Ecosystem Study of the Chukchi Shoal

What Are They Doing?

Raising a Conductivity, Temperature and Depth (CTD) sensorRaising a Conductivity, Temperature and Depth (CTD) sensor The northern Chukchi Shelf receives large inputs of organic matter from the highly productive shelf regions of the North Pacific and from local sources of primary production, including algae in the ice and sediment and phytoplankton in the water column. As a result, highly productive biological "hotspots" have been documented in the vicinity of Hanna Shoal. Because of the biological significance of this region and its importance for oil and gas exploration and development, the team planned a multi-disciplinary investigation to examine the biological, chemical, and physical properties that define this ecosystem.

Previous work in the area has profiled the biogeochemistry of the northern Chuckhi Sea, but this study focused more particularly on the Hanna Shoal region, looking at phytoplankton and zooplankton in the open ocean as well as the physical oceanography through direct measurement of circulation, density fields, and ice conditions.

Where Are They?

The Healy icebreaker crosses the Chukchi SeaThe Healy icebreaker crosses the Chukchi Sea The team lived and worked from the United States Coast Guard Icebreaker Healy. The USCGC Healy is a research vessel designed to conduct a wide range of research activities and can break through 4 ½ feet of ice continuously. The team traveled to the Hanna Shoal, northwest of Barrow, Alaska in the Chukchi Sea, which may be a sensitive ecological system close to areas planned to be exploited for oil and gas exploration.

Expedition Map


Screen shot of video title Arctic Beaches
Hello everyone, Beaches are fun to visit no matter where you are in the world, including the Arctic. So I hit the Barrow beach with oceanographer Dr. Kathleen Fischer to see what we could learn. Barrow's beach is very different from the tan colored, sandy beaches I am use to back home. The beach here is mostly gravel. Grains of sediment are classified based on there size, shape, and sorting. The smallest size is clay which are particles smaller than 1/256 mm. As you move up in size, the sediment changes to silt which is smaller than 1/16th mm but larger than clay, then comes sand which...
Arctic – Homebound- Was I just in the Arctic on Saturday and now I am at home on the couch with the family and dog? Traveling by air can make the sense of time and place surreal. I can imagine that before air travel, people had a connection to the land and changes in the landscape as they traveled by foot. horse, or carriage. Traveling by air at night, I was not aware of the changes in landscape from the mountains and glaciers of the west coast, plains of the mid-west to the wetlands of the east coast. Honestly, I could have seen the mid-west and east coast, but my eyelids were heavy. Trip...
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Gravity Cores by Dr Lee Cooper Dr. Lee Cooper The gravity core is an instrument shaped like a missile. It is designed to forcibly enter a meter or more into the sediments. We are primarily using it to collect long, small diameter cores that are suitable for measuring sedimentation rates. Gravity core entering water Sedimentation rates are the rate at which sediments are deposited to the sea floor. We use units like millimeters (of sediment) per year. So how does this work? Radioactive isotopes that are in the sediments can provide clues. For example lead-210 is a natural radioactive...
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Zooplankton Project by Dr. Ashjian- Dr. Carin Ashjian, scientist at Woods Hole Institute of Oceanography, at her microscope Zooplankton are small animals that live in the water and that swim so slowly that they cannot swim against the ocean currents. Zooplankton are important members of the ocean food web as they consume the very small phytoplankton (plants) that grow in the water and in turn are eaten by larger animals such as fish, jellyfish, sea birds, and even the massive bowhead whales. In the Chukchi Sea, the zooplankton usually cannot eat all of the phytoplankton so that the...
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Coring the bottom- Let’s see if you can shout “Haps” after reading this journal. The Haps Corer is the instrument used by teams studying the bottom of the Chukchi Sea. Simply, it is a tube that is forced into the bottom and removes a cylinder of sediment, which is called a core. On Team Benthos, we use 2 different types of Haps Corer, a single and a 4-cylinder multi corer. Cores of the bottom can be used for a many experiments including: - what types of organisms live in the sediment and where in the sediment - how many of each organism are living in the sediments - if micro algae are...

Expedition Resources

Project Information

3 August 2012 to 25 August 2012
Location: USCGC Healy, Hanna Shoal, northwest of Barrow, Alaska on the Chukchi Sea
Project Funded Title: Chukchi Sea Offshore Monitoring in Drilling Area (COMIDA) Hanna Shoal Ecosystem Study

Meet the Team

Deanna Wheeler's picture
J. C. Parks Elementary School
Indian Head, MD
United States

Passionate about land and water, Deanna Wheeler is inspired to make sure that "no child is left inside". Hands on, real science is her priority. From hatching, raising, and releasing yellow perch and horseshoe crabs to participating in a pilot sturgeon project, her students discover how connected they are to the world around them. Ms. Wheeler's love of learning and the outdoors meld together in her professional and personal life. She is dedicated as a teacher and as a citizen to better understand and protect the environment for positive impacts on individuals, the community, and the health of our environment. Ms. Wheeler cherishes time spent with her family, exploring, camping, kayaking, reading, and just having fun.

Lee Cooper's picture
University of Maryland
Solomons, MD
United States

Lee Cooper is a research scientist with the State University System of Maryland, and has been working in the Arctic for approximately 30 years on interdisciplinary research problems. He is interested in high latitude oceanography, but has also worked on land, and in freshwater systems. His research specialty is biogeochemistry and he presently studies biological changes in the northern Bering Sea. He is committed to public service in support of improving arctic research through service on committees, organizing workshops, and teaching and public outreach responsibilities through the University of Maryland. Read more about Lee Cooper here []