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  • richardmitnick 10:59 am on March 12, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Microbes far beneath the seafloor rely on recycling to survive", , , , International Ocean Discovery Program Expedition 360, , , Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution   

    From Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution: “Microbes far beneath the seafloor rely on recycling to survive” 

    From Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

    March 11, 2020

    1
    Detailed examination of rocks nestled thousands of feet beneath the ocean floor revealed life in plutonic rocks of the lower oceanic crust. Shown here is a thin section photomicrograph mosaic of one of the samples. (Photo by Frieder Klein, © Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.)

    Scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) reveal how microorganisms could survive in rocks nestled thousands of feet beneath the ocean floor in the lower oceanic crust, in a study published on March 11 in Nature. The first analysis of messenger RNA—genetic material containing instructions for making different proteins—from this remote region of Earth, coupled with measurements of enzyme activities, microscopy, cultures, and biomarker analyses provides evidence of a low biomass, but diverse community of microbes that includes heterotrophs that obtain their carbon from other living (or dead) organisms.

    “Organisms eking out an existence far beneath the seafloor live in a hostile environment,” says Dr. Paraskevi (Vivian) Mara, a WHOI biochemist and one of the lead authors of the paper. Scarce resources find their way into the seabed through seawater and subsurface fluids that circulate through fractures in the rock and carry inorganic and organic compounds.

    To see what kinds of microbes live at these extremes and what they do to survive, researchers collected rock samples from the lower oceanic crust over three months aboard the International Ocean Discovery Program Expedition 360. The research vessel traveled to an underwater ridge called Atlantis Bank that cuts across the Southern Indian Ocean.

    3

    There, tectonic activity exposes the lower oceanic crust at the seafloor, “providing convenient access to an otherwise largely inaccessible realm,” write the authors.

    Researchers combed the rocks for genetic material and other organic molecules, performed cell counts, and cultured samples in the lab to aid in their search for life. “We applied a completely new cocktail of methods to really try to explore these precious samples as intensively as we could,” says Dr. Virginia Edgcomb, a microbiologist at WHOI, the lead PI of the project, and a co-author of the paper. “All together, the data start to paint a story.”

    2
    Researchers Benoit Ildefonse (left) of University of Montpellier and Virginia Edgcomb of WHOI select a sample for microbiology during the expedition at Atlantis Bank, Indian Ocean. (Photo by Jason Sylvan, TAMU.)

    By isolating messenger RNA and analyzing the expression of genes—the instructions for different metabolic processes—researchers showed evidence that microorganisms far beneath the ocean express genes for a diverse array of survival strategies. Some microbes appeared to have the ability to store carbon in their cells, so they could stockpile for times of shortage. Others had indications they could process nitrogen and sulfur to generate energy, produce Vitamin E and B12, recycle amino acids, and pluck out carbon from hard-to-breakdown compounds called polyaromatic hydrocarbons. “They seem very frugal,” says Edgcomb.

    This rare view of life in the far reaches of the earth extends our view of carbon cycling beneath the seafloor, Edgcomb says. “If you look at the volume of the deep biosphere, including the lower oceanic crust, even at a very slow metabolic rate, it could equate to significant amounts of carbon.”

    This work was supported by the National Science Foundation.

    The research team also included colleagues from Tongji University, University of Bremen, Texas A&M University, Université de Brest, and Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

    See the full article here .

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute

    Vision & Mission

    The ocean is a defining feature of our planet and crucial to life on Earth, yet it remains one of the planet’s last unexplored frontiers. For this reason, WHOI scientists and engineers are committed to understanding all facets of the ocean as well as its complex connections with Earth’s atmosphere, land, ice, seafloor, and life—including humanity. This is essential not only to advance knowledge about our planet, but also to ensure society’s long-term welfare and to help guide human stewardship of the environment. WHOI researchers are also dedicated to training future generations of ocean science leaders, to providing unbiased information that informs public policy and decision-making, and to expanding public awareness about the importance of the global ocean and its resources.
    Mission Statement

    The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is dedicated to advancing knowledge of the ocean and its connection with the Earth system through a sustained commitment to excellence in science, engineering, and education, and to the application of this knowledge to problems facing society.

     
  • richardmitnick 5:44 pm on March 4, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "A sea of ancient ice", , Computer model simulations were used to estimate ice thickness during the Last Ice Age—21000 years ago when ice sheets blanketed much of North America and Europe., , , Sea ice was irrefutably thicker during the 19th and early 20th centuries than it is today., The models reported an average sea ice thickness of 30 meters but along the coast of Northern Canada the simulated thickness grew to 50 meters—roughly the height of the Leaning Tower of Pisa., Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution   

    From Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution: “A sea of ancient ice” 

    From Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

    March 4, 2020
    Evan Lubofsky

    Scientists dust off historical accounts to tackle a long-standing Arctic mystery.

    1
    WHOI scientist Alan Condron and his colleagues rely on historical drawings like this one published in 1876 to gain a better sense for how thick Arctic sea ice was in the early 19th century.

    When Harper’s Weekly magazine reported the spotting of a seven-mile-long chunk of thick sea ice off St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada in 1884, the story referred to the prairie-sized floe as a “monster ice island” and forewarned ship captains travelling in the area: “Woe to the mail steamer that shall crash against its sides or upon its hidden base.”

    This was at the tail-end of the Little Ice Age, when vast areas of the Arctic Ocean were covered by seemingly-impenetrable slabs of ice, and icebergs would stray as far south as Bermuda.

    Sea ice was irrefutably thicker during the 19th and early 20th centuries than it is today—warming in the Arctic has caused much of its ancient ice to vanish—but according to WHOI climate scientist Alan Condron, the actual thickness of the legacy ice has been a long-standing mystery in climate science circles.

    “While we have been able to determine the amount of sea ice extent since 1979 with satellite data, we’ve only had continuous satellite observations of ice thickness since the early part of this century,” says Condron. “Before that, we only have a few sporadic observations from U.S. Navy submarines taken during the Cold War in the late 1950’s. Prior to that, there is nothing.”

    To bridge the gap, Condron used computer model simulations to estimate ice thickness during the Last Ice Age—21,000 years ago when ice sheets blanketed much of North America and Europe. The models reported an average sea ice thickness of 30 meters, but along the coast of Northern Canada, the simulated thickness grew to 50 meters—roughly the height of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

    These estimates gave Condron a baseline sense for how chunky Arctic ice may have been, but there was a problem. The values generated by Condron’s models far exceeded those reported by other models simulating ice conditions during the same period.

    “Other climate models were reporting average Arctic sea ice thicknesses of only seven to eight meters, and the thickest ice we could find in all of these models was just 16 meters thick,” says Condron. “It was rather baffling that these models were growing ice that was only slightly thicker than the ice we commonly see today, particularly since we know conditions in the Arctic were much colder during the Last Ice Age than they are now.”

    The discrepancy between Condron’s model and other sea ice models became an issue for Condron as he prepared his manuscript on an abrupt climate change study for publication. “At an early stage, one reviewer felt that the ice thicknesses we were reporting suggested there was something seriously wrong with our model,” he says.

    He explains that in the sea ice modeling community, modelers often impose a limit on how thick they let ice grow in their simulations in order to ‘correct’ for errors in the model. “So, if you impose a cap of five meters, for example, you’ll get ice thicknesses that match up with similar thickness values we see in the Arctic today,” says Condron.

    With his research paper in a holding pattern, he began thinking about other ways to ground-truth his model results, which led to an epiphany.

    “Nineteenth century Arctic explorers often described sea ice conditions in their dairies with descriptions and sketches,” he says. “So my thought was to inspect some of those historical accounts to see if they seemed consistent with our estimates.”

    2
    WHOI climate scientist Alan Condron examines an iceberg drifting south in the Labrador Sea. (Photo by Andrew Daly, © Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

    As Condron, along with his co-authors Anthony Joyce and Raymond Bradley, began leafing through the dairies, they quickly noticed descriptive passages supporting their side of the story. One account, penned by Vice-Admiral Sir George Nares, the leader of the 1875 British Arctic Expedition, described “floes… of gigantic thickness with a most uneven surface and covered with deep snow.”

