Week 5 Activity: Sediment Coring

As you know, Expedition 329 is interested in microbes that live in the sediments on the seafloor. When studying microbes, we must consider the environment where they live because it impacts the activities and well being of the microbes. The crew uses a coring device to collect samples of the sediments.  Some of the scientists describe the physical properties of the sediments and give the descriptions to the microbiologists for their use.

In this activity, you will do something very similar to what the scientists do, except you won’t be on a ship.
  1. You will need a clear plastic tube about one inch in diameter, open on each end, and two rubber stoppers that fits snugly into the ends of the tube. 
  2. Visit the beach, a lake, or a stream near your home (Be very careful when working near the water!).
  3. Carefully push the hollow tube down into a place where there is soft sand or mud.  Now insert one of the rubber stoppers into the open top of the tube. The stopper will help to create a vacuum so that the sediments will be pulled into the tube. Pull the tube out, insert the other stopper into the bottom of the tube (pressure within the tube may pop the top stopper out, simply push it back in) and wipe the sides with a paper towel. You should be able to see the sediments inside the tube; you now have a sediment core!
  4. Use a ruler to measure the thickness of any layers you see, and try to observe and describe the color and grain size you’ve captured. This is exactly what sedimentologists do on board the JOIDES Resolution in the core lab.

Take a photo of your core and email it to JR at thejoidesresolution@gmail.com! Keep the sediments in the plastic tube, put them in a re-closeable plastic bag and store in the refrigerator until next week when you will use them for the next activity.

Note: If you don’t have a chance to collect an actual sediment core, use a wide straw and take a core sample from a layer cake or a brownie with colored frosting on top (you can make these for this experiment and call it science!) Once you take your sample, you can make the same kinds of observations – how thick are the layers, what color are they, etc. Take a photo of this core and send it to us – we’ll still give you full credit for participating!