Bering Sea Ecosystem
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Lions and Ciliates and Dinoflagellates, Oh My!

Big, flashy animals like seals, albatrosses, and Homo sapiens are all part of the Bering Sea ecosystem. But understanding that ecosystem means looking at critters of all sizes, even the ones you need a microscope to see. The tiniest eaters are grazers like dinoflagellates and ciliates. They’re single-celled animals known as protists. They are more or less the same size as their food source, diatoms and other phytoplankton, but have a variety of clever strategies for eating them.

Evelyn Sherr, a biological oceanographer at Oregon State University, didn’t come on this cruise, but she sent two technicians to run experiments and take samples on the ship: Julie Arrington and Celia Ross. Arrington is a veteran of polar cruises, while Ross’s first research cruise ever was last year at this time on Healy.

The idea of their research is to figure out how fast two different groups of organisms grow: grazing protists and their food, single-celled phytoplankton. These growth rates will help scientists put together a picture of the whole ecosystem.

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