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  • richardmitnick 9:16 am on May 10, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Marine Virus Survey Reveals Biodiversity Hot Spots", Ocean samples collected from around the world produced a twelvefold increase in the number of marine viruses known., Oceanography, Tara Oceans expedition   

    From Eos: “Marine Virus Survey Reveals Biodiversity Hot Spots” 

    From AGU
    Eos news bloc

    From Eos

    3 May 2019
    Kimberly M. S. Cartier

    Ocean samples collected from around the world produced a twelvefold increase in the number of marine viruses known. A portion of the Arctic Ocean has “surprisingly high diversity.”

    The research ship Tara, seen here, sailed around the world for 3 years. Hundreds of experts collected ocean samples that researchers have used to vastly expand the number of known marine viral populations. Credit: Tara Foundation

    Microbes are the foundation of marine ecosystems, and marine viruses shape the biodiversity, life span, and evolution of microbial communities. A recent study in Cell presented the most extensive catalog of marine viruses to date, genetically identifying more than 180,000 new viral populations around the world.

    “Marine viruses infect and lyse about one third of cells per day, transfer genes from one host to another, and metabolically reprogram their hosts,” Matthew Sullivan, principal investigator on the project and a microbiologist at The Ohio State University in Columbus, told Eos. “Cataloging them helps us understand how viruses modulate the microbial processes that underpin the marine ecosystem.”

    The researchers also identified five distinct ecological zones for marine viruses, including two subzones in the Arctic Circle. Advanced genetic sequencing showed that viral populations in the Arctic, the region most affected by climate change, are among the most biodiverse in the world.

    Experts collect water samples during the Tara Oceans expedition. Credit: A. Deniaud/Fondation Tara Ocean

    The researchers analyzed water samples collected by the Tara Oceans expedition*, a global oceanographic research and survey effort that involved dozens of labs and hundreds of researchers, Sullivan said. The samples represent 145 ocean locations around the world, including 41 new samples from the Arctic Ocean. Each water sample hosts a unique virus habitat, or virome.

    *The expedition has enjoyed the support of France’s National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), France’s Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) and many public and private organizations.

    The team had analyzed some of these viromes [Nature] previously and identified around 15,000 viral populations “using state-of-the-art [techniques] at the time,” Sullivan said. “This new paper then builds upon this to take advantage of deeper sequencing, new assembly algorithms, and new virus identification algorithms, which all added quite a bit to this current data set.”

    By using more advanced gene sequencing methods, the team identified nearly 200,000 marine viral populations. This is a roughly twelvefold increase in the number of known marine viruses.

    Ninety-two percent of the viruses the team identified were new discoveries, and about half of those new marine viruses came from the Arctic.

    “This is a truly impressive data set,” said viral ecologist Joanne Emerson, who was not involved with this research. “At nearly 200,000 viral populations, the scale is astounding.” Emerson is an assistant professor at the University of California, Davis.

    Defining Populations

    Viral ecologists have struggled with defining the boundaries of viral species because RNA viruses and single-strand DNA viruses evolve very quickly. They typically group viruses into “populations” along a common genetic lineage, but this process requires extensive data sets of deep genetic sequencing and has been done for only a few subgroups of viruses.

    With the new catalog, the researchers were able to test whether this approach to viral populations applies more generally. They found that, yes, it does.

    “The research supports a prior definition of viral populations,” Jennifer Brum, an oceanographer and marine viral ecologist at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, told Eos. “This is exciting because our field has been struggling for some time with the problem of how to count different types of viruses—something that is necessary to quantitatively compare viral assemblages in various locations.”

    “Without a definition for viral populations,” Brum said, “we cannot begin to assess the environmental conditions that drive their distribution, dynamics, and effects on Earth’s ecosystem.” Blum was not involved with this research.

    “This work includes the strongest evidence thus far for a robust, broadly applicable, sequence-based definition of a viral ‘species,’ providing the currency to probe viral impacts on and responses to ecosystem processes,” Emerson said.

    Surprising Arctic Biodiversity

    The Tara Oceans expedition collected 41 new samples from the Arctic Circle, from which the researchers identified more than 75,000 new marine viral populations. Credit: Tara Foundation

    The researchers also found that virus populations were grouped into five distinct ecologic zones: Arctic, Antarctic, deep sea, temperate-tropical midlevel, and temperate-tropical near surface. This grouping suggests that water temperature is a major driver in structuring viral ecologic zones, according to the researchers, which matches their earlier virus research as well as global microbial surveys.

    The team then calculated the biodiversity of viral populations within each ecologic zone. They found that the Antarctic and midlevel zones had the lowest biodiversity. The near-surface zone and part of the Arctic zone were biodiversity hot spots.

    The Arctic biodiversity surprised the team because current conventions assume that biodiversity decreases closer to Earth’s poles.

    “Half of the oxygen we breathe comes from the oceans,” Sullivan said, “and half of the carbon dioxide that we humans release into the atmosphere is absorbed by the oceans and its marine microbes.” This marine virus catalog provides a baseline that scientists can use when evaluating the ecosystem changes caused by rising Arctic sea temperatures, he said.

    “The finding from this paper that the Arctic Ocean has surprisingly high diversity of viruses is very interesting,” Brum said, “especially because that region is being significantly impacted by climate change.”

    “There are a number of dots yet to be connected,” Emerson said, but the connection between sea temperature and viral biodiversity “suggests the potential for climate effects on viral communities that could ricochet through ocean food webs.”

    See the full article here .


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    Eos is the leading source for trustworthy news and perspectives about the Earth and space sciences and their impact. Its namesake is Eos, the Greek goddess of the dawn, who represents the light shed on understanding our planet and its environment in space by the Earth and space sciences.

  • richardmitnick 11:05 am on May 4, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Sponges and corals: Seafloor assessments to help protect against climate change", , , , Oceanography, Sponge grounds have an effect on ocean health, The role of vast sea sponge grounds   

    From Horizon The EU Research and Innovation Magazine: “Sponges and corals: Seafloor assessments to help protect against climate change” 


    From Horizon The EU Research and Innovation Magazine

    29 April 2019
    Sandrine Ceurstemont

    The glass sponge Vazella pourtalesi, found on the Scotian Shelf, is one of about 8,500 sponge species that is known to exist. Image credit – Fisheries and Oceans Canada

    Little is known about deep ocean environments. But scientists focussing on the depths of the North Atlantic are now learning more about their ecosystems – including the role of vast sea sponge grounds – and how to safeguard them against the effects of climate change and industry.

    Deep-sea sponges – aquatic invertebrates that spend their lives attached to the seabed and are found in almost all areas of the deep ocean – have been particularly neglected when it comes to research and conservation. But they are an important component of their ecosystems.

    ‘Given their huge filtering capacity and their pronounced role in pumping and cleaning the ocean, sponge grounds have an effect on ocean health,’ said Professor Hans Tore Rapp from the University of Bergen in Norway.

    But studying sponges is not easy. Found at depths of up to 4,000 metres, sponges are hard to access and most cannot handle exposure to air which makes it difficult to conduct lab experiments.

    Telling species apart is tricky too because many have limited distinguishing features. ‘Nowadays a combination of morphological information and DNA has made things a bit easier but it is still a challenging and very time-consuming task,’ said Prof. Rapp.

    Professor Rapp and his colleagues are identifying different species for a wide-ranging project called SponGES. The scientists are investigating sponges’ ecological functions, how these animals can be used in biotechnology as well as the resilience of their ecosystems.

    ‘We will be using modelling tools to look into the future, to see how these sponge grounds will be impacted by climate change or any kind of stressors,’ said Prof. Rapp.

    Scientists want to understand how fragile cold-water coral ecosystems are being affected by sectors such as deep-sea mining. Image credit – © Changing Oceans Expedition 2012 (cruise JC073)

    Sponge genomes

    So far, the scientists have discovered more than 30 new species of sponges and produced the largest sponge genomic data sets ever, which should reveal how different species and populations are related. They also performed experiments in the lab to investigate their ecosystem functions, such as how they absorb and turn carbon and inorganic nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus into nourishment for the rest of the habitat.

    Now they are conducting experiments on the seafloor. ‘(We are) looking at sponges in pristine areas then comparing how they function in areas that are more impacted, whether it’s from oil and gas or mining,’ said Prof. Rapp.

    The project is also taking a novel approach to drug discovery. The chemicals that sponges use to defend themselves could potentially be used to treat cancer and infectious diseases.

    Sponges are typically ground up and tested to identify compounds that could be used to develop drugs. The project, however, is trying to zero in on the genes involved in making these compounds so that it can sustainably produce them in the lab.

    ‘We’ve already identified some of the gene sequences that are related to the production of anti-cancer compounds,’ said Dr Shirley Pomponi from Florida Atlantic University in the US and Wageningen University in the Netherlands, who is leading the biotechnology arm of the project.

