Bering Sea Ecosystem
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Zooplankton Head Count

When Alexei Pinchuk started studying at the Zoological Institute in Saint Petersburg—“Back then, it was Leningrad”—he had to pick a kind of animal to focus on. “I said, copepods sound like fun.” Copepods are teeny crustaceans that float around eating algae and being eaten in turn by bigger animals. With time, Pinchuk learned to identify all kinds of copepods. “It is fun,” he says, to figure out exactly what animal you have under your microscope—it just takes time.

Now he’s using his knowledge of copepods and other zooplankton to help understand the Bering Sea ecosystem, the overall goal of the project this cruise is part of. He’s using two special kinds of nets to measure the zooplankton that live in the Bering Sea. This will go into big computer models of the ecosystem that are being developed with all of the data from this and other cruises.

As we travel around in open water, Pinchuk is finally getting to use a heavy piece of equipment that’s been strapped to the deck for the whole cruise: the MOCNESS. MOCNESS stands for Multiple Opening/Closing Net and Environmental Sensing System. That mouthful of a name means it’s a set of nets, all on one frame, that can open and shut to collect plankton at different depths.

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