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Sea Education Association | SEA Currents

SEA Currents: Marine Biodiversity & Conservation


Apr

14

Happy Undergraduate Research Week!

Anne Broache, communications@sea.edu
SEA Semester

Above: Team Sargassum (Elizabeth Olson and Elizabeth Tonkin) present their plans for researching the ubiquitous brown seaweed at sea. Below: Team Hydroids (shown here: Fredrik Eriksson; not pictured: Hannah Freyer and Sabrina Hutchinson) will gather data on the microscopic animals that inhabit the base of the food web.

It’s no secret that field research is a mainstay of SEA Semester programs. But this week, in celebration of national Undergraduate Research Week, we wanted to shine a special spotlight on our students’ ambitious work.

Take the Sargasso Sea, that giant expanse of the North Atlantic Ocean that has in recent years become a major focus of multinational conservation efforts.

Our current class on campus, C-259, Marine Biodiversity & Conservation, is one week away from sailing from San Juan, Puerto Rico to New York City via Bermuda--right through the heart of this critical ecosystem. And, as they proved during presentations of their research proposals on Monday, they’re ready to do some serious science to aid the Sargasso Sea’s long-term protection plans.

Over the next few days, we’ll feature their research plans on this blog, starting with these two projects:  

Team Sargassum

Title: An Analysis of Genetics and Morphology of Sargassum fluitans and Sargassum natans in the Sargasso Sea
Researchers: Elizabeth Olson, Northeastern University ’17 (Environmental Science); Elizabeth Tonkin, Colby College ’16 (Biology/Computer Science)

Sargassum is the brown seaweed found in droves in the Sargasso Sea. Without it, there would be no place for many endemic organisms to live, breed and feed. This duo plans to collect a series of samples throughout the cruise track to study the distribution of two distinct Sargassum species. They’ll do genetic analysis on their samples to compare species and conduct statistical analysis to explore correlations between the species’ location and ocean currents.

Team Hydroids

Title: Sargassum Hydroid Community
Researchers: Hannah Freyer, Colorado College ’16 (Marine Biology/Political Science); Fredrik Eriksson, Dartmouth College ’16 (Biology); Sabrina Hutchinson, Hawaii Pacific University ’15 (Marine Biology)

Hydroids are microscopic animals that inhabit the base of the food web in the Sargassum ecosystem and are crucial for supporting animals at the top—tuna, sea turtles and the like. This team plans to observe the general distribution of all hydroids along their cruise track, using twice-daily sampling. They’ll analyze how the diversity of hydroid species changes with variations in water temperature, Sargassum leaf surface area, and Sargassum age.

And there's more....

Be sure to check back tomorrow and Thursday to learn what our four other student research teams have in store. 

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