    Dr Pomponi and her project colleagues are also one step closer to creating bone implants that make use of sponge architecture. Sponges produce microscopic skeletal elements, or spicules, made of biosilica that are the building blocks of their structures. Biosilica has been found to induce bone-forming cells to produce more bone. The scientists therefore hope to make implant scaffolds with bone-forming cells.

    They achieved a breakthrough by creating a cell line in the lab from deep-sea sponge cells, which Dr Pomponi claims is the first time this has been done for any marine invertebrate.

    Dr Pomponi says the cell lines are exciting as they will enable the scientists to study how sponges produce their skeletons as well as their defensive chemicals. The team is focussing on how to produce biosilica and these chemicals in tissue culture, she says.


    Results from the project are already being recognised by policymakers too. Sponge grounds have now been included in the Norwegian Red List for endangered habitats, for example.

    ‘We are now also contributing to getting sponge grounds into the management plan for the Nordic Seas,’ said Prof. Rapp.

    In addition to sponges, other elements of deep North Atlantic ocean ecosystems need to be better understood. To tackle this, a project called ATLAS is undertaking the biggest assessment of the area to date.

    The deep Atlantic is home to a number of vulnerable ecosystems, says Professor Murray Roberts from the University of Edinburgh in the UK, the project coordinator.

    ‘We need to understand the corals, the sponges, the clams, we need to understand the seamounts,’ he said.

    ‘And critically we need to understand how industry active in these areas already, and proposing to increase its operations, could impact these systems.’

    The project is monitoring the deep ocean by using climate-monitoring instruments, along with new equipment such as sensor arrays to measure carbon dioxide and acidity to provide regular readings for the first time which will be made publicly available.

    The new information will help to better understand the physics of the ocean such as circulation patterns, for example, so that changes can be predicted.

    The project has published 49 scientific papers, revealing, for example, how corals on the seafloor are nourished in an environment where there is little food available [Scientific Reports].

    Simulations showed that water currents interact with coral mounds, which can grow hundreds of metres tall to draw organic matter down to them from the surface.

    ‘It’s an amazing example of ecosystem engineering on a scale we’ve never really seen before,’ said Prof. Roberts. The scientists will follow up by taking measurements in the field to see if they agree with their model.


    Another aspect of the project involves bringing together different sectors that use the ocean, such as fisheries and oil and gas companies, to plan out marine space in a more sustainable way. ‘It’s like town planning in a sense for the oceans,’ said Prof. Roberts.

    The team’s goal is to make sure that ocean activities are sustainable and that ecosystems are preserved.

    They have been working with multinational oil and gas companies, for example, to assess the areas in which they operate, where there are vulnerable ecosystems such as sponge grounds and coral reefs. The impact of climate change also needs to be addressed.

    ‘With warming of the Atlantic Ocean and gradual acidification, areas that have been protected are going to end up as unsuitable for the very things that they’ve been closed to protect,’ said Prof. Roberts.

    Based on scientific findings from the project, the team plans to come up with management strategies for sectors such as deep-sea mining and renewable energy where growth is forecast. The team also developed new models showing the distribution of deep Atlantic species which will provide a good starting point.

    ‘We have a much better understanding of how likely it is that vulnerable species occur in areas that industries are looking to exploit,’ said Prof. Roberts. ‘We’re (now) taking that into industry and policy.’

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 11:07 am on May 3, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Untangling a Web of Interactions Where Surf Meets Coastal Ocean", , , Oceanography   

    From Eos: “Untangling a Web of Interactions Where Surf Meets Coastal Ocean” 

    From AGU
    Eos news bloc

    From Eos

    2 May 2019
    James Lerczak, John A. Barth, Sean Celona, Chris Chickadel, John Colosi, Falk Feddersen, Merrick Haller, Sean Haney, Luc Lenain, Jennifer MacKinnon, James MacMahan, Ken Melville, Annika O’Dea, Pieter Smit, and Amy Waterhouse

    In 2017, an ocean research team launched an unprecedented effort to understand what drives ocean currents in the overlap regions between surf zones and continental shelves.

    Point Sal protrudes from the California coastline in this aerial view of the study site for the 2017 Inner Shelf Dynamics Experiment. A wide variety of instruments, situated aboard ships, boats, and satellites and deployed in the ocean and on land, collected massive amounts of data on the characteristics and movements of ocean water in this region where sea and shore interact. Credit: Gordon Farquharson

    Winds and waves drive the coastal ocean’s waters to flow and mix. So do differences in temperature, salinity, the topography of the seafloor, and a host of other factors. All these factors overlap and interact in complex patterns that influence where ocean creatures make their homes and where waterborne materials, both natural and human made, are dispersed along our coasts. The coastal physical oceanography community has made great strides in understanding the dynamics that drive water motions and density distributions in the coastal ocean. They have also worked to demonstrate the importance of these dynamics to coastal communities and ecosystems.

    Over the past several decades, oceanographers have undertaken large field experiments to quantify coastal dynamics and their impacts. Often, these studies have been partitioned into specific regions of the coastal ocean and focused on specific processes: wind effects over the continental shelf or wave effects close to shore, for example. However, in the inner shelf region, where the continental shelf and shore regions overlap and their processes interact, challenges to our understanding persist [Lentz and Fewings, 2012 Annual Review of Marine Science ].

    In the summer and fall of 2017, a group of researchers sponsored by the U.S. Office of Naval Research (ONR) undertook an unprecedented seagoing and numerical ocean modeling experiment. The Inner Shelf Dynamics Experiment investigated the nonlinear, interacting processes that drive currents and transport in this important coastal region.

    Studying Sea and Shore and Where They Overlap

    The Coastal Ocean Dynamics Experiment [(CODE) Journal of Geophysical Research] of the early 1980s was a major collaborative effort to explore wind-driven circulation on the continental shelf in northern California [Beardsley and Lentz, 1987 (see link at CODE above)]. These experiments produced a data set unprecedented for its time, and they inspired and motivated many field and numerical experiments on stratified wind-driven flows over midcontinental shelves (water depths around 50–100 meters).

    Closer to shore, wave dynamics and wave-driven transport have been studied in great detail by the nearshore science community. In particular, a suite of experiments, including Duck94 and SandyDuck, at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Field Research Facility in Duck, N.C., was seminal in expanding knowledge of surf zone dynamics [e.g., Long and Sallenger, 1995].

    The less explored inner shelf, with typical water depths ranging from 5 to 50 meters, is the region where the surf zone meets and interacts with the coastal ocean. Within the surf zone, breaking waves dominate the dynamics and can drive large wave-averaged flows, such as rip currents. On the density-stratified continental shelf, several mechanisms compete to drive currents, including wind forcing, bathymetric influences, tides, submesoscale eddies, and shoaling and breaking nonlinear internal bores and waves.

    At the inner shelf, the dynamics that typify both the nearshore and continental shelf are in play. These overlapping dynamics lead to highly nonlinear, interacting processes that regulate the alongshore and across-shore transport of water, water properties (e.g., temperature), and waterborne materials (e.g., sediment, dissolved gases, plankton, and contaminants). These inner shelf processes vary over a wide range of spatial and temporal scales, and their interactions are poorly understood. In addition, interactions between currents and variable coastal bathymetric features (e.g., headlands) enhance the complexity of transport.

    The Inner Shelf Dynamics Experiment aims to understand the interacting nonlinear dynamics of the inner shelf and identify and quantify the processes that drive the exchange of water properties and waterborne materials across this region over a range of temporal and spatial scales.

    This ONR Departmental Research Initiative is centered around an extensive, multi-institutional field experiment coordinated with numerical modeling efforts to study a 50-kilometer stretch of the central California coast that straddles Point Sal and includes the region offshore of Vandenberg Air Force Base (Figure 1).

    Fig. 1. (a) Map of the Inner Shelf Dynamics Experiment study site, showing locations of moorings and bottom landers and measurement footprints of coastal X band and coherent radar systems. Contour lines represent water depth in meters. (b) Composite image of X band radar ocean surface measurements (time averaged to remove surface gravity waves) showing surface signatures of inner shelf processes, including coherent internal bore fronts and high-frequency internal waves. Credit: (a) Jim Lerczak; (b) Sean Celona

    Our overarching goals are the following:

    improving our understanding of inner shelf hydrodynamics;
    developing and improving the predictive capability of a range of numerical models to simulate the three-dimensional circulation, density, and surface wave field across the inner shelf;
    coupling a suite of remote sensing platforms with in situ measurement arrays to produce a synoptic description of inner shelf processes across the study region.

    Sensors at Sea and in the Sky

    During the field component of the experiment, which took place from late August to November 2017, we obtained a diverse and unprecedented suite of in situ and remote sensing measurements.

