It’s late May. The snow and ice are thick over the Arctic Ocean. The water is dark as can be. The scientists aboard the Healy are positioning themselves and waiting for the start of the melt season when they expect to see the phytoplankton bloom in the ocean. They expect that enough light will soon get through to let these microscopic plants grow in the water to depths of up to 50 meters.

However there is life below the ice right now. A thin colony of sea ice algae cling to the bottom of the ice, absorbing any remnants of light that make it down this far. They are different to the phytoplankton blooms the team are here primarily to study in that they live in the ice rather than the water. They are a key player in the food chain of the Arctic at the moment, but soon their icy home will be eroded and they will fall to the sea floor.

Kate Lowry, a PhD student at Stanford University, fills us in on the team’s investigations of the ice algae.

About The Author

Ben Harden

Ben is a polar oceanographer and meteorologist working at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He is also a multimedia producer making radio and video programs. On this expedition Ben will be documenting the science and life aboard the Healy in a range of mediums.

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