The Bottom of the Food Web
Something has been missing from the water so far on this cruise: life. Yes, we’ve seen walruses swimming about and ice algae growing under the ice. But as we go along, a sensor near the main lab is constantly measuring chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is a pigment plants and algae use for photosynthesis, and looking at chlorophyll levels gives you an idea of how much photosynthesis is going on out there. Everywhere we’ve gone so far, the chlorophyll level has been close to zero.
“Ice algae are nice, and they’re really cool and all, but the carbon production rates have been low,” says biological oceanographer Mike Lomas, from the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences. “It’s always more exciting when there’s more phytoplankton in the water.” Lomas is studying how fast phytoplankton – they’re like tiny plants that float in the sea – turn carbon into new cells. His work is part of understanding how energy moves through the Bering Sea food web.
Read on about our adventure in the slideshow below. Can't see the slideshow? Get the Flash plug in »