    Moorings and Landers. We installed a broad array of 176 mooring and bottom lander platforms to make in situ time series measurements that spanned the continental shelf to the nearshore in water depths ranging from 150 to 6 meters (Figures 1a and 2). These measurements included temperature, salinity, velocity, surface wave, turbulence, and meteorological measurements. The array focused on three regions with different bathymetric features: a region with a fairly straight, planar beach (Oceano); a coastal headland (Point Sal); and a region between two coastal capes (Vandenberg).

    Fig. 2. Twelve-hour time series of density anomaly (observed density minus 1,000 kilograms per cubic meter; contoured) and cross-shore current (color shaded) as a function of depth from the mooring-lander pair at a water depth of 50 meters at the Oceano array. A sharp internal bore front arrives at this location at 14:30 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). A packet of high-frequency internal waves arrives at 22:00 UTC. Credit: Jim Lerczak

    Shipboard Surveys. We conducted coordinated shipboard surveys during three intensive operation periods. We used three ships: R/Vs Sally Ride, Oceanus, and R. G. Sproul (the Sproul was funded with University of California Ship Funds). We also used four boats: R/Vs Kalipi, Sally Ann, Sounder, and Sand Crab.

    Rapid profiling with a conductivity, temperature, depth (CTD) package across an internal bore front (long foam line) near the Oceano array on the small boat R/V Kalipi (Oregon State University). Credit: Jim Lerczak

    Instruments deployed from the vessels included acoustic Doppler current profilers (ADCPs); profiling conductivity, temperature, depth (CTD) packages; towed undulating vehicles; echo sounders; and a profiling turbulence sensor package. We deployed a bow chain to obtain highly spatially resolved temperature, salinity, and turbulence measurements in the upper 20 meters of the water column (Figures 3 and 4). In addition, we installed marine X band radars on two of the ships to measure surface gravity waves and wave-averaged surface currents.

    Fig. 3. High-resolution temperature cross-shore section of a sharp front in the upper water column at the Oceano array of the Inner Shelf Dynamics Experiment study site at a water depth of 40 meters, obtained from the bow chain attached to the R/V Sally Ride. Credit: Sean Haney and Jennifer MacKinnon

    Fig. 4. This longwave infrared image of sea surface temperature near Point Sal on 11 September 2017 at 10:41 UTC shows a curving wake (indicated by the white dashed line) caused by flow separation in the lee of Point Sal. Black squares are locations of ADCP landers, and black and gray vectors show near-surface and near-bottom currents, respectively (10-minute averages). Gray dash-dotted lines indicate repeated transect lines of the small boats R/V Sally Ann (Scripps Institution of Oceanography) and R/V Sounder (Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington). Credit: Mike Kovatch, Ken Melville, and Luc Lenain

    The coordinated surveys were designed to resolve shoaling nonlinear internal waves, wind-driven circulation, flow separation at headlands, and interactions between internal waves, headland flows, and rip currents ejected from the surf zone (Figure 5).

    Fig. 5. Time-averaged X band radar images showing an internal bore front approaching the surf zone east of the Oceano array and interacting with an ejecting rip current. Credit: Annika O’Dea

    Drifters. We deployed more than 50 real-time tracking, GPS-equipped drifters from small boats on daily missions throughout the intensive operation periods. Drifters were released in coordinated patterns to measure surface transport pathways, dispersion, and vorticity across various spatial scales. Several of the drifters were integrated with additional instrumentation, including Doppler profilers for turbulence measurements, conductivity and temperature probes, and meteorological sensors.

    Remote Sensing. Several remote sensing platforms incorporated a range of sensors to measure surface signatures of inner shelf processes. Two aircraft were equipped with optical and thermal infrared cameras (Figure 6), lidar, and interferometric synthetic aperture radar (SAR) sensors.

    Four coastal X band radar systems had sampling footprints that spanned the entire study site (Figures 1 and 5). They measured surface gravity waves; tracked internal waves; and identified buoyant fronts, eddies, and small-scale instabilities. We also acquired more than 50 satellite SAR and optical images. In addition, we used small aerial drones with both optical and infrared cameras to characterize smaller-scale features of interest.

    Fig. 6. Aerial photographs of an internal bore front propagating toward Mussel Point. The photo on the right shows instabilities developing on the internal bore front. Credit: Nick Statom

    State-of-the-Art Instrumentation. The cutting-edge technology used in this experiment, which included off-the-shelf sensors as well as highly integrated, in-house instrumentation, allowed us to take novel measurements and approaches. Moored instrumentation (e.g., fast-response thermistors and five-beam ADCPs) collected time series data for the 2.5-month duration of the experiment with sampling frequencies as high as 100 data points per second.

    We used satellite telemetry to transmit many of the observations, allowing us to incorporate real-time data acquisition directly into multiscale forecast models. For example, observations from Spoondrift Spotter directional wave buoys were transmitted to a computational back end to reconstruct a data-driven, real-time regional surface wave nowcast.

    GusT, a new turbulence probe, was developed and constructed under this project by Jim Moum of Oregon State University. This probe has sensors to measure turbulent temperature and current fluctuations as well as absolute speed. Approximately 80 GusTs were deployed on bottom landers, mooring lines, profiling sensor packages, and the bow chain. They provided turbulence measurements over a range of locations, within the upper and bottom boundary layers as well as within the interior of the water column.

    Coupled, Multiscale Forecast and Hindcast Simulations. We also developed a multiscale ocean modeling system for the experiment region. We used regional ocean, atmosphere, and wave models to prescribe open boundary conditions and atmospheric forcing. We are using nested multigrid simulations with horizontal resolutions ranging from 3 kilometers to 22 meters to simulate observed ocean variability at the experiment study site and provide an integrated model-observation platform to address the key science questions.

    Putting the Data to Use

    The Inner Shelf Dynamics Experiment is unprecedented in the scope of processes sampled in the coastal ocean, the number of instruments used, and the diversity of measurement and modeling platforms used.
    The Inner Shelf Dynamics Experiment is unprecedented in the scope of processes sampled in the coastal ocean, the number of instruments used, and the diversity of measurement and modeling platforms used. We have used this experiment to collect an unparalleled data set, which we are analyzing to quantify the dominant and interacting physical processes at work in the inner shelf and to determine the spatial scales and temporal variability of transport pathways in the region.

    The observations from this new field experiment will test and improve model predictions and quantify remotely sensed measurements, encompassing a broad range of mechanisms, including surface gravity and internal waves, Stokes drift and rip currents, submesoscale eddies, and wind-driven flows. The experiment and the data set it produced will keep coastal physical oceanographers busy in the decades to come.

    More information about the experiment is available at http://www.apl.washington.edu/innershelf and scripps.ucsd.edu/projects/innershelf.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Eos is the leading source for trustworthy news and perspectives about the Earth and space sciences and their impact. Its namesake is Eos, the Greek goddess of the dawn, who represents the light shed on understanding our planet and its environment in space by the Earth and space sciences.

  • richardmitnick 8:16 am on April 22, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Hydrophones, MERMAIDs, Oceanography,   

    From Science Magazine: “These ocean floats can hear earthquakes, revealing mysterious structures deep inside Earth” 

    From Science Magazine

    Apr. 17, 2019
    Erik Stokstad

    A MERMAID undergoes testing off Japan’s coast in 2018. ALEX BURKY/PRINCETON UNIVERSITY

    A versatile, low-cost way to study Earth’s interior from sea has yielded its first images and is scaling up. By deploying hydrophones inside neutrally buoyant floats that drift through the deep ocean, seismologists are detecting earthquakes that occur below the sea floor and using the signals to peer inside Earth in places where data have been lacking.

    In February, researchers reported that nine of these floats near Ecuador’s Galápagos Islands had helped trace a mantle plume—a column of hot rock rising from deep below the islands. Now, 18 floats searching for plumes under Tahiti have also recorded earthquakes, the team reported last week at the European Geosciences Union (EGU) meeting here. “It seems they’ve made a lot of progress,” says Barbara Romanowicz, a geophysicist at the University of California, Berkeley.

    The South Pacific fleet will grow this summer, says Frederik Simons, a seismologist at Princeton University who helped develop the floats, called MERMAIDs (mobile earthquake recorders in marine areas by independent divers). He envisions a global flotilla of thousands of these wandering devices, which could also be used to detect the sound of rain or whales, or outfitted with other environmental or biological sensors. “The goal is to instrument all the oceans.”

    For decades, geologists have placed seismometers on land to study how powerful, faraway earthquakes pass through Earth. Deep structures of different density, such as the cold slabs of ocean crust that sink into the mantle along subduction zones, can speed up or slow down seismic waves. By combining seismic information detected in various locations, researchers can map those structures, much like 3D x-ray scans of the human body. Upwelling plumes and other giant structures under the oceans are more mysterious, however. The reason is simple: There are far fewer seismometers on the ocean floor.

