Checking in With Our Hypotheses

We’ve been on the Palmer for 20 days, we’ve been to 49 sampling stations, taken thousands of water samples, flown three separate gliders, and started dozens of incubations. So, have we learned anything?

It’s not a rude question—for decades oceanographers have been mostly unable to look at the results of their work until after they get back from sea. The analysis techniques are just too difficult and time-consuming to get done while on board. If the researchers were searching down a blind alley, they couldn’t know it until it was too late to change course.

On this expedition the scientists see results from four studies while they are under way: Dr. Josh Kohut’s gliders, Dr. Chris Measures’s trace metals, Dr. Allen Milligan’s and Dr. Angelicque White’s photosynthesis measurements, and Dr. Adam Kustka’s incubation experiments.

They’re using this information to do what’s called ‘adaptive sampling’—adjusting their studies based on what they see. For example, today is the last day for Dr. Adam Kustka to start his 9-day incubation experiments. After today, we’ll be at the McMurdo dock, and all packed up, before the incubations get a chance to finish.

To be sure he was making good use of the time, Dr. Kustka and the rest of the science team reviewed what we’d learned so far and what we still needed to know. Read on through the slideshow to see what we’ve found out about MCDW in the last three weeks:

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Avatar of Hugh Powell

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.

4 Responses to “Checking in With Our Hypotheses”

  1. Charlie from Mrs. Worth's 7th Grade Class February 9, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    What actually is Dr. Adam Kustka testing? Is it…
    Will MCDW effect phytoplankton’s growth?
    or…
    Is the mixture of MCDW and suface water good for rapid phytoplankton growth?

    • Avatar of Hugh Powell

      Hi Charlie, thanks for reading. You’ve made a good distinction there, between whether phytoplankton can grow at all and how fast they grow. Dr. Kustka (along with Dr. Allen Milligan and Dr. Angelicque White) is testing both of those ideas, first by studying places where we detect MCDW, and also by adding MCDW to surface water and measuring the rates of growth in incubation experiments.

  2. Thank you for the wonderful explanations ~ and the check in that matched the earlier post. We were amazed at how Dr. Hatta could determine whether the iron came from the deep sea or the atmosphere.