Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Update and Hot Pot

Hey Everyone!
My name is Heath Goertzen. I’m the undergrad REU student helping Lyndsie with the channels experiment this year. This blog post shouldn’t be anything complicated, just a quick update on the project so far and what we’ve been doing. I’ll also be adding a few pictures, just for posterity.

The channels have been operating quite smoothly (knock on wood) so most of what we’ve been doing is relatively simple maintenance and monitoring of channel operation, with some sampling for biomass along the way. We’ve also been spending some serious time standing over the hot pot being confused. Here’s a picture of it:

 It's the thing on the bottom, on the top is the warm pond

Now, that looks like a normal hot pot. For the first 3 years of the experiment, I’m told that this hot pot sat at a nice 40 degrees C and behaved itself. Notice the tragic use of past tense because this year, things have gotten weird. Conditions are changing day to day (perfect for scientific experiments based on consistency), so this post will probably be inaccurate by the time you see it. I’ll still fill you in on some of the more notable conditions we’ve seen. First, the hot pot got sad. See Lyndsie’s posts below mine for more but essentially, it wasn’t being a hotpot (more of a refreshing bath, really). Lyndise bailed it out (see below) and that helped at least get the temps back up. After that, the hot pot started warming in cycles. This involved it going from the original consistent temperature of 40 C to a potentially face-scalding 90 degrees C. It also started having cycles of activity that I can only describe as geyser-esque (note, I have no idea what I’m talking about and this is pure, blind speculation), wherein levels and temperature would both change over time (~1000 liters of water and 10 degrees C variability), with peak periods looking like this.

 Don’t put your face in it

 And low periods looking like this.

Still not a good idea to put your face in it

This conditional behavior caused some of the treatments to get more temp variation than was allowable, so we tried clearing a channel between the warm pond and the hot pot. The added inflow solved our level problem (yes!) but the temperature continued in cycles, which in turn perpetuated the variability (no!).

We finally blocked the same channel we had previously cleared (the one leading to the warm pond). It feels a bit like playing a game with three options wherein you’re probably going to lose no matter what you do, but you’re losing anyways so you may as well try something. Last I heard, blocking the flow has made some improvements and the hot pot was looking more consistent! I’d like everyone reading this to engage in some manner of good luck superstition. Rub a rabbit's foot, I'm serious. At this point we’ll take all the help we can get in maintaining consistency. Cheers and thanks for reading!

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