After a week of being in the Beaufort Sea for a scientific cruise, I am finally able to post things again!
Though many may associate the words “Alaskan cruise” with luxury liners and whale/eagle/glacier watching, those words mean something completely different to marine scientists. To us, a cruise is a data collecting mission. We cruise around our study area, stopping at different ‘stations’, to obtain measurements and samples, working long hours on deck and in the lab to get everything done by the time the cruise is over (more on what exactly happens when we are ‘on station’ later).
This week, I joined 15 other scientists on a cruise on the Norseman II to investigate the impacts of oil drilling in the Beaufort Sea. The goal of the UTMSI team (Susan Schonberg, Carrie Harris, and myself) is to figure out how carbon flows through the Beaufort Sea ecosystem, from phytoplankton to zooplankton, infauna (animals that live in the sediment), and epifauna (animals that live on top of the sediment). To do this, we look at abundance and diversity of infauna, and collect water samples and animals to use in stable isotope analysis. You can read my quick version of how stable isotope analysis can be used to determine food webs [here]. Other teams on board are looking at water properties, trace metals, contaminants, and epifaunal diversity. Due to some good luck in weather, we got everything we had planned done seven days and even added on somethings at the end! The UTMSI team sampled from 26 stations. Below is a slideshow of some highlights.
I am stuck in Prudhoe waiting for the wind to die down so we can get started diving. However, it does give me time to catch up on this blog, so check back for more from the Norseman II!