Surviving an All-Nighter

For unorganised, lets-leave-it-to-the-last-minute people, as the deadline for submission draws nearer, desperation kicks in and sleep gets kicked out.  Pulling an all nighter is no easy task.  Corals can calcify all night and all day, they think they are so cool.  After doing honours for 9 months, I have found out I can study all day and all night.  Take that coral.  I am now up to my 7th all-nighter and likely to do many more in the next few weeks.  Of course the hardest part of pulling an all-nighter is the night part and here’s how to deal with it…

Some supplies for the night. Not much healthy stuff… that’s because I’ve already eaten it…

6pm. Time to get ready for the night.  A quick checklist:  study materials, dinner, breakfast, snacks, comfy clothes, motivational music, energy drinks and possibly a caffeine pill.  Check, check and check.  Perhaps the most important part:  recruit a study buddy (think  of colonial organism advantages).  They are an invaluable resource that should be exploited to its full potential in this situation.   Set some goals and get to work.  Try and critique a few journal articles or bust out a couple of paragraphs before dinner.  Easy.

9pm.  Get those comfy clothes on and settle in.  Do some heterotrophic feeding (eat dinner) and prepare for crunch time.  Work work work with a bit of procrastination on the side.  Sounds nice and normal?  Well it is.  It’s how normal people study, at a reasonable hour.

As comfy as it can get. Comfy clothes can put you to sleep. Sometime its better to work naked with the aircon on.

12am.  It’s getting late and bed time was hours ago.  Your eyes start to get heavy, you can’t concentrate on the computer screen and nothing is making sense.  Time to sleep?  I think not.  It’s time to pull out the big guns.  Energy drinks.  My personal weapon of choice is Monster, 500mL of awakeness in a can.  Down two of these within a couple of hours and you’ll be as hyperactive as a yappy dog stabbed with an epipen.  Don’t drink too much though, they have a recommended daily intake for a reason (talking from experience).  Also, in addition to highlighting journal articles, expect to be lining the toilet bowl with fluoro pee. Maybe the highlight of the night?   Apparently that’s normal.  Perhaps this is the only time we will ever rival corals in fluorescent ability.  Bonus.  Keep the liquid coming.

3am.  Still high on energy drinks but panic seems to set in.  No more work for at least an hour and a lot of energy to expel.  When study buddies are around, studying descends to looking at baby sloth videos on you tube, running laps around the outside of the building, laughing deliriously at absolutely nothing, spamming friends on facebook, hangman, having spinning competitions on chairs and then freaking out about being unproductive.  After mutual reassurance and some motivational speeches of triumph, you set to work again.  Be like a coral.  They never sleep.  They are hardcore.  If you’re alone, well, chances are this is where you fail, give up and head to bed.  Except… when you get there, the energy drinks keep you awake.  Big mistake. You end up being wide awake all night (because you’ve decided to sleep of course) worrying about the work instead of doing it.

Enough to last a few nights. I wonder if crackin’ one of these open and putting it in the coral take will make the corals crazy…

6am.  Perhaps the hardest and most depressing part of the night/day/morning.  You take a small respite from the hard and desperate studying.  You look out the window and oh… my… zoox… the sun is coming up.  Suddenly it feels like someone dropped an entire coral reef on you.  All motivation is lost.  Time for a shower to relax a bit.  If you are still finding it hard to pull through, time for that caffeine the pill (or a coffee) and breakfast.  Look at what you’ve managed to do over the night. Was it worth it? Yes? Good.  If not, then you have the wrong kind of study habit.

As messy as my desk will ever get.

9am.  Wahoo! You made it though.  You’re still awake and hopefully, still productive! People have made their way back into the building and everything seems normal.  You can suddenly make it through the day based on routine, unless of course you start to think about sleep… main offender being people who insist on asking “have a good sleep?”  Well, NO!  That desk becomes a mighty tempting place to rest that heavy head and nap… but now there are plenty of people who make enough noise to keep you awake.

Good job, you made it!  Perhaps a congratulation is in order?  Congratulations for being so disorganised and unproductive during normal hours you have to result to staying awake all night.  Hmm… maybe the punishment is deserved.  Unfortunately, I’m a unitary organism and unlike coral, I can barely manage 1 night without sleep.  Corals don’t sleep and prove yet again they are much cooler than all of us.

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It Worked!

After months of getting tanks ready, growing coral, putting the little fellas to sleep, lasering their skeletons and many many many hours sorting data, we now know the experiment worked.  Check it out:

This graph shows us that the corals grew in tanks after we changed the water chemistry (higher levels of B and Sr in this case).  The bottom left of the graph is old coral.  As it moves to the top right, the corals are adding the stuff we put in the tank to their skeleton! Cool huh?  Very sexy data.

The wise Ph.D Student

The  late nights of pumping out a thesis have arrived.  With energy drinks in hand, we sit in our little honours room late into the night.  A Ph.D student drops in to see what kind of stupid people would be at uni at such a ridiculous hour and gives probably the best advice given so far.  Let me paraphrase:

“You spend months and months putting a lot of effort into writing an 80 page thesis for a couple of people to read and mark in less than half a day.  Focus on the big picture, forget the little things and get it done”.

Damn right.  Time to smash this sucker out.

We too will have a book we can take photos of and show off to everyone.

Coral Fact #023

Almost everyone has heard of bleaching in corals.  It isn’t some sort of disease, but rather a symptom of stress for the poor little corals, the zoox living in the coral, or both.  Bleaching in small amounts on a coral colony is pretty normal.  After all, dealing with predators and fighting with other coral all the time would elevate the stress level of anyone.

That's some pretty nasty coral bleaching.

When bleaching occurs over the whole colony or a whole reef section,  we should be a little concerned.  If it happens on a large-scale, it’s referred to as “mass bleaching” and is usually attributed to elevated light and temperature levels.  Seems the poor corals might be in for a hard time with global warming.  Given the time left for our thesis to be done, if we were coral (which of course is a dream of everyones at some point) there would be a whole lot of mass bleaching in our honours room.

Coral Fact #022

When two little coral larvae decide to settle in the same spot, two things could happen.  They may compete with each other resulting in one of them being killed, or in certain circumstances, they can hybridise.  When a mix of two or more coral tissues from two or more genetically different individuals fuse, they are called chimeras.

Think that it is easy to find a picture of a chimera? Well it isn't. So here is just a pretty picture of an acropora reproducing. Check out the AIMS website for more awesome photos!

 Being a chimera can be very advantageous.  They start off bigger than normal corals so they can reproduce sooner, can acquire a long life mate with their “other half” and help each other out if one is having a bit of trouble.  How nice.  BUT there are a few bad things.  They could compete for resources and in some cases one can act like a parasite to the other.  When will corals ever learn to be nice!

Coral Fact #021

Apparently corals didn’t pay attention during sex education.  Corals can get herpes.  Yes, herpes.  Considering the diversity of reproduction modes and lack of protection, it does not surprise me.  Perhaps we should assist and create a coral condom.  If you wish to engage in any sort of contact with a coral, please keep this in mind.  But on a serious note, it appears to be a pretty big problem.  Quite a few people seem to think it is having a large negative impact on coral communities.  Sadface.

A poor coral with a viral infection.

Underwater Carwash

Ever thought about how fish manage to keep themselves so beautifully clean? Perhaps it could be something to do with that huge salt bath that they like to hang out in? Wrong!

Picture this…..

Mr William the Wrasse is off to his long day at work. He puts his uniform on, grabs a coffee and sets up shop just down the current. And then he waits. What does he do? He owns a cleaning station – which is pretty much the underwater equivalent of a carwash. But for animals. Not cars. Creatures start appearing from all over the reef and wait in line to have a thorough cleaning. Mr William uses his tiny mouth to bite off parasites, dead skin, and leftover food particles off all those darn messy eaters. Nothing is too difficult for Mr William, he cleans fish, turtles, eels, whales and even offers to give sharks dentals while they sit there patiently not eating him! His uniform (the pretty blue stripe down his side) lets everyone know that he owns the station and it’s for the good of everyone if he doesn’t get eaten.

Mr William will see up to 2000 fish in one day! As an added bonus, he never has to go out of his way to prepare dinner!

If you’re underwater and patient enough (and have really good buoyancy), you can actually get in line and have a clean too:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOa8y95khK8&feature=fvst

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