Princeton University
Department of Molecular Biology

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Warm days along the Antarctic Peninsula: Tracking Ecosystem Changes Using Satellites, Robots and Ships

Tue, Nov 30, 2010
Location - TBA


Professor Bio-Optical Oceanography of the Rutgers University Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences Coastal Ocean Observation Lab


On a cool fall evening, Professor Oscar Schofield, shared the adventures and challenges of being an oceanographer, in a dramatically changing world, with 450 students and teachers. He took the students along on his research expeditions to the Antarctic through astounding video of the sights and deafening sounds of a glacier calving and the rapid warming effects on snow cover and Antarctic animals. Prof. Schofield detailed how the atmosphere is directly linked to the oceans, which are directly linked to the earth. Prof. Schofield gave a shocking prediction that in the time it will take for the attending students to become scientists, the ice caps will be gone. We live on a water planet, but we know more about the Moon and Mars than we do about our oceans. The focus of his research, the Antarctic Peninsula, is the fastest warming place on the planet. The summer time temperatures are not rising, but the winter temperatures are, so less sea ice is forming every year. The area around Palmer Station is experiencing plant growth now. The warming is being caused by the circumpolar current, which flows very close to the Peninsula. Measurements of phytoplankton in this area show a 20% decrease. The entire Antarctic food chain depends on phytoplankton. Some animal species are in decline, such as Adelie penguins, while subpolar species are increasing as the warming continues. To understand the future of the earth, it is vital to understand our oceans. In order to study the oceans in a cost-effective way, glider robots are being deployed with sensors to collect and transmit data back to COOL at Rutgers. Through robots, researchers, undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows can essentially be at sea 365 days a year. One glider robot, dubbed the Scarlet Knight, successfully made the trip across the Atlantic from New Jersey to Spain. Scientists around the world, the Navy and NOAA will be deploying hundreds of these glider robots to collect data on the oceans in the future.

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