    A corresponding drawing—that was published in 1876 in the British weekly newspaper “The Graphic”— shows a glimpse of the polar sea as traversed by two members of Nares’ party during their spring sledding expedition to reach the North Pole. Captain Nares was so struck by the unusual thickness of the sea ice his team encountered in the western Arctic, he coined the term “palaeocrystic” ice to describe it.

    Bradley, a climate scientist and professor at the University of Massachusetts, notes that other 19th and early 20th century explorers had documented exceptionally thick, extensive islands of ice embedded in the Arctic pack.

    “The ice had rounded, hummocky surfaces that rose as much as ten meters above sea level and stood out from the smaller floes of fractured sea-ice which the explorers generally had to deal with,” says Bradley.

    Condron notes that based on some of the drawings alone, it became clear that sea ice was not only much thicker than it is today, but also very similar to what he was seeing in his model. He re-submitted his manuscript with an explanation of how it has become common practice in model simulations to artificially ‘cap’ sea ice thickness to avoid values that seem unrealistic.

    A few weeks later, the paper was accepted.

    The diary records helped Condron get his paper through, but he feels they served a more important purpose by putting modern-day sea ice loss in a broader historical perspective.

    “While Arctic sea ice conditions have changed significantly in recent decades, the changes are even more dramatic when viewed in the context of the conditions that Nares and others encountered when they went looking for the North Pole,” says Condron. “Basically, we’ve gone from a situation where ice was 50 meters thick along parts of the Canadian Coast, with large pieces of this ice adrift in the Beaufort Sea, to the present-day situation, where we rarely see ice that exceeds five meters. And it’s all happened in a relatively short period of time.”

    Funding for this research was provided through the National Science Foundation’s Arctic System Science Program.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute

    Vision & Mission

    The ocean is a defining feature of our planet and crucial to life on Earth, yet it remains one of the planet’s last unexplored frontiers. For this reason, WHOI scientists and engineers are committed to understanding all facets of the ocean as well as its complex connections with Earth’s atmosphere, land, ice, seafloor, and life—including humanity. This is essential not only to advance knowledge about our planet, but also to ensure society’s long-term welfare and to help guide human stewardship of the environment. WHOI researchers are also dedicated to training future generations of ocean science leaders, to providing unbiased information that informs public policy and decision-making, and to expanding public awareness about the importance of the global ocean and its resources.
    Mission Statement

    The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is dedicated to advancing knowledge of the ocean and its connection with the Earth system through a sustained commitment to excellence in science, engineering, and education, and to the application of this knowledge to problems facing society.

     
  • richardmitnick 4:57 pm on February 20, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Huge stores of Arctic sea ice likely contributed to past climate cooling", Experiments show that there was enough cold fresh water to disrupt ocean salt-temperature circulation patterns and trigger abrupt climate cooling such as the Younger Dryas., , , Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution   

    From UMass Amherst and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution via phys.org: “Huge stores of Arctic sea ice likely contributed to past climate cooling” 

    U Mass Amherst

    From UMass Amherst

    and

    Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

    via


    phys.org

    February 20, 2020
    Raymond Bradley

    1
    One of the last remains of the formerly extensive ice off the coast of Ellesmere Island, Arctic Canada, pictured in July 2002. At the end of the last Ice Age, ice such as this would have covered large parts of the Arctic Ocean and been up to 164 feet (50 meters) thick in places, creating an enormous reservoir of fresh water independent from land-based lakes and ice sheets, say Raymond Bradley of UMass Amherst and Alan Condron of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in a new paper on past climate. Credit: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution/Alan Condron

    In a new paper, climate scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution propose that massive amounts of melting sea ice in the Arctic drained into the North Atlantic and disrupted climate-steering currents, thus playing an important role in causing past abrupt climate change after the last Ice Age, from about 8,000 to 13,000 years ago. Details of how they tested this idea for the first time are online now in Geology.

    Raymond Bradley, director of UMass Amherst’s Climate Systems Research Center, and lead author Alan Condron, research scientist at Woods Hole, explain that geologists have considered many theories about abrupt temperature plunges into “glacier-like” conditions since the last glaciers retreated, notably a very cold period about 12,900 years ago, known as the Younger Dryas. Meteorite impact and volcanic eruptions were proposed to explain these episodes, but evidence has been unconvincing, they add.

    Now Condron and Bradley, with Ph.D student Anthony Joyce, say they have new evidence that periodic break-up of thick Arctic sea ice greatly affected climate. Melting of this ice led to freshwater flooding into the seas near Greenland, Norway and Iceland between 13,000 and 8,000 years ago, slowing the strength of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). They say their experiments show that there was enough cold, fresh water to disrupt ocean salt-temperature circulation patterns and trigger abrupt climate cooling such as the Younger Dryas.

    Bradley explains, “Understanding the past helps us understand how the Arctic system works.”

    Condron says researchers once thought this cold period was triggered by the draining of Lake Agassiz, an enormous glacial lake at the edge of the massive ice sheet that once extended from the Arctic south into modern New York. “But although the lake was big by modern standards, it has been difficult in the climate modeling community to trigger a 1,000-year cold period with the water it contained, because the volume of water is not large enough to weaken the Atlantic circulation over a long period,” he notes.

    “However, the volumes of water we find stored as sea ice in the Arctic vastly exceed the volume of Lake Agassiz, making sea ice break-up a really good candidate for triggering the Younger Dryas cooling,” he adds.

    To establish that there was enough ice in the Arctic to disrupt the sea circulation pattern, the researchers used numerical climate model experiments to estimate past Arctic sea ice extent and thickness. They also examined diaries and journals of early 19th and 20th century Arctic expeditions to see if those explorers, whose explorations came at the end of a “Little Ice Age,” encountered unusually thick sea ice.

    Condron and Bradley cite the impressions of Vice-Admiral Sir George Nares, who led the 1875 British Arctic Expedition to the North Pole. He was so struck by the extensive, thick ice his expedition encountered that he introduced the term “palaeocrystic ice” to describe “floes… of gigantic thickness with a most uneven surface and covered with deep snow.”

    They note, “It seems from these, and other accounts kept by early Arctic explorers, that the Arctic Ocean was covered by ice considerably thicker than has been observed over the past 30-40 years. While recent climate warming in the Arctic has caused much of this old and thick ice to break up and melt, large pieces of it were also still being reported in the early 20th century.” including floes used as scientific research stations by both the U.S. and Russia as late as the Cold War.

    They say their numerical ocean/sea-ice model of the volume of freshwater stored as sea ice and changes in ice export at the end of the Ice Age show these were large enough to slow the AMOC and cool climate. Thick ice over the Arctic Ocean created “an enormous reservoir of freshwater, independent of terrestrial sourc¬es.” As ice sheets retreated and sea level rose, changes in atmospheric circulation and land-based floods caused this ice to flow to the sea through Fram Strait east of Greenland, where it melted and freshened Nordic Seas enough to weaken Atlantic circulation.

    As both the volume of ice stored in the Arctic Basin and the magnitude of these export events far exceed the volume of meltwater discharged from Lake Agassiz, they report, “our results show that ice from the Arctic Ocean itself may have played an important role in causing abrupt climate change in the past.” This work was supported by the National Science Foundation and its Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment. Also, numerical simulations were carried out using MITgcm.

    See the full article here .

