Guest Blog – Amanda Cheong (Singapore)

Hi everyone, I am Amanda and I would like to share a blog about my five-week internship at the National Oceanography Centre Southampton (NOCS).

It is my great pleasure to be given the opportunity to work with Prof. Richard Sanders (@OceanRics), Dr. Daniel Mayor and Ms. Stacey Felgate (@staceyfelgate). As a student at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore, I worked on quantifying dissolved organic matter and how the composition changes along a land-to-ocean continuum. At NOCS, I worked closely with Stacey to investigate the processes that are involved in the removal of dissolved organic matter from rivers to ocean. Some of the processes involved include the breakdown of organic matter by light, microbial activity and sediment flocculation. To further understand the light and microbial processes, we collected samples from the Beaulieu and Conway River for incubation and measured the oxygen concentration present in the samples over a period of time. This allowed us to observe the rate of oxygen depletion or production which can be further attributed to several processes mentioned.

Sample bottles with oxygen sensor spots were placed in the black rack. The optical fibre was used to take measurements and a reading will be given using the computer software.

Each air tight vial had a sensor spot at the base and a measurement of the oxygen concentration can be taken using optical fiber technology. The sensor spots give off a colour as a proxy for the oxygen concentration, the optical fibre then reads the sensor spot and provide a measurement for the oxygen concentration. This can be taken at specific time intervals to understand the rate of oxygen depletion.

We went on field trips to the Beaulieu River in the New Forest and the Conway River in Bangor, North of Wales to collect samples for our incubation experiments. Conducting field work in the U.K. is certainly very different as compared to Singapore. Some of my best memories during the internship came from the field trips that we had. In the New Forest, we had a curious donkey snooping around while we collected samples and encountered various animals like horses and cows grazing on massive grasslands. This is not a common sight in Singapore. We found that the Beaulieu River had a very active microbial community that is respiring and consuming oxygen rapidly. Coincidentally, a local once mentioned that there was a pig farm nearby the Beaulieu River and that may be contributing excess nutrients to the river and hence driving primary production and microbial activity in the river.

Donkey giving us a helping hand during our river sampling work in the New Forest.
One of the many horses that we saw roaming freely in the New Forest.
Sampling at one of our freshwater sites and the water was fairly still and brown in colour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

River sampling can fun as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Conway, I was utterly amazed by the landscape at the Snowdonia National Park. We drove through the mountains that were carved and eroded by glaciers in the past, massive hills with a plethora of sheep and lamb. In addition, Stacey taught me to differentiate the scent of sheep milk and decaying cow fecal matter. Samples collected from the Conway River were incubated in NOCS and the rate of oxygen consumption were found to be lower than the Beaulieu River.

Last but not least, having a chance to present to the public audience about our work at the graduate fair at the University of Southampton was a memorable one. At the graduate fair, we communicated the importance of our project to the audience, let members of the public to try our oxygen measurement kit and engaged them to think what should be considered when planning a river expedition.

Presenting our work at the Doctoral Showcase (Richard Sanders, Amanda Cheong, Stacey Felgate)

In the Conway, I was utterly amazed by the landscape at the Snowdonia National Park. We drove through the mountains that were carved and eroded by glaciers in the past, massive hills with a plethora of sheep and lamb. In addition, Stacey taught me to differentiate the scent of sheep milk and decaying cow fecal matter. Samples collected from the Conway River were incubated in NOCS and the rate of oxygen consumption were found to be lower than the Beaulieu River.

Stacey sampling at a peatland freshwater site in the Conway River.
Sheep roaming freely at the hills in Snowdonia National Park.
Driving through the Snowdonia National Park.

 

Throughout this internship, I found that it is really important to be able to innovate and adapt when faced with unforeseen obstacles. There were several points where we were faced with obstructions. For instance, the oxygen depletion rates in the Beaulieu River were way higher than expected, and thus the first round of the experiment was not successful. However, with this primary understanding, we improved on our experimental procedures and that lead to two successful incubation experiments. There were great memories made and new friendship forged over the past five weeks and being at NOCS was inspiring as I continue to pursue a career in the science field.

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