    Such instruments are expensive because they must be deployed and retrieved by research vessels. And sometimes they fail to surface after yearlong campaigns. More recently, scientists have begun to use fiber optic communication cables on the sea floor to detect quakes, but the approach is in its infancy.

    MERMAIDs are a cheap alternative. They drift at a depth of about 1500 meters, which minimizes background noise and lessens the energy needed for periodic ascents to transmit fresh data. Whenever a MERMAID’s hydrophone picks up a strong sound pulse, its computer evaluates whether that pressure wave likely originated from seafloor shaking. If so, the MERMAID surfaces within a few hours and sends the seismogram via satellite.

    The nine floats released near the Galápagos in 2014 gathered 719 seismograms in 2 years before their batteries ran out. Background noise, such as wind and rain at the ocean surface, drowned out some of the seismograms. But 80% were helpful in imaging a mantle plume some 300 kilometers wide and 1900 kilometers deep, the team described in February in Scientific Reports. The widely dispersed MERMAIDs sharpened the picture, compared with studies done with seismometers on the islands and in South America. “The paper demonstrates the potential of the methodology, but I think they need to figure out how to beat down the noise a little more,” Romanowicz says.

    Since that campaign, the MERMAID design was reworked by research engineer Yann Hello of Geoazur, a geoscience lab in Sophia Antipolis, France. He made them spherical and stronger, and tripled battery life. The floats now cost about $40,000, plus about $50 per month to transmit data. “The MERMAIDs are filling a need for a fairly inexpensive, flexible device” to monitor the oceans, says Martin Mai, a geophysicist at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia.

    Between June and September of 2018, 18 of these new MERMAIDs were scattered around Tahiti to explore the Pacific Superswell, an expanse of oddly elevated ocean crust, likely inflated by plumes. The plan is to illuminate this plumbing and find out whether multiple plumes stem from a single deep source. “It’s a pretty natural target,” says Catherine Rychert, a seismologist at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom. “You’d need a lot of ocean bottom seismometers, a lot of ships, so having floats out there makes sense.”

    So far, the MERMAIDs have identified 258 earthquakes, Joel Simon, a graduate student at Princeton, told the EGU meeting. About 90% of those have also been detected by other seismometers around the world—an indication that the hydrophones are detecting informative earthquakes. Simon has also identified some shear waves, or S-waves, which arrive after the initial pressure waves of a quake and can provide clues to the mantle’s composition and temperature. “We never set out to get S-waves,” he said. “This is incredible.” S-waves can’t travel through water, so they are converted to pressure waves at the sea floor, which saps their energy and makes them hard to identify.

    In August, 28 more MERMAIDS will join the South Pacific fleet, two dozen of them bought by the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China. Heiner Igel, a geophysicist at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, Germany, cheers the expansion. “I would say drop them all over the oceans,” he says.

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 11:05 am on April 11, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Ian Turner, Oceanography, STEMM-Science Technology Engineering Mathematics and Medicine, Supporting gender equity, , WRL-UNSW’s Water Research Laboratory   

    From University of New South Wales: “Sand, Surf and STEMM: what’s on a coastal engineer’s mind” 

    U NSW bloc

    From University of New South Wales

    11 Apr 2019
    Penny Jones

    Ian Turner is internationally regarded for his work on protecting our coastlines. Now, he sees supporting gender equity as his next important challenge.

    Ian Turner: “One of my earliest memories is wearing a mask and snorkel.”

    From his earliest memories watching the underwater world through his mask and snorkel, UNSW Engineering alumni Professor Ian Turner’s fascination with the coast has not undiminished.

    Today, as the Director of UNSW’s world-famous Water Research Laboratory (WRL) at the University’s Northern Beaches Campus in Manly Vale, Profesor Turner says his focus is on both tackling the most pressing coastal challenges facing the country and addressing the lack of equity and diversity in engineering and other STEMM disciplines.

    Where did your career take you after graduating from your UNSW Master of Environmental Engineering Science in 1995?

    I went straight to the US to do postdoctoral research at the University of Maryland for two years, after which I returned to Australia to work for 10 years in the consulting space. Then, after being awarded a Churchill Fellowship and spending an incredible three months visiting some of the top coastal engineering research groups in Europe and the US, I felt a renewed pull towards academia and decided to see if I could transition back.

    UNSW was then, and still is, the standout university in Australia for coastal engineering so I was lucky when an opportunity opened in 2007 within the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. I’ve been at UNSW ever since. My job at WRL is deeply satisfying and I believe I have the best position in my field in Australia, and one of the best in the world.

    Why did you gravitate towards coastal engineering?

    This dates back to my being really young, under five years old, spending summer days at the beach on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. For the first part of my life living in England, my father – who is also an academic – worked each summer in the US, which meant that every year the entire family moved back and forth across the Atlantic from our home in Cambridge.

    One of my earliest memories is wearing a mask and snorkel and being fascinated with how the sand was moving underwater. The coast captivated me then and, after moving to Australia when I was nine, it was a natural progression of choosing subjects that aligned with my interests in marine science and engineering. Australia is a uniquely coastal-focused nation. The coastline is where we live and where we trade, but it’s also part of our identity. Managing the coastline into the future is one of the important challenges for us to get right, which makes it a really interesting place to focus my energies.

    Professor Ian Turner at the formal opening of a new wave flume research facility at the UNSW Water Research Laboratory.

    WRL continues to go from strength to strength. What do you think are some of the secrets to your success?

    Because it is such a dynamic and complex environment, coastal engineering is multidisciplinary by its very nature. As technical engineers, I think the key to our success has been to embrace this complexity. We spend a lot of time building great relationships with our partners and understand the (sometimes conflicting) needs of all three levels of government, industry, the environment and the community.

    We also consciously focus our energy on projects that will have the biggest impact in terms of education and improving the ways we manage and protect our coastline. This is an explicit decision the team makes before launching into any new project.

    Can you give a couple of career highlights?

    One was leading an initiative to develop a teachers’ guide providing a coastal management perspective to STEMM education [Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine] in high schools in the Australian curriculum. This guide is now being used as an educational tool right across the country, which is very satisfying.

    Another was in 2016, when a large storm impacted the south east coast of Australia. I found myself thrust into the national and international spotlight, interpreting the impacts of that storm and why it occurred. I even led the BBC World News!

    But I think the most important highlight has been the opportunity I’ve been afforded throughout my time at UNSW to create a career where my professional life and family commitments are highly compatible. Echoing the special childhood experiences I had while growing up in Europe, the US and Australia, during the past decade my own growing family have had the opportunity to create and experience a ‘second life’ living, working and going to school in Cornwall (southwest England) as they have accompanied me during three extended and professionally productive sabbaticals.

    Finding it hard to achieve professional/personal life balance is a barrier to more women reaching senior positions in academia, so it’s great you’ve mentioned your interest in it. What are your thoughts on this?

    This is on my mind a lot at the moment because I recently joined the UNSW Athena SWAN Gender Equity team. Athena SWAN is a whole-of-university initiative to increase diversity and gender equity in STEMM subjects and we are in the process of implementing a four-year gender equity action plan.

    I’m well aware that I’m a white hetero male in a leadership role with a happy marriage, two kids, a dog and a nice house, but because I grew up in a feminist household, I’m really keen to contribute to the gender equity conversation. I’m learning that it is easy to provide better opportunities for women, but it does require leaders like me to recognise when unconscious bias kicks in.

    One of my reasons for being involved in the Athena SWAN space is to open the door for other male leaders to do so as well. I have a 14-year-old daughter, and it’s very important to me that I am part of creating an equal future for her to progress through.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U NSW Campus

    Welcome to UNSW Australia (The University of New South Wales), one of Australia’s leading research and teaching universities. At UNSW, we take pride in the broad range and high quality of our teaching programs. Our teaching gains strength and currency from our research activities, strong industry links and our international nature; UNSW has a strong regional and global engagement.

    In developing new ideas and promoting lasting knowledge we are creating an academic environment where outstanding students and scholars from around the world can be inspired to excel in their programs of study and research. Partnerships with both local and global communities allow UNSW to share knowledge, debate and research outcomes. UNSW’s public events include concert performances, open days and public forums on issues such as the environment, healthcare and global politics. We encourage you to explore the UNSW website so you can find out more about what we do.

  • richardmitnick 12:27 pm on April 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "The End and the Beginning", , , Oceanography,   

    From Schmidt Ocean Institute: “The End and the Beginning” 

    From Schmidt Ocean Institute

    Mar. 28 2019
    Samantha (Mandy) Joye

    Cruise Log-Microbial Mysteries: Linking Microbial Communities and Environmental Drivers.

