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Ocean Research


February 2014 Issue

Slower Growth, Longer Life Found for Great White Sharks
Great white sharks grow much slower and live significantly longer than previously thought, according to a new study led by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).

In the first successful radiocarbon age validation study for adult white sharks, researchers analyzed vertebrae from four females and four males from the northwestern Atlantic Ocean. Age estimates were up to 73 years old for the largest male and 40 years old for the largest female.

The National Ocean Sciences Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Facility at WHOI conducted radiocarbon analysis on collagen in the white shark vertebrae.

Assuming a lifespan estimate of 70 years or more, white sharks may be among the longest-lived cartilaginous fishes.

'These findings change the way we model white shark populations and must be taken into consideration when formulating future conservation strategies,' said Greg Skomal of WHOI.

350 Expedition to Study Subduction Volcanoes
The JOIDES Resolution will leave Keelung City, Taiwan, at the end of March with researchers aboard as it aims to bore 2,200 meters into the seabed, thereby setting a new depth record.

Once it leaves port, the rig will travel for two days and anchor in the Japanese waters of the eastern Philippine Sea. There, the international team will explore the rear of the Izu-Bonin arc, a largely underwater chain of subduction volcanoes that runs south from Yokohama, Japan. These volcanoes form where an oceanic plate dives down into the mantle and produces a line of volcanoes parallel to the trench called an arc.

Expedition 350 is the first of three consecutive expeditions in the same vicinity, all under the auspices of the International Ocean Discovery Program, which explores the history and structure of the Earth as recorded in seafloor sediments and rocks. The JOIDES Resolution will drill through a mainly sedimentary record to determine the evolution of the Izu-Bonin arc volcanic chain, which was formed by subduction when the Pacific Plate slipped under the Philippine Sea Plate.

The main goal of these expeditions is to characterize the arc's evolution and the formation of its crust in order to learn more about how continents grow over time. The expeditions will also strive to determine the nature of the region's crust and mantle prior to the onset of subduction and investigate how subduction begins.

Western Tropical Pacific Holds Clues to Global Climate
Scientists have headed to the western tropical Pacific Ocean to better understand its influence on the atmosphere—including how that may change in coming decades if storms over the Pacific become more powerful with rising global temperatures.

With the warmest ocean waters on Earth, the western tropical Pacific fuels a sort of chimney whose output has global reach. The region feeds heat and moisture into huge clusters of thunderstorms that loft gases and particles into the stratosphere, where they spread out over the entire planet and influence the climate.

The field project is called CONTRAST (Convective Transport of Active Species in the Tropics) and will be based in Guam. It is being coordinated with two other field projects to give researchers a detailed view of the air masses over the Pacific with a vertical range spanning tens of thousands of feet.

One of these projects, NASA's Airborne Tropical Tropopause Experiment (ATTREX), will use a Global Hawk, a robotic aerial vehicle, to study upper-atmospheric water vapor, which influences global climate. The other, CAST (Coordinated Airborne Studies in the Tropics) is funded by Britain's Natural Environment Research Council and will deploy a BAe146 research aircraft to focus on air near the ocean surface. The sensor-laden research flights will provide a comprehensive view of the atmosphere from the ocean surface.

BOEM Conducts Study of Beaufort, US-Canada Border
BOEM scientists have been documenting which fish species are present, their abundance and geographic distribution, along with other fish species and plankton that fish feed upon, in the far-eastern U.S. waters of the Beaufort Sea and near the Mackenzie River across the border into Canada.

For five years, researchers will collect and analyze baseline data for fish, invertebrates and organisms lower on the ecosystem food web. The missions will also document the habitat and oceanography of the eastern Beaufort. In March, further research will be conducted under the ice to better understand the ice-covered season that fish and other creatures live in for nine months of the year.

Ultimately, this research will contribute to a better understanding of the drivers of biological productivity offshore and the assessment of potential effects of offshore oil and gas development in this region.

The findings will be integrated into environmental reviews for future lease sales, exploration, development and production plans in both the U.S. and Canada.

WHOI Website Offers In-Depth Look at Deep-Sea Research
Working along the East Pacific Rise, south of Manzanillo, Mexico, aboard the RV Atlantis, scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and their colleagues examined life in some of the most extreme environments on Earth: deep-sea hydrothermal vents. The work was chronicled in video, still images and daily written updates on WHOI's Dive and Discover website at www.divediscover.whoi.edu in January. The 'Dark Life at Deep-Sea Vents' expedition utilized the Jason ROV and isobaric gas-tight samplers, which can suck in microbes and fluids and maintain them at the same deep-sea pressure as they come up to the surface. Scientists performed experiments on board the ship to study the microbes in more detail at simulated seafloor conditions. They further analyzed the DNA, RNA, and proteins of the microbes to learn more about their genetic makeup and physiology, and brought samples of microbes back to shore for further study.


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Sea Technology is read worldwide in more than 110 countries by management, engineers, scientists and technical personnel working in industry, government and educational research institutions. Readers are involved with oceanographic research, fisheries management, offshore oil and gas exploration and production, undersea defense including antisubmarine warfare, ocean mining and commercial diving.