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Studying marine and limnic sediment biogeochemistry inherently involves sampling a habitat that is mostly covered by water. With no divers in our team and sampling sites located in water depths ranging from 0 m to more than 30 m, we access most of our sites by boats of varying sizes, including the research vessels RV Alkor, RV Aranda, RV Augusta, RV Aurelia, RV Electra, RV Elisabeth Mann Borgese, RV Geomari, the hoovercraft Saga, motor boats and sometimes even rowing boats.

 

Once arrived at the sampling site, sediment corers and water samplers are lowered down the water column to collect our samples. Which corer is used depends on the expected sediment type; for instance, the HAPS corer is well suited for sturdy sand sediments, whereas the GEMAX corer is suited for soft mud sediments. Those samplers are heavy equipment and are therefore operated via crane and winch. Hand-held samplers, such as the Kajak sediment corer or the Limnos water sampler, are mostly used from smaller boats in shallow water depths.

 

However, not all of our sampling sites require to use a boat: in the water depth range 0-1 m we sample by hand, using our body weight to push the cores in and our biceps to pull them out, including the occasional grunt and groan.

 

Happy faces in anticipation of exciting samples.

 

Not to sugarcoat it, field-work can be rather tough: long days, physical work, high concentration demand, and little sleep. You probably will get cold / wet / hot / sweaty / tired / hungry ... , and you most likely will miss a proper coffee break. But despite it all, there are also these moments that you just don´t get in any other job.

The lab is the place, where the biogeochemical magic happens. To keep the biogeochemical conditions within sediment and water as unchanged as possible during sample processing, it is crucial to work under conditions as close to in situ as possible. This means that many of us work in temperature controlled climatic rooms, adjusted to sea bottom temperature, as well as under nitrogen-atmosphere, simulating the zero oxygen concentration found in sediment layers deeper than about 0.5 cm.

An important part of any scientist's job is publishing and presenting their results to the rest of the community. Attending symposia and conferences also gives us a chance to meet the colleagues whose work we have been reading and citing in our own research, exchange ideas and make new collaborations.

Spending so much time in each others' company, the members of a research group often get to know each other pretty well and become friends. When not under lockdown, ABRU has plenty of social events enjoying typical Finnish activities. Whenever possible, we even take the chance to move our office work outdoors.