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VIMS team glides into polar research

n ecosystem," says Patterson. He says "that's like trying to figure out what's going on in a TV series like 'Lost' by watching just one or two episodes per year." By sampling the ocean almost continually for months at a time, gliders allow researchers to better understand and model short-term physical changes and how they influence ocean biology.

Gliders in the Ross Sea

Previous studies by Smith and other polar researchers suggest that short-term physical variationschanges in sunlight, wind speed and direction, and current patternsplay a key role in controlling the magnitude, timing, and duration of phytoplankton blooms in the Ross Sea. These blooms sustain the Antarctic food web, from krill up to fish, seabirds, and marine mammals.

But a comprehensive understanding of how these short-term changes impact the polar ecosystem has so far remained elusive. That's where gliders come in.

"Our glider will help detail the physical and biological oceanography of the southern Ross Sea by sampling the region continuously through the growing season," says Smith. "Given its ability to repeatedly sample specific areas, it holds great promise for resolving short-term and seasonal trends."

Mission & Modeling

During the team's upcoming retrieval mission, which sets sail on January 19, Smith and Liu will first spend several weeks comparing their shipboard measurements of water temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, and chlorophyll to those recorded by the glider. That's to ensure that the glider's sensors are still accurately calibrated after more than two months in the water. The retrieval team will be aboard the research vessel Nathaniel B. Palmer.

Friedrichs will feed the glider's high-resolution data into computer models of physical and biological processes in the Ross Sea, with the long-term goal of making model predictions more accurate.

"Current models are difficult to evaluate using data that are ap

Contact: David Malmquist
Virginia Institute of Marine Science

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