A diverse research team aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter (USCGS) Healy conducted sampling along a series of transects over the eastern Bering Sea. Research on the ship was multidisciplinary, with scientists using a variety of techniques to document ocean conditions and the productivity of the Bering Sea ecosystem. Researchers measured the temperature, salinity, and nutrient content of the sea water and the concentration of nutrients used and released by phytoplankton. They also conducted surveys of zooplankton, fish, seabirds, and marine mammals such as walruses and seals to assess the health of these populations.
These measurements helped give scientists an indication of the status of the Bering Sea ecosystem and any changes that might affect the use of its resources, and the economic, social, and cultural sustainability of the people who depend on it. This was the third 2009 cruise in support of the Bering Sea Ecosystem Study (BEST) and the Bering Sea Integrated Ecosystem Research Program (BSIERP).
The team traveled aboard the R/V Knorr, a U.S. Navy vessel operated by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in 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, a small community in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. The R/V Knorr is best known as the ship that supported a team of researchers in 1985 as they discovered the wreck of the RMS Titanic.
Mark McKay currently teaches marine science, biology, AP environmental science, GIS, and forensics in a science and technology charter school he helped found two years ago. Prior to this challenge, he developed analytical instrumentation used in energy production and coordinated a grant providing science teacher training in rural and small school districts. Mr. McKay’s students are heavily involved in competitions and field research projects in the Gulf of Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and the Mokelumne River watershed, replacing invasive plant species with native plants and working to restore the river in order to increase salmon runs. In his spare time, Mr. McKay teaches other teachers and administrators, breeds tropical fish, scuba dives, competes in martial arts, and is completing a second masters degree. Mr. McKay feels he has the greatest job in the world, because he does real science with students who are interested and engaged, and he is looking forward to bringing more authentic science and oceanography to his students from his PolarTREC expedition.
Raymond Sambrotto is the chief scientist on this Bering Sea Ecosystem Study cruise and studies marine plankton ecology and global nutrient cycles. Dr. Sambrotto has worked from small boats in the Caribbean to major oceanographic programs in the Arabian Sea. He has worked extensively at both poles using icebreakers and submarines to traverse these difficult environments. An important part of Dr. Sambrotto’s research is determining how marine populations will fare under changed climate conditions and how these changes will affect the larger global environment.