I’ve always been the type to dive into the action without thinking about the consequences. I find that it makes everything much more exciting and is the best way to learn. Making mistake after mistake and figuring it all out on your own imprints knowledge and wisdom into your very core and this last weekend I was able to do that during this month’s water quality sampling at Elkhorn Slough.


Collecting sample in South Marsh. Some places are tricky (fun) to get to.

Though I love water and all it represents the previous sampling event was fairly uneventful. Yes, it was fun and interesting to see all the devices and techniques field scientists use to take water samples but as a person of action I was unhappy to be on the sidelines merely jotting down what the real scientists were looking at.

“Temperature? Turbidity? DO %? Algae cover?” — My mind quickly turned into an old repeating cassette player.

However, this month I was thrown right into the fray. John Haskins – ESNERR Water Quality Monitoring Scientist simply gave me the  YSI 6600 v2 sonde that is used by submerging it in the water and letting it do its readings.

“Here. You’re on your own today. Turn on, click, select, press, click, log, click, and you’re done. Oh and don’t drop it. Or let the tide take it.”


Taking water sample in North Marsh. This water sample will then be filtered for nutrients and the microorganisms will be collected in a filter, placed in acetone to break down cell wall and cell membrane and then will be analyzed for chloride content.

Now this is a pretty expensive piece of equipment. Breaking or losing it would mean losing my entire EFTA stipend. Nonetheless, all directions went in one year and right through the other as I nodded but was really more concerned with how I would be adding this experience into my resume. Thankfully, my good memory allowed me to trace back the buttons he pushed and I was able to play the part of the responsible student.

I got the hang of it very quickly and soon enough I was a “pro.” I spent the majority of the day going through muddy, barbed wired, and rocky areas in order to get to the required sites. In the meantime John spent his time trying to figure out his brand new toy. A drone that will be used to take pictures and monitor the entire Slough.

At the end of the day neither the sonde nor the lab equipment suffered any damage. I guess sometimes it’s best to first learn the theory before the practice. Who knew? Maybe next time I’ll be able to play around with the drone.


If you look closely you might be able to make out the drone. Look in the center, go down a bit, and then slightly to the right. This drone will fly over the slough taking pictures of the various water bodies in order to track algal cover.

%d bloggers like this: