Amphibious Trilogies

Bubble man

Day 19 of the Arctic Floating University Expedition
9 July 2019

On a spring sunny day cows happily graze and poop, the grass receives some of the nutrients, but is not always sunny, the rain comes and flushes the nutrients into the lake. This a feast for the algae. Algae loves the nutrients and begin to bloom. Soon, they use all the nutrients. The algae die and sink to the bottom. There, the bacteria uses oxygen to consume the algae. In the end there’s no oxygen left. The fish suffer … and finally die.

This is the transcript of an animation, Fish-kill in Soppen lake, an introduction to methane and hydrodynamics for kids. Let it be said, there are no direct references to methane bubbles anywhere in the animation. The animation is a collaboration between Sabine Flury and Daniel mcGinnis. Sabine designs the child-like visual animation. The narrator is Daniel. His voice is both satirical and melancholy aligned. Put together, I would call it an ode to the children of today. Trouble, trouble, boil and bubble. Be a little scared, be humours, be informed.

On bubbles

Bubbles are usually fragile and highly temporal beings. They are formed, shaped and sized as globules, one substance in another, mainly liquids and gas. Bubbles can form clusters and plumes. Whether a bubble or bubble cluster, they go on a journey. Whether floating on liquids or gases, bubbles generally exist for a relatively short time. Eventually, the surface of a bubble bursts, freeing the substance from the inside, now mingling and changing states with the ‘outside’ environment.

Who is the Bubble man?

Daniel, of course! Since childhood he has a a long term relationship with bubbles; changing states and ephemerality. Bubbles are interesting and everywhere. Think beer. Think soap bubbles. Think carbon dioxide and methane bubbles, often called greenhouse gases. Its well known that methane is a prime contributor to global warming. Daniel seeks to understand the natural sources of methane gas, particularly in the fast-warming Arctic. Rapid Sea ice loss, the melting of permafrost in the sea and on land. Key critical for understanding the future climate.

Daniel says that he is officially an oceanographer who also works on lakes, or alternatively, a limnologist who works on the ocean. In this sense, I would call his praxis and life style as an amphibious one. Formally speaking, Prof. Daniel is the head of the Aquatic Physics group of the Department F.-A. Forel for Environmental and Aquatic Sciences at the University of Geneva. Before this he gained a PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech, USA.

What does Daniel do on Prof. Molchanov?

Daniel is mainly joint organiser of sampling of water and sedimentary matters with masters’ and Ph.D candidates, from Switzerland, Russia and Korea. He also holds lectures on emerging topics, such as ‘methane sources, transport and fate in inland and ocean waters’.

Daniel’s lectures mingles between two modes and moods. On the first hand, he goes at a rapid speed. It’s hard to catch up with him; so many unfamiliar scientific terms and phrases. In the second mode he becomes less formal, more jovial and bubbly. He tells anecdotes that can help to understand the complex issues on hand.

When not supervising, lecturing and socialising you might meet Daniel in the bar working on an grant application for the second phase of Winds of Change scientific program, led by researchers from the University of Geneva. Leading the Winds of Change program is the Swiss sailboat Fleur de passion, which specifically studies greenhouse gases on the surface of the oceans. The first expedition (2015-18) on the Fleur de passion took the team across the Indian Ocean. Hopefully, the second expedition Arctic Change: Sailing for Our Futures might come in the near future.

I wish him good luck with the grant.

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