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December 2014 Issue

Earth’s Water May Have Originated Before Planets
While some hypothesize that water came to Earth well after the planet had formed, a new study published in Science led by scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) points to carbonaceous chondrites, the most primitive known meteorites that were formed in the same swirl of dust, grit, ice and gasses that gave rise to the sun some 4.6 billion years ago, as the source of Earth’s water, well before the planets formed. These primitive meteorites resemble the bulk solar system composition and have quite a lot of water in them.

To determine the source of water in planetary bodies, scientists measure the ratio between the two stable isotopes of hydrogen: deuterium and hydrogen. Different regions of the solar system are characterized by highly variable ratios of these isotopes. The study’s authors knew the ratio for carbonaceous chondrites. By comparing that to an object that was known to crystallize while Earth was actively accreting, they could gauge when water appeared on Earth.

The research team utilized meteorite samples from the asteroid 4-Vesta, which formed in the same region of the solar system as Earth and has a surface of basaltic rock. These basaltic meteorites from 4-Vesta are known as eucrites and carry a unique signature of one of the oldest hydrogen reservoirs in the solar system. Their age—approximately 14 million years after the solar system formed—makes them ideal for determining the source of water in the inner solar system at a time when Earth was in its main building phase. This is the first time hydrogen isotopes have been measured in eucrite meteorites.

The measurements show that 4-Vesta contains the same hydrogen isotopic composition as carbonaceous chondrites. That, combined with nitrogen isotope data, points to carbonaceous chondrites as the most likely common source of water. The study shows that Earth’s water most likely accreted at the same time as the rock. The planet formed as a wet planet with water on the surface. Implications are that life on Earth could have started to begin very early and that the other inner planets could have been wet early and evolved life before they became harsh environments.


NMC Offers New Major in Marine Technology
Northwestern Michigan College (NMC) now offers a bachelor’s degree major in marine technology. Building on the assets of NMC’s Great Lakes Campus, harbor and research vessels, the four-year program offers students an interdisciplinary curriculum and hands-on training. Classes are slated to begin in fall 2015.

“This new bachelor of science major bridges the gap between traditional academic programming and industry needs for the marine space,” said Hans Van Sumeren (Sea Technology, August 2013), director of NMC’s Great Lakes Water Studies Institute. “We have built this major with direct input and support from the marine industry, while emphasizing the skills needed for immediate employment opportunities.”

Globally, there is a strong need for highly trained people across multiple sectors of the marine industry. Graduates can expect to find opportunities globally in marine mapping and hydrographic surveying, marine data processing and management, marine platforms and instrumentation, and marine project management.


Arcticus Delivered to Great Lakes Science Center
The oceanographic research and fisheries assessment vessel Arcticus, designed by JMS Naval Architects (JMS) of Mystic, Connecticut, completed sea trials and has been delivered to the U.S. Geological Survey’s Great Lakes Science Center. It replaces the RV Grayling and becomes the newest member of a five-vessel fleet owned and operated by the Great Lakes Science Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The vessel was constructed at Burger Boat Company of Manitowoc, Wisconsin. The 78-foot Arcticus is a state-of-the-art, steel, monohull research vessel based at the Cheboygan Vessel Base. It is designed to conduct lake-wide bottom trawl surveys, acoustic surveys, gill net surveys, a variety of over-the-side science operations, and will operate year round. Propulsion is provided by twin Caterpillar (Hamburg, Germany) 454 BHP C12 C-Rating Tier II diesel engines and a bow thruster for increased maneuverability and station-keeping. The design includes a wet lab, dry lab, retractable transducers, ample working deck areas, large pilot house with excellent visibility, and comfortable accommodations and working areas for a three-man crew and six scientists.


Squid Study Finds Predictability in Evolution
A team of researchers from University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) have demonstrated that the genetic underpinnings of complex traits in cephalopods may be predictable because they evolved in the same way in two distinct species of squid.

Todd Oakley and Sabrina Pankey profiled bioluminescent organs in the Hawaiian bobtail squid (Euprymna scolopes) and the swordtip squid (Uroteuthis edulis) and found that they evolved separately, but similarly. Their findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. These distantly related species are two of five genera known to have bioluminescent organs called photophores, which contain symbiotic, light-emitting bacteria. The squid are capable of controlling the aperture of their organ to modulate how much light is produced.

The scientists wanted to know how similar the two species’ photophores are in terms of genetic makeup. They sequenced all of the genes expressed in these light organs. The researchers demonstrated that bioluminescent organs originated repeatedly during squid evolution and then showed that the global gene expression profiles (transcriptomes) underlying those organs are strikingly—even predictably—similar. To confirm, they enlisted statisticians to develop new statistical methods to test the idea of convergent (separately evolved) origins. These results have broad implications for the fields of evolution, genetics, genomics/bioinformatics, biomaterials, symbiosis, invertebrate zoology and evolutionary development.



2014:  JAN | FEB | MARCH | APRIL | MAY | JUNE | JULY | AUG | SEPT | OCT | NOV | DEC
2013:  JAN | FEB | MARCH | APRIL | MAY | JUNE | JULY | AUG | SEPT | OCT | NOV | DEC

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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.