NAAMES (North Atlantic Aerosols and Marine Ecosystems Study): NAAMES-IV Expedition: March 31, 2018

April 2nd, 2018 by Kristina Mojica

At Sea

This is the second of the NAAMES cruises that I have been able to sail. The first was NAAMES #1, November, 2015, and I am lucky to be on this, the last of four cruises that were scheduled for this campaign. Having bookended these cruises, I recognize a couple of changes in both the NAAMES team and myself that have occurred over the course of the campaign.

The NAAMES team: The Chief Scientist and Principal Investigator of this mission, Mike Behrenfeld, built a team of scientists to answer questions about the North Atlantic Bloom and its atmospheric impacts. Many of the team members were unknown to each other at the start of this campaign because they came to NAAMES from disparate disciplines: biological, chemical, and physical oceanography, microbiology, virology, atmospheric chemistry, atmospheric physics, and ecosystem modeling. Annual team meetings encouraged healthy cross-talk. After four cruises and three team meetings, there is comradery built by hard work, innovation, and curiosity. There is respect for the variety of scientific approaches and expertise. This team functions smoothly on the R/V Atlantis. And, perhaps most importantly, shared purpose has gathered momentum leading to new and unexpected contributions to ecosystem science. This team embraces hard work and laughs easily in the labs, on deck, in the galley, and even during daily science briefings. Earlier hesitations have given way to relaxed dialogue and fresh ideas.

I was full of nerves during NAAMES #1. Worried about our instrumentation (i.e., would the turbo pumps survive the incessant bouncing of the ship?, Would the flow controllers function?, Would the automated valves switch properly?). I worried about getting seasick. Worried about the medication to prevent seasickness. Worried about the General Microbiology class I left midterm in the hands of a colleague. Worried about the myriad of “things that need to be done at home.” …..Fast forward….By NAAMES #4, I have developed confidence in the instrumentation (and Cleo Davie-Martin, who is the PTR-MS conductor-extraordinaire). New experiments have been added with each campaign. Turns out, seasickness medication was unnecessary. I am blissfully aware that the internet is too slow to catch up on the news. The sunrise is a priority, even while working*.

*Incubations begin and end at dawn, my favorite time of day.

Leaving worrying behind allows for a certain kind of freedom at sea. Contemplation becomes less constrained. Time allows thoughts to forge new paths through unexplored jungles dotted with boulders to leap and bridge to new ideas. Once in a while these thought-explorations lead to a clearing where I mentally stack stones into a duck or blaze the bark of a tree so that the idea can be revisited and won’t be lost in the weeds. What a spectacular treat to let these thoughts bound along without the daily distractions that I apparently allow to seep in and prevent freedom of exploration. At sea, exploration of ideas is less encumbered by rules of engagement. Perhaps the rarest of scientists are always “at sea,” never dithering with boundaries and are instead free to meander across scales, dimensions, and disciplines, eventually emerging with unexpected and shattering ideas.

For non-sailors, to be “at sea” usually implies confusion or disorientation. As in, “She was at sea with String Theory.” On the contrary, my definition of “at sea” as of NAAMES #4 has evolved to mean freedom of exploration.

Luis Bolaños (Oregon State University, expert in microbial genomics and bioinformatics) at the rail. Where are his thoughts taking him at sea?

Written by Kim Halsey

NAAMES (North Atlantic Aerosols and Marine Ecosystems Study): NAAMES-IV Expedition: March 30, 2018

April 2nd, 2018 by Kristina Mojica

A New Adventure

Another beautiful sunset in the North Atlantic.

NAAMES #4 is my first long-term ocean-going research cruise. The anticipation built as I prepared to leave my husband and Paisley, my golden retriever, at home for an entire month. Did I pack everything that I need? Would the food be good? Would I enjoy the experience? Yes, yes and yes!

Not only have a learned a lot from the other scientists around me, but I have enjoyed the experience and built new friendships along the way. There are now only 10 days left at sea, and I can say with confidence that I am happy that I have participated in the NAAMES campaign.

A rainbow in the waves of the North Atlantic.

Not only was the field-work a new experience for me, but the research was as well. Coming from a microbiology background, atmospheric science and the study of aerosols was completely new to me as I started this journey. However, I was excited and anxious to learn something new. The collaboration among biologists and aerosol scientists has been rewarding as we are all here for the same goal, to learn more about the North Atlantic phytoplankton bloom.

Written by Alyssa Alsante

NAAMES (North Atlantic Aerosols and Marine Ecosystems Study): NAAMES-IV Expedition: March 29, 2018

March 30th, 2018 by Kristina Mojica

Science and Sunsets

Sunset captured on board the R/V Atlantis during NAAMES 4.

Day 10 and two stations into the last NAAMES campaign. It feels like we were just on the dock in Puerto Rico preparing for our 25-day adventure on the R/V Atlantis. The anticipation for NAAMES 4 was great. Many relationships were formed during NAAMES 3 and getting on the Atlantis for NAAMES 4 felt like returning to a familiar place. Everyone was excited to see old faces and eager to greet the new additions. While the cruise is filled with long hours and tedious experiments, we are still able to find time to unwind with each other. The long transit to our first station from Puerto Rico gave us a chance to spend time with each other before the chaos of stations began. There were large groups for watching sunrises and sunsets. The sunset watching often includes playing music and singing along with your fellow shipmates! Not to mention many people bring along instruments to play while onboard.

