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248 Hours, 26 Scientists, 4 Teams, 1 Goal

posted Jun 28, 2012, 10:50 AM by Shannon Bresnahan   [ updated Jun 28, 2012, 11:16 AM ]

We have 248 hours at sea, 26 scientists, 4 teams, and a 279 foot ship. That doesn’t include all the hours we’ve put in to prepare for this expedition either. Every detail has to be well planned and this leaves me with a packing list of 346 items from sieves to bottles to gloves to chocolate and coffee. The last two are particularly critical to keep the science crew happy.

Photo: R/V Melville in port at Scripps' 
Nimitz Marine Facility in Point Loma, Calif.

During our 248-hour cruise we will be busy: 24-hour operations. All this work towards one goal - to better understand San Diego’s local coastal waters in relation to climate change issues. Take a look at our About the Science tab. We will be exploring for evidence of methane seeps with geophysical-based tools. Promising targets will be further explored with Scripps’ new remotely operated vehicle (ROV). The ROV serves as our eyes to depths beyond SCUBA limits. It allows us to take a hike and explore the unseen. Additional ROV deployments will investigate how organisms distribute themselves in relation to key environmental parameters such as temperature, salinity, oxygen and pH. 

Oxygen and pH are of key interest because these parameters are changing with anthropogenic-influenced climate change. Oxygen is critical to life, and in the southern California Bight low oxygen at depth has been shoaling over the past two decades. For animals with sensitive oxygen thresholds, will they be limited to life in shallower and shallower waters if this trend continues? pH of the ocean is decreasing with increased atmospheric carbon dioxide, but we have limited knowledge of how this will affect San Diego’s local ocean ecosystem. This cruise is an attempt to fill in this knowledge gap. Our marine chemists will be characterizing the oxygen and pH environment of San Diego’s waters from Del Mar to Point Loma. We will also be sampling seafloor sediment where oxygen and pH are at their lowest. There are two main goals with the sediment work: to look for bacteria that produce small molecules that are active in anti-cancer and antibiotic screens, and to characterize the community responses of protists and multicellular animals to these strong gradients in oxygen and pH.    

So, yes, we will be very busy. Our daily blog will be written by the Ph.D. students who have been actively involved with making this cruise a success. We are also taking along three undergraduate students participating as Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows (SURF) in the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at Scripps. This is a rare opportunity for them, and they will also be sharing their impressions at the Undergrad View tab. Any day at sea is invaluable for early-career oceanographers, and leading the cruise is an unequivocal opportunity. 

With thanks to UC Ship Funds for providing us with the ship time, we hope you’ll follow along with us as we share our experiences. Our hope is that this website will serve as an educational tool for those not with us and curious about what is we do and why we dedicate so many hours doing it.

- Christina Frieder, Chief Scientist