Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What Have I been Doing the Last 10 Days??

The answer to that question is: WORKING!

I took a small break to celebrate a friends B-Day and for a beer (or two...*gasp*...*wink*) on St. Paddy's day but have otherwise been focusing on getting my data to the point where I can make pretty graphs and do some statistics on it. To do this I use Matlab, computer software that can handle computationally intensive user written programs...when you have thousands of data points you need something to help you get a handle on it!

Just so those of you who are thinking about going in to marine biology (or biology in general) know and to clarify a common misconception about the is NOT an escape from math, computer programming, physics, chemistry, electrical engineering, plumbing, basic carpentry, innovative thinking (ie: MacGyver I am showing my age!), critical thinking, etc...these are all skills I use monthly and most of them daily... lets just say it was a rude awakening but I wouldn't trade it for anything...where else do you get so much variety?? :)

Now back to my daily grind...This is essentially what my desktop looks like when I am working with Matlab...I have 2 screens, on one screen (the smaller on on the left) I have Matlab running two programs that I wrote on a super computer called a cluster (because it is a cluster of ~ 25 hard drives that you can access through a network) in the Math and Stats building here at Dalhousie Univeristy, while on the other screen I have another program running in Matlab on my computer. Let's just say, this is not my favorite part of my research but I do get all excited when I get to the graphs and I see some really cool patterns!!! Today, I am kinda waiting around for the programs to finish running before I can proceed so I thought I would catch up with y'all!

So now that I have told you what I have been doing for the last 10 days... I am going to tell you why I am doing it! Or...what it is I am studying to have thousands of data points!!

Essentially, it all has to do with this plant:

This is eelgrass (Zostera marina). It is a type of seagrass and seagrasses are the only flowering plants to live fully submerged in the oceans. Actually, I am studying not only the eelgrass but all of the other plants and animals that are associated with it (ie: community structure), the services this ecosystem provides and how these change on different spatial and temporal scales and across a gradient of eutrophication in Atlantic Canada.

I know you are saying to yourself...What does this all mean?...and...Why is it important??

I will address these questions in a series of posts since the eelgrass story is not a simple one...

The Eelgrass story
Part 1: What is eelgrass and where is it found?
Part 2: Ecosystem services defined
Part 3: The services of eelgrass ecosystems
Part 4: Human Impacts on eelgrass ecosystems
Part 4.5: The scourge of eelgrass: Eutrophication demystified
Part 5: The status of eelgrass in Canada

I want to give you background on the plant and where it is found, details on what ecosystem services are and which ones eelgrass provide, the causes and consequences of nutrient enrichment (ie: eutrophication), how these systems and services are impacted by humans and why they are important to not only to the animals and plants living there but also their importance in the bigger picture...their importance to us. It is in this context that I will explain my research.

I hope to post on this at least once a week, with all kinds of nice photos of my field work!!! I am hoping to have the first installment ready in the next couple of days...fingers crossed that Matlab doesn't explode and keep me from posting!!!

Gotta run, one program is done!!!
Happy Wednesday!


  1. Sounds interesting - I'm looking forward to learning all about the Eelgrass Community :)

  2. Ouu! That's cool :) I can't wait to read and see pictures :)

  3. I'm also eagerly awaiting your posts on this topic! Being married to a scientist, no topic is too obscure and esoteric for me. ;)

    Matlab is a household word here. Dh uses it all the time in his research (and teaches it in his computer methods class). I swear the word makes him drool. LOL!