PUPCYCLE Day 14 – PUPCYCLE 2019 Returns to Port

Thursday, June 06, 2019 – Returning to Newport, Oregon

PUPCYCLE LOG – Day 14: PUPCYCLE 2019 Returns to Port

PUPCYCLE 2019 is a classic example of collaborative research among scientists. Twelve researchers investigating different interactions of phytoplankton within the Upwelling Conveyor Belt Cycle, all occurring in a world we cannot see. And, while each scientist has a different set of objectives, each aspect of their research is interrelated through the chemical and physiological responses of the phytoplankton they continue to filter from seawater samples on the final day of our 2-week research cruise. The schematic in Figure 29 illustrates the complexities of the marine environment in which these researchers are immersed. Labels have been added to identify each scientist with their investigative focus.

Figure 29 – The world of phytoplankton (and zooplankton) is very complex and PUPCYCLE researchers are exploring many components of this microscopic food web. [Original image from: https://science.sciencemag.org/content/347/6223/1257594/tab-figures-data; modified by Miriam Sutton]
No matter the differences, the commonality is the response of phytoplankton to the Upwelling Conveyor Belt Cycle that drives their microscopic ecosystem. Even more mind-boggling is to think that these scientists’ research is focused on investigating the primary producers in the aquatic realm. Imagine all the interactions occurring in other segments of the food web: zooplankton (microscopic animals that feed on the and the phytoplankton) larger megafauna we see in our daily encounters with the creatures that call the sea home. From this amazing group of researchers we are learning how the creatures that we cannot see in the ocean are responding to changes in their environment. Previous studies have shown that iron is a key nutrient for phytoplankton, assisting to obtain the nutrients necessary for their cellular processes, including the photosynthesis we rely upon to draw down carbon dioxide levels while producing half the oxygen in our atmosphere. These earlier studies have also identified many regions throughout the world where iron is limited and regions where iron is readily available. Broad shelf regions allow more area for iron to accumulate and the presence of iron increases the primary productivity for these regions, thereby fueling the aquatic food web. As our oceans change with our climate, these organisms must adapt to survive. Using gene expression and other cutting-edge technology, these scientists can observe the cellular and physiological adaptations of these tiny organisms that play a significant role in the stability of our planet and ecosystem. One can hope that the microscopic responses being observed by the researchers will provide us with more insight into our own adaptability as our environment also continues to change.

Figure 30 – PUPCYCLE 2019 Scientists from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, University of British Columbia, and Humboldt State University. [Image credit: Kate Kouba (OSU)]
As this 2-week expedition comes to a close, I am filled with gratitude for the researchers who allowed me to experience a small snapshot of their world as microbial oceanographers. I am thankful to the crew of the R/V Oceanus for their unwavering support during the expedition. And, finally, to those who participated in this research cruise through the virtual experience I worked to create with this blog and the various live feeds and posts through social media. For educators, this blog has been designed for classroom use with the goal of providing a virtual experience for students to gain an understanding of the marine technology used to explore our oceans and the life that lies therein. The blog and the supporting images, videos, and live feeds are available to educators as a stand-alone platform or as a supporting activity for standardized curriculum.

Questions concerning this blog and its contents should be directed to Science by the Sea®.

Today’s Certificate Challenge: Complete the PUPCYCLE ASSESSMENT to receive the link to your Official PUPCYCLE 2019 Certificate.