Bacteria Collecting with Rima and Aaron from Kennedy Space Center

Terrence, Artie, and Renee at DeLeon Springs describing the cave dive.

Today we went to Wekiva and DeLeon Springs on bacteria collecting missions for Kennedy Space Center scientists Rima and Aaron. We started at Wekiva Springs, where Renee and Terrence collected samples of bacteria from the cave walls. The cave is so confining that they dove no-mount systems, meaning that they push their tanks through the cave rather than wearing them on their backs. We all watched Terrence and Renee descend and then we took samples of the spring water using the hydrolab and talked to Rima and Aaron about their work.

Rima is doing an experiment testing the behavior of different bacteria in climates within spacecrafts. An astronaut’s voyage to Mars would take three years to complete: one year to get there, one year on Mars collecting whatever data is needed while waiting for correct alignment of the planets for a safe return, and one year to return to earth. In order for this to work, scientists would have to create a sustainable environment, and that’s where the bacteria come in. Rima explores different forms of bacteria that could help the scientists maintain a safe environment for an extended period of time.

Once the samples came up from the caves, Rima and Aaron looked at the specimens and we were able to help them do some water testing on site. We tested samples of water from the surface and surrounding the bacteria inside the cave with three different chemical tests: Nitrate, Nitrite, and Ammonia. For each test, we broke two chemettes (three inch glass tubes that fill with water when the small tips are broken off, mixing the chemical and sample water inside the tube), and waited a minute for the solution to change color so we could read the results. The results showed low levels of ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates, which is good because it signifies low levels of pollution in the spring.

The next place we went to was DeLeon Spring where Terrence and Renee were joined by Artie on their dive. While submerged, we used the hydrolab again to determine the temperature, salinity, turbidity, pH, conductance, dissolved oxygen, and oxidation-reduction potential of the DeLeon water. Rima and Aaron were fascinated by the samples from both locations and we celebrated the trip’s success with a nice breakfast at the Spring’s restaurant, where we made our own pancakes with the griddles set into the center of the tables. It was definitely a fun trip!

Later in the afternoon, all the interns went to Renee’s house to take showers and relax with some movies and…Renee and I, being the only females thought it wicked funny how fascinated the guys’ were with her flowery spa and bath products.