SEA 2014: Science by the numbers (August 8)

A six-week expedition with Sea Education Association (SEA) to the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) is nearing completion. This will mark the first-ever oceanographic cruise to PIPA, and is a historic collaboration between SEA, the New England Aquarium, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Republic of Kiribati. The objectives of this mission include the high-quality education of 13 students in both science and policy aspects of PIPA as well as scientific goals, which will be detailed in the coming weeks and months here on this blog.

This is a cross post from the SEA Expedition Blog.

August 8, 2014

Hyperiid amphipods galore from one of our neuston nets! | Photo: Matt Hirsch

Well here we are motor sailing along on a port tack as the full moon is off our port beam and we are making our final days’ approach to American Samoa. It’s been a full 5 and a half weeks of sailing and there has been much accomplished on this voyage thus far, and still much more to come even in these last few days!

Today we did one of my favorite deployments to conclude our sampling schedule on S254: the styrocast. For those who are not familiar with a styrocast, it is when each person has the opportunity to decorate a Styrofoam cup with markers, which then gets sent down with our free CTD
(conductivity-temperature-depth sensor) to a great depth at which it gets crushed by the pressure of thousands of meters of water into a wee-sized cup. Today’s styrocast had a grand total of 2014 meters of wire out on our hydrowinch, which got me thinking about some of the other science-by-the-numbers this trip.

We have done 51 stations that included wire time for our hydrocast, MOCNESS and meter nets. For all of that wire time, we paid out a total of 44,483 meters of wire, or 24 nautical miles for you deck folk out there! When we hauled all of that wire back and took a look at the critters we caught in the nets, all told we counted 8871 individual organisms in our zooplankton 100-counts. From the neuston tows, we counted 1962 copepods, 453 ostracods, 188 hyperiid amphipods (100 of those from a single tow!), and 1 zoea, or crab larva. The MOCNESS nets yielded 2727 copepods and 874 ostracods by comparison, and the meter nets 391 copepods. Our open ocean depths per the CHIRP bottom sounder ranged from our deepest depth of about 6170 meters, to our shallowest around 30 meters when we were anchored on Winslow Reef.

All of this science is coming to an exciting conclusion as students are working hard at crunching these numbers, and others, to create their final reports. Others are working on management plans to help inform policy decisions about PIPA and other Marine Protected Areas like it. The atmosphere on board is busy, but all are keeping high spirits and doing well both in science and on deck as Junior Watch Officers. The professional crew—scientists and others alike—are looking forward to hearing reports on
student projects in the coming days to see how all of the hard work has paid off. I for one am excited for the final days’ activities—be it reports, final swizzle, or even just going aloft that one last time- before we set our sights on American Samoa.

With that, I’ll leave you with a daily joke, as is tradition aboard the Robert C Seamans:

Q: What did the Pacific Ocean say to the Atlantic Ocean?
A: Nothing, it just waved.

Good night everyone back on land! We will all be in touch with you shortly to tell you about all of our amazing adventures!

Signing off,
Chrissy Dykeman, A Watch Scientist and Bad Joke Enthusiast
Position: 11° 16.0’S x 170° 53.4’W

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