer questions. We want students to share in the excitment and encourage them to pursue the field of science.

Question: What do you do when you get bored? Do you ever get sea sick?

From: Emily

Answer: We go out on the deck and look at the sea, especially the sunrises and sunsets, we also read and watch DVDs. Some get sea sick during the first few days. I have not been sea sick.

Question: How big is the ship? What kind of food do you eat on the JR?

From: Ryder Pasley

Answer: The JR is 470 feet long and we eat the same kinds of food that you eat. We have pancakes, eggs, fish, pork, steak, etc.

Question: How long is the ship and also how many people live on it? How many sharks have you seen on the side of the boat?

From: Dustin Lawson

Answer: The JOIDES Resolution is 470 feet long and we have 122 people on board Expedition 329. I don't know how many sharks we have seen, but it is a lot.

Question: How does the ship get its fuel?

From: Nacasia Moore

Answer: The ship gets its fuel in whatever city we dock in before each voyage. We carry enough for the entire expedition. We don't stop to refuel.

Question: What does the JR look like and how many people are on the JR?

From: Ernesha Glover

Answer: You can go to the JOIDES Resolution web page to see a photo of the JR. There are 122 people on board the Jr.

Question: Does the ship have Wi-Fi so that you can send pictures, videos, and send messages to home?

From: Jed

Answer: The ship uses satellites to communicate so yes, we can send photos and messages home. Not all of the computers can use this. There is a Wi-Fi set up that only works on the ship. This is how we email each other and store information that we want to share with others on the ship.

Question: I can imagine you guys get bored every now and then. What do you guys do to keep enertained?

From: Bethany Duncan

Answer: We read books, magazines, watch DVDs, and listen to music mostly.

Question: Do you see a lot of wildlife on the ship? If you do, what kind do you see?

From: Courtney

Answer: Right now we are seeing sharks, Mahi Mahi, and schools of tuna.

Question: When you go home (if you go home) how long would you stay at sea?

From: Tiffany Morgan

Answer: We do not stay at sea all of the time. We usually stay at sea for 8 weeks and then another group of scientists get on board.

Question: What do you have to do to become members of the ship? How many people are on the ship?

From: Aj Maizon

Answer: As a scientist, I must apply to sail on board the JR. The ship must be sailing to the area of the world that will help me with my reseach. Many others also wish to sail. There are 122 people on board and 28 are scientists.

Question: Do you enjoy working on the JR ship, also, what is your job on the JR ship?

From: Gavin

Answer: Yes, I like having the opportunity to sail on the JR. My job is to determine if there is hydrogen gas mixed in with the sediments. This may indicate where microbes get their energy to live.

Question: How big is the ship? How many people are on the JR? Does everyone get along close to the end of the expedition?

From: Erica

Answer: The ship is 470 feet long and 70 feet wide. There are 122 people on board Expedition 329. Everyone gets along with each other by the end of the expedition, there are disagreements sometimes but it is mostly about the science beliefs.

Question: What kind of shark was it?

From: Colton Couch

Answer: The sharks that we have been seeing in the South Pacific are White-tipped Sharks.

Question: Have you found any new species out there in the ocean, if so what have you found out about it? What made you want to become a scientist? What is your favorite part about it?

From: Brooklyn

Answer: No, I haven't found a new species but I have found certain microbes at the same depth throughout the oceans, which goes to show that some microbes can be very widely spread. I became a scientist because I had a good biology teacher in high school. My favorite part is sharing data with other scientists. We rely on each other to learn new things.

Question: Do you have fun being on the ocean all day, everyday, or does it drive you crazy?

From: Kathleen

Answer: It is fun most of the days. There are some amazing sunsets, fish to watch, and nice weather in some parts of the world. It doesn't drive us crazy but it can seem long sometimes.

Question: Do you have spare time to do other things?

Fom: Brianna Bryant

Answer: Yes, we have 12 hours off, which means we sleep and can relax within those 12 hours.

Question: How long do you stay away from home?

From: Brooke

Answer: We stay out to sea for a little over 8 weeks usually.

Question: Do you go fishing while you're out there?

