The world of tools: introduction

I’ve been kicking around an idea for a while to write a series of articles and resources that detail different sets of tools based on the project at hand. Since I’ve used a lot of tools on a menagerie of projects, it seems right to try to share some of what I’ve learned along the way. Perhaps it will even prompt you to undertake a new project. The format of the series will be pretty simple. First will be a description of the project at hand, something like replacing baseboard trim or building a raised garden bed. Following that comes...

Daily Dose: Let there be light

It is often extraordinary what a simple coat of paint, a touch of color, or a simple alteration can make in the appearance of things to see everyday. Even something as simple as cleaning an oil smudge off of the garage door can make the space feel much cleaner and “put-together”, so today will be one of those projects. Our mission? Breath new life into a worn-out looking metal lantern. Our tools? A few “special” coats of paint. Let’s get started. (more…)

Weekend Review: The little things

This weekend I decided to work on the list of those little things around that house that should be done yet are far from a priority. We all have those little miscellaneous jobs that are noticed from day to day and just as readily as they’re noticed they’re forgotten. Let’s get started killing them off. First off was emptying all the trash bins from around the house. While it only takes a moment, I never seem to get to them until they are all overflowing with napkins and empty containers and what not. Easy. Then I figured it would be...

Switching out a garage door opener

About a year ago I drove into my driveway after a full day at work and found my garage door open. Immediately I assumed the worst and my heart skipped a beat. For those of you who don’t know, I keep a lot of stuff in my garage including easily a couple thousand dollars worth of tools, so finding my garage wide open was very troubling. Thankfully all of my stuff was still inside but I was very troubled. It wasn’t clear why the garage was open or who might be responsible for it. A couple days later while at...

Cheap Yankee: Free Upgrade for a Kitchen Scale

A few months back I purchased a cheap kitchen scale that I figured would come in hand for projects in both the kitchen and the workshop. As time would show, the scale was quite useful but with one major flaw. Being a scale of the cheaper sort, it chewed through expensive button batteries and would inevitably fail to be working just when I needed it most. This weekend I decided to fix an otherwise fine scale by upgrading the battery. While most people wouldn’t realize it, we actually all have a variety of high quality, rechargeable batteries sitting idle in the back...

Time is money: The value of opportunistic sampling

NOTE: This article is a reposting on one originally posted on the UNOLS Chief Scientist Workshop website (here) with slight modifications. Aboard the R/V Sikuliaq we often run around-the-clock operations and do our best to collect every last bit of data. Not only is our time limited, but ship time is valuable—really valuable. Even if you did manage to make the absolute most of the available ship time, there are inevitably gaps when the vessel is transiting from station to station, the equipment requires attention, or the weather limits safe science operations. This is where instruments that sample continuously come...

Learning to Drive the Boat: the Start of Chief Sci Training

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the terminology used for scientific, research cruises; a chief scientists is the de facto boss of the science party and coordinates the research plan with the captain and crew of the ship. This role often incorporates traits from other positions such as diplomate (between crew and science party), translater, and decision maker into one thankless role. Since this position requires skills outside of those which are traditionally taught in graduate programs, the National Science Foundation has sponsored a program to train young and advancing scientists. This Chief Scientists Training Cruise (CSW) involves seminars...

Back out to Sea

The eve of my departure is finally here, yet I am feeling less sanguine than expected. More than likely, it has something to do with the length of these upcoming travels and the scale from which I see them. besides, I’ve never found the easy uncertainty and the foreshadowing calm very easy or calming, I’d rather get into the thick of it already. This cruise will take three weeks, and following fresh on its heels comes another cruise. For the first one I’ll be measuring carbon export across a frequently sampled study region consisting of 73 stations and covering nearly...

Trial Week, Part 2

A few months ago I wrote up an article about what I call a Trial Week. It is a week where you break free from habits and take part in a personal experiment. The only real good is to live your life during that week a bit differently and come away from it with a new perspective and experience to make you’re day-to-day life a bit more fulfilling. Quite simply it is an opportunity to realign yourself towards the life you want to live. Trial week, part 2. Not only was my own experience from my trial week experiment great, but so...

First Impressions of Shiny, an R Package

Today I wanted to try something new; so instead of discussing a project, let’s briefly take a look at an R Package I’ve recently discovered. Before we being let me just mention that I realize not everyone uses R or have even used it before, instead my focus here will be on the technology, innovation, and utility of the package. Hopefully there are analogs libraries or packages in other languages, and if not then perhaps you’ll want to write it! Shiny, quite simply, is an R package that allows a user to write R code and generates an interactive webpage....