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    About Science X in 100 words

    Science X™ is a leading web-based science, research and technology news service which covers a full range of topics. These include physics, earth science, medicine, nanotechnology, electronics, space, biology, chemistry, computer sciences, engineering, mathematics and other sciences and technologies. Launched in 2004 (Physorg.com), Science X’s readership has grown steadily to include 5 million scientists, researchers, and engineers every month. Science X publishes approximately 200 quality articles every day, offering some of the most comprehensive coverage of sci-tech developments world-wide. Science X community members enjoy access to many personalized features such as social networking, a personal home page set-up, article comments and ranking, the ability to save favorite articles, a daily newsletter, and other options.
    Mission 12 reasons for reading daily news on Science X Organization Key editors and writersinclude 1.75 million scientists, researchers, and engineers every month. Phys.org publishes approximately 100 quality articles every day, offering some of the most comprehensive coverage of sci-tech developments world-wide. Quancast 2009 includes Phys.org in its list of the Global Top 2,000 Websites. Phys.org community members enjoy access to many personalized features such as social networking, a personal home page set-up, RSS/XML feeds, article comments and ranking, the ability to save favorite articles, a daily newsletter, and other options.

    Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute

    Vision & Mission

    The ocean is a defining feature of our planet and crucial to life on Earth, yet it remains one of the planet’s last unexplored frontiers. For this reason, WHOI scientists and engineers are committed to understanding all facets of the ocean as well as its complex connections with Earth’s atmosphere, land, ice, seafloor, and life—including humanity. This is essential not only to advance knowledge about our planet, but also to ensure society’s long-term welfare and to help guide human stewardship of the environment. WHOI researchers are also dedicated to training future generations of ocean science leaders, to providing unbiased information that informs public policy and decision-making, and to expanding public awareness about the importance of the global ocean and its resources.
    Mission Statement

    The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is dedicated to advancing knowledge of the ocean and its connection with the Earth system through a sustained commitment to excellence in science, engineering, and education, and to the application of this knowledge to problems facing society.

    U Mass Amherst campus

    UMass Amherst, the Commonwealth’s flagship campus, is a nationally ranked public research university offering a full range of undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees.

    As the flagship campus of America’s education stateUniversity of Massachusetts Amherst is the leader of the public higher education system of the Commonwealth, making a profound, transformative impact to the common good. Founded in 1863, we are the largest public research university in New England, distinguished by the excellence and breadth of our academic, research and community outreach programs. We rank 29th among the nation’s top public universities, moving up 11 spots in the past two years in the U.S. News & World Report’s annual college guide.

     
  • richardmitnick 5:41 pm on February 19, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: (AMOC)-The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, The future of the Atlantic Ocean’s conveyor belt., Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution   

    From Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution: “The future of the ocean’s conveyor belt” 

    From Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

    February 18, 2020
    Evan Lubofsky

    1
    WHOI physical oceanographer Young-Oh Kwon relies on a combination of ocean data and climate models to understand the circulatory strength of the Atlantic Ocean’s conveyor belt. (Photo by Daniel Hentz, © Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

    Young-Oh Kwon arrived at WHOI in 2006 with a strong background in climate modeling, and a particular interest in natural variability of the ocean. It was a perfect blend for studying the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC)—a conveyor belt of currents that move warmer waters north and cooler waters south in the Atlantic Ocean. We caught up with Kwon to get his perspective on the state of this critical ocean circulation system and changes we may see in the future.

    Why is an understanding of the AMOC so important?

    The AMOC is a driver of how heat is distributed throughout the ocean, and one of the very basic components that regulates Earth’s climate. That means that if the AMOC varies, our climate will be affected. For example, if the system strengthens or slows down and thus more or less warm water gets to the North Atlantic than usual, it could cause erratic weather patterns or storms. My recent study suggests if the AMOC strengthens and more warm water is pushed north, it can lead to extended periods of high pressure systems in the North Atlantic and northern Europe that cause droughts.

    Long-term forecast information can, and should, come from the ocean. So it’s important that we study the state of how the ocean’s major circulation system is working.

    AMOC activity is notoriously difficult to track, according to many ocean scientists. Why is that, and more importantly, what can be done about it?

    We know the AMOC is very difficult for climate models, which don’t do well at simulating things like eddies. So, climate models need to be improved a lot in order to tell what’s going to happen 100 years from now. One important question right now is: How do we improve the models?

    That’s where observation data comes in. Instruments like profiling moorings in the OSNAP array measure the ocean to help us understand the essential ingredients that runs the AMOC and how natural variability in the ocean and climate change is impacting it. There’s a limited amount of observation data available for AMOC studies, so it’s important that we have sustained monitoring efforts in order to have longer records of what’s happening.

    Another tool that may help us better understand the system is machine learning. A lot of people in the community talk about the potential use of machine learning to help connect observation data and models, and figure out where models can be improved upon based on data collected in the ocean. That’s a very promising and exciting area.

    2
    The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) propels warm surface water from the q to high-latitude regions. There, the water encounters strong winds and cold air temperatures, which causes it to become colder and denser. This cold, dense water sinks into the deep ocean and then is conveyed back southward at depth, creating a conveyor belt-like loop. (Illustration by Eric S. Taylor, © Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.)

    Is the AMOC showing a weakening or strengthening trend, and what do you expect to see in the future?

    Current-generation climate models project that the AMOC will continuously slow down towards the end of 21st century, and this was reflected in the latest IPCC report on climate change. From my perspective, the system is still on a gentle slope and we haven’t seen the rapid decline that some models are suggesting. However, it is likely going to eventually decrease. But by how much remains a major question.

    One thing I can guarantee is that the main drivers of changes in the AMOC over the next 10 years will be different than they will be in 100 years. The changes over the next decade will be dominated by the natural variability that occurs in the ocean. But looking out over the next century, climate change will likely be the dominant signal.

    In either case, we need to continue learning about the underlying components of this important system and how the various factors work to increase or decrease its strength.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute

    Vision & Mission

    The ocean is a defining feature of our planet and crucial to life on Earth, yet it remains one of the planet’s last unexplored frontiers. For this reason, WHOI scientists and engineers are committed to understanding all facets of the ocean as well as its complex connections with Earth’s atmosphere, land, ice, seafloor, and life—including humanity. This is essential not only to advance knowledge about our planet, but also to ensure society’s long-term welfare and to help guide human stewardship of the environment. WHOI researchers are also dedicated to training future generations of ocean science leaders, to providing unbiased information that informs public policy and decision-making, and to expanding public awareness about the importance of the global ocean and its resources.
    Mission Statement

    The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is dedicated to advancing knowledge of the ocean and its connection with the Earth system through a sustained commitment to excellence in science, engineering, and education, and to the application of this knowledge to problems facing society.

     
  • richardmitnick 7:04 am on January 23, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Aquaculture, , , Ocean Resources, Ocean Twilight Zone, , Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution   

    From Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution: “Report reveals ‘unseen’ human benefits from ocean twilight zone” 

    From Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

    January 22, 2020
    Media Relations Office
    media@whoi.edu
    (508) 289-3340

    1

    Did you know that there’s a natural carbon sink—even bigger than the Amazon rainforest—that helps regulate Earth’s climate by sucking up to six billion tons of carbon from the air each year?

    A new report from researchers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) reveals for the first time the unseen—and somewhat surprising—benefits that people receive from the ocean’s twilight zone. Also known as the “mesopelagic,” this is the ocean layer just beyond the sunlit surface.

    The ocean twilight zone is a mysterious place filled with alien-looking creatures. The nightly, massive migration of animals from the zone to the surface waters to find food helps to cycle carbon through the ocean’s depths, down into the deep ocean and even to the seabed, where it can remain sequestered indefinitely.

    “We knew that the ocean’s twilight zone played an important role in climate, but we are uncertain about how much carbon it is sequestering, or trapping, annually,” says Porter Hoagland, a WHOI marine policy analyst and lead author of the report. “This massive migration of tiny creatures is happening all over the world, helping to remove an enormous amount of carbon from the atmosphere.”

    Exactly how much carbon is difficult to pinpoint because the ocean twilight zone is challenging to get to and is understudied. The WHOI Ocean Twilight Zone project, which launched in April 2018, is focused on changing that with the development of new technologies.

    It’s estimated that two to six billion metric tons of carbon are sequestered through the ocean’s twilight zone annually. By comparison, the world’s largest rain forest sucks in only about 544 million metric tons of carbon a year—five percent of the world’s annual 10 billion metric tons of carbon emissions.

    2
    NYT A transparent hatchetfish, retrieved by researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, which is seeking to understand better the creatures that occupy the sea from 600 to 3,300 feet deep.Credit Paul Caiger/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

    3
    A variety of myctophids, or lantern fish. The twilight zone contains about 250 different species of myctophids.Credit Paul Caiger/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

    4
    The photophores of a transparent hatchetfish. Credit Paul Caiger/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

    5
    Silver hatchetfish. Credit Paul Caiger/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

    6
    Glass squid Credit Paul Caiger/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

    7
    Common fangtooth Credit Paul Caiger/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution


    Value Beyond View: The Ocean Twilight Zone

    ______________________________________________________
    From NYT
    Daily journeys between the ocean’s layers


    ______________________________________________________

    Using a range of prices for carbon, reflecting future damages expected as a consequence of a changing climate, this “regulating” service has an estimated value of $300 to $900 billion annually, Hoagland notes. Without the ocean’s ability to sequester carbon, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels could be as much as 200 parts per million higher than they are today (about 415 ppm), which would result in a temperature increase of about six degrees Celsius or 10.8 degrees Fahrenheit.

    In addition to its role in the carbon cycle, the twilight zone likely harbors more fish biomass than the rest of the ocean combined, and it is home to the most abundant vertebrate species on the planet— the bristlemouth. While twilight zone fish are unlikely to ever end up on peoples’ dinner plates because of their small size and strange appearance, they do provide meals for larger, economically important fish, like tuna and swordfish, and for other top predators, including sharks, whales, seals, penguins, and seabirds.

    The twilight zone’s biological abundance makes it an attractive target for commercial fishing operations. Ocean twilight zone animals could be harvested to produce fish meal to support the rapidly growing aquaculture industry and to provide fish oils for nutraceutical markets. Because the twilight zone is situated largely in unregulated international waters, there is concern that its potential resources could be subject to unsustainable exploitation.

    The research team hopes that the report will be useful for decision makers, such as the United Nations delegates who will meet this spring in New York to continue developing a new international agreement governing the conservation and sustainable management of marine life on the high seas, in areas beyond the coastal waters managed by individual member States.

    “We need to think carefully about what we stand to gain or lose from future actions that could affect the animals of the twilight zone and their valuable ecosystem services,” says Hoagland. “Increasing scientific understanding is essential if we are going to move toward a goal of the sustainable use of the resources.”

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute

    Vision & Mission

    The ocean is a defining feature of our planet and crucial to life on Earth, yet it remains one of the planet’s last unexplored frontiers. For this reason, WHOI scientists and engineers are committed to understanding all facets of the ocean as well as its complex connections with Earth’s atmosphere, land, ice, seafloor, and life—including humanity. This is essential not only to advance knowledge about our planet, but also to ensure society’s long-term welfare and to help guide human stewardship of the environment. WHOI researchers are also dedicated to training future generations of ocean science leaders, to providing unbiased information that informs public policy and decision-making, and to expanding public awareness about the importance of the global ocean and its resources.
    Mission Statement

    The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is dedicated to advancing knowledge of the ocean and its connection with the Earth system through a sustained commitment to excellence in science, engineering, and education, and to the application of this knowledge to problems facing society.

     
  • richardmitnick 4:06 pm on January 10, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "WHOI underwater robot takes first known automated sample from ocean", (NUI)-Nereid Under Ice - WHOI’s robot, , , , Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution   

    From Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution: “WHOI underwater robot takes first known automated sample from ocean” 

    From Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

    1
    WHOI’s robot, Nereid Under Ice (NUI), samples a patch of sediment from the mineral-rich floor of Kolumbo volcano off Santorini Island, Greece. This is the first known automated sample taken by a robot in the ocean. (Video courtesy of Richard Camilli, © Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

    A hybrid remotely operated vehicle developed by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) took the first known automated sample performed by a robotic arm in the ocean. Last month, an international team of researchers used one of WHOI’s underwater robots, Nereid Under Ice (NUI), to explore Kolumbo volcano, an active submarine volcano off Greece’s famed Santorini island.

    “For a vehicle to take a sample without a pilot driving it was a huge step forward,” says Rich Camilli, an associate scientist at WHOI leading the development of automation technology as part of NASA’s Planetary Science and Technology from Analog Research (PSTAR) interdisciplinary research program. “One of our goals was to toss out the joystick, and we were able to do just that.”

    As with self-driving cars, handing the wheel over to a computer algorithm can be unsettling. The same goes for ocean robots, especially when they need to work in tricky and hazardous environments. Camilli was part of an international team of researchers on an expedition aimed at learning about life in the harsh, chemical-laden environment of Kolumbo, and also exploring the extent to which scientists can hand over the controls to ocean robots and allow them to explore without human intervention.

    Slightly smaller than a Smart Car, NUI was equipped with Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based automated planning software—including a planner named ‘Spock’—that enabled the ROV to decide which sites to visit in the volcano and take samples autonomously.

    2
    NUI is lowered into the Aegean Sea before plunging to a depth of 500 meters to explore Kolumbo volcano. (Photo by Evan Lubofsky, © Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

    Gideon Billings, a guest student from the University of Michigan whose thesis research focuses on automated technologies, got the honors of using his code to collect the very first automated sample, which was of a patch of sediment from Kolumbo’s mineral-rich seafloor. He issued a command to the autonomous manipulator and, moments later, a slurp-sample hose attached to the robotic arm extended down to the precise sample location and sucked up the dirt.

    Billings says this level of automation will be important for NASA as they look toward developing technologies to explore ocean worlds beyond our solar system. “If we have this grand vision of sending robots to places like Europa and Enceladus [the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, respectively], they will ultimately need to work independently like this and without the assistance of a pilot,” he says.

    Moving forward, Camilli will continue working with Billings and colleagues at the University of Michigan, as well as researchers from the Australian Centre for Field Robotics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Toyota Technological Institute at Chicago to push the automation technology forward. The work will include training ocean robots to see like ROV pilots using “gaze tracking” technology, and building a robust human-language interface so scientists can talk directly to robots without a pilot go-between.

    “We can eventually see having a network of cognitive ocean robots where there’s a shared intelligence spanning an entire fleet, with each vehicle working cooperatively like bees in a hive,” Camilli says. “It will go well beyond losing the joystick.”

    Funding for this project was provided by a NASA PSTAR Grant #NNX16AL08 and a National Science Foundation National Robotics Initiative grant #IIS-1830500.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute

    Vision & Mission

    The ocean is a defining feature of our planet and crucial to life on Earth, yet it remains one of the planet’s last unexplored frontiers. For this reason, WHOI scientists and engineers are committed to understanding all facets of the ocean as well as its complex connections with Earth’s atmosphere, land, ice, seafloor, and life—including humanity. This is essential not only to advance knowledge about our planet, but also to ensure society’s long-term welfare and to help guide human stewardship of the environment. WHOI researchers are also dedicated to training future generations of ocean science leaders, to providing unbiased information that informs public policy and decision-making, and to expanding public awareness about the importance of the global ocean and its resources.
    Mission Statement

    The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is dedicated to advancing knowledge of the ocean and its connection with the Earth system through a sustained commitment to excellence in science, engineering, and education, and to the application of this knowledge to problems facing society.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:54 am on January 9, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "The Ocean’s Moveable Feast", , , , , Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution   

    From Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution: “The Ocean’s Moveable Feast” 

    From Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

    January 9, 2020
    Madeline Drexler

    Today, warming waters are redrawing the lines of the marine food web.

    2
    Warm ocean temperatures caused large-scale ecological disruption that affected different species, including lobster. (© AP Photo / Robert F. Bukaty as seen in Oceanus magazine Vol. 54, No. 2)

    Over the past few decades, Carin Ashjian, a biologist at Woods hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), has explored the marine food web and how it has responded to changing ocean conditions. She wants to know how ecosystems are shifting, how species are moving, and how these factors fray or strengthen food webs.

    Because of warming seas, southern species have found northern waters newly hospitable. Killer whales now show up in Alaskan waters north of the Bering Strait. Salmon species are wending their way to lagoons north of the Arctic Circle, where indigenous fishermen catch fish with nets cast out from the beach. Ashjian fears that commercial fishing—currently prohibited in Arctic waters because the ecosystem is still not fully understood—might ruin the Arctic habitats if not effectively regulated.

    To gain a better understanding of the impacts of such climatic changes, Ashjian serves on the scientific steering committee for a developing international effort called the Synoptic Arctic Survey, or SAS, in which scientists on research cruises in the Arctic will collect data on ocean circulation, carbon cycling and ocean acidification, and ecosystem functioning and productivity. This comprehensive dataset will serve as a baseline by which researchers can track changing ocean conditions and their impacts over the coming years, decades, and centuries.

    Glen Gawarkiewicz, a physical oceanographer at WHOI, is tracking those changes, and their practical implications, right now. In May 2012, he was on a cruise around Cape Hatteras, North Carolina with fisheries biologists and acousticians, searching for cold-water fish.

    “But we had a nine-degree-Fahrenheit anomaly,” he says. “It was so warm, there were no cold-water species. I thought, ‘Oh, my word.’ It was a change I never could have imagined.”

    Since then, Gawarkiewicz has expanded his field of vision, from what he calls the “small patch” of the North Atlantic that was and still is his specialty to the warming Arctic atmosphere, the Jet Stream, and the Gulf Stream.

    “They’re all interconnected,” Gawarkiewicz says.

    The temperature anomaly that astonished him was due to a stationary wave in the U.S. Jet Stream (a meandering current of air in the atmosphere) that for six weeks held back the cold air in southern Canada that would normally have moved down into southern New England.

    “The air temperature was very warm—we were wearing t-shirts in mid-January on Cape Cod,” says Gawarkiewicz. “That skewed ocean temperatures for months afterward. And it caused incredible, large-scale ecological disruption that affected different species, such as puffin chicks and lobster.”

    Gawarkiewicz has since documented similar disturbances in his small patch of ocean.

    “Cold-water fish are struggling,” he says. Cod, in particular, has been retreating to the north. On the other hand, sea bass and Jonah crab are coming in because of warm waters,” he said. “There are huge year-to-year differences in abundance, and we’re not sure what drives them.”

    To help answer this question, Gawarkiewicz teamed up with the Commercial Fisheries Research Fleet to recruit fishermen as citizen scientists.

    “The climate shifts that we talk about theoretically, they’re experiencing every day,” Gawarkiewicz says.

    The fishermen take bi-weekly measurements of salinity, temperature, and depth, and note unusual ocean conditions. The scientists and fishermen later discuss and interpret the data. Scientists benefit because the fleet is a cost-effective way of collecting data, since research expeditions are typically expensive to conduct, while fishermen gain insights into the ecosystems on which their livelihoods depend. It’s an effective win-win scenario.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute

    Vision & Mission

    The ocean is a defining feature of our planet and crucial to life on Earth, yet it remains one of the planet’s last unexplored frontiers. For this reason, WHOI scientists and engineers are committed to understanding all facets of the ocean as well as its complex connections with Earth’s atmosphere, land, ice, seafloor, and life—including humanity. This is essential not only to advance knowledge about our planet, but also to ensure society’s long-term welfare and to help guide human stewardship of the environment. WHOI researchers are also dedicated to training future generations of ocean science leaders, to providing unbiased information that informs public policy and decision-making, and to expanding public awareness about the importance of the global ocean and its resources.
    Mission Statement

    The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is dedicated to advancing knowledge of the ocean and its connection with the Earth system through a sustained commitment to excellence in science, engineering, and education, and to the application of this knowledge to problems facing society.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:01 am on November 14, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , If alien life exists in our solar system it may look like this, , Nereid Under Ice explores Aurora hydrothermal vent field, , Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution   

    From Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution via National Geographics: “If alien life exists in our solar system, it may look like this” 

    From Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

    National Geographic

    National Geographics

    November 11, 2019
    Nadia Drake

    1
    Pictures of deep-sea vents hidden below ice offer some of our first looks at creatures thriving in conditions akin to those on watery moons.
    A red shrimp makes its way past a glass sponge in the zone where the Aurora hydrothermal vent field pumps heat and nutrients onto the desolate floor of the Arctic Ocean. This image was captured by a tow camera tethered to the Norwegian icebreaker R.V. Kronprins Haakon in October.
    Photograph by OFOBS, AWI team

    Icebreaker R.V. Kronprins Haakon, off GreenlandOutside, the sinking sun is coloring the autumnal sky a brilliant lavender, a rich hue that lingers over a vast blanket of ice. Here, off the northern coast of Greenland, the Arctic Ocean is masquerading as land, a snowy patchwork of smooth ice floes and abrupt, jagged piles of crystalline debris. Only the subtle shifting of our ship, the Norwegian icebreaker R.V. Kronprins Haakon, betrays the landlocked illusion.

    It took longer than expected to get to this icy wonderland from the small coal-mining town of Longyearbyen, the most populated port in Norway’s Svalbard archipelago. Now that we’re here, Chris German isn’t paying much attention to the dramatic seascape. Instead, he’s staring intently at a live feed of the seafloor, and he’s trying on hats. Every 10 minutes or so, he plops a different hat on his head, rotating through haberdashery that includes a faux sealskin ushanka, a woven orange fez, and a beanie from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, where he works.

    2
    The icebreaker Kronprins Haakon cuts a dark path through Arctic ice cover as scientists with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution get ready to launch the Nereid Under Ice robotic submersible.
    Photograph by Luis Lamar, Avatar Alliance Foundation; Dimitri Kalenitchenko, CAGE, UiT

    The costume changes help German pass the time while we wait for the first glimpse of our quarry: a broken patch of seafloor that’s pumping smoky, superheated fluids into the darkness, perhaps helping to power one of the most alien ecosystems on Earth. This elusive zone is called the Aurora hydrothermal vent field. It’s the most northerly vent field yet known, and it’s among the deepest in the world, sitting nearly 2.5 miles below a permanent covering of sea ice.

    Exploring the deep sea, like venturing into deep space, is a high-risk endeavor. The abyssal seafloor is an unforgiving place for even the hardiest robots, and this mission has seen its share of mishaps, including a few heart-stopping days when it seemed like the team had lost its main underwater rover to the freezing polar ocean.

    But on this violet evening, after hours of drifting over a muddy seafloor, a high-resolution camera towed beneath the ship at last passed directly over a gaping maw in Earth’s crust. Beamed onto screens throughout the ship, the footage revealed an angry black plume erupting from a crater measuring nearly five feet across—an astonishing span for this flavor of undersea smoker.

    “That is a big f***ing plume,” German said, his rotating headgear paused on the ear-flapped ushanka. “This is a lot more than we knew was here.”

    3
    OHN KAPPLER, NG STAFF.
    SOURCES: NASA; NATIONAL SNOW AND ICE DATA CENTER
    Studying vents below the ice. On September 19th, the research vessel, Kronprins Haakon, departed Longyearbyen, Svalbard headed toward the Aurora hydrothermal vent field, located along the Gakkel Ridge some 4000 meters below the arctic ice. After several days meandering through thick sea ice, the vessel reached its destination on September 28.

    Later that night, the same camera would fly over the site twice more; and multiple passes over the next week would reveal wildly rugged terrain populating the southern slope of the Aurora seamount. The images revealed that the vent field is covered with extinct chimneys, heaps of extruded minerals, and not just one, but at least three black smokers.

    The results offer our best look yet at such an exotic, ice-shrouded ecosystem. Better understanding this remote biosphere could help scientists figure out how creatures move through Earth’s deep oceans, and whether Arctic waters form a pathway for animals moving between the Atlantic and Pacific basins.

    “The idea is to really understand this area when it’s still pristine,” says deep-sea ecologist Eva Ramirez-Llodra, the project’s lead scientist from the Norwegian Institution for Water Research. “If climate change gets rid of the ice, this will become a more used route to go to the Pacific, and it could become an open area for potential mining, for fisheries … it’s good to know what’s there.”