From: Kurt

Answer: No, we do not go fishing. We do get to see lots of fish but we do not have time to fish nor do we really have a place on board that you could fish from.

Question: When you are at sea, about how many days does it take to get to each point of drilling?

From: Shane Stracener

Answer: It varies with each expedition and even within an expedition. For example, it took about 4 days to get to our first destination and it will take 2 days to get to our next one. The time to transit depends on how far apart the locations are.

Question: What do you eat? Do you like living out in the sea?

Fom: Sidney

Answer: We eat the same type of food that you eat, fish, steak, eggs, salads, etc. It is enjoyable spending so much time out to sea but it is nice to get back on land for awhile. The ship offers a limited amount of space to walk around.

Question: What is it like being away from your family for so long? Is the food good and do you ever wish you had McDonalds or Wendys?

From: Kendis Wilson

Answer: It is hard being away from family for so long but I have photos and can email with them. The food is good but sometimes it would be nice to be able to go to McDonalds or some other place.

Question: Is it boring out in the ocean?

From: Chris

Answer: Not usually, since we are busy much of the time in the laboratory. It can get a little boring as we sail between sites since sometimes there is no lab work to be done.

Question: How often do you get some sleep?

From: Brooklyn

Answer: We work 12 hour days and have 12 hours to sleep and relax.

Question: What do you do during a storm?

From: Kelsey

Answer: We continue to work and drill unless the weather becomes too severe, such as you would have with a hurricane.

Question: How do you become a scientist?

From: Sophia

Answer: Anyone can become a scientist and there are many different ways to do this. Often it starts with curiosity; wanting to better understand something about the natural world, then following a pathway that leads you to schooling that prepares you to pursue your interests.  Many of the scientists on the JR are PhDs or graduate students, which means they have had many years of college focused on a particular type of science.  As part of their training they take classes and work in "in the field" and/or in laboratories to learn skills and information useful for pursuing their particular interests.

Question: How long are you out there?

From: Madison Middle School

Answer: We left the port of Victoria on September 9th and will be returning on September 19th.

Question:  Do you invent things?

From:  Challenger Middle School, Glendale, AZ


Yes, we do need to invent things. Sometimes we have to invent tools that allow us to get more or better scientific data. We invented a piston coring system that allows us to get better recovery and higher quality cores in very soft sediments. This allowed the scientists to do much more refined and exacting scientific measurements. We invented a tool that measures temperature in the sediment at the same time that we are getting a core sample. This is additional data for the scientists that they can get without taking any additional time for the process. We have worked with scientists all over the country and the world to develop instruments and ways to deploy them in our bore holes so that the scientists can measure real time how conditions in the rocks below the surface change over time. So yes, we do invent things and that is one of the most fun and challenging parts of our job.

Mike Storms, Operations Superintendent

Question:  Is it fun to be on a ship?

From:  Challenger Middle School, Glendale, AZ


Yes, it is lots of fun! We get to do cool science at the bottom of the ocean! It's like being on a space mission to Mars!! πŸ™‚ The ship is quite comfortable too. We have a lot of our creature comforts here on board (video games, couches, a gym, a movie lounge, books, etc.) We feel right at home here which makes our science that much more fun.

Question:  Do you invent things?

From:  Challenger Middle School, Glendale, AZ


Yes, all the time! Since this research is very new, we're always coming up with ways designs that would make our research better and easier. A lot of engineering and inventing has been done to put our CORKs in the drill holes. We, microbiologists have gotten a chance to invent little microbial observatories to put down into the ocean floor.  Basically, they're little plastic containers and we put rocks in them that we think the microbes under the ocean would like. Pretty cool!

Question:  Does the food taste good?

From:  Challenger Middle School, Glendale, AZ


The food is excellent! We have a great cooking crew on board that makes 3 different types of meat for us at every meal (for 4 meals a day!) plus all the salad, bread and desserts we can eat. Yesterday, we had a BBQ on the deck which was tons of fun and very delicious! You definitely don't go hungry on this boat!

Question:  Are there a lot of parties?


