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Field Oceanography

Field Oceanography

While at sea, students learn how to safely deploy and recover modern sampling instruments, conduct chemical and biological laboratory research, analyze oceanographic data, and operate a fully equipped research vessel. The full suite of sampling conducted depends on the cruise track and student project needs.  The majority of SEA’s scientific work is carried out far offshore in the open ocean. Frequently our voyages transit several oceanographic provinces and climate regimes, forming the basis for robust spatial comparisons; where historic data is available, temporal trends are examined. When SEA ships visit islands and mainland ports, coastal-to-offshore transects and studies of near shore processes and ecosystems are carried out. Click here for a list of the scientific equipment carried onboard our ships.

Research Themes

Sea Education Association Research

Marine sediments

Many of SEA’s research voyages travel across portions of the ocean where the seafloor is four to five kilometers deep, well out of reach of our geologic sampling equipment. Our single beam depth sounder, the CHIRP, provides a continuous record of the depth and shape of the seafloor. We’ve watched the mid-ocean ridge come and go, and studied the sharp sides of seamounts and islands. When in coastal waters for longer periods of time, the ship’s gravity corer and Shipek grab sampler may be used to collect and examine recently-deposited sediments that offer insight into marine geologic processes.

Selected Marine sediments papers and publications

Sea Education Association Research

Nutrients and productivity

The chemical composition of the water column both indicates and drives biological activity. SEA research focuses on essential nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus and silica, and dissolved oxygen. In most areas of the world's oceans, the primary sources of these nutrients are land-based; in open ocean regions other processes are also important. Direct measurements provide both nutrient and oxygen concentrations for water samples collected using the ship’s CTD-Carousel, allowing study of spatial- and depth-associated patterns.

Selected Nutrients and productivity papers and publications

Sea Education Association Research

Ocean circulation

Distinct water masses of the ocean interact with the atmosphere and each other in many ways and at many spatial and temporal scales. SEA’s physical oceanographic research draws heavily upon the data collected by our ADCP system, which provides real-time current speed and direction through the upper water column, and CTD profiles measuring temperature and salinity characteristics below the sea surface. With these tools we explore local- to basin-scale circulation patterns in the surface and deep ocean, as well as their impacts on global climate, marine biology, and seawater chemistry.

Selected Ocean circulation papers and publications

Sea Education Association Research

Phytoplankton and bacteria

Phytoplankton (microscopic plants) fix carbon into an organic form during photosynthesis and thus are the foundation of the marine food web. Broad taxonomic differences in nutrient requirements mean that as SEA sails from one region to another we observe concurrent changes in phytoplankton community composition and abundance. Direct measurements of seawater chlorophyll-a concentrations allows us to estimate the quantity of phytoplankton, while net tows and microscope identification indicate which organisms are present.

Selected Phytoplankton and bacteria papers and publications

Sea Education Association Research

Zooplankton and other organisms

Zooplankton and micronekton (very small, freely swimming animals) graze on phytoplankton and small zooplankton, forming an important link in marine food webs and a major vertical transport pathway of carbon in the biological system. In turn, they are consumed by higher trophic levels including fish, sea turtles, sea birds & marine mammals. Through net tows and field observations, we explore the composition, diversity and geographic distributions of these populations and/or individual species.

Selected Zooplankton and other organisms papers and publications

Papers and Publications

Peer-reviewed publications

Palter, J., C.-A. Caron, K. L. Law*, J. K. Willis, D. S. Trossman, I. M. Yashayaev and D. Gilbert, 2016. Variability of the directly-observed, mid-depth subpolar North Atlantic circulation. Geophys. Res. Lett., 43, 2700-2708.

doi: 10.1002/2015GL067235

Engels, M.*, L. Correia^, S. Piwinski^, L. Cheng, and E. Zettler*, 2014. Seasonal and decadal changes in distribution patterns of Halobates (Hemiptera: Gerridae) populations in the eastern tropical Pacific. Marine Biology 161, 1241-1250.

doi: 10.1007/s00227-014-2414-x

Matthews, J. B. R.^ and J. B. Matthews, 2013. Comparing historical and modern methods of Sea Surface Temperature measurement - Part 2: Field comparison in the central Tropical Pacific. Ocean Sci. Discuss. 9, 2975-3019.

