Spring Plankton and Changing Ice Cover

What Are They Doing?

A diverse research team aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) Healy conducted sampling along a series of transects over the eastern Bering Sea. Research on the ship was multidisciplinary, with scientists using a variety of techniques to document ocean conditions and the productivity of the Bering Sea ecosystem. Research teams measured the temperature, salinity, and nutrient content of the sea water, changes in sea ice cover, and the concentration of nutrients used and released by phytoplankton. They also conducted surveys of zooplankton, fish, seabirds, and marine mammals such as walrus and seal to assess the health of these populations. A major focus of this cruise was characterizing the phytoplankton bloom associated with the edge of the melting sea ice.

These measurements helped give scientists an indication of the status of the Bering Sea ecosystem and an indication of any changes that could affect the use of its resources, and the economic, social, and cultural sustainability of the people who depend on it. This is the second 2009 cruise in support of the Bering Sea Ecosystem Study (BEST) and the Bering Sea Integrated Ecosystem Research Program (BSIERP).

Where Are They?

The team traveled on the USCGC Healy in the Bering Sea. The Bering Sea lies to the west of Alaska and to the east of Russia. The team departed from and returned to the port of Dutch Harbor, Alaska, the most productive fishing port in the United States.

Expedition Map


"Glad to be back?" One of the first questions that people ask (before "Did you see a polar bear?" and "Did you ever grow your sea legs?") is the hardest to answer. Yes, I am happy to be back in a place with greenery, excited for sun-dresses, ready for bike riding and psyched to see all my students but there's definitely a cultural integration process that goes along with reentry into life post-Healy. Some of the things that have taken some getting used to are the following...1. There's no "Red Goat" garbage disposal in the school cafeteria for me to...
Suiting up in an MSD-900 survival suit felt a little bit strange considering that there was no ice for as far as the eye could see. We were miles from the ice-edge as we pulled into Dutch Harbor but there I was pulling and squirming back through the many zippers and pull-ties. This time I would not be waiting to clunk down the brow in my bunny boots towards the ice though. This time... I was going in the "small boat"!The Healy 2, or the "small boat"; as it is affectionately referred to by its crew, usually hangs unobtrusively above the portside 03 deck. When sediment...
Latitude: 57 10.174N Longitude: 163 45.851W Alexei Pinchuk peers into a clear plastic bottle that he has taken out of the fridge outside the lab. If you didn't know better, you would think that he was looking at a bottle of chilly water. What he is actually doing is checking on his babies...his baby krill, that is. Looking closely into the bottle I can see three teeny organisms swimming around. Each of them is smaller than a grain of rice and as clear as cellophane. The only colors visible are a little pink dot by their tail and a green spot, in the middle. This green stuff tells Alexei...
Latitude: 57 30.196N Longitude: 168 04.025WSo where in the world does a producer eat other animals, a consumer make its own food and sometimes either will decide to do both? Welcome to the wacky world of the Bering Sea ecosystem! In theory, there are two main categories of eaters- heterotrophs and autotrophs. These are basically the producers and consumers. Autotrophs have the ability to make their own food. Heterotrophs need to consume energy from other sources. Mixotrophs throw a monkey wrench into the neat order of this organizational system. Mix-o-troph- the name even sounds "...
Latitude: 59 50.217N Longitude: 172 04.540WI stumbled into the main lab at 10.30 pm last night, already a little sleepy from a day of webcasting, multicoring and VanVeen grabbing. I was tired but determined to stay up with the mysterious Krill Gang for the night before I ran out of days to do it. The first person I found hovered above a microscope was Tracy Shaw, a technician at NOAA's Hatfield Marine Science Center in Oregon. Fresh from a day of sleep, her workday was just getting warmed up as most of the ship was heading to bed. At her workstation a Tupperware was swimming with krill...

Expedition Resources

Project Information

31 March 2009 to 12 May 2009
Location: USCGC Healy, Bering Sea
Project Funded Title: Bering Sea Ecosystem Study (BEST)-Bering Sea Integrated Ecosystem Research Program (BSIERP)

Meet the Team

Simone Welch's picture
Oyster Bilingual ES
Washington, DC
United States

Simone Welch can't imagine living life without science. Growing up with a father who was a coral reef ecologist, she has traveled to many islands and coasts while he conducted his research. After graduating from George Washington University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Ms. Welch worked in journalism for National Public Radio and National Geographic. After returning to school for a master’s degree in education, Ms. Welch taught for the Peace Corps in West Africa before becoming an elementary school science teacher at Oyster Bilingual Elementary in Washington, D.C. She hopes that her students leave her classroom each day with science not only in their heads but on their clothes and hands too! Ms. Welch is an amateur photographer, and her other personal interests include snowboarding, rock climbing, yoga, and most of all, traveling. She hopes to someday become a limnologist, but to never stop teaching.