atmosphere. If phytoplankton get eaten, the predators breath CO 2 back into the atmosphere, however, if phytoplankton die, the carbon sinks to depth and gets removed from the atmosphere possibly for hundreds or thousands of years. “That’s why grazing is so important,” Menden-Deuer says. “Grazing is pivotal in the global carbon cycle, it determines where the CO 2 goes. Death by grazing is what happens to most phytoplankton. When we measure grazing rates, we measure the fate of phytoplankton carbon. Does the carbon return to the atmosphere as CO 2 or does it remain available for export? Our involvement in EXPORTS is to gain an understanding of how grazing sets the stage for the amount and type of organic material in the surface of the ocean that is exported to the deep ocean.” Methods to measure grazing, however, demand an extremely labor intensive effort and involve a lot of people and time, which led to Menden-Deuer’s collaboration with Rynearson to test a more efficient molecular approach that identifies genes expressed by grazers. “Our campaign will directly inform measurements made with NASA satellites,” Menden-Deuer says. “One major attribute of the NASA satellites is that they can measure the surface of the entire world’s oceans in a few days. No ocean measurement tool gives this kind of global perspective.” At the same time, although only able to go so far, so fast, ships can give scientists what satellites cannot, she adds: “Our in-water measurements will be linked to observations made by satellites. By combining research cruises that probe both the ocean surface and interior with satellite observations, we can gain unprecedented insights into how the ocean works both on the surface and in the deep. This fascinating expedition improves our understanding from the local to a global scale.” As the major driver of climate, the ocean plays a pivotal role in how the Earth responds to climate change. Consequently, says Menden-Deuer, a better understanding of the ocean is essential to dealing with the implications of a changing climate. Scientists don’t yet know fundamental aspects of how much energy and matter from the ocean surface make their way to the deep — information necessary to predict future conditions. “With the tremendous team working on this campaign, the two ship cruises, the analytical support and the NASA assets we have the opportunity to make a leap forward in understanding the ocean,” says Menden- Deuer. A better understanding of the ocean is essential to dealing with the implications of a changing climate.

Susanne Menden-Deuer Professor Oceanography

“The involvement of URI faculty at both the planning and research level underscores the depth of expertise at the institution. It shows that URI and GSO are at the forefront of sea going oceanography and are involved with, what I believe to be, the largest oceanographic campaign recently funded.”

- Susanne Menden-Deuer

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