The benefits of interdisciplinarity: residence time

The so-called residence time of a system is both an immensely useful and highly intuitive conception which provides a relevant timescale for processes. For example, the residence time of nutrients flowing into a pond would be the average ‘lifetime’ of the nutrients before being taking up by the pond creatures. If it is a small number, then the nutrients are taken up very quickly compared to if is a large number. Here is the “traditional” formula for calculating residency time of a conservative tracer:     The more mass that’s in the system the longer the residence time becomes; and...

Julia Language for Scientists

Today I wanted to take a moment and introduce a programming language to my friends and colleagues. While certainly not a common topic, I do so because I believe that it is well worth your time. Rather than trying to get non-programmers into a language, I write this for the already initiated such as those who use Matlab, R or Python (amongst others) since the real benefits of learning one language rather than another comes when the tasks at hand are limited by the language itself. For example, consider if you’re problem or task (such as a model) was required...

Data Compression: Benchmarking Performance on Generic Data

Data compression is one of those things that most people don’t really think about. We all know about the benefits of using a ZIP file if our attachment is too large or if we have a bunch of files we want to share with someone over email. Outside of those niche uses, data compression by the end user has largely fell by the wayside in our day of terabyte hard drives and massive USB dongles. And that may be just as well since we’re likely more productive not having to go through the extra step of unpacking an archive before using...

Why I’m looking forward to moving out of the south

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed my past year and a half, almost two years, living in Tallahassee. The often forgotten capital of Florida has served me well and I’ve made friends down here that I wouldn’t sacrifice for anything, yet I already know that my days down here are limited. After having grown up in Massachusetts and attending undergraduate at Boston College, it took a bit of adjustment when I first moved down here in January of 2015. Since then I’ve gotten to know the city through my weekend adventures, during those beers after work, and on the trips...

Getting Started in 3D Printing

As someone who enjoys working on projects and tinkering with everything from computer systems to welders, I’ve always had a passive interest in 3d printing technology; yet I never seriously considered getting a one for myself. 3d printers work in much the same way a normal printer does, except instead of ejecting ink out of the nozzle it extrudes molten plastic. By layering these thin layers of plastic (typically 50-500 microns) over and over again it can build up entire objects in a matter of minutes to hours. It’s a simple technology which seems to have only recently gained the critical mass...

Call me Ishmael: Seahab

Living on a ship for three weeks means that you pick up a few tidbits of knowledge such as the difference between tieing a bend and a hitch, but a term that is rather unique to sailing on National Science Foundation (NSF) vessels is Seahab. All research vessels control the supply of alcohol on board, and thus the intake of alcohol while at sea (personal caches are not permitted). Many ships will serve a beer with dinner or provide a coupon for a drink at some other time. NSF has taken the extra step of making all of their vessels...

Call me Ishmael: Professional Insomnia

All professionals accept that there will be occasions when work gets in the way of sleep and that odd hours me be required to get the job done. Generally this interruption in sleep is temporary and isolated to project deadlines or mission critical tasks, but for scientists aboard research vessels this may be a de facto state. Now I must preface this discussion with the fact that every cruise is different, and the majority of such cruises have set, regular schedules–such as 12 on/12 off—which permit a normal sleep schedule. What I’ll be describing here is my own schedule during...

Announcing a new series: Call me Ishmael

To commemorate my first cruise, as well as organizing the next set of articles by theme, there will be a new series of posts titled “Call me Ishmael” dealing with the 2016 CCE RAPID cruise. This cruise, CCE-P1604 to be precise, has been chock full of new experiences which may be beneficial for my own planning before future cruises or for others who would like to know what a research cruise is like. The articles will generally span the gambit from the scientific method that we utilize during the cruise to general observations about life at sea aboard a ship....

Daily Dose: Radiation Trouble

Update: See update section following the article for the latest. I recently described in general terms a new method that I’m developing which uses Yttrium to estimate the carbon export from the ocean’s photic zone, so today I saw it fitting to rant about an issue I’m currently facing. Assuming that you have either read that previous article or are familiar with the Thorium Disequilibrium method, then it should be no surprise that the “signal” for which we are attempting to measure from the radionuclide is the decay of the Y-90 into Zirconium. This decay, which results in the emission...

California Current: Cruise

So as many of you know, most of my work to date has been on the California Current ecosystem and, in particular, on modeling the ecosystem there. In just a few short days I’ll be heading out from the Scripps pier for a 22 day cruise. The goal for the cruise is to measure the ecosystem extending from the nutrients through the zooplankton and up into some of the higher trophic levels in order to assess the impact of El Nino on the ecosystem. This data will be used in conjunction with ~6 previous CCE cruises in the area (all...