    4
    A red shrimp nearly two inches long swims over an outcrop of pillow lava decorated with large glass sponges and the sediment-dusted stalks of dead sponges in the Aurora hydrothermal field. The site, 200 miles north of Greenland, is about 2.5 miles below the ice-covered surface.
    Photograph by OFOBS, AWI team

    What’s more, the Aurora vents could hold the keys to detecting life-forms in the deep oceans on alien worlds. For now, Aurora is one of the closest Earth-analogs to the seafloor vents that are thought to be erupting on faraway ocean worlds, including the ice-encrusted moons Europa and Enceladus, which are considered among the best places to look for existing extraterrestrials.

    “Alien oceans beyond Earth are so compelling in the search for life elsewhere,” says National Geographic Explorer Kevin Hand, an astrobiologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who took part in the Aurora expedition. “Wherever we’ve looked on planet Earth and found liquid water, we’ve found life.”

    Plethora of vents

    In general, oceanic hydrothermal vents arise when seawater seeps through cracks in Earth’s crust and mingles with hot rocks beneath the surface; those buried molten rocks heat the saltwater and fuel chemical reactions that erupt in a roiling mass through vents in Earth’s crust. The continual extrusion of mineral-rich, superheated seawater provides the heat and energy needed for some organisms to thrive in these cold, dark depths, including a menagerie of vent-specific gigantic tube worms, foot-long clams, blind shrimp, and extreme microbes.

    For a long time, canonical wisdom had suggested that hydrothermal vent activity could only exist at the fastest spreading mid-ocean ridges—places like the East Pacific Rise, where Earth’s tectonic plates are hustling away from one another at speeds of around seven inches a year. At these bursting planetary seams, the brisk spreading of Earth’s crust means that fresh magma is always available to fuel the vents.

    Over the years, though, German and his colleagues have found vents populating a variety of ridges, including some that languidly go their separate ways. Our most recent target, the Gakkel Ridge, is a volcanic rift bisecting the Arctic Ocean that is spreading at the stultifying rate of less than half an inch a year.

    “Nowhere is precluded from having hydrothermal activity,” German says. “We can dispense with that myth now.”

    Scientists first went prospecting for hydrothermal plumes along the Gakkel Ridge in 2001.

    2
    Main bathymetric features of the Arctic Ocean, taken mainly from Weber 1983 ‘Maps of the Arctic Basin Sea Floor: A History of Bathymetry and its Interpretation’ on a base of a screenshot taken from the Nasa WorldWind software. 2 October 2011

    4
    Gakkel Ridge. U Hawaii

    During that cruise, a layer of murky water detected near the seafloor hinted at vent activity, and a rock-dredge pulled up the remains of an extinct chimney. Both observations could be explained by black smokers, the sort of vents that launch towers of dark, hot plumes into the water.

    During a second cruise in 2014, German and his colleagues returned to Aurora aboard the icebreaker Polarstern. They searched for vents by looking for hydrothermal signatures in the water column and, toward the end of the cruise, they dropped a high-resolution camera into the deep. Just two hours before it was time to head home, the team caught their first glimpse of a small chimney, a fleeting photobomb by a smoking vent that slid into the margins of several frames.

    But the vent signatures written into the freezing sea suggested that something much more massive must lie below. Buoyed by that discovery, this year’s expedition, known by the acronym HACON, aimed to put the Aurora vent field into context. How extensive is the entire system? What kind of chemistry is involved? Can the vent support a deep-sea ecosystem, and if so, what kinds of organisms live there?

    During a second cruise in 2014, German and his colleagues returned to Aurora aboard the icebreaker Polarstern.

    4
    https://www.marinetraffic.com/en/ais/details/ships/shipid:130195/mmsi:211202460/imo:8013132/vessel:POLARSTERN

    They searched for vents by looking for hydrothermal signatures in the water column and, toward the end of the cruise, they dropped a high-resolution camera into the deep. Just two hours before it was time to head home, the team caught their first glimpse of a small chimney, a fleeting photobomb by a smoking vent that slid into the margins of several frames.

    But the vent signatures written into the freezing sea suggested that something much more massive must lie below. Buoyed by that discovery, this year’s expedition, known by the acronym HACON, aimed to put the Aurora vent field into context. How extensive is the entire system? What kind of chemistry is involved? Can the vent support a deep-sea ecosystem, and if so, what kinds of organisms live there?

    And, for the astrobiologists on board, what insights might the site bring in efforts to detect life on ice-covered ocean worlds across the solar system?

    Bad champagne

    Answering these questions presented challenges even before the icebreaker left port. The high-resolution camera that proved so vital to the mission, called the Ocean Floor Observation and Bathymetry System, or OFOBS, was initially mis-bundled with gear destined for a different polar expedition.

    6

    Worse, a deep-diving, remotely operated submersible from Woods Hole called Nereid Under Ice, or NUI, was very nearly lost to the deep.

    7
    Nereid Under Ice [NUI]. (Photo by Chris German, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)
    NUI is a state-of-the-art, $2.5-million submersible roughly the size of a minivan. It can spend half a day underwater before being recharged, can swim more than 25 miles from the ship, and can dive three miles down without imploding, allowing it to work under thick ice cover.

    7
    Nereid Under Ice two-body system deployment from the Polarstern during August 2014 sea trials. The mated-depressor and tow-body are lifted above the vehicle to facilitate a single point lift. (Chris German, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

    The bright orange submersible has an on-board brain that lets it function human-free, yet it can also be remotely piloted, meaning that scientists watching a live feed from its cameras can tell it to pluck specific animals from the deep-sea floor, dunk collecting tubes into particular sediments, and dip specially designed probes straight into the effervescent, sulfuric fluid erupting from a hydrothermal vent. Geochemist Eoghan Reeves of the University of Bergen, who once (accidentally) took a swig of the seafloor libation, and says the bubbly mixture resembles bad champagne: “It smells just terrible, and it tastes exactly like it smells.”

    But two days after arriving at the Aurora seamount, NUI dove and did not come back up. As the sub neared its target depth, its onboard systems blinked off one by one. Engineers tried to coax it to float back up on its own, triggering a fail-safe mechanism that should have released its dive weights and restored buoyancy. Instead of rising, NUI stopped moving, its depth reading becoming a foreboding line that marched across a screen in the ship’s control room.

    “The likelihood that it’s resting on the bottom is pretty high—in which case, game over,” Andy Bowen, director of WHOI’s National Deep Submergence Facility, finally said. Without NUI, even catching a glimpse of the vent meant relying only on OFOBS, the high-resolution camera. But that camera isn’t steerable and could merely be towed along behind the ship, which meant that successfully spotting the undersea plume depended on cooperatively drifting ice or floes thin enough to break.

    “We knew coming out there would be difficult, that we would face challenges, but this is beyond any of our expectations,” said Benedicte Ferre, a physical oceanographer at the University of Tromsø.

    Mordor of the deep

    Fortunately, NUI resurfaced after three days; the fail-safe had simply taken a little longer to work than anticipated. Even better, while NUI was being fixed up, the icy patchwork covering Aurora allowed the ship’s captain to fly the OFOBS camera directly over the Aurora vent site.

    That evening, scientists were clustered around TV screens throughout the ship, anxiously watching the seafloor drift by under the inky twilight. Soon, a layer of nearly black gravel crept into view, carpeting the sticky beige mud that had slid by for hours. Brilliant orange and yellow patches appeared, and the camera began climbing, moving up a stunningly steep, craggy wall.

    8
    NASA scientist Kevin Hand (left), engineer Andrew Klesh, and biologist Dimitri Kalenitchenko of UiT–The Arctic University of Norway investigate the ice cover over the Aurora hydrothermal vent field during the October expedition. The team is interested in whether the ice above the vent holds signatures of the chemistry and biology churning along the seamount far below.
    Photograph by Luis Lamar, Avatar Alliance Foundation

    The 50-foot-tall formation came out of nowhere—pinnacles of volcanic material vomited from beneath the seafloor. The pumice-like sediments grew darker and darker, and then, for a moment, a violently churning cloud tickled the corner of the image, followed by the curving jaw of a giant, toothed crater. As the ship drifted, the cloud expanded into a massive black plume that engulfed the camera and continued billowing upward for nearly half a mile. This smoker was clearly a behemoth that dwarfed the average chimney. Later tows would reveal even more black smokers on the seafloor.

    “Satanic, like the satanic mills of the Industrial Revolution. Mordor,” German said of the giant vent. “We knew there had to be more than what we saw in 2014.”

    Based on the extensive heaps of sulfides and extinct chimneys, the Aurora vents have almost certainly been active for millennia, perhaps seeding the Arctic seafloor with heat and minerals since before humans first arrived in the Americas.

    But exactly how long the site has been erupting is still an open question, as are many of the other mysteries the team set out to solve. Without many samples from the site’s life-forms, for instance, the team doesn’t have the genetic material needed to easily answer several of their pressing questions about how creatures move between ocean basins.

    Silica skeletons

    More puzzling, at least in some ways, is that the Aurora ecosystem appears to be unusually sparse, at least in the images collected from this cruise. Here, there are no obvious tubeworm meadows, sharp beds of mussels, or colorful carpets of anemones. Even microbial mats, although visible in some areas, are conspicuously lean. This vent, it seems, is the realm of small snails and scavenging, shrimp-like crustaceans called amphipods.

    “It’s nothing compared to vents in other oceans, where you have huge amounts of animals,” says Ramirez-Llodra, who adds that “we just have a few images. And they are great images, but we haven’t really surveyed the area in detail.”

    10
    NatGeo

    Ana Hilário, an ecologist from Portugal’s Universidade de Aveiro, was particularly stunned by the absence of Sclerolinum, a type of polychaete worm that’s abundant elsewhere in the deep sea. She and Hans Tore Rapp, a taxonomist from the University of Bergen, suspect that the Arctic seafloor might be sparsely populated primarily because the north polar ocean is still geologically young—roughly 60 million years old—and deep-sea fauna may not have had enough time to find their way into these waters and adapt to the extreme conditions.

    The only organisms that really appear to thrive in the area are two types of glass sponges, creatures named for their filigreed, glassy skeletons. Sometimes measuring more than three feet across, and with lifespans predicted to span centuries, these glass sponges are occasionally said to be barely alive. Perhaps less than five percent of their biomass is organic, and the rest is silica, the same stuff that makes sand and glass. Fortunately, NUI dove to the seafloor after being fixed up and collected some glass sponges from a spot near the vent.

    Rapp suspects that these sponges can thrive in a potentially nutrient-starved, carbon-choked ecosystem precisely because they don’t require much particulate organic carbon. Instead, they’ve adapted to survive on low concentrations of dissolved organic matter and make their skeletons out of more readily accessible building blocks.

    “Silica in the deep is always easily available,” Rapp says. “There’s almost no cost to build skeleton.”

    The observations raise some tantalizing possibilities for what might be lurking in the seas beyond Earth, where sunlight is scarce and the only reliable form of energy might be chemically generated by the heaving innards of an ice-crusted moon.

    Kevin Hand says that a lot of the work he’s doing at NASA involves figuring out what kinds of biosignatures to look for in the icy sheaths cocooning alien seas. That’s one of the reasons he’s studying Aurora’s ice, to figure out if it holds signs of the life-supporting vents that scientists can learn to recognize—on Earth and, perhaps, on other worlds.

    “Using the ice as a window to the ocean below,” he says, “this is relevant to how we actually learn about these oceans that are beyond Earth.”

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The National Geographic Society has been inspiring people to care about the planet since 1888. It is one of the largest nonprofit scientific and educational institutions in the world. Its interests include geography, archaeology and natural science, and the promotion of environmental and historical conservation.

    Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute

    Vision & Mission

    The ocean is a defining feature of our planet and crucial to life on Earth, yet it remains one of the planet’s last unexplored frontiers. For this reason, WHOI scientists and engineers are committed to understanding all facets of the ocean as well as its complex connections with Earth’s atmosphere, land, ice, seafloor, and life—including humanity. This is essential not only to advance knowledge about our planet, but also to ensure society’s long-term welfare and to help guide human stewardship of the environment. WHOI researchers are also dedicated to training future generations of ocean science leaders, to providing unbiased information that informs public policy and decision-making, and to expanding public awareness about the importance of the global ocean and its resources.
    Mission Statement

    The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is dedicated to advancing knowledge of the ocean and its connection with the Earth system through a sustained commitment to excellence in science, engineering, and education, and to the application of this knowledge to problems facing society.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:49 am on November 14, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Searching for the limits of life", , , Taylor Heyl, , Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution   

    From Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution: Women in STEM “Searching for the limits of life” Taylor Heyl 

    From Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

    October 23, 2019
    Evan Lubofsky

    1
    WHOI deep-sea biologist Taylor Heyl (in foreground) explores Lydonia Canyon in the OceanX submersible NADIR during a dive in the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument. (Photo by Luis Lamar for National Geographic)

    Taylor Heyl is a deep-sea research scientist in the biology department at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. She has been on over 20 oceanographic expeditions to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, Gulf of Alaska, Gulf of Mexico and Antarctica. She explores the extreme and unknown environments of the ocean’s hadal zone—the deepest region of the ocean extending down to 11,000 meters (36,000 feet)—to investigate the ecological processes associated with these habitats in the deep sea.

    How did you become interested in ocean science?

    As a child I always lived by the ocean, in Costa Rica, Haiti, and in many different locations along the coastal shoreline of New England. I always imagined myself an ocean explorer. I began by snorkeling off islands but continually found myself farther and farther from the surface, turning back from the deeper, darker waters when my eardrums could no longer stand the pressure. I became scuba certified at the Virgin Island Environmental Research Station (VIERS) on St. John, but was frustrated when limits were placed on the depths I could dive and the time I could spend at deeper depths. In college, while recovering hagfish traps in the Gulf of Maine for a senior thesis project, I became increasingly curious about what lay beyond the continental shelf, into the deepest depths of the ocean. From there, I knew my career would involve deep sea exploration and trying to understand the connection between animals and their extreme environments.

    Why do you study the ocean?

    Marine science has been the portal through which I have explored the world, both above and below the surface of the ocean. The curiosity and desire to find out what exists below the limits of human tolerance is something that inspires and drives me to investigate the deep sea. In graduate school I investigated the interaction between deep-sea clams and cold seep environments dominated by methane and sulfides; chemicals that are toxic to humans but a food source for animals in the deep. I am now interested in the effects of global climate change and shifting methane signals on biological communities at cold seeps in the Arctic.

    2
    Heyl mounts an underwater camera to Orpheus, WHOI’s newest vehicle for exploring the deepest parts of the ocean known as the hadal zone. (Photo by Evan Lubofsky, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

    Why WHOI?

    When I was 9 years old, my father, then a Lieutenant-Commander in the Coast Guard, was bringing International Naval Officers from the Naval War College for an Informational Program visit to WHOI. He brought me along as an aspiring scientist. I listened to a presentation on seafloor mapping using mathematical models and saw others working in the deep sea with Alvin. That’s when I knew I wanted to explore and do research like that at WHOI.

    What is the most surprising discovery you’ve made while here?

    It was surprising to discover new hydrothermal vent sites during a research expedition to the Galapagos Rift in 2005. Using the ROV Jason, we imaged and characterized new biological communities and witnessed new seafloor being formed. Most recently, it has been exciting to be a part of the institution’s HADEX program, dedicated to investigating the hadal zone of the ocean which extends down to 36,000 feet at its deepest point. I have enjoyed being a part of the verification cruises to test our latest hadal autonomous underwater vehicle, Orpheus, and to realize that we are embarking on a new era of discoveries and understanding within the deepest parts of our ocean.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute

    Vision & Mission

    The ocean is a defining feature of our planet and crucial to life on Earth, yet it remains one of the planet’s last unexplored frontiers. For this reason, WHOI scientists and engineers are committed to understanding all facets of the ocean as well as its complex connections with Earth’s atmosphere, land, ice, seafloor, and life—including humanity. This is essential not only to advance knowledge about our planet, but also to ensure society’s long-term welfare and to help guide human stewardship of the environment. WHOI researchers are also dedicated to training future generations of ocean science leaders, to providing unbiased information that informs public policy and decision-making, and to expanding public awareness about the importance of the global ocean and its resources.
    Mission Statement

    The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is dedicated to advancing knowledge of the ocean and its connection with the Earth system through a sustained commitment to excellence in science, engineering, and education, and to the application of this knowledge to problems facing society.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:18 am on October 25, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Flight of the underwater falcon", , , , ROV Seaeye Falcon, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution   

    From Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution: “Flight of the underwater falcon” 

    From Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

    October 23, 2019
    Daniel Hentz

    How a remotely operated vehicle made by Saab is lending a watchful eye to scientific mooring operations.

    1
    WHOI Engineer Jared Schwartz pilots the remotely operated vehicle, Seaeye Falcon to investigate an unrecovered mooring anchor. (Photo by Daniel Hentz, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

    After another successful reconnaissance dive this month, one of the smallest remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) at WHOI may be a turnkey monitoring and recovery service for the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) and its scientific moorings.

    On Oct. 2, while performing routine mooring operations, members of the Ocean Observatories Initiative saw an opportunity to exercise one of WHOI’s newest ROV’s, the Seaeye Falcon. WHOI Engineer Jared Schwartz, who piloted the vehicle in search of an unrecovered mooring anchor, said the success of the mission validated the continued use of the vehicle as part of a more permanent in situ monitoring service for OOI.

    “One of the objectives of OOI is that we like to recover everything we put in the water,” said Schwartz. “Having that ROV on-hand allows us to maintain that objective.”

    The vehicle was created by Saab, a Swedish company best known for its car manufacturing. But according to representative Chris Roper, products like the ROV are really more on brand for the company than one might think.

    “Saab was originally a manufacturer of aircraft and other at-sea equipment, including remotely operated vehicles and torpedoes,” said Roper. “After World War II there were a lot of aerospace engineers, but not a lot to do, so they built cars.”

    After General Motors sold the company in 2010, Saab acquired a thruster manufacturer called Seaeye, with whom it would work to repurpose a 30-year old design, now known as the Falcon. The National Science Foundation (NSF), which funds the OOI program, green-lighted the purchase in early 2018.

    2
    Senior Engineer Jeffrey Pietro (left) and Second Engineer Jared Schwartz (right) pose with the Saab Seaeye Falcon after it successfully located an unrecovered mooring anchor (Photo by Daniel Hentz | Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

    The vehicle itself resembles a mid-size backup generator in scale. At just 200 lbs, the Seaeye is one of the nimblest ROVs at WHOI, said Schwartz. It is an eighth the size of Jason, a founding member of WHOI’s ROV team, and more than eleven times lighter than the next smallest option, the Kraken2, which has traditionally been loaned to WHOI by the University of Connecticut for recovery operations.

    That compactness may save at-sea crew the time and money necessary to set aside deck space, along with the number of personnel needed to deploy and recover the vehicle. For Schwartz, it’s also a viable alternative to find and survey items beyond diver depth (more than 250 feet) without having to do the cumbersome work of lugging, hoisting, and maneuvering larger models.

    “To rent this vehicle would take away the possibility of pushing divers to certain depths – the possibilities of risk to human life,” added Schwartz, who has been diving to monitor and retrieve instruments at the Martha’s Vineyard Coastal Observatory.

    As its name suggests, the Seaeye provides a live view of the mission streamed from more than three cameras that send video through an umbilical cord patching directly to the pilot’s topside monitors.

    Schwartz, along with Engineer Jeff Pietro, managed to assemble the vehicle’s portable mission control lab in less than an hour aboard R/V Neil Armstrong. But practice makes perfect.

    Last spring, Schwartz’s colleague Rob Morris tested the Seaeye on its first successful anchor recovery while performing routine mooring operations with OOI, 60 miles due south of Cape Cod. There, the vehicle retrieved a stuck mooring anchor by tying it to a line connected to the boat winch at the surface.

    During another field test off the coast of Oregon, unfavorable weather battered Schwartz’s boat, the R/V Elakha owned by Oregon State University. There, it became evident then that the vehicle’s portability also meant its susceptibility to strong current – something Schwartz has since learned to factor in to planning deployments.

    This time around, the team descended more than 1,500 feet, assisted by a commonly-employed suite of ship-based echo sounders to verify the ROV’s exact position. Glider pilot, Diana Wickman, along with marine technician Collin Dobson honed in on the sonar screen, periodically radioing the bridge and deck winch for slack as needed.

    4
    The OOI mooring anchor sits in roughly 1300 feet of water, where a number of crabs and fish amble around looking for food. (Photo by Daniel Hentz, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

    5
    An image of the anchor’s recovery pack taken by the Seaeeye Falcon. Typically, this spool is meant to stream a retrieval line to the surface. The image here confirmed the science crew’s suspicion that it snagged on ascent. (Photo courtesy of Collin Dobson, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution).

    Unlike other vessels, the Neil Armstrong’s stabilization features (known as dynamic positioning), allow the Seaeye to dive with greater precision relative to its target. So precise, in fact, that Chief Mate Logan Johnsen was able to move the 238-foot-vessel as little as a meter in any direction.

    “Because of the Armstrong’s positioning system, we can have the vehicle descend at a safe distance from the mooring and slowly inch our way towards the [target] to get a visual on it,” noted Schwartz. “With vessels like the Elakha, we would have to pick up the anchor and recover the vehicle just to move closer.”

    On Oct. 2, it took Seaeye just two hours to detect its target through the loom of carbon detritus hailing from above. A live video feed confirmed suspicions that the anchor’s buoyant recovery pack had indeed become entangled, never reaching the surface.

    “It greatly enhances shipboard operations by eliminating guesswork about OOI components that are in hundreds of feet of water, out of reach of conventional diving,” said Paul Matthias, WHOI’s OOI senior program manager.

    For Matthias, the Seaeye’s other draw is its customizability, which allows engineers at the department of Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering (AOP&E) to seamlessly install numerous configurations of manipulators, cameras, and lights to suit their mission objectives.

    “One of the possibilities is to use the ROV to do a kind of cleaning service for some of the instruments that are impacted by biofouling over weeks or months, perhaps with the attachment of some kind of brush,” added Matthias. “If it works well, it may allow us to extend the deployment intervals and reduce program cost.”

    In addition to finessing the accuracy of Seaeye’s onboard sonar transducers, Schwartz has been working to employ a live-streaming system developed by Engineer Rachel Simon and the director of the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island, Dwight Coleman.

    With mobile telecommunications, Schwartz hopes to one day have regular ROV operations live-streaming to WHOI’s Laboratory for Ocean Sensors and Observing Systems (LOSOS), a place frequented by donors and tour groups.

    “I feel like this is our biggest advertisement opportunity,” said Schwartz. “You know, what we do out here is kind of [incredible] and people should know about it.”

    See the full article here .

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    Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute

    Vision & Mission

    The ocean is a defining feature of our planet and crucial to life on Earth, yet it remains one of the planet’s last unexplored frontiers. For this reason, WHOI scientists and engineers are committed to understanding all facets of the ocean as well as its complex connections with Earth’s atmosphere, land, ice, seafloor, and life—including humanity. This is essential not only to advance knowledge about our planet, but also to ensure society’s long-term welfare and to help guide human stewardship of the environment. WHOI researchers are also dedicated to training future generations of ocean science leaders, to providing unbiased information that informs public policy and decision-making, and to expanding public awareness about the importance of the global ocean and its resources.
    Mission Statement

    The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is dedicated to advancing knowledge of the ocean and its connection with the Earth system through a sustained commitment to excellence in science, engineering, and education, and to the application of this knowledge to problems facing society.

     
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