Researchers came aboard R/V ANGARI for a full day of collecting surface water samples in West Palm Beach, Florida. This expedition allowed the research team to test methods and train for their upcoming expedition to the Southern Ocean.
About the Expedition:
Florida State University (FSU) scientist Dr. Peter Morton, undergraduate students Lauren Hearn and Kristie Dick, University of South Florida Ph.D. candidate Shannon Burns, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute Ph.D. candidate Julia Middleton successfully completed several transects in the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) in West Palm Beach, Florida onboard R/V ANGARI. This research expedition served as a test and training trip for Dr. Morton’s research team who will be embarking on a 40-day chemical oceanography expedition to the Southern Ocean in January-March 2020.
During the R/V ANGARI expedition, the team continually collected water samples using a surface sampler towed along the starboard side of the vessel. In order to collect uncontaminated samples of trace metals, such as Iron (Fe), Manganese (Mn), and Cobalt (Co) in the water, a clean flow bench was setup in R/V ANGARI’s interior lab. The team pumped 2,100 liters of sea surface water and filtered 12 liters of seawater to collect 12 suspended particulate matter samples. The trace metals in these samples can serve as nutrients that stimulate microscopic marine plant growth in ocean waters.
The water samples collected from this expedition in the ICW will be analyzed in FSU’s Geochemistry Laboratory in Tallahassee, Florida before the team heads to Cape Town, South Africa for the upcoming January-March 2020 and 2021 research cruises.
Dr. Peter Morton, a chemical oceanographer and marine geochemist at MagLab, studies the sources and roles of nutrient metals in the marine environment. Just like humans require small amounts of trace nutrients like iron, manganese, and zinc, so do marine microorganisms. Because these elements are so scarce in the surface of the ocean, scientists have developed specialized techniques, devices, and instrumentation to collect and analyze these samples without contamination.
Peter and his team’s research focuses on how two major kinds of marine plants, diatoms and coccoliths, influence the nutritional value of the waters where they grow. Both types of microscopic plants seem to be well-adapted to low trace nutrient conditions, growing so much that some blooms can be seen from space. As the plants grow, they remove nutrients from the water at a certain rate, and this water sinks and travels around the planet to return to the surface in distant locations to provide nutrients for other marine plants. Their research objective is to understand which kinds of water favor diatoms or coccoliths to grow, and then observe how blooms of these plants change the nutritional value to encourage the growth of other kinds of microscopic plants.