    As we embarked on this expedition, I included the tagline mesmerizing landscapes and microbial wonderlands in the introductory blog post. I knew we were going to see things that made us gasp – vistas that left our jaws agape – but little did I realize how truly prophetic those words would be. I could never have predicted the breathtaking seafloor structures we would find. Big Pagoda, Alvin Spire, Ted’s Tower, Falkor’s Fountain… each new tower offered a new twist on the ‘mesmerizing landscapes and microbial wonderlands’ theme. We were continually surprised, catching our breath, and in awe of nature’s majesty.


    We had a tremendously productive expedition. The fantastic Pagoda structures vented super-heated fluids along spectacular flanges. Despite extremely high temperatures and the fact that the fluids contained a mix of noxious chemicals, each Pagoda teemed with life – very colorful life: orange, pink, red, purple, and yellow. From microbial mats to Riftia tube worms, the bright, sharp colors reflect a potent biochemical capacity that permits life to thrive in these extreme habitats.

    ROV SuBastian measuring the temperature at a hydrothermal vent in the Guaymas Basin. This black smoker vent was named “Falkor’s Fountain” (image from starboard side, looking to port, across the large flange at the top is fantastic).

    To the east of the Pagodas lies a valley of small chimneys and microbial mats. This area is characterized by a number of areas of diffuse flow, some noted by an abundance of small (1m tall) structures in this area also support Riftia colonies but, in general, this is the land of Beggiatoa, sulfur oxidizing bacteria extraordinaire.

    A wide view of a field with a number of areas of diffuse flow, some noted by several small (<1m tall) chimneys. ROV SuBastian / SOI

    Another feature of this area has received far less attention though: the oil chimneys. We found several areas where the chimneys were saturated with oil. Taking a close look at these structures, it felt as if a Jackson Pollock painting had come to life. These chimneys are an exemplar in contrast – sharp color gradients, different textures, subtle topography. They are mesmerizing indeed.

    ROV SuBastian sampling from a chimney in a small smoker field (ORP-2) surrounded by microbial mats in the Guaymas Basin.

    This image of an oil-saturated chimney shows oil droplets and pink nematodes.ROV SuBastian / SOI

    But not everything we found was hot. A couple of hours to the North of Guaymas, along the Sonoran Margin, we discovered oil seeps and surface-breaching gas hydrate mounds along the seafloor. Like their hydrothermal cousins, cold seeps are locations where deeply sourced gas-charged fluids exit the seabed and interact with cold ocean bottom water. Here, however, instead of black smoke, we saw frozen methane ice and oddly, the crystals looked partially melted (though they were frozen). To me, this was just as magnificent discovery as the Pagodas.

    An osmotic sampler works near a gas hydrate mound. ‘Osmo’ samplers draw hydrothermal fluids into small capillary-like tubing and allow long-term sampling of diffuse and black smoker hydrothermal fluids, as well as fluids from methane seeps.

    A view of methane hydrates, which look similar to ice crystals. These are shaped a bit differently, leading the researcher to ask how they had been warped or melted. ROV SuBastian / SOI

    We did not just observe these structures and sites, we sampled hot fluids, cold fluids, rocks, sediments, biofilms, microbial mats, gas hydrate, seeping oil, and animals. We concentrated and isolated some components – viruses – for subsequent in depth examination in our home labs. We characterized the water column above the study sites to assess connectivity and to track the fate of hydrothermal- and cold seep-sourced energy-rich chemicals into bottom waters. Our detailed geochemical characterization, metabolic rate assays, and microbial community genomics data will help us understand how geochemical energy sources and fluxes drive patterns of microbial diversity and dictate rates of metabolism.

    The end of the expedition marks the beginning of months of collective effort that will result in publications that report our discoveries and advance the understanding of this remarkable system. Our sampling can be thought of as collecting the individual pieces that, when connected, constitute several complicated scientific puzzles. It will take us us months to years to assemble each one. The process of generating and analyzing these complex data sets and developing and advancing the resulting stories told by the data to publication represents the culmination of our Falkor-based work. As we synthesize all of the different data sets we will generate, we will achieve a more complete understanding of the Gulf of California system. And this understanding allows us to identify and frame exciting new questions that will address during next expedition to this incredible place.

    I cannot wait to go back!

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Our Vision
    The world’s oceans understood through technological advancement, intelligent observation, and open sharing of information.

    Schmidt Ocean Institute RV Falkor

    Schmidt Ocean Institute ROV Subastian

    Schmidt Ocean Institute is a 501(c)(3) private non-profit operating foundation established in March 2009 to advance oceanographic research, discovery, and knowledge, and catalyze sharing of information about the oceans.

    Since the Earth’s oceans are a critically endangered and least understood part of the environment, the Institute dedicates its efforts to their comprehensive understanding across intentionally broad scope of research objectives.

    Eric and Wendy Schmidt established Schmidt Ocean Institute in 2009 as a seagoing research facility operator, to support oceanographic research and technology development focusing on accelerating the pace in ocean sciences with operational, technological, and informational innovations. The Institute is devoted to the inspirational vision of our Founders that the advancement of technology and open sharing of information will remain crucial to expanding the understanding of the world’s oceans.

  • richardmitnick 7:54 pm on April 4, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: An unprecedented study of hydrothermal and gas plumes, , , , Every surface was occupied by some type of life, Gulf of California-Mexico, , Large venting mineral towers that reach up to 23 meters in height and 10 meters across, Oceanography, R/V Falkor, ROV SuBastian, , The vibrant colors found on the ‘living rocks’ was striking and reflects a diversity in biological composition as well as mineral distributions, To get a true measure of methane and other volatile substances existing in the deep sea scientists need to capture the samples at the source, Witnessing these remarkable oceanscapes we are reminded that although they are out of our everyday sight they are hardly immune from human impact   

    From Schmidt Ocean Institute: “Otherworldly Mirror Pools, New Lifeforms, and Mesmerizing Landscapes Discovered on Ocean Floor” 

    From Schmidt Ocean Institute

    April 2, 2019

    Scientists aboard Schmidt Ocean Institute’s research vessel Falkor [below] recently discovered and explored a hydrothermal field at 2,000 meters depth in the Gulf of California where towering mineral structures serve as biological hotspots for life. These newly discovered geological formations feature upside down ‘mirror-like flanges’ that act as pooling sites for discharged fluids.

    Hydrothermal vent fluid collects under these ledges and provides the chemical energy that drives the entire ecosystem of microbes, scale worms, and riftia.

    (Schmidt Ocean Institute)

    While exploring hydrothermal vent and cold seep environments, Dr. Mandy Joye (University of Georgia), and her interdisciplinary research team discovered large venting mineral towers that reach up to 23 meters in height and 10 meters across. These towers featured numerous volcanic flanges that create the illusion of looking at a mirror when observing the superheated (366oC) hydrothermal fluids beneath them. The minerals across the features were laden with metals and the fluids were highly sulfidic, yet these sites were teeming with biodiversity and potentially novel fauna.

    This image of an oil-saturated chimney shows oil droplets and pink nematodes. Nematodes are the most numerous multicellular animals on earth. Nematodes are structurally simple organisms and many of the known species are microscopic worms.

    “We discovered remarkable towers where every surface was occupied by some type of life. The vibrant colors found on the ‘living rocks’ was striking, and reflects a diversity in biological composition as well as mineral distributions,” said Dr. Joye. “This is an amazing natural laboratory to document incredible organisms and better understand how they survive in extremely challenging environments. Unfortunately, even in these remote and beautiful environments we saw copious amounts of trash including fishing nets, deflated Mylar balloons, and even a discarded Christmas trees. This provided a stark juxtaposition next to the spectacular mineral structures and biodiversity.”

    The expedition was an unprecedented study of hydrothermal and gas plumes, with researchers using advanced technology including 4K deep-sea underwater cameras and radiation tracking devices, as well as sediment and fluid samplers working via a remotely operated vehicle, ROV Subastian.

    Schmidt Ocean Institute ROV SuBastian

    To get a true measure of methane and other volatile substances existing in the deep sea, scientists need to capture the samples at the source. The scientists were able to do this with a unique osmo sampler, a device that draws hydrothermal fluids into small capillary-like tubing, mounted onto the ROV. Several other in-situ experiments were performed, including a high throughput water filtration for viruses that allowed the team to reduce processing bias.

    ROV SuBastian sampling from a chimney in a small smoker field (ORP-2) surrounded by microbial mats in the Guaymas Basin.

    From super-hot hydrothermal vents to slowly discharging cold seeps, the common thread of the sample collections involved studies of methane cycling. Hydrothermal fluids and gas plume samples all contained highly elevated concentrations of methane and surface-breaching methane hydrate mounds. Methane is a potent atmospheric greenhouse gas, 30 times the strength of carbon dioxide, and this study will advance the knowledge of the biological storage for methane in water column and sediment systems.