One of the best parts of being involved in a field campaign like NAAMES is the ability to hear about each other’s research and try to find ways to collaborate. Ultimately the reason we are all willing to put our lives on hold for an entire month is the excitement of the unknown. We are not sure what the results will be from the cruise or how the data will fit into the NAAMES story that has already been started by campaigns 1-3. Each group has something to contribute to the overall understanding of the effects of a phytoplankton bloom in the North Atlantic Ocean.

Our group from Texas A&M University is focused on studying marine aerosols. We have instruments in a van on the ship that are taking samples. One of our main goals is to count the number of particles going through our system and determine the number of these particles that can activate as cloud condensation nuclei (CCN). This is just one small area of research taking place onboard the Atlantis. We are eager to work together with other groups on the ship and compare results. With so much left to answer there is a lot of work that needs to be devoted to our research. What keeps us going through the long hard days on the ship? Our love of science and sunsets.

Aerosol instrumentation from Texas A&M University.

Written by Bri Hendrickson

NAAMES (North Atlantic Aerosols and Marine Ecosystems Study): NAAMES-IV Expedition: March 28, 2018

March 30th, 2018 by Kristina Mojica

A day at Sea

1.14PM. The sun is high in the sky. I am enjoying its energizing warmth on the bow. Only the wind is keeping me company with its mild whistling.

1.14PM. Ten hours of work have already passed by. Fast, very fast. The alarm goes off at 2 AM. Eyes wide open. Take a quick shower. Run to the computer lab. Check the water profile following in real time the sensors going down into the dark ocean. Pick the most representative depths for the water dynamics we want to capture aaaand…COFFEE. One, well maybe two cups, and the show is on! The rush to get the experiments setup before sunrise, the frentic collection of samples under dim light so as to not interfere with the biological processes of plankton, the labeling, the filtering and fixing of hundreds of samples. The instruments all over the biology main lab start whirling, pumping, aspirating, shooting with lasers and cameras all sorts of samples. The computers start showing an incredible variety of data, numbers, plots, and pictures of our tiny friends that will help us unravel the complex and amazing world of plankton and its relations with atmospheric processes.

Compositional characterization of nano- and microplankton produced by the FlowCam (left picture), and data analysis of the smaller planktonic components (right picture) on the Guava FlowCytometer.

All of a sudden someone yells: “science meeting in five” and you realize that nine hours have passed by. Nine very intense hours. Balancing efficiency and accuracy to produce good science with laughs exploding randomly here and there, dance steps, singing and passion, tons of passion for our job, for the trill of the discovery, for the opportunity we have to contribute to expand the understanding of processes that made and keep this planet habitable. So, at 11 sharp we all converge to the library where Mike, our Chief Scientist, will share with us the latest satellite images of the ocean forecast, the most recent data transmitted by the floats we released during the last field campaign on the dynamics we will find at our next station, and the essential Plan Of the Day, detailed schedule of the daily operations that allows this complicated scientific operation to run smoothly, joyful and productive for 26 days straight out in the middle of the North Atlantic!

The Menden-Deuer Lab Team at work at Station 2 during NAAMES IV.
From left to right: Caitlin Russell, Gayantonia Franzè, Françoise Morison.

Written by Gayantonia Franzè

Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE): Wrangell Mountain Expedition

March 30th, 2018 by Laura Prugh/University of Washington

On March 14, four members of the NASA ABoVE Dall sheep project (lead PI Laura Prugh and PhD students Chris Cosgrove, Ryan Crumley, and Molly Tedesche) headed into the Wrangell Mountains for a week-long field expedition to conduct snow surveys. These snow surveys are critical to the project’s goal of understanding how snow conditions are changing and affecting Dall sheep in northern alpine regions. Riding snowmobiles for more than 20 miles into the wilderness, breaking trail and clearing brush for the last 5 miles (and sometimes getting stuck), the crew set up base camp in an open meadow. It turned out this meadow was home to a resident bull moose, who kept a respectful distance and was often seen browsing nearby. Snow levels were unusually high this year, making for a useful contrast to last year’s surveys and giving team members a good snowshoeing workout. Navigating through deep snow, thick brush, and over steep terrain, the team recorded snow depth using a Magnaprobe, dug snow pits to examine the snowpack stratigraphy (layering over the season), and measured snow track sink depths of Dall sheep and one of their main predators, coyotes. The team was able to reach 17 of the 22 sites that had been established in September to record snow depth every hour using game cameras and snow stakes; the remaining 5 sites were in terrain that was unsafe to reach due to avalanche danger.

The team’s luck with clear, warm weather broke on the last day of fieldwork. Amid a snowstorm that was picking up momentum, Prugh spotted an area with a maze of coyote tracks and what appeared to be the faint traces of white fur on the snow. Investigation confirmed the site was a sheep kill, and Prugh quickly dug a pit to record the snow characteristics that may have contributed to the sheep’s demise. Perhaps the snow was dense enough for the coyotes to run on top of the snowpack, whereas the sheep, with a heavier body mass and small hooves, floundered in the deep snow?

Fortunately, the snowstorm ended overnight, and the crew awoke to blue skies overhead and 8 inches of fresh powder blanketing the spectacular landscape. Analysis of the field data over the coming year will improve efforts to model and map snow characteristics across the mountainous region, and reveal how snow properties affect the vulnerability of Dall sheep to predation.


PhD student Chris Cosgrove (Oregon State University) measures snow density adjacent to Dall sheep snow tracks.

PI Laura Prugh (University of Washington) using a Magnaprobe to measure snow depth.

Winter camp in Wrangell St. Elias National Park. Snowmobiles, Arctic Oven tent, and winter camping gear was provided by the ABoVE Fairbanks Logistics office.

Snowmobiling expedition in the Wrangell mountains to conduct snow surveys.

Notes from the Field