How Scientists Look for the Truth

Today I toured around the work stations of each of the scientists studying Modified Circumpolar Deep Water: Drs. Josh Kohut, Chris Measures, Phoebe Lam, Angelicque White, Allen Milligan, and Adam Kustka. They’re all here because they have a hypothesis about how MCDW contributes to the summer blooms of phytoplankton that provide so much food to the animals of the Ross Sea.

As the expedition goes on, we’ll look at each of these scientists’ work in detail, but today I just wanted to know how their work all fits together. One of the most basic aspects of being a scientist is using the scientific method. You observe a pattern, you suggest a hypothesis to explain it, and then you think of ways to test that explanation to see if it’s the right one. Some hypotheses are easy to test, but this one stretches across so many scientific fields that it takes six separate experts—spanning physics, chemistry, biology, and engineering. Read on through the slideshow and we’ll break down those parts one by one:

That’s an introduction to the scientists who are studying Modified Circumpolar Deep Water. Four other groups are on board as well, studying other parts of the Ross Sea. These are led by Dr. Bruce Huber of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Dr. Walker Smith of Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences, Dr. Rebecca Gast of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Dr. Bob Sanders of Temple University. We’ll tell you about them in coming posts—starting with Dr. Huber tomorrow.

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About Hugh Powell

Hugh is a staff writer at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and is on special assignment with the Rutgers University Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences. He has previously written for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

6 Responses to “How Scientists Look for the Truth”

  1. Greetings southerners,

    I just put a link to your blog up on our home page under this past Saturday’s MODIS view of the Ross Sea. In the MODIS image there appears to be an aerosol plume coming from the coast just north of the Drygalski Ice Tongue. Do you think any iron might get into the water from glacial dust borne by katabatic winds?

    Regards,
    Norman

    http://oceancolor.gsfc.nasa.gov/
    http://oceancolor.gsfc.nasa.gov/cgi/image_archive.cgi?i=386

  2. This is awesome. I can;t believe you guys are actually in Antarctica studying this. That must be your dream!

  3. Bailey Sanders From Toms River Intermediate South January 31, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    You said that the scientists all had some sort of hypothesis. What are some of these hypothesises?

    • Hi Bailey, the scientists are all working on testing a single hypothesis that’s stated at the beginning of this post—that Modified Circumpolar Deep Water carries nutrient-rich water from offshore up into the waters of the Ross Sea, where iron helps fuel the great blooms of phytoplankton that occur here each summer. In order to test this hypothesis, they break it apart and test all the facets of it—that’s why so many scientists have to be on this ship, working together. The rest of the post outlines some of the facets the scientists are testing.

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