    ROV SuBastian measuring the temperature at a hydrothermal vent in the Guaymas Basin. This black smoker vent was named “Falkor’s Fountain.”

    “It is a different world down there. Each dive feels like floating into a science fiction film,” said Schmidt Ocean Institute Cofounder Wendy Schmidt. “The complex layers of data we’ve collected aboard Falkor during this expedition will help tell the story of this remote place and bring it to public attention. Witnessing these remarkable oceanscapes, we are reminded that although they are out of our everyday sight, they are hardly immune from human impact. Our hope is to inspire people to learn more and care more about our ocean.”

    The team will now spend the next few months analyzing samples and plans to publicly share the results. As the different data sets are synthesized, scientists will generate a more complete understanding of the Gulf of California system. This understanding will be applicable to oceanic environments around the globe, as well as allow scientists to identify and frame exciting new questions.

    This work would not have been possible without the considerate authorization of the Mexican Secretariat of Foreign Affairs (Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores) to allow for marine scientific research to be conducted in their waters.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Our Vision
    The world’s oceans understood through technological advancement, intelligent observation, and open sharing of information.

    Schmidt Ocean Institute RV Falkor

    Schmidt Ocean Institute is a 501(c)(3) private non-profit operating foundation established in March 2009 to advance oceanographic research, discovery, and knowledge, and catalyze sharing of information about the oceans.

    Since the Earth’s oceans are a critically endangered and least understood part of the environment, the Institute dedicates its efforts to their comprehensive understanding across intentionally broad scope of research objectives.

    Eric and Wendy Schmidt established Schmidt Ocean Institute in 2009 as a seagoing research facility operator, to support oceanographic research and technology development focusing on accelerating the pace in ocean sciences with operational, technological, and informational innovations. The Institute is devoted to the inspirational vision of our Founders that the advancement of technology and open sharing of information will remain crucial to expanding the understanding of the world’s oceans.

  • richardmitnick 3:27 pm on March 8, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Mapping the deep dark seafloor, Marine Geophysics, , Microbial Science, Oceanography, , The Ship's Doctor, The Ship’s Captain, Vessel construction, Voyage Management,   

    From CSIROscope: Women In STEM-“Seafaring superstars: Six women shining on our national science ship” 

    CSIRO bloc

    From CSIROscope

    8 March 2019
    Kate Cranney

    Toni Moate lead the construction of the massive research vessel, Investigator. Image: Chris McKay

    This International Women’s Day, we’d like you to meet the talented women on board our research vessel Investigator.

    Investigator travels from the tropical north to the Antarctic ice-edge, delivering up to 300 research days a year. And on each voyage you’ll find female scientists, ship’s crew and support staff answering big questions, whether they’re studying ancient microbes or they’re ensuring the health and well-being of the people on board.

    The six women you’ll meet include an oceanographer, a doctor, a marine geophysicist, a voyage manager, a captain and—last boat not least!—a leader who oversaw the construction of the ship itself. Some of these women knew, when they were young, that science floated their boat. Others took a more sea-nic route. But one thing’s for shore: they’re all smart, adventurous, competent, courageous and hard-working.

    So steady your sea legs, you bunch of landlubbers, and let’s meet the women on board!

    Martina Doblin studies the first organisms on the planet
    Martina Doblin studies microscopic organisms called microbes – the first organisms on the planet. Image: Doug Thost

    “When I was studying in Hobart I had the opportunity to volunteer on a voyage to Antarctica. I was really moved to see this pristine part of the planet. It changed me. I came back and the world looked different. I knew I’d chosen the right career path.”

    Martina is a biological oceanographer. She looks at microscopic organisms called microbes—the first organisms on the planet. As she points out, “If there were no microbes on the planet there’d be no people!” It’s important science, especially in the face of a changing climate: Martina seeks to understand what climate change and a warmer ocean will mean for these microbes.

    Martina has been on Investigator several times, including as the ship’s Chief Scientist. For Martina, “the Chief Scientist helps to make sure the scientists leave the ship with the data that they need to solve the big questions.”

    But it’s not just about her science. “I’ve been able to train several female biological oceanographers, which has been really satisfying, partly because it’s still a pretty male-dominated profession,” she says. “For young female scientists, it’s a very empowering thing to be able to do experiments on a big ship, to work at sea and use the equipment. It can be life changing”. Learn more about tiny organisms and big voyages!

    Fun fact: Martina’s identical twin also works in environmental science—she’s a plant biologist!

    Sheri Newman is the Ship’s Doctor, dentist, physiotherapist, counsellor…
    Dr Sheri Newman was a ship doctor during a voyage to Antarctica, aboard RV Investigator.

    “As the Ship’s Doctor, I have to be the doctor, the dentist, the physiotherapist, the mental health counsellor and of course all the science roles. It’s a huge responsibility and one that I cherish.”

    When Sheri Newman was young, she knew she wanted to be a doctor and a surgeon. Jump ahead to 2016, and Sheri is a doctor and a surgeon. In Australia, women accounted for 50 per cent of all medical graduates, but women make up just 12 per cent of all surgeons—the smallest proportion of any medical speciality.

    But Sheri was resolute. “Going through the training is particularly intense, brutal even! The hours you have to put in, the mental and physical fatigue, can be quite a difficult and challenging career.” Mid-way through her training, Sheri decided that she “hadn’t had enough adventure” in her life at that point, so she took a year off and went to Antarctica as medical officer. “The experience was incredible.”

    The Antarctic experience got under skin. After her time on Investigator, she decided to become a wilderness doctor. She’s since been the Ship’s Doctor on many vessels in remote and exciting locations: she’s been to more than 17 countries, as a doctor, medical student and intrepid traveller.

    “[Through my work] I get the opportunity to work in a place that’s so isolated and so untouched … And my role is so varied: I get to be around the science crew, to be involved in what they do. And there are fabulous vistas … and whales! It’s truly special.”

    Tara Martin maps the deep, dark, mysterious seafloor
    Tara Martin’s work links her back to the explorers: she maps the deep dark seafloor, as a marine geophysicist aboard RV Investigator.

    “I get immense satisfaction in my job. It’s not a normal job—I like that.”

    Tara is a marine geophysicist. She maps the deep ravines, plateaus and peaks of our uncharted seafloor, up to 11 000m below the ocean’s surface.

    “We know more about the surface of the moon than we do about the sea floor … Australia has the third largest ocean zone in the word, and we’ve only mapped 25 per cent of it,” she explains. Each time Investigator goes to sea, Tara’s team maps more of this underwater world. Recently, Tara’s team revealed a diverse chain of volcanic seamounts located in deep water about 400km east of Tasmania. “Our job links us back to the explorers,” she remarks.

    But Tara wasn’t always so keen on science. “It wasn’t until I was much older that I looked at changes of career [and studied marine geophysics]. I didn’t know what physics was before then … so I worked hard at university. I worked really, really hard!”

    When she started working, life at sea wasn’t as female-friendly as it is now. “Over my 20 year career, I’ve certainly experienced moments where I’ve not been allowed to do work that my male colleagues were doing out on the back-deck, because I’m a woman. Things have changed.”

    Working at sea isn’t for everyone: Tara talks of long shifts, seven days a week. But then, she says, she’ll get to work with cutting edge science, or someone will make an exciting new discovery. For Tara, “Those are the moments you go to sea for!”

    Tegan Sime keeps the voyage science on course
    Tegan Sime is a Voyage Manager aboard RV Investigator. She keeps the crew and scientists singing from the same sea-shanty songbook.

    “I’ve never really followed the same path as everybody else. Being a late bloomer isn’t necessarily a bad thing … I’ve just taken my time to really figure out what I want to do. And I’m there now. I’ve got a great job, a great career, and I love it.”

    When Tegan finished Year 12, she didn’t know what she wanted to do, so she volunteered at a sailing school. She loved the adrenaline and excitement of sailing, so volunteered on Young Endeavour. It was her first taste of tall ship sailing. “Being out on the middle of the ocean, in the quiet, on a creaky ship that was designed hundreds of years ago—there’s a romance to it. And it was so much fun! I just loved it.”

    At 23, Tegan was eager to study marine biology at university, but she hadn’t done so well the first time around at school. Determined, she did Year 12 again, got her high school certificate, started university, and did her honours aboard our former research vessel, Southern Surveyor.

    Years on, Tegan is a Voyage Manager on Investigator. She is the key liaison between the crew of the ship and the scientists—she brings their work together. She also plays a key role in the mood of the people aboard the ship: “I guess I’m a bit of an amateur counsellor and I try to help people get through the tougher times when we’re out there.”

