Tuesday, June 19, 2018

A better late than never post for #NF1802, Dr. Stukel #ontheblog

Stukel sets up the satellite-tracker inside the buoys
Although NF1802 has come to an end, we will continue to post for the rest of the summer! Stay tuned!

Today, Dr. Mike Stukel joins us once again on the blog! Mike is an Assistant Professor at Florida State University and one of the PIs on our joint NOAA RESTORE Science project. His PhD students, Tom and Taylor joined him in this survey.


“I study the intersection of plankton ecology and biogeochemistry.  I have a fascination for all of the microscopic critters (plankton) that drift constantly with the currents of the open ocean.  Much of my research focuses on either the role of plankton in converting carbon dioxide to organic matter and then storing that organic matter in the deep ocean (a process referred to as the biological pump) or determining how changes in the planktonic ecosystem affect the availability of prey for fish and other large organisms. During this project, my research goal is to understand how biogeochemical and ecological interactions at the base of the food web affect the survival of larval tuna.
The golden tufts in the bottom left are Trichodesmium, the long organism in the middle is a chaetognath, and many of the out-of-focus blobs are copepods
Specifically, I'm interested in two questions:

  1. What processes supply nutrients to the algae at the base of the food web (upwelling that introduces deep nutrients to the surface ocean or nitrogen fixation that converts abundant nitrogen gas into plankton fuel)?  
  2. How does the structure of the planktonic food web affect the efficiency with which primary production is converted to zooplankton biomass (i.e. fish food)?  
Illustration by Sabine and Baxter

On this cruise, one of my lab’s goals is to make simultaneous measurements of nitrate uptake and nitrogen fixation in tuna spawning habitat."

Mike looks for microscopic organisms in between stations
Stukel and the team during sediment trap operations on the back-deck
If you are a teacher or student and want to learn more about plankton, check out Mike's lab's website and this link and has lesson plan too!) developed by Ms. Colleen Miks.

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