From:  Challenger Middle School, Glendale, AZ



We have been known to party on this boat. It's the best way to wind down from an exciting day at work. Early in the cruise, we had a techno dance party and just a few days ago, we had an 80's dance party. It was a lot of fun to relax, dance and enjoy some fun exercise. Other than dance parties, we have had poker parties, Wii parties and Scrabble parties. Goes to show that even old scientists can cut loose and have fun.

Question: Do you share the pictures you take?


From:  Challenger Middle School, Glendale, AZ



Yes, we all share our pictures with each other and with our friends and family. We have one place on the ship's computer where we put all our pictures and we can see everyone else's. It's nice to have so many cameras on board. You don't feel like you miss anything while you're asleep.

Question:  Is it cool to be the Captain?




From:  Challenger Middle School, Glendale, AZ
Answer:  Yes
The real answer:  Yes, it's cool to be Captain (or so says Expedition 327 Captain Alex Simpson)!

Pros: Immense job satisfaction derived from successful voyages, especially for voyages of discovery. 

  • Amazingly diverse set of training / skills required, such as Mathematics, Physics, Meteorology, Navigation (although much of this skill has been eroded with the invention of satellite navigation), Dynamic Positioning, Ship Stability, Ship's Maintenance, Personnel Management Skills, Emergency Response Management, Radio Operations, RADAR operations, Collision Avoidance, Shipmaster's Business and Law, Safety Management, and Knowledge of International and local "Shipping and Environmental" regulations for each Country visited. 

It has been said that a ship's Captain (or Master Mariner) is a "Jack of all Trades and Master of One."

  • If you lack the base skill set for any job, that job cannot be "cool." More importantly if you cannot work with your team, that job cannot be "cool." On the JR we have the most professional set of people who I have ever worked with, and every one of them has a major part to play in the success of our operations, and that's what really makes the JR captain's job "really cool."
  • Excellent remuneration package (really good salary, vacation, and benefits).
  Cons: Criminal and Civil Liability for any incidents (including pollution incidents) which can lead to enormous fines and / or jail sentences.

Question:  Is it cool to be an engineer?
From:  Challenger Middle School, Glendale, AZ
Answer:  The quick answer is YES! That doesn't mean it would be fun for everyone. If you like working on machines and systems, finding out how things work, fixing them and designing new ways to do things you might find it fun too.

There are many types of engineers and even different types of marine engineers. Marine engineers can work in offices or shipyards designing systems or can work on ships as part of the crew where they operate and maintain the systems that propel the ship as well as the ones that provide day to day needs, fresh water, sanitation, etc. To work on a ship you need to have a license as well as training from a school of some kind. Most sailing marine engineers have college degrees these days but you can get a license by working your way up the ladder.

A really fun part of sailing is that you get to have time at home too. For every day we work we get one at home. It is not a schedule everyone can adapt to but for the right person it is very fun to have 60 days at home to make up for the 60 days at work. Even the time onboard the ship can be fun because even though the work is hard and long you have time to read, watch movies or if you have a craft or hobby you are fond of you can work on those kinds of things.

All best regards,
Dan Slobodzian
Chief Engineer  (Listen to Dan's podcast on the Ocean Gazing website.  Be sure to scroll down the page!)



Question:  Did you feel the Tsunami wave the resulted from the Chilean Earthquake?

From: Multiple submissions


Hello All,


First of all we are approximately 5310 NM from where the earthquake struck. I would suspect it may have been possible that we could have noticed some effect although it would not have been severe looking at the distance the Tsunami Waves would have to travel. In fact according to the Tsunami wave track time table we should have felt the effect some 3 hours ago and we felt nothing. Although we are having some fairly rough weather right now all the seas and swells are very much coming from our local weather system. Hope this helps.


Regards; Terry Skinner


                 JOIDES Resolution

Question: What kinds of hypotheses do you have? Are they correct so far?

From: Leawood Middle School


I hypothesized that the sediment would get less porous (less airspace in the sample) as we got deeper.  At our first site, that was not correct.  Porosity stayed almost the same throughout the entire hole. – Michelle Kominz