    There’s no typical day at sea. She tells a story about her recent birthday. “We were down near the ice-edge in the Antarctic. I woke up at 3am, it was pitch black, but when I peeked through my curtains I could see the Aurora lighting up the sky! I raced up the bridge and there were a couple of people taking photos and footage, and they all started singing happy birthday to me under the Aurora. It was a really special experience.”

    Madeleine Habib is the captain of our ship (aye, aye!)
    Madeleine Habib is a Ship’s Captain. She is part of a very small group of women seafarers in Australia: less than 1% of the workforce.

    “I am drawn to working on ships that have a purpose—I want my work to have purpose. Being a captain…it’s not always easy. There are times when you are literally making decisions that affect the survival of the people on board the vessel.”

    Madeleine is a Ship’s Captain. She began her seafaring career at 22: “I was enchanted—suddenly I’d found this mix between a physical and mental challenge and I felt really confident that that’s what I wanted to pursue.” But she had to break down some entrenched gender biases. “Everybody just assumed I was a cook, and I really resented that—just because I was a young woman on a boat, that shouldn’t be the only role open to me. So when I returned to Australia, I went for my first Captain’s licence. I wanted to be taken seriously in the maritime industry.”

    Women currently represent less than 1 per cent of the total number of seafarers in Australia. Madeleine is part of this pioneering group. “To young women I’d like to say that a life at sea is a viable career. It’s so important to believe in your own potential, and only be limited by your own imagination.”

    Toni Moate oversaw the building of our world-class research vessel Investigator
    Toni Moate stands proud in front of Investigator. She oversaw the creation of this $120 million state-of-the-art research vessel.

    “Like many women, when I was first offered the opportunity to lead the project, I didn’t think I had the skill set. Now, when I see the Investigator, I feel incredible pride.”

    Not many people can say they were responsible for building Australia’s biggest state-of-the-art research vessel.

    In 2009, Toni was chosen to lead the build of Investigator. She spent the next five years propelling the creation of the $120 million ship. It took 3 million (wo)man hours, and some tense discussions in a male-dominated industry to build the ship. Toni is so familiar with Investigator that it “feels like I’m walking around my house!”

    Toni left school at 15, at the end of Year 10. At that stage, she’d never left Tasmania. She went into the public service, and hoped to be a secretary one day.

    Through her leadership role with the ship-build project, she’s shown her young daughters “that women can do a lot more than they think they can do.” As Toni says, “My daughters took away a lot of life lessons—I think they learned that hard work pays off; that you need to push yourself out of your comfort zone. They feel as proud of that ship as I do.”

    And we couldn’t be prouder of Toni. In 2017, she was awarded the Tasmanian Telstra Business Woman of the Year. She is now our Director, National Collections & Marine Infrastructure. Her ambit includes RV Investigator, so she can still step on board and walk around her second home!

    Women and science—why do we need to rock the boat?

    If we’re going to build a healthy, prosperous Australia, we need all of the talented women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) to be part of the team.

    But women in STEMM face a number of barriers in their careers, some obvious, some covert. In STEMM fields, only 18 per cent of leadership positions are held by women. Since the 1980s, more than half of all students graduating with a Bachelor of Science or a life science PhD are women, but women make up less than 20 per cent of lead researchers at senior levels in universities and research institutes.

    So what are we doing to get more women on board … and on boards?

    So what are we doing to address gender equity?

    We’re part of the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) pilot and the Male Champions of Change (MCC) initiative.

    We were one of the first cohort members of Australia’s SAGE Athena Swan pilot program, and were recently awarded an Institutional Bronze Award. And we’re continuing to roll out our SAGE Action Plan, designed to drive systemic, long-term change towards gender equity within our organisation. You can read it here.

    And it’s not just an internal mission. We’re also addressing gender inequality in the research and projects that we deliver in developing nations.
    Happy International Women’s Day, everyone!

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    SKA/ASKAP radio telescope at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) in Mid West region of Western Australia

    So what can we expect these new radio projects to discover? We have no idea, but history tells us that they are almost certain to deliver some major surprises.

    Making these new discoveries may not be so simple. Gone are the days when astronomers could just notice something odd as they browse their tables and graphs.

    Nowadays, astronomers are more likely to be distilling their answers from carefully-posed queries to databases containing petabytes of data. Human brains are just not up to the job of making unexpected discoveries in these circumstances, and instead we will need to develop “learning machines” to help us discover the unexpected.

    With the right tools and careful insight, who knows what we might find.

    CSIRO campus

    CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world.

  • richardmitnick 9:00 am on March 5, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Eva Lincoln, For 10 weeks Lincoln was immersed in hands-on oceanographic research as a SURF student working under Dr. Susanne Menden-Deuer professor at URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography and a leading expert , Lincoln presented her research on single-cell herbivores or ‘microzooplankton’ at the annual SURF conference this past July. For her work she was honored by Rhode Island Commerce Secretary Stefan , Oceanography, , The data collected will help scientists on board better understand how quickly plankton- the base of the marine food web- grow and die, The RV Endeavor the University of Rhode Island’s research vessel, , With SURF you are in the middle of a research lab learning all sorts of techniques and interacting with faculty graduate students and post-docs,   

    From University of Rhode Island: Women in STEM- “Ways of the Ocean Scientist” Eva Lincoln 

    From University of Rhode Island

    No writer credit

    Eva Lincoln (left) prepares plankton samples aboard the R/V Endeavor with Dr. Gayantonia Franze and undergraduate Anna Ward. Photo: Miraflor Santos/WHOI

    This past summer, Eva Lincoln was working in an unfamiliar place: a boat at the edge of the continental shelf, facing 12-foot swells and waking up at 2 a.m. to process water samples with tiny specks of phytoplankton in them. And she loved it.

    “Sleep was relative,” laughs Lincoln, a senior at Rhode Island College. “Our daily routine was, once we got to a station, to take water samples from the CTD (an instrument to measure salinity, temperature and depth profiles in the ocean), and place these water samples in our incubator. It was our job to make sure everything got done on time and that we handled the samples carefully.”

    For 10 weeks, Lincoln was immersed in hands-on, oceanographic research as a SURF student, working under Dr. Susanne Menden-Deuer, professor at URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography and a leading expert on plankton ecology.

    “She gave me the reins and said, ‘I want you to figure out what aspects of oceanography you find interesting, and then we can build a project from there,’” says Lincoln.

    At the end of her SURF experience, Lincoln was invited by Menden-Deuer to conduct research aboard the R/V Endeavor.

    The RV Endeavor, the University of Rhode Island’s research vessel. Photo courtesy of the Inner Space Center

    Working with a fellow undergraduate, Lincoln filtered the water samples over 24-hour and then 12-hour periods in order to achieve the most accurate chlorophyll readings. The data collected will help scientists on board better understand how quickly plankton, the base of the marine food web, grow and die.

    “It is a privilege to provide students with the opportunity to explore their own research interests, and Eva’s experience was the real thing,” notes Menden-Deuer. “With access to the high-caliber research environment at GSO, students like Eva quickly attain a high degree of proficiency, and as oceanographers, we gain a new colleague with a unique perspective.”

    Eva explains her summer research at the annual SURF Conference to RI Secretary of Commerce Stefan Pryor and Christine Smith, Managing Director of Innovation at RI Commerce. Photo: Michael Salerno/URI

    Functioning as a researcher on board a ship was an entirely separate, and important, lesson for Lincoln.

    “At the dock, we had to make sure we had all of the equipment needed,” she explains. “On the first day we had to get up super early, and I was so sick. I had to go back to bed. There is so much that goes into not just the actual science, but preparing for the cruise.”

    The fourth-year RIC student, who also tutors anatomy and physiology at the Community College of Rhode Island, has always had a deeply inquisitive mind, and wanted to know more about plankton interactions in marine food webs.

    “I have always been the pain in the butt kid who asks, ‘Why does that happen?’” she says. ““Plankton are an essential part of the food web and are eaten by so many things. If you add more nutrients to the phytoplankton, does that make them happier and therefore better food for the zooplankton?”

    Dr. Sarah Knowlton, Lincoln’s advisor and chair of physical sciences at RIC, first suggested SURF as a possible research experience, meeting with the undergraduate this past spring to guide her through the application process.

    “With SURF, you are in the middle of a research lab, learning all sorts of techniques and interacting with faculty, graduate students and post-docs,” explains Knowlton. “The experience really builds confidence, and that students can cross institutions and see how things go is so valuable.”

    Lincoln presented her research on single-cell herbivores, or ‘microzooplankton,’ at the annual SURF conference this past July. For her work, she was honored by Rhode Island Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor at July’s SURF Conference for producing outstanding research.

    The RIC senior knows that she loves the environment and chemistry. Now, Lincoln’s focus is getting accepted to the best-fitting graduate program.

