Repost: A Day in the Life at Palmer Station

This time 2 years ago, I was getting ready to return from Palmer Station, where I spent 6 months as an undergraduate working with Dr. Bill Detrich from Northeastern University. I am filled with nostalgia as I look back on an old blog entry about my daily schedule:


7:30- Wake up, roll out of bed and into jeans and flannel. I also like to layer my lucky dissection sweatshirt over for an extra layer of warmth and also as a drop cloth in case I make a mess (which I will).

7:40- Tentatively open door to leave the building I live in and see how windy it is and if the deck is incredibly slippery. Because the sun won’t come up until 9AM, it’s like walking around at midnight. Once outside, I look around quickly to see how clear the day is shaping up to be. If it isn’t super windy, I’ll stop to look around me and take a moment to center myself. If it is windy, I jog quickly to the BIO, the building with the galley and the labs (obviously).

7:45- Say good morning to the chefs to let them know that I adore them and the amazing work they do. Depending on my mood, I will either eat breakfast or sleepily watch my coworkers eat. We often take this time to check in with each other and talk about what we plan to do since everyone is doing different things, often independently of each other.

8:00- It is time to go downstairs to the labs! I get into my lab and immediately check the list I outlined for myself to see what needs to get done. I also try and check my email to see if anyone tried to get into contact with me. This is when things vary a lot.

8:15- Prepare for a dissection- get out a large cutting board, put my cleaned tools in ethanol, label tubes, get a dissection worksheet, prepare syringes for blood withdrawal, get liquid nitrogen from outside, prepare a bucket of ice and kill a fish.

8:30- A fish dissection! These vary greatly as well since different fish are sampled for different projects. I often take blood, spleen, liver, gonad and muscle samples since these are high in DNA and are useful for genetic work.

10:00- I have two hours until lunch so I begin to get ready to look at embryos. Most of my work with our embryos involves using the dissection scope to photograph them and to also determine what stage in development they are at. This involves lots of studying of past research from our lab along with research papers from similar species since I do not have any schooling in embryology. I also have to use my imagination a lot. I put embryos in saltwater in a petri dish and use the scope to image them inside their eggs. From all the positioning of the embryo to get the right shot, I usually have a really good idea of what features they have developed. I return them to their incubators when finished.

12:00- LUNCH. The food is one of my favorite things about being here. The food is always different, always filling and always delicious. I also love lunch because I work alone most of the time and it is nice to see people. I am a chatty Kathy and always use lunch as a good way to recharge by talking to my friends.

1:00- Return to work. Don’t get me wrong, I love work here but it is always hard to go back to the labs after lunch. Not only are you often full and slightly sleepy, but you are also really warm from being in the galley. There is often a fire to cuddle up by and the labs are pretty chilly. In the second half of my day, I catch up on emails, write up data and update the team on the embryos.

4:00- Blow off steam at the gym and enjoy the sunset if it isn’t too cloudy.

5:30- DINNER. Dinner is really casual here, especially now that there are only 20 other people on station. A lot of people miss dinner to work out or do their own thing so it is usually quiet and relaxed.

6:30- Relax in the sauna and try and stretch all my sore neck and shoulder muscles from all my hunching.

7:30- Hang out with friends until bedtime.

Laura Goetz