Summer Ice Free Conditions

What Are They Doing?

A diverse research team aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter (USCGS) 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. Researchers measured the temperature, salinity, and nutrient content of the sea water and the concentration of nutrients used and released by phytoplankton. They also conducted surveys of zooplankton, fish, seabirds, and marine mammals such as walruses and seals to assess the health of these populations.

These measurements helped give scientists an indication of the status of the Bering Sea ecosystem and any changes that might affect the use of its resources, and the economic, social, and cultural sustainability of the people who depend on it. This was the third 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 aboard the R/V Knorr, a U.S. Navy vessel operated by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution 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, a small community in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. The R/V Knorr is best known as the ship that supported a team of researchers in 1985 as they discovered the wreck of the RMS Titanic.

Expedition Map


Well during the night we arrived at our most northerly and westerly position of the expedition. I was up collecting water samples from the CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth) probe and it was as cold as one would expect it to be given our position. The foghorn, which is right above my cabin by the way, was going all night because of the thick fog we have been in for the last couple of days. We have since turned south and are following the 70-meter line, which will bring us back to Dutch Harbor sometime Monday. This line is called the 70-meter line because the water depth will be 70...
Its been a little difficult to get work done here on the Knorr for the last couple of days. The ocean has been giving us 15 foot swells most of yesterday and today. It has slacked off a little but it is supposed to get a little rougher in the next 24 hours.  Nothing seems to stop, everyone keeps working even with the deck rocking. You do get used to it after awhile. I wonder what solid land is going to feel like when we get off of the ship. I attached a short video of our current sea condition. I will finish up another one I have showing some of the local bird life. Watch for that in a...
What a busy couple of days we have had here on the Knorr. We have been crisscrossing the shelf following a plankton bloom we can see from the MODIS satellite. MODIS, which stands for Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, is a key instrument aboard both the Terra  and Aqua satellites. Terra's orbit around the Earth is timed so that it passes from north to south across the equator in the morning, while Aqua passes south to north over the equator in the afternoon. Terra MODIS and Aqua MODIS are viewing the entire Earth's surface every 1 to 2 days, acquiring data in 36 spectral bands, or...
It has been a very strange couple of days. One of the routines that you have to get used to on a research vessel is that there are no routines. When I first got on the ship I went to bed at regular times, eat my meals at the same time, for a couple of days at least. Now that I have a project that I am working on I have to be available to collect samples whenever and wherever they are required. A lot of what I have to do is to balance collecting samples in route between stations verses collecting data while on station. This means getting two hours of sleep, getting up and collecting water from...
It has been a very busy couple of days here on the Knorr. I haven’t received very much sleep. But then again, none of the science team has either. We have been a little ahead of schedule so it was decided that we could stay on station at a pretty interesting site for a longer period of time and due some diurnal studies, meaning, how are the organisms and ecosystems we are studying changing as we cycle through daytime to night. I am working on a project on phytoplankton so this was especially interesting for my work. So I was up several time thorough out the night collecting water samples and...

Expedition Resources

Project Information

14 June 2009 to 15 July 2009
Location: R/V Knorr, Bering Sea
Project Funded Title: Bering Sea Ecosystem Study (BEST)-Bering Sea Integrated Ecosystem Research Program (BSIERP)

Meet the Team

Mark McKay's picture
Venture Academy/Delta VISTA
Stockton, CA
United States

Mark McKay currently teaches marine science, biology, AP environmental science, GIS, and forensics in a science and technology charter school he helped found two years ago. Prior to this challenge, he developed analytical instrumentation used in energy production and coordinated a grant providing science teacher training in rural and small school districts. Mr. McKay’s students are heavily involved in competitions and field research projects in the Gulf of Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and the Mokelumne River watershed, replacing invasive plant species with native plants and working to restore the river in order to increase salmon runs. In his spare time, Mr. McKay teaches other teachers and administrators, breeds tropical fish, scuba dives, competes in martial arts, and is completing a second masters degree. Mr. McKay feels he has the greatest job in the world, because he does real science with students who are interested and engaged, and he is looking forward to bringing more authentic science and oceanography to his students from his PolarTREC expedition.

Ray Sambrotto's picture
Columbia University
Palisades, NY
United States

Raymond Sambrotto is the chief scientist on this Bering Sea Ecosystem Study cruise and studies marine plankton ecology and global nutrient cycles. Dr. Sambrotto has worked from small boats in the Caribbean to major oceanographic programs in the Arabian Sea. He has worked extensively at both poles using icebreakers and submarines to traverse these difficult environments. An important part of Dr. Sambrotto’s research is determining how marine populations will fare under changed climate conditions and how these changes will affect the larger global environment.