What is a Pirate's favorite letter?

You might think it's “Rrrr” but it really is the C!  

Carbon is one of my favorite elements, why would I have assisted in making a song about it in college (for extra credit of course)?

Carbon, Nitrogen and Phosphorous are essential to the marine food web for DNA replication and cell wall growth. These elements are found in the water samples collected by research oceanographers. In our Arctic ecosystem, the essential elements create fatty acids such as Omega-3’s, which then can be traced through the trophic levels from phytoplankton, to zooplankton, Arctic cod, and marine mammals. These fatty acids are important for the survival of all the organisms that live in these cold waters.

“Carbon is like the currency of the marine food web!”-Steve Baer, Research Oceanographer

Steve Baer putting the water filtration system to work. Photo credit: Alicia Flores 

Steve Baer putting the water filtration system to work. Photo credit: Alicia Flores 

Water filtration may not sound complex, but after helping out Steve with this experiment for a couple of weeks, I see it hinges on the capability to master attention to detail while working on several projects at once. Steve can measure primary productivity based on the abundance of phytoplankton on the filters, the base of the food web. Aside from filtering out phytoplankton and other bacteria, chlorophyll-a is another huge component of seeing what is out there in our ocean. Plants in the ocean use their chlorophyll components to take in energy from the sun and convert it into organic matter for themselves. These experiments help determine the activity going on in the Arctic Ocean at a microscopic level. 

There are layers of ocean as if sea ice was the frosting to an insane amount of cake. Stratification of ocean layers depends on temperature and salinity. Warmer ocean temperatures stay on top, while colder and saltier water flows near the bottom. Freshwater from rivers or melting sea ice doesn’t mix well with ocean water, so it stays on the top. This creates a barrier for the microorganisms to get past due to abrupt change in the water type. Therefore, water samples are taken by series of depths every 10 meters ranging 30-50 meters.

The ocean absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere thereby increasing in acidity and temperature. Phytoplankton converts carbon dioxide into breathable oxygen through photosynthesis. Thanks to phytoplankton, we can measure the proportions of carbon absorbed from the atmosphere. This is vital information in order to learn more about the vast impact of melting sea ice and the decline of phytoplankton. I enjoyed helping out with this experiment, because like the ingredients in cake, the things I have learned are starting to come together... to a basic understanding of how the Arctic ecosystem works.


♫ I'm on a carbon, and
Got single bonds, and
That'll give me the common name of alkane
I'm the most common bond in organic chemistry
But twice me up and you've got an alkene ♫

(To the theme of “I’m on a boat” by the Lonely Island Ft. T-Pain)