Monday Afternoon: Eddies - An Ocean Oasis?

How a multi-disiplined effort helps explain the role of eddies in nutrient transport

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EDDIES team photo on fantail of ship
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The EDDIES team, on the fantail of R/V Oceanus

Resources are tight, reputations are on the line and two programs are competing for the same limited pool of money. This could be the prelude to a corporate Battle Royale, but instead investigators from EDDIES , E-Flux and other programs were enthusiastically sharing data, insights and a little humor in a capacity filled room at the Hawaii Convention Center.

Both the EDDIES and E-Flux programs bring together chemists, biologists, physical oceanographers and engineers to find out how eddies transport nutrients around the world’s oceans. Understanding the movement of nutrients is important because it is on top of this very bottom of the pelagic food chain that higher levels of sea life are built. One such level in this hierarchy are diatoms, which use atmospheric carbon dioxide during the process of photosynthesis before making their end-of-life death spiral to the sea floor, thus helping rid the atmosphere of that pesky greenhouse gas.

Results of this intensive examination of eddy composition have led to some dramatic and unexpected results. “We have seen the lowest oxygen concentrations ever measured while at the same time recorded the highest chlorophyll and productivity for the areas being studied,” said WHOI researcher Dennis McGillicuddy, lead investigator for the EDDIES program.

Other scientists seemed equally excited about what was being reported judging by the attendance for each talk and the number of people who stayed around after the session to continue a dialog with the collaborators. And that collaborative list is long, as evidenced by the number of names on some of the session abstracts and the great many WHOI people that Dennis thanked at the end of his presentation. Further study by such multi-disciplined teams will be required to determine how these anomalies came to be.


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Last updated February 24, 2006
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