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Journals 2008/2009

John Karavias
Walt Whitman H.S. Huntington Station, NY

"Estimation of Primary Productivity and Particle Export Rates as a Function of Phytoplankton Community Structure in the Bering Sea"
United States Coast Guard Cutter Healy, Icebreaker
July 3 - July 28, 2008
Journal Index:
July 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11
       12 - 13 - 14 - 15 - 16 - 17 - 18 - 19
       20 - 21 - 22 - 23 - 24 - 25 - 26 - 27
       28 - 29 - 30 - 31

July 14, 2008

Today Pat and I prepared for our second sediment trap deployment and he thinks he worked out a few kinks. Our new problem is the weather. We have reached 30 knots quite a bit today and the fog has been thick. We will find out tomorrow if the Captain lets us deploy.

Today we also took another water sample to collect thorium. This time I asked Pat if I could do most of the work. Of course he agreed. Pat told me what to do and I followed his directions to a 'T." This time, when it came time to wait for the water to filter through the one-millimeter glass filter, we both brought our books to read. Waiting for the thorium to collect is like watching paint dry.

Jimmy Johnson, from he mooring team, and I had a great conversation today. He went over each individual part of the moorings we set this week. He is a very interesting guy. He goes to the North Pole every year to retrieve and deploy one mooring. I find that amazing. It takes a team of men, 10 days, 12,000 lbs of supplies, and god knows how what else for one mooring. Well it isn't that simple and it is well worth it. These moorings collect very important data, but that is for another entry.


What is the core sampling team doing on the Healy?

David Shull from Western Washington University:

David is a professor/scientist whose specialty is animals that live on the seafloor (the benthos). He has also done work on the methyl mercury production and cycling in the ocean and the biomagnification of mercury up the marine food chain.

When I asked David why he feels it is important to study the Bering Sea, and the sediment in particular, he was quick to give me multiple answers. In short and not quoting him, here is what he had to say. It is important to know what we are doing to the planet and the Bering Sea is the most unique place to collect data to find that out. The Bering Sea is the most lucrative American port so the fishing industry would like to know how the Bering is handling global climate change. Furthermore David explains what makes the Bering so unique and fragile at the same time. To the north is the Chucki Sea, which is a frozen sea and to the south is the North Pacific, which does not freeze. The Bering Sea is the body of water that is the buffer or the phase change between liquid and solid seasonally. The freezing and thawing of the Bering is directly linked to its productivity. A .5-degree water temperature change anywhere else in the world either would be negligible or adaptable by the life in it. In a body of water that hovers around the freezing point, a half a degree difference could mean miles of ice or areas of open water.

Late ice melts meaning it was a cold winter produces a surface layer of water that is slightly less salty and very cold. The organisms that love it are the phytoplankton. The phytoplankton communities bloom and enjoy the luxury of not being eaten by zooplankton. The zooplankton does not fair as well as the phytoplankton in those conditions in the Bering Sea. This results in the phytoplankton sinking, along with their carbon, nitrogen, and other substances to the benthos.

In a warm year however, things are different. The water is thermally stratified and the zooplankton has a chance to bloom and they eat up the phytoplankton. The zooplankton then are eaten by pelagic fish. There is an obvious shift in trophic levels and the carbon; nitrogen and other substances stay in the vertical water column.

Here are a few questions/hypothesis David is working here on the Healy-

Is the carbon (which is being produced by the phytoplankton) reaching the bottom?

How does the macrofaua affect the nutrients after they hit the bottom?

How do the critters effect what is going on in the water column?

Statement: Animals in the sediment and their burrows have a direct affect on the rates of denitrification.

Greg Brusseau, Heather Whitney, and Amy Cash- the front line of the team:

Greg Brusseau is an undergraduate at Western Washington University. He claims to have been ignorant about the oceans until about 5 years ago when we moved to the west coast. I can relate to this statement because I have lived on Long Island, New York my whole life and never fully appreciated the wonderful lure of the sea myself until recently.

Greg just wanted to learn about the oceans so that is what he is doing. Greg is interning under David Shull. His capacity in the team is to process the sediments and run the radon board. After I saw the radon board I had to ask Greg if he thought he was smart. He just said he was a hard worker and with regard to the radon board, he follows the directions. I think it is great that he never took the SAT's and doesn't remember his results of the ACT. That is valuable information I want to bring back to my classroom and stress to my students because we are such a standardized test driven academic society. Greg is proof positive success is not measured by a test.

Question: Do you think there is a global warming debate?

Answer: Yes. An issue worth addressing

Question: What advice would you give my students if I asked you to?

Answer: You are not stuck! I packed my bags on high school graduation night. There is always a way to work around things to get what you want.

Heather Whitney is a 26-year-old graduate student from the University of Washington who seems to only attract nerdy guys. Here is why. Before we sat down to talk, she calculated how much time a woman wastes shaving her legs a year. It basically was two whole days (40 hours). Make your own decisions if you think she wastes her time or not. By the way, I had nothing to do with that line of questioning and at breakfast the next day she confirmed the math was correct because she thought about it in her sleep.

She too does not think she is smart but the 1490 on the SAT's and the aforementioned conservation speaks volumes. Heather also works for David Shull and Al Devol at the University of Washington. One of her jobs is to measure the oxygen consumption in the core samples. She tried to put it simply for me. She told me there are two ecosystems, the water stuff and the mud stuff. She wants to know what is going to happen to the mud stuff after the ice is gone.

Her advice to my students: Find a passion that makes you happy.

I had a problem with this advice because today's high school students, in general, are lacking passion about anything or they are passionate about the wrong things. Heather can give this advice with conviction because her passions of bassoon, hiking, skiing, and just being outdoors are not destructive. They are constructive.

Amy Cash is a graduate student from the University of Washington. She is also under Al Devol at the University. Her capacity here is to generally lend a hand in the daily duties of the sample team. Amy's journey to the Bering Sea is different than Heather's and Greg's

Amy is in her mid 30's, a Long Island girl herself, and like most of today's youth, did not know exactly what she wanted to do after high school. She tried LA classes, law school, and with the passing of her father, came home. Then her boyfriend got her interested in tall ships. He became the ex-boyfriend and Amy finally had had her direction in life. She sailed on a tall ship for a year and now she is on the Bering!

When we get to the proper depth, Amy is going to do a side experiment. She is taking a look at the 70-meter isobayth and its nitrification. There is somewhat of an anomaly going on down there. There is a high level of ammonia at that level and we do not know why. It is known that Archae bacteria possess an enzyme to perform the nitrification.

Question: Is there a global warming debate?

Answer: There should not be a debate but there is. The earth is warming.

Question: Do you consider yourself smart?

Answer: I don't know, yes, it's relative, someone is always smarter. Being smart is not everything.

Advice to my students:
There are no absolute paths to take....hopefully things work out. Sometimes you can't control things that happen. It is good to do something that you are not good at.

How do I interpret what she said? Keep plowing forward no mater what life throws at you and you will persevere. Be humble.