Early Spring Plankton and Benthos

What Are They Doing?

A diverse team of researchers participated in the first of three research cruises in the 2009 season in support of the Bering Sea Ecosystem Study (BEST) and the Bering Sea Integrated Ecosystem Research Program (BSIERP). Scientists on board the ship documented late winter ocean conditions, studied the biological communities found in sea ice, monitored the early spring plankton bloom, and investigated light penetration through open water and ice cover. Additionally, researchers examined the benthic communities living on the seafloor and observed an important benthic predator, the walrus. The region of the Bering Sea where the team worked is biologically rich and supports highly productive ecological communities of bivalves, gastropods, and polychaetes. These benthic communities have been changing over the past several decades, perhaps as a result of competing fish species moving north as the Bering Sea's waters warm.

Where Are They?

The team traveled on the icebreaker USCGC Healy to a sampling area in the northern Bering Sea. The Bering Sea lies to the west of Alaska and to the east of Russia. The team departed from Kodiak Island, Alaska, and returned to the port of Dutch Harbor, Alaska, which is in the Aleutian Islands.

Expedition Map


On our cruise, the scientists' areas of expertise are all different, like pieces of a quilt. All of the pieces are important to the whole quilt as they rely upon each other to make the quilt. The study of our quilt is called in the science community, Bering Sea Integrated Environmental Research Project, BEST-BSIERP. The National Science Foundation and the North Pacific Research Board joined forces to coordinate this approach to understanding how the Bering Sea marine ecosystem works - from the benthos to the atmosphere, and everything in between. They also study the socio-economic impacts of...
Sounds aboard the Healy What do I hear? While in the ice, the ship can make sounds from birds chirping to loud bangs, squeaks and swooshes. Listed below are the sounds found at the end of the journal. Listen to the audio provided by Elizabeth Arnold to the ship cutting through the ice. Listen to audio from the laundry room next to the hull of the boat. Listen to other sounds captured with video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chBOrz-QzMA
Where are we in relationship with other places in the Northern Hemisphere? Maryland is almost half way around the world from the Bering Sea. Check out the map to see how far the Bering Sea is from the Maryland. Can you find Maryland? The next map captured as we arrived to Dutch Harbor shows the entire track of our expedition from Kodiak to Dutch Harbor. The white shows ice coverage from a radar image taken on two days earlier. On our last day, our ship has arrived at Dutch Harbor. Once in the ice in the Bering Sea, we traveled around as the ice changed to allow as much science to take...
What is 420 feet long, 82 feet high, breaks ice up to 4.5 ft thick at 3 knots, and can travel 300 miles in open seas in 24 hours? It is the USCGC Healy. The Healy is the largest and newest Coast Guard cutter in the fleet. With new technology, the Healy can operate with fewer crewmembers than other similar ships. A large ship in a larger sea Some people call the Healy a floating hotel or city as it has to do everything from generating it's own power, making drinking water, disposing of waste... Everything has backups because when you are out a sea and something breaks, you want to be able...
What happens to marshmallow when left out in the cold air for 2 days? Lets check the before and after pictures of the marshmallows. About 9.9 cm About the same measurement A polar bear has black skin and white fur along with a lot of fat. Check out our model of a bear paw to see if the temperature is really warmer in the glove filled with fat. Starting temperature = 65 F or 17 C. Did the bear stay warm in the inside? Yes -- about 40 degrees warmer than the outside temperature. Bringing the bear glove inside (Photo by Dr. Trites)

Expedition Resources

Project Information

8 March 2009 to 31 March 2009
Location: USCGC Healy, Bering Sea
Project Funded Title: Bering Sea Ecosystem Study (BEST)-Bering Sea Integrated Ecosystem

Meet the Team

Deanna Wheeler's picture
J. C. Parks Elementary School
Indian Head, MD
United States

Passionate about land and water, Deanna Wheeler is inspired to make sure that "no child is left inside". Hands on, real science is her priority. From hatching, raising, and releasing yellow perch and horseshoe crabs to participating in a pilot sturgeon project, her students discover how connected they are to the world around them. Ms. Wheeler's love of learning and the outdoors meld together in her professional and personal life. She is dedicated as a teacher and as a citizen to better understand and protect the environment for positive impacts on individuals, the community, and the health of our environment. Ms. Wheeler cherishes time spent with her family, exploring, camping, kayaking, reading, and just having fun.

Lee Cooper's picture
University of Maryland
Solomons, MD
United States

Lee Cooper is a research scientist with the State University System of Maryland, and has been working in the Arctic for approximately 30 years on interdisciplinary research problems. He is interested in high latitude oceanography, but has also worked on land, and in freshwater systems. His research specialty is biogeochemistry and he presently studies biological changes in the northern Bering Sea. He is committed to public service in support of improving arctic research through service on committees, organizing workshops, and teaching and public outreach responsibilities through the University of Maryland. Read more about Lee Cooper here [http://arctic.cbl.umces.edu]