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Welcome to the Unseen Ocean

Emily Y.'s avatar

Education | Scientific Research

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


Welcome to the Unseen Ocean
The Aquarium of the Pacific will be following the activities of scientists and workers aboard the RV Roger Revelle in the Indian Ocean.  | Nathan Garcia, University of California Irvine

The Aquarium of the Pacific is home to over 10,000 animals, giving you a glimpse of several different regions in the ocean: the temperate waters of our ocean-backyard, the chilly North Pacific coast, and the warm, colorful tropical ocean. The ocean is a big, complex place; there is an entire universe of science and discovery out there. I’m going to be blogging about the research that scientists are doing to help us understand more about ocean and earth systems. How do we know what we know about Earth? What are scientists doing to study the ocean? Join me as we meet these scientists and workers and learn more about ocean exploration and research. For our first expedition together: we’re going to follow a cruise!

When you tell people that you’re going on a cruise, they expect all-you-can-eat-buffets, shore-bound excursions, sunshine, and sunburns. Research cruises are a different story, entirely. Scientists are able to learn more about the ocean and our planet by going into the field, and conducting research while on the ocean. This may involve working long hours in tough conditions, like high seas and rain; ship operations take place 24 hours a day. New technologies and expensive equipment may be used on research cruises to help scientists understand processes in the ocean. Life at sea on a research vessel can be tough but also very rewarding.

For the next several weeks, we’ll be hearing from scientists on board a research vessel in the Indian Ocean. During this research cruise, scientists and workers will be studying processes that are essential to life in the ocean at the base of the food chain. A lot of activity in the ocean is done by the tiniest living things- microscopic algae and bacteria. This is the curious world of the unseen ocean.

I’d like to introduce you to Nathan, a marine biologist who works in Dr. Adam Martiny’s laboratory at the University of California, Irvine. Nathan is working onboard the research vessel RV Roger Revelle. This project is part of his research as a Chancellor’s ADVANCE Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Earth System Science.

I have been interested in marine life since I was six years old when I first encountered a Portuguese man-of-war in the Gulf of Mexico while swimming at a beach in Corpus Christi, Texas. Although my research now focuses on microscopic living creatures, I still love exploring the natural marine world with my own eyes with a mask and snorkel. You might find me snorkeling in several local areas in Laguna Beach during the summer.

Currently the focus of my work is photosynthetic microbes called cyanobacteria. Some cyanobacteria use nitrogen in the ocean, while others do not. I am interested in how different kinds of cyanobacteria interact with each other, and their impacts on communities where they live. Because there are a lot of different parts to the whole community, there are many scientific questions that are waiting to be explored. I hope to find answers to new questions with data that we are currently collecting from the Indian Ocean.

The RV Revelle will be cruising for 39 days, stopping to sample at a total of 110 stations in the Indian Ocean. Each station is marked by a dot on the map pictured above. The entire cruise track is planned, following a designated line called a transect. The transect cuts through three distinct areas; scientists will be studying how those areas are similar and different from one another. The transect is thousands of miles long (longer than the United States is wide), and even crosses the Equator!

We’ll hear from Nathan and his colleagues as they continue their journey to explore the ocean. Check back soon for more updates!

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