We are underway!
The Sikuliaq left Nome Sunday evening. The scientists are set up at their stations – Burke Hales’ OSU team in the wet lab, Laurie Juranek and Miguel Goñi’s OSU teams in the main lab, the VIMS team in the analytical lab – and continuous sea water samples from beneath the ship are being collected. It stays light until after midnight, with the golden hour at just about 11pm. The ship moves within sight of the coast out into the Bering Sea.
Already the idea of a regular work schedule is out the window. Shifts have begun so that the science can run 24/7. A little after midnight, we did our first test CTD cast. All equipment is working well so far. A fog has settled and every few minutes the fog horn blasts into the night.
Learning from last year
The goal of this cruise is to follow up on some of the work done on last year’s cruise. Much of the data collection is the same, but this time the team is more focused on an area between Wainwright and Barrow on the Chukchi Sea shelf that showed particularly high primary productivity last year. Primary productivity is the activity that happens at the base of the food chain and indicates how much food (in the form of microscopic plants) is in the ocean. The scientists here want to better understand why there was high primary productivity between Wainwright and Barrow – was it because a storm had passed through the area the previous month? The team will also sample on a line entirely within 30 miles of shore, a proximity that was out of limits last year. This will allow them to get an important dataset uniquely affected by the Alaskan coast.
Juranek, Goñi, and Hales are still putting the puzzle pieces of their datasets from last year together. They know the “greatest hits” of their individual datasets, but haven’t synthesized them, and haven’t found the smoking gun behind the big signals of primary productivity that they’ve seen.
Last year the VIMS team found that nitrogen fixers (more specifically, diazotrophs) were widespread throughout sample sites in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. This year, they’re trying to see how those rates compare earlier in the season and closer to shore. Goñi joined the VIMS team prior to boarding the Sikuliaq for two weeks of small boat operations in Alaskan near coastal waters and rivers. They wanted to see if nitrogen fixation rates are higher near the coast, where organic matter could have an influence.
And so the next weeks of scientific adventure begin.
Burke Hales at work.
Chief Scientist Laurie Juranek prepping the CTD for the test run.
Miguel Goñi, Ethan Roth, and Laurie Juranek during the test CTD run.