A diverse research team aboard the icebreaker, U.S. Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) Healy conducted sampling along a series of transects over the eastern Bering Sea. Research on the ship is multidisciplinary, and was part of the Bering Ecosystem Study. The scientists on board used a variety of techniques to measure the productivity of the Bering Sea ecosystem. Measurements included temperature, salinity, nutrient content of the sea water, changes in sea ice cover, and the concentration of nutrients used and released by phytoplankton. They also conducted surveys of zooplankton, fish, seabirds, and marine mammals such as walrus and seal, to assess the health of these populations. These measurements helped give scientists an indication of the status of the Bering Sea ecosystem and any potential changes occurring in the marine environment that might change the continued use of its resources, and the economic, social and cultural sustainability of the people who depend on it.
The team traveled on the USCGC Healy to the Bering Sea. The Bering Sea lies to the west of Alaska and to the east of Russia. The team departed from and returned to the port of Dutch Harbor, Alaska, the most productive fishing port in the United States.
Emily Davenport, a first year graduate student in the Environmental Science Department at Western Washington University, also participated in the research cruise to conduct her thesis research on benthic communities, nutrient cycling, and climate change. At the time, she was a participant in a program funded by the National Science Foundation that places graduate students around the country in middle school science classrooms to improve science education. Ms. Davenport worked with sixth grade students at Nooksack Valley Middle School in Everson, WA and utilized the PolarTREC Virtual Base Camp to interact with students while on the cruise.
David Shull, an Assistant Professor at Western Washington University, studies invertebrate communities in estuaries and continental shelf sediments. He is particularly interested in the roles that benthic organisms play in the function of coastal ecosystems.