    “You get that little taste of what it is going to be like when you go to graduate school through SURF,” she emphasizes. “I can’t wait to be in graduate school myself.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The University of Rhode Island is a diverse and dynamic community whose members are connected by a common quest for knowledge.

    As a major research university defined by innovation and big thinking, URI offers its undergraduate, graduate, and professional students distinctive educational opportunities designed to meet the global challenges of today’s world and the rapidly evolving needs of tomorrow. That’s why we’re here.

    The University of Rhode Island, commonly referred to as URI, is the flagship public research as well as the land grant and sea grant university for the state of Rhode Island. Its main campus is located in the village of Kingston in southern Rhode Island. Additionally, smaller campuses include the Feinstein Campus in Providence, the Rhode Island Nursing Education Center in Providence, the Narragansett Bay Campus in Narragansett, and the W. Alton Jones Campus in West Greenwich.

    The university offers bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and doctoral degrees in 80 undergraduate and 49 graduate areas of study through eight academic colleges. These colleges include Arts and Sciences, Business Administration, Education and Professional Studies, Engineering, Health Sciences, Environment and Life Sciences, Nursing and Pharmacy. Another college, University College for Academic Success, serves primarily as an advising college for all incoming undergraduates and follows them through their first two years of enrollment at URI.

    The University enrolled about 13,600 undergraduate and 3,000 graduate students in Fall 2015.[2] U.S. News & World Report classifies URI as a tier 1 national university, ranking it tied for 161st in the U.S.

  • richardmitnick 12:08 pm on January 29, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Oceanography, One year into the mission autonomous ocean robots set a record in survey of Antarctic ice shelf, The first self-guided ocean robots to successfully travel under an ice sheet and return to report long-term observations,   

    From University of Washington: “One year into the mission, autonomous ocean robots set a record in survey of Antarctic ice shelf” 

    U Washington

    From University of Washington

    January 23, 2019
    Hannah Hickey

    A Seaglider, with the Getz Ice Shelf in the background, being prepared for deployment in January 2018 under the neighboring Dotson Ice Shelf.Jason Gobat/University of Washington

    A team of ocean robots deployed in January 2018 have, over the past year, been the first self-guided ocean robots to successfully travel under an ice sheet and return to report long-term observations.

    Beyond mere survival, the robotic mission — a partnership between the University of Washington’s College of the Environment, the UW Applied Physics Laboratory, the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, the Korean Polar Research Institute and Paul G. Allen Family Foundation — has ventured 18 times under the ice shelf, repeatedly reaching more than 40 kilometers (25 miles) into the cavity, among the farthest trips yet into this treacherous environment.

    The instruments’ travel routes over the past year. Pink, orange and yellow tracks show the three self-navigating Seagliders. Teal tracks show the drifting floats. The background is a satellite image of Dotson Ice Shelf captured Feb. 28.Luc Rainville/University of Washington

    “This is the first time any of the modern, long-endurance platforms have made sustained measurements under an ice shelf,” said Craig Lee, a UW professor of oceanography and member of the Applied Physics Laboratory. “We made extensive measurements inside the cavity. Gliders were able to navigate at will to survey the cavity interior, while floats rode ocean currents to access the cavity interior.

    “It’s a major step forward,” Lee added. “This is the first time we’ve been able to maintain a persistent presence over the span of an entire year.”

    The project funded by Paul G. Allen Family Foundation seeks to demonstrate the technology and gather more data from the underside of ice shelves that are buttressing the much larger ice sheets. Direct observations of how warmer seawater interacts with the underside of ice shelves would improve models of ice sheet dynamics in Antarctica and Greenland, which hold the biggest unknowns for global sea level rise.

    “Some ice sheets terminate in large ice shelves that float out over the ocean, and those act as a buttress,” Lee said. “If the ice shelves collapse or weaken, due to oceanic melting, for example, the ice sheets behind them may accelerate toward the sea, increasing the rate of sea level rise.”

    This sketch shows how three self-driving Seagliders and four drifting floats tracked conditions below an Antarctic ice shelf. Inside these caves, warmer saltwater flows in on the bottom, carrying heat which may eat away at the ice, and fresher glacial meltwater flows out above. University of Washington

    “Most of the uncertainty in global sea level rise predictions for decades to centuries is from ice sheets, which could contribute from 1 foot to as much as 6 feet by 2100,” said Pierre Dutrieux, a research professor of oceanography at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “A key driver is interaction with the ocean heat and these new tools open tantalizing perspectives to improve on current understanding.”

    The mission set out in late 2017 to test a new approach for gathering data under an ice shelf, and on Jan. 24, 2018, devices were dropped from the Korean icebreaker R/V Araon. This week, two self-navigating Seagliders reached the milestone of one year of continuous operation around and under the ice shelf.

    Robot submarines operated by the British Antarctic Survey, known as Autosub3 and Boaty McBoatface, successfully completed 24- to 48-hour voyages in 2009, 2014 and 2018. These missions surveyed similar distances into the cavity but sampled over shorter periods due to the need for a ship support.

    A drifting robot known as an Electro-Magnetic Autonomous Profiling Explorer, or EM-APEX, is lowered into the ocean. This is one of four floats that traveled with currents under the Dotson Ice Shelf.Paul G. Allen Family Foundation

    By contrast, the U.S.-based team’s technology features smaller, lighter devices that can operate on their own for more than a year without any ship support. The group’s experimental technique first moored three acoustic beacons to the seafloor to allow navigation under the ice shelf. It then sent three Seagliders, swimming robots developed and built at the UW, to use preprogrammed navigation systems to travel under the ice shelf to collect data.

    The mission also deployed four UW-developed EM-APEX floating instruments that drift with the currents at preselected depths above the bottom, or below the top of the cavity, while periodically bobbing up and down to collect more data. All four of these drifting instruments successfully traveled deep under the ice shelf with the heavier, saltier water near the seafloor. Three were flushed out with fresh meltwater near the top of the ice cavity about six to eight weeks later. One float remained under for much longer, only to reappear Jan. 5.

    During the past year, the fleet of robots has reached several milestones:

    A Seaglider reached a maximum distance of 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the edge beneath Dotson Ice Shelf in West Antarctica;
    The Seagliders made a total of 18 trips into the cavity, with the longest trip totaling 140 kilometers (87 miles) of travel under the shelf;
    The Seagliders also made 30 surveys along the face of the ice shelf;
    After one year, two out of three Seagliders are reporting back;
    In the current Southern Hemisphere summer, one of the Seagliders has gone back under the ice shelf and has completed two roughly 100-kilometer (62-mile) journeys;
    Another Seaglider will begin its second year of sampling at the face of the ice shelf;
    Three drifting floats journeyed under the Dotson Ice Shelf and back out in early 2018;
    After 11 months under the ice, the fourth float reported home in mid-January 2019 close to the neighboring Crosson Ice Shelf.

    Researchers are now analyzing the data for future publication, to better understand how seawater interacts with the ice shelves and improve models of ice sheet behavior.

    Four months of data show three Seagliders dropped from the ship in late January, then traveling toward the Dotson Ice Shelf (white). Two Seagliders (pink and orange) venture under the ice sheet in summer, while a third (yellow) samples along the face. The gliders then spend the colder months sampling along the ice sheet’s edge. Meanwhile, the drifting floats are dropped closer to the ice edge in late February. The teal tracks show how they drift under the ice sheet and then get flushed out in late March. A fourth float drifted to the right of this image, reaching a neighboring ice sheet.

    Other members of the team are Knut Christianson, a UW assistant professor of Earth and space sciences who is currently in Antarctica on a separate project; Jason Gobat, Luc Rainville and James Girton at the Applied Physics Laboratory; and the Korean Polar Research Institute, or KOPRI.


    For more information on the Seaglider component, contact Lee at craiglee@uw.edu or 206-685-7656; on the drifting floats, contact Girton at girton@uw.edu; and for more general questions, contact Dutrieux at pierred@ldeo.columbia.edu or 845-365-8393.

    Images and video are available for download at http://bit.ly/AntarcticRobotsOneYear.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The University of Washington is one of the world’s preeminent public universities. Our impact on individuals, on our region, and on the world is profound — whether we are launching young people into a boundless future or confronting the grand challenges of our time through undaunted research and scholarship. Ranked number 10 in the world in Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings and educating more than 54,000 students annually, our students and faculty work together to turn ideas into impact and in the process transform lives and our world. For more about our impact on the world, every day.
    So what defines us —the students, faculty and community members at the University of Washington? Above all, it’s our belief in possibility and our unshakable optimism. It’s a connection to others, both near and far. It’s a hunger that pushes us to tackle challenges and pursue progress. It’s the conviction that together we can create a world of good. Join us on the journey.

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