Spain, Caves, & Canada

On Tuesday I flew to Canada, after a week-long astrobiology course in Spain.  Tomorrow I’ll drive up from Vancouver to Pavilion Lake, to spend the next couple weeks deploying submarines with the Pavilion Lake Research Project.  I’m so pumped to be working with many of the same folks who were at the lake last summer–plus all the new people.  This year’s lineup includes:

1. more astronauts
2. more undergrads

…both of which I’m really excited about.

I’ve spent the last few days helping out with inventory and packing at UBC, and trying not to feel too overwhelmed with the amount of stuff we’re going to cram into this field season.  I’ll keep you posted!  In the meantime, below is a pair of photos from Spain.  In addition to seminars on subjects like microbial metabolisms, deep-sea hydrothermal vents, and  Saturn’s moon Titan, we were treated to an afternoon of spelunking.

Here we are inside El Soplao cave:


…and here are a few of the ladies, posing outside afterward:

More soon,

This is What Science Looks Like

I got into Vancouver yesterday evening. My luggage did not, but the airline gave me a pretty substantial care package: toothbrush, toothpaste, condom. So yeah, that should keep me pretty much set for the next month.

Things of note:
1. Gas is $1.42 here.
2. This is for liters, not gallons. Oops.
3. There is a baby beluga in the Vancouver aquarium.
4. Two blocks from the couch I’m sleeping on is a store that sells nothing but cupcakes.

This morning, I headed to the University of British Columbia to help Harry out with inventory. Harry is a cool guy who (from what I gathered) is writing a textbook on how to build underwater robots.

A lot of people working with the Pavilion Lake project are faculty or grad students at UBC, so a bunch of our stuff is in the Civil Engineering school here. We were basically working in an enormous garage, fondly called the Rusty Hut, which houses a hydraulics lab. There are hundreds of items that have to be inventoried … everything from giant buoys to secchi disks to AAA batteries. I keep being amazed by how huge an undertaking this project is. (Not to mention expensive. The daily rental price for the submarines? YOWZA!)

Also today we sliced up and shackled some really big chains (sparks flying everywhere! wooo power tools!!). They’re going to be attached to the two-ton blocks of cement which will serve as the anchors for the barge. The barge is what the subs will be launched from, and apparently the barge is so big that we’ve arranged to block off a highway to get everything up to Pavilion Lake.

Obviously a lot of “real science” involves tedious tasks like inventories. But inside the Rusty Hut is exactly how I pictured Science when I was a third grader: gigantic pipes and copper coils and even a door labeled with nothing but DANGER LASERS.


It is well known that blogging is the best cure for the airport doldrums.

When I arrived at the airport this morning, the lady at the baggage check-in looked at me and said “marine biologist?” I was very excited, thinking I gave off some sort of field researcher vibe, before realizing that there is a pair of enormous rubber boots strapped to my backpack.

At any rate, I’ll be sleeping on a couch in Vancouver for the next week, going to meetings and packing up all our field stuff before heading up to Pavilion Lake.