Saturday, January 30, 2010

CTD, Part #1 "the basics of running the CTD"

Some of you might remember the CTD from my last trip to the Philippines. CTD stands for conductivity, temperature, and depth. There's a big frame, lots of bottles for holding water, and sensors for measuring a whole bunch of different things. It goes into the water on a thick cable attached to a winch. Here are Kim Roe and Yuribia Munoz opening the bottles so that the
CTD can go in the water:

While the CTD is in the water, a scientist sits at the computer and watches all the sensors. It's an important job, because that person is responsible for telling the winch operator how fast to go and when to stop, and for making sure that everything is working correctly, and for stopping the CTD to close the bottles at right the depths. While the CTD is in the water, everyone else is crowding around the CTD computer, asking to see this graph or that graph and arguing about where to sample water.

And do you know who is responsible for running the CTD? Me.

Well, it's me if it goes into the water between 8am and 8pm, otherwise it's done by Bruce Huber (my boss) or one of the electrical technicians on board. It's important enough that I'm going to do a few posts about the CTD. Next time I'll talk about the data that I get from the CTD, but for now we'll start with the basics. Here is my list of the top ten things you should remember if you ever find yourself running the CTD:

10. Ask questions! If you don't understand what to do, or how to do it, just ask someone who knows. Don't agree to do something if you don't understand why.

9. Remember to have fun. The job you're doing is pretty cool! Look at data from other CTD stations, make a hypothesis to explain what you're seeing, and try to understand what you're looking at.

8. Pay attention. It's not that your job is hard, it's that it requires a lot of concentration. No daydreaming! Conversations are okay, but you need to keep your eyes on the screen.

7. Go to the bathroom before you start. Once the CTD begins, you can't leave for even a minute.

6. Stay calm. Other people will get stressed as they try to figure out what they want you to do. That's okay. You can't control how other people react, but you can control yourself.

5. Take it slow. There is no prize for getting the job done a few minutes faster, and you're more likely to make a mistake if you hurry.

4. Be nice to your winch operator! He's the one who is really driving. If he does his job well, it makes you look good, so make it easy for him to do his job well.

3. Take very good notes. You think you'll remember little questions or comments that you had, but you won't.

2. Make sure you have good friends around. Sometimes Kim will bring me M&Ms, or Kathleen (my roomie and photographer extraordinaire) will go and find my mug of tea for me.

1. DON'T HIT THE BOTTOM. If you hit the seafloor, everyone will be really, really mad at you. You might break or lose the equipment, and it will take lots of time to fix. This is the worst thing that can happen to the CTD. So DON'T HIT THE BOTTOM.

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