Scientists in the Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry (MCG) Department were extremely
active in 2004 analyzing the chemical composition of the ocean
and its constituent sediments, rocks, and biota. While laboratory
studies, modeling, and remote sensing of the ocean all are
important to many of our staff, what stands out in 2004 was
the wide range and number of field programs.
Jeff Seewald, Katrina Edwards, and Wolfgang Bach conducted research cruises to undersea hot spots in the Pacific, where chemical and microbiological transformations
at high temperature and pressure take place in and around underwater volcanic systems. Such sites are accessible
several miles below the surface only by remote samplers
and submersibles that take measurements and collect
samples for analyses.
At the ocean surface, MCG scientists studied processes
in waters off Bermuda. Ed Sholkovitz measured chemical
input to the surface ocean on a novel buoy-mounted aerosol sampler, catching dust as it falls on the waters off Bermuda. Bill Jenkins made monthly measurements of dissolved gases in the ocean, to understand ocean productivity and the physical processes that mix water to depth.
Bill Jenkins and Ken Buesseler also joined an interdisciplinary
team of scientists from three WHOI departments to look at ocean eddies off Bermuda, which alter the local
physical conditions and induce plankton blooms that change chemical conditions as they move through the ocean.
Bermuda and the wider Sargasso Sea also attracted the attention of Jim Moffett and his group for studies of very rare metal compounds required for phytoplankton growth. In a related study in the Pacific, Jim and other U.S. scientists
made detailed comparisons of the analytical methods they use to measure minute traces of iron in seawater.
Notable in 2004 was the launch of VERTIGO, an international
and interdisciplinary study of ocean particles in the “twilight zone,” depths below about 100 meters, where sinking particles are either consumed by bacteria and zooplankton, or settle to the bottom. It is a region of interest to many on our staff (Ken Buesseler, Dave Glover, Karen Casciotti, Benjamin Van Mooy, and Tim Eglinton).
Scientists in MCG also worked close to home. Bill Martin studied marine sediments and their fluids in local waters, Matt Charette studied how ground water flows from the Cape into Waquoit Bay, and Nelson Frew investigated
the chemical exchange of gases across the ocean surface. Bernhard Peucker-Ehrenbrink and Chris Reddy examined riverine systems in the Hudson River and Gulf of Maine, respectively, while a bit further from home, Dan Repeta studied coastal systems of Chesapeake Bay and Jean Whelan worked on Saanich Inlet, Washington.
Our scientists recover samples that require chemical analyses with cutting-edge analytical facilities at WHOI, including mass spectrometers (above), gas chromatographs, spectrophotometers, low-level radiation detectors, and other
instruments, to tease out the chemical composition.
What does all this traveling and chemical analysis mean for the advancement of ocean sciences? Without direct
measurements of chemical distributions and transformations
in the oceans, we’d be studying the oceans with our eyes closed. MCG scientists work diligently in the field and lab, make models of ocean processes, and open our eyes with chemical analyses that help us better see how this ocean planet works.
Ken Buesseler (firstname.lastname@example.org)