About the Expedition
Antarctica, the most southerly continent on the planet, is a wind-scoured, ice-covered desert. It is so inhospitable to life that largest creature (besides a few researchers) to survive there year-round is a tiny midge about the size of a pinkie nail. Yet while the continent’s climate is unforgiving, the surrounding ocean waters are filled with penguins, seals, fish, and whales. During the summer months, the endless sunlight and essential nutrients carried by deep currents kick off a bloom of tiny microscopic plants called phytoplankton. Small shrimp called krill feed on the phytoplankton, and in turn krill fuel the rest of this rich ecosystem. But where do these nutrients and trace metals come from and how are they carried into the sunlit upper ocean? Beginning on January 19th, 2011, a team of researchers will be setting out aboard the icebreaking ship Nathaniel B. Palmer to study the Ross Sea, a shallow bay in the Antarctic coastline due south from New Zealand. They are interested in learning about the phytoplankton at the base of the Ross Sea’s food web and the special combination of currents, nutrients, and trace metals that allow it to thrive.
To find out more about the Ross Sea Expedition, read the project press release and/or listen in as the project scientists describe their mission:
Robots under Ice, with Dr. Josh Kohut, Physical Oceanographer, Rutgers University
Forests of the sea, with Dr. Adam Kustka, Marine Biogeochemist, Rutgers University, Newark