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Ocean Research


September 2016 Issue

Effect of Ice Decline,
Algae on Arctic Ecosystem

Algae that live in and under the sea ice play a much greater role for the Arctic food web than previously assumed. In a new study, biologists of the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) showed that not only animals that live directly under the ice thrive on carbon produced by ice algae; even species that mostly live at greater depth depend to a large extent on carbon from these algae. This also means that the decline of the Arctic sea ice may have far-reaching consequences for the entire food web of the Arctic Ocean.

The new study looks at the flow of ice algae carbon through the summer food web in the central Arctic using specific figures that can inform model calculations to assess the consequences of sea ice decline for the Arctic.

STEM Summer Academy
Inspires Students

The U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) sponsors the STEM Summer Academy, where grade school students can get an idea of what a STEM career would be like.

This summer, 96 students from middle schools in Virginia developed their teamwork and problem-solving skills in math and science as they partnered with a teacher and an NSWCDD scientist or engineer. The teams competed in 10 robotics challenges; built water rockets and determined the optimal fuel load to maximize height; constructed towers from balsa wood and briefed an audience on the tower design; and maximized the cargo carrying capacity of boats they built out of aluminum foil and straws.

The STEM Summer Academy could eventually expand into a national demonstration project encompassing all Department of Defense labs.

Studying Fish Kill-Causing
Algae in Florida

Hundreds of thousands of fish floated belly-up in the Indian River Lagoon in April, one of the worst fish kills ever on Florida’s East Coast, caused by pollutants increasing the growth of algae and blocking out light. With less light, there’s less photosynthesis, causing oxygen depletion that harms corals, fish and other marine life.

Students in the Indian River State College Photonics/Robotics Institute are helping to shed some light on the issue through a NOAA-funded U.S. Department of Energy project being conducted by FAU Harbor Branch’s Ocean Visibility and Optics Laboratory that uses rapidly scanned short pulses of light to detect and classify fish, turtles and marine mammals. They are building instruments, conducting test tank and at-sea tests, and will be piloting oceanographic gliders for surveillance of marine life.

Research on Horseshoe
Crabs in Delaware Bay

During the full and new moons in May and June, thousands of horseshoe crabs line Delaware Bay beaches to spawn along the shoreline. Horseshoe crabs date back 445 million years, and the Delaware Bay has the world’s largest spawning population of horseshoe crabs. They play a key role in the preservation of the bay’s ecosystem and are an important food source for marine animals and shorebirds.

This summer, three University of Delaware students are conducting research on these “living fossils” related to bacteria and DNA, the effects of sunscreen pollution on the horseshoe crab population, and the effects of ocean acidification.

OSIL Multi Corer

Ocean Scientific International Ltd. (OSIL) has built and equipped a 12-station Multi Corer system for the National Taiwan Ocean University (NTOU).

The hydrostatically damped Multi Corer can collect up to 12 high-quality, undisturbed 600-mm-long samples (including the overlying supernatant water). The corer is constructed from stainless steel and features detachable core assemblies, which enables the core tubes or entire core tube assembly to be detached from the corer for analysis or storage.

Survey of Sunken
WWI British Ship

A secret mission to persuade Tsar Nicholas II of Russia to stay in WWI failed when Britain’s Secretary of State for War Lord Kitchener and over 700 sailors died in the sinking of the warship HMS Hampshire after it hit a mine off the Orkney Isles.

One hundred years later, a Saab Seaeye Falcon underwater robotic system operated by Roving Eye Enterprises examined the wreck in a collaborative project that includes the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute, with permission from the Ministry of Defence. This is the first extensive mapping of the wreck site.

The Falcon was deployed with its low-light camera and a Nexus advanced ultrashort baseline position and tracking system provided and operated by Triscom Marine.

The survey confirmed previous findings that the ship capsized and sank following an explosion between the bow and the bridge, and lies upturned on the seabed at approximately 60-m depth. The hull is also damaged in places throughout the length of the vessel, exposing parts of the interior. MK VII guns from the ship’s secondary armament were identified up to 30 m from the main body of the wreck.

Understanding Arctic
Marine Ecosystems

University of Alaska Fairbanks researchers have received $2.2 million to study Arctic marine ecosystems in the spring while on board the RV Sikuliaq to better understand the processes that prime oceans for summer productivity and better anticipate changes resulting from declining ice cover.

Under study will be oceanography and food web dynamics in the northern Bering Sea and southern Chukchi Sea through the North Pacific Research Board’s Arctic Integrated Ecosystem Research Program. The researchers will measure growth rates, oxygen consumption rates, productivity rates, sinking rates of particles, and how quickly currents affect the flow of water and materials from south to north


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Sea Technology is read worldwide in more than 110 countries by management, engineers, scientists and technical personnel working in industry, government and educational research institutions. Readers are involved with oceanographic research, fisheries management, offshore oil and gas exploration and production, undersea defense including antisubmarine warfare, ocean mining and commercial diving.