In June 2010, a group of faculty and students participated in a five-week long research cruise aboard the R/V Melville, an oceanographic research vessel based at Scripps Institute of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