Below is a collection of articles going into greater details of the relevant projects, techniques, and equipment referenced on Sea_of_Change. They are intended to provide background and expand on concepts which are not given enough mention within the main log.

The Influence of Grazers

The samples we collect are being assessed for phytoplankton growth. However, when collected they contain zooplankton as well. If phytoplankton are the grass of the world’s oceans, then zooplankton might be the gazelles, and fish the lions. The flaw in the metaphor are their relative sizes, but the point is that zooplankton feed on phytoplankton and are fed upon by fish. Phytoplankton produce their own food from sunlight and carbon dioxide. Continue reading The Influence of Grazers.

The Mission

The oceans are rich with plankton. Phytoplankton in particular serves as the primary producer of the oceans. This means that it is the base of the food chain. Like plants, phytoplankton produce sugars from the sun’s energy and carbon dioxide. They produce, by some estimates, 50% of the Earth’s oxygen. They feed the things which feed everything in the ocean and much of what lives on land. The importance of phytoplankton to the health of the living creatures of the planet, humans included, cannot be overstated. Continue reading The Mission.

Investigation Topics: Brainstorming

At the first Monday meeting, I was reminded that I had to submit my proposal soon.  I had given it some thought, but it would need to be completed soon.  I went to speak to David Fields after the meeting to have some questions answered.  He provided some encouraging words as well as a few very fascinating topics for investigation that could be worked into my Bering sea cruise.

The first was a comparison of a copapod native to the region which resembled a local one on a larger scale.  <em>Acartia tonsa</em> is about one millimeter long.  It is one of the most familiar looking copapods, among those who are familiar with copapods.  Its cousin, <em>Acartia tumina</em> is similar in structure but almost a centimeter long, Dr.Fields claimed.  To me, it seems like a confirmation of an assumption found in comic books and <ul>

The Land of the Lost</ul>: far into the wilderness, one can expect the same sorts of familiar sites, except bugs will be ten times larger.  Continue reading.

The Bering Ecological Study (BEST)

“The overarching question to be addressed in the BEST Program is — How will climate change affect the marine ecosystems of the eastern Bering Sea?

BEST Science Plan, page vii

The Bering Ecological study is a research initiative to study the effects of climate variability over several years. The project is the undertaking of many research organizations including the Arctic Research Consortium of the United States, the American Geophysical Union, Ecosystem Studies of Sub-arctic Seas, the North Pacific Marine Science Organization, Bigelow Laboratories for Ocean Science, NASA, and many universities.

The three major areas of inquiry that the BEST science plan attempts to address are:

1. What are the external factors linking climate change to the physical oceanography of the region?

2. How are the processes within the ecosystem affected by the variability of physical aspects of the sea?

3. How can better predictions be made of the changes to climate, productivity, and sustainability of the Bering Sea?

Changes in the average temperature and the balance of species which live in the Bering sea raises alarm in the short term due to the possibility of massive shifts in the availability of certain fish which are relied upon as a source of food and livelihood. In the long term, the Bering sea forecasts a dangerous shift in the climate of the world. In other words, many creatures which live in the Bering sea are dying while others gain dominance, and it is important to understand why before such changes become noticeable to humans the same way they are affecting the residents of the Bering sea. More on the BEST science plan.

Flow Cytometry

On June 10th, Nicole Poulton, a post doc, delivered a presentation on flow cytometry.  Cytometry is the general measurement of cells.  Flow cytometry is the measurement of cells in a fluid.   Many cells exist in fluids, and it is preferable to study them in the conditions which they live in.  Though initially developed for biomedical study, flow cytometry has found many uses in the study of microscopic marine organisms.

The basic approach involves a thin stream of fluid, moving within a sheath fluid of similar properties (such as composition and salinity).  Within the sheath fluid, the thin stream is injected, where a laminar flow carries any particles downward through the air in a pipeline only microns thick.  This aligns particles single-file, and orients many longer particles axially with the flow.  A laser or series of lasers are used to measure the refraction of the light.  A photometer which reads this light can determine the presence of a single particle, its size, its opacity, color, and internal characteristics. Read more on flow cytometry.

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