doi: 10.5194/os-9-695-2013

Matthews, J.B.R.^, 2013. Comparing historical and modern methods of Sea Surface Temperature measurement - Part 1: Review of methods, field comparisons and dataset adjustments. Ocean Sci. Discuss. 9, 2951-2974.

doi: 10.5194/os-9-683-2013

Leichter, J. J., M .D. Stokes, J. L. Hench, J. Witting* and L. Washburn, 2012. The island-scale internal wave climate of Moorea, French Polynesia. J. Geophys. Res. 117, C06008.

doi: 10.1029/2012JC007949

Stevenson, C.^, L. S. Katz^, F. Micheli, B. Block, K. W. Heiman, C. Perle, K. Wang^, R. Dunbar, and J. Witting*. High apex predator biomass on remote Pacific islands. Coral Reefs 26, 47-51.

doi: 10.1007/s00338-006-0158-x

Stoner*, A. W., and S. E. Humphris*, 1985. Abundance and distribution of Halobates micans (Insecta: Geridae) in the northwest Atlantic. Deep-Sea Res. Part A 32, 733-739.

doi: 10.1016/0198-0149(85)90076-7

Selected student research

Greenwood, T., M. Torselli and O. Dawson, 2015. Phytoplankton Community Composition in South Pacific Water Masses. Unpublished student research paper, Class S-258, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.

Vincent, K., K. Hruby and B. Grenier, 2014. Assessing Sediment Transport From Rivers to the Ocean Through Relative Calcium Carbonate Levels, Transport Systems, and Phytoplankton Biodiversity in Seafloor Sediments. Unpublished student research paper, Class S-256, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.

Jannetty, S. and S. Sokolowski, 2014. Drifting Harmful Algae in the Mediterranean and North Atlantic. Unpublished student research paper, Class C-255, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.

Hanz, R., 2014. Differences in Depth of the Deep Chlorophyll Maximum in the Western Mediterranean Sea and Eastern Atlantic Ocean. Unpublished student research paper, Class C-255, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.

Kaplan, R., 2013. Antarctic Intermediate Water in the Sargasso Sea and the Rhythm of the North Atlantic Oscillation. Unpublished student research paper, Class C-246, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.

Honma, J., 2014. Characterization of the Shape and Distribution of the Pacific Equatorial Undercurrent (EUC) in Varying Volume-Transport Conditions. Unpublished student research paper, Class S-252, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.

Eley, S., 2014. Examining Spatial Patterns in Phytoplankton Phosphate Limitation in the Central Pacific Using an Alkaline Phosphatase Activity Assay. Unpublished student research paper, Class S-252, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.

Pollock, S. and E. Van Scoy, 2014. Nutrient Distribution in the South Central Pacific Ocean: Spatial Trends and Phytoplankton Communities in a Non-Redfield Environment. Unpublished student research paper, Class S-252, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.

McNulty, K. and E. Tradd, 2014. Population Distribution of Halobates micans in the Lesser Antilles During Early Spring. Unpublished student research paper, Class C-251, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.

Chapman, A. and M. Muth, 2013. Effect of Low pH on the Growth Rate of Phytoplankton in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. Unpublished student research paper, Class S-250, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.

Rosenfield, M. and K. Dooley, 2013. Distribution of Trichodesmium Colonies and Free-floating Trichomes in the Sargasso Sea and Western Tropical North Atlantic. Unpublished student research paper, Class C-249, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.

Glendenning, N., 2013. Causes for the Existence and Dispersal of Areas of Oxygen Supersaturation in the Western North Atlantic. Unpublished student research paper, Class C-249, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.

Balcarce, D. and S. Clausnitzer, 2012. Dimethylsulfoniopropinate (DMSP) Potential Production in the Equatorial Pacific Biogeochemical Sulfur Cycle: A Measure of Phytoplankton Abundances. Unpublished student research paper, Class S-244, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.

Yerxa, H. and C. Goethel, 2011. Oxygen Minimum Zones and Biogeography of Mesopelagic Fish: Examining the Dissolved Oxygen Threshold Tolerance for Myctophidae in the Equatorial Pacific. Unpublished student research paper, Class S-238, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.

Robitaille, J., 2011. Significance of Eddies Formation and the Upwelling of the Equatorial Undercurrent at Christmas Island. Unpublished student research paper, Class S-238, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.

Rosenman, S. and N. Button, 2011. Central Equatorial Pacific Bathymetry and Sedimentation: Surface Productivity Revealed Below the Seafloor. Unpublished student research paper, Class S-238, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.

Sorosky, J., 2011. Morphology of Paralarval Cephalopods in the Equatorial Pacific. Unpublished student research paper, Class S-237, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.

Adelson, A. and A. Miller-ter Kuile, 2011. Seabird Foraging Ecology in the Central Tropical Pacific. Unpublished student research paper, Class S-235, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.

Lilly, L. and B. Evans, 2011. Effects of Shipwrecks on Fish Community Assemblages at Kingman Reef and Palmyra Atoll. Unpublished student research paper, Class S-235, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.

Hawke, E., 2011. General characteristics of seafloor sediments in the Mississippi Canyon Lease Block 118, Gulf of Mexico. Unpublished student research paper, Class C-235, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.

Howser, E. and N. Seymore, 2011. The Methodology of Grain-Size Analysis in Correlation to Tropical Storms and Hurricanes. Unpublished student research paper, Class C-234, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.

Oleson, E., 2010. The Gulf Stream Current: Observation from Space and Sea. Unpublished student research paper, Class C-231, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.

Presentations

Scofield, A.^ and A. Siuda*, 2013. Biogeography of Eel Larvae in Surface and Sub-surface Waters of the Sargasso Sea. 26th International Congress for Conservation Biology, Baltimore, MD.

Schrimpf, M. B.^, E. R. Zettler* and K. D. Hyrenbach, 2013. Designing a Seabird Observation Protocol for Sea Education Association. Pacific Seabird Group annual meeting, Portland, OR.


* SEA faculty and staff
^ SEA Semester alumnus

News

Protecting the Phoenix Islands

Entering the Phoenix Islands Protected Area

Posted on: July 18, 2015
By: Maddie Beattie, Albion College

Late last night, at approximately 2300, we entered PIPA, and after sailing through PIPA for over twelve hours the ocean still looks pretty much the same as it has for the past week.  It looks so similar because PIPA is actually significantly larger that it appears on maps, and a majority of this area is open ocean.  Due to the Mercator effect, which is the warping of a sphere when applied to a flat surface – such as a map –, the areas near the pole appear larger in relation with the areas near the equator.

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Aloha Aina

Working in the laboratory during a day shift

Posted on: June 22, 2015
By: Cristina Cammarota, C Watch, Hawaii Pacific University

I started the day off with watch from 0700 to 1300 with C-Watch. I noticed that my nausea and sea-sickness has moderated after being pretty miserable the day before. The other main observation I made was that my present sense of comfort was in large part due to the fact that the ship was not going anywhere. The sails were set so the ship was hove to, or effectively stopped for science. For this reason heaving to is my favorite sailing position thus far! Plus, it allows for the deployment of the scientific equipment onboard; extra, bonus for me since I was scheduled to be in the lab with two of my shipmates.

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Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean

Finding Researcher’s Ridge

Posted on: December 04, 2014
By: Annie Osborn, C Watch, Science Voyager

We forwent our regularly scheduled science stations yesterday. Instead of dropping our Secchi disk, free CTD, phyto net, and Neuston net in the morning, we charged forward, making miles early so that we could spend an extra few hours with science gear overboard in the afternoon and evening.

We sailed towards the Mid-Atlantic Ridge’s western side from the heart of its rift valley, a tight and narrow topographic feature bounded by almost incomprehensively steep, deep cliffs that plunge over two thousand meters vertically in a mere hundred horizontal meters. We sailed west, and set our sights toward an elusive shallow spot called Researcher’s Ridge.

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Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean

Plastic, plastic, and more plastic

Posted on: November 28, 2014
By: Nick Dragone, A Watch, Marine Biological Laboratory

Hello to all the readers of the C256 blog! This is Nick Dragone, one of the two visiting scientists on this= transatlantic crossing. I am onboard to work on a collaborative project studying the microbial communities living on marine plastic debris. After reading this blog post, I hope you will understand a little more about the collaborative ship-wide effort that is required every day to perform the research that I, Annie (my fellow visiting scientist), the students, and the faculty are conducting onboard.

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Resources

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