Bering Sea Ecosystem
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Of Copepods and Cows

As we wind back and forth across the Bering Sea, we’re making a lot of stops. Several times a day, the ship stops to put a CTD over the side and measure the water’s temperature and salinity. A few other instruments might go out to count zooplankton, or to pull up some mud from the bottom. The big idea is to put all of these pictures together with observations from other cruises to make one big, giant, throbbing, working, beautiful model of the Bering Sea ecosystem.

But just those numbers aren’t enough. To put everything together, the scientists need another kind of station: the process station. Every other day or so, we hunker down for a while so scientists can start experiments to figure out the arrows that link up different parts of the ecosystem. Who’s eating what? How fast are they eating it? Do krill like to eat ice algae? And so on.

The zooplankton team is tackling these questions for one section of the food web: the tiny animals that float in the sea. “The ultimate goal here is to try to understand how much they can eat,” says biological oceanographer Carin Ashjian, from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. “It’s like cows grazing down on a pasture. Can the zooplankton eat all the plant material that is produced?”

Read on about our adventure in the slideshow below. Can't see the slideshow? Get the Flash plug in »

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