Sea Ice Blooms in the Far North

Tiny plants beneath northern sea ice feed all marine life. But warming temperatures and shrinking ice cover are changing the timing of spring phytoplankton blooms and causing some species to thrive while others decline. Aboard the R/V Oscar Dyson, scientists will study this spring’s sea-ice retreat and phytoplankton bloom in the Bering Sea off Alaska. Follow Lamont plankton ecologist Beth Stauffer as she blogs from the field.


Location: Bering Sea, off Kodiak, Alaska
Team: Beth Stauffer, Kali McKee
Purpose: Arctic Sea Ice and Plankton Research
Start Date: April 26, 2012 to May 9, 2012

The End of the Line

Posted By: Beth Stauffer on May 22, 2012
A juvenile Bald Eagle that greeted us at the dock in Dutch Harbor (B. Stauffer)The R/V Oscar Dyson pulled into Dutch Harbor, Alaska on May 9 after a hectic few final days! We are now starting to sift through the hundreds of samples and a hard-drive worth of data we shipped back, unpacking our eleven boxes of gear, and re-packing perhaps even more for an upcoming cruise off the coast of Brazil. Thanks to everyone who helped make our cruise aboard the R/V Oscar Dyson such a success!

On the Move

Posted By: Beth Stauffer on May 07, 2012
Mooring operations on a sunnier day in the cruise. Scott McKeever (left), Bill Floering (center), and Oscar Dyson lead fisherman Patrick Kriegh manipulate a line cable with an attached float and instrument into the water.After another day spent hiding out in the Aleutian Islands, we are headed northeast towards the sea ice to attempt recovery of two oceanographic moorings. The weather is improved, only a couple of days remain for scientific study, and we are excited to hopefully accomplish one of the main goals of this cruise!

Calmer Seas Ahead

Posted By: Beth Stauffer on May 04, 2012
Another Bongo net hitch-hiker: a baby octopus as seen through the microscope. (B. Stauffer)After a short break due to weather and a bit of fun with Styrofoam cups, we are back in the lab sampling phytoplankton in the Bering Sea. We are using a specialized instrument to determine how well these small plant-like creatures are able to photosynthesize in the ocean, and we continue to learn fun facts about fish larvae from our colleagues.

Exploring the Bering Sea Ecosystem

Posted By: Beth Stauffer on May 03, 2012
Sea Otters (photo: S. McKeever)Our stations have continued to be rich in phytoplankton, while our colleagues are excited by the larval fish they are finding in the southern Bering Sea. Wildlife sightings have included whales, dolphin, and the jawless lamprey fish, and we are settling in for potentially bumpy seas ahead.

Diatoms and Dessert

Posted By: Beth Stauffer on May 01, 2012
FlowCAM images of diatoms in surface water from 30 April 2012. From upper left: Coscinodiscus, Thalassiosira, Odontella, and Corethron species of diatoms.The lovely spring weather in New York City as I prepared for this cruise was difficult to leave behind, and it will be nearly summer once we return. In the Bering Sea, it still feels like winter. For the past two days we have sampled water out on deck with snowflakes falling from the sky.

Passing Through

Posted By: Beth Stauffer on April 29, 2012
Mount Pavlof (left) and Pavlof's Sister (right), two of many active volcanoes in the Aleutian IslandsThe sun rose above the back decks this morning as we traveled towards Pavlof Bay for our station. As we made our way through the Aleutian Islands, the peaks of active volcanoes Mount Pavlof and Pavlof’s Sister became visible above the clouds. The Aleutians are part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, home to about [...]

Plankton Fishing in the Bering Sea

Posted By: Beth Stauffer on April 27, 2012
Breathtaking Alaskan scenery on our way to Shelikof StraitAs Discovery Channel fans know, the Bering Sea supports one of the world’s most productive fisheries, accounting for more than 50 percent of U.S. fish and shellfish catches. The goal of our study is to understand how climate change is impacting phytoplankton, and ultimately the Bering Sea ecosystem.