On January 24th, 2020, Mrs. Marci Train, a teacher at the two-room Long Island School in Maine’s Casco Bay, set sail for the Southern Ocean as part of a partnership between MMSA and the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences team. Marci joined Senior Research Scientist Barney Balch and several other Bigelow Laboratory scientists on this National Science Foundation-funded research cruise, serving as a liaison between the researchers on board and students back on the mainland.
Throughout the cruise, Marci connects frequently with students in Maine, Mississippi and Alabama through MMSA’s WeatherBlur citizen science educational program. She posts daily blogs and shares photos of current happenings on the ship as well as any adventures the crew has been faced with (repairs, storms, etc.). Marci is also interviewing crew members, from researchers to deckhands to engineers, hoping to bring awareness to students of the many STEM job opportunities that are out there. She is also busy assisting with scientific operations on board and helping to conduct experiments.
The research team is studying coccolithophores, which are a common type of algae that help form the base of ocean food webs and have a significant role in global chemical and carbon cycles. Balch recently found that they are scarce in the fertile waters near the equator and his team aims to learn why during this cruise. While at sea, the team will use satellite imagery to locate eddies rich in coccolithophores to sample, hoping to uncover how coccolithophores in the Southern Ocean are altering this important source of nutrients near the equator. The ship is following the Sub-Antarctic mode water for more than 1,000 miles on its journey to the Indian Ocean. In addition to sampling coccolithophores, they will also collect samples at depth to measure freons, manufactured refrigerants that can be found throughout the environment.
Marci will be returning home to Maine in mid-March after taking some time to explore the island of Mauritius, off the coast of Madagascar, where the research team will port. To see Marci’s latest blogs and photos, check out WeatherBlur.com!
WeatherBlur is a citizen science project that aims to develop scientifically and environmentally literate students who take interest in helping their communities address complex environmental issues through scientific inquiry to effect positive change.