18 August, 2002
Although the weather has finally let up, things have certainly not slowed down science-wise. During the rough weather, just about the only work that could be done was the work off the stern of the ship. That meant pumping and benthic work. Now that we are back to "normal" we are also at the end of the West Hanna Shoal line where the stations get gradually shallower. We've gone from 1000 meters to 500 m, to 200 m, to 100 m and now to 50 m. I admit that I'm having a hard time keeping the day and date straight! It helps a bit that it now gets almost dark during the early morning hours, so I can at least distinguish day and night. It's a busy time and an exhausting time for everyone, but the cruise is winding down, and all the scientists want to make the best use of the time we have left. I'm going to take a bit of time to tell you about two more members of our science team and one new member of the Coast Guard MSTs.
Shortly after the storm passed, I had a chance to talk with the new MST on board. Remember that it is the Marine Science Technicians who coordinate and support all the science on board ship. (See my journal of August 9.) Josh Robinson is not only new to the Healy, but this is the first time he has been stationed on a ship. He has been in the Coast Guard for six years, but has always been on land. He was at a communications station on Kodiak Island, Alaska, and he was in a marine safety office in Texas where his job was pollution prevention. He's excited to be on board a ship, and finds the science extremely interesting. Josh also mentioned that he had taken classes on the weather so I asked him about our recent storm. He told me that anytime the barometer drops more than 24 millibars in 24 hours, it is called a "bomb." During the storm we just had, the barometer dropped from 1018 to 993 millibars in less than 12 hours, after which it dropped even further to 983 millibars! Another interesting fact about the storm is that we found snow in our sieves on the morning that the wind chill was -5 degrees Fahrenheit.
Whenever I'm doing the benthic work, the person I spend the most time with is Jim Bartlett. Jim is a Senior Research Assistant working with Jackie Grebmeier and Lee Cooper. Jim first worked for them in 1990 and, despite taking time off for graduate school and to work other jobs, this is his 8th cruise with Jackie and Lee. He's now working for them full time again. Jim is a wealth of information and I continually ask him questions as we sieve mud from the van Veen grabs, section cores from the Haps core, and can the mud we get from the sectioning. In addition to his knowledge of invertebrates (animals without backbones), Jim has extensive knowledge of fish and fisheries. His Masters degree is in biology with a concentration in fish physiology, and he has worked as an observer for the National Marine Fisheries Service in Seattle where most of his work was in the Bering Sea. He has also worked for the U. S. Forest Service doing a fresh water fish survey in Mississippi National Forest Lands.
Today I had lots of questions for Jim, because we were finding several different kinds of organisms in our van Veen grabs. While we are on the shallow end of the West Hanna Shoal transect, we are on the shelf. Remember that the shelf is where the ocean bottom is shallow immediately off the land. Where we are now, nutrient rich water from the Pacific Ocean is bringing lots of food to the organisms here in the Chukchi Sea. As a result, Jim had to help me identify the many different organisms that we found when we sieved the mud from the van Veen grabs. For example, we found many bivalves (bi = two and valve = shell) and gastropods (snails). The bivalves included a beautiful golden colored clam called Yoldia and a pretty, almost white one called Macoma calcarea. We also found pink brittle stars (a type of starfish with a small body and long, thin arms), orange sea cucumbers less than an inch long, lots of maldanid polychaetes (big worms), and even a small snow crab. All of these organisms live on the bottom and benefit from the nutrient-rich Pacific waters which feed the phytoplankton above them. Because it is so shallow here, lots of the phytoplankton make it to the bottom to provide food for all those living there. Another way we know that the phytoplankton reach the bottom is by taking sediment chlorophyll measurements whenever we bring up the van Veen grab or the Haps core. When there are a lot of phytoplankton there is always a lot chlorophyll in the sediments, and that's exactly what Jackie and Lee are finding here.
There's one other "new" member of the science team although he is an "old hand" at this since he was on the spring SBI cruise. A little over two weeks ago, Bob Campbell arrived on board by helicopter. Bob is a marine scientist at the University of Rhode Island School of Oceanography, and he is working with Carin Ashjian and Stephane Plourde on their copepod research (see the journal for July 28). Bob was late joining this cruise because he was working on another project in the Bay of Fundy off the coast of Canada. On that cruise he was studying the role of zooplankton in harmful algal blooms. It's part of a large study called ECOHAB (the Ecology of Harmful Algal Blooms). Remember that algae are phytoplankton, the primary producers of the ocean. Some algae also produce a toxin (poisonous substance), which can be harmful to other marine organisms when the algae reproduce in large numbers (bloom). Bob was trying to find out if the zooplankton in the Bay of Fundy are eating the potentially harmful algae.
Another project that Bob worked on was the SHEBA project (Surface Heat Budget of the Arctic Ocean). The project involved freezing a Canadian icebreaker into the Arctic ice for almost a year. Most of the research being conducted by the scientists on board was in the area of physics and climate, but Bob worked on zooplankton productivity (abundance and growth rates). That's where he first worked with Ev Sherr who is working closely with him on the two SBI 2002 cruises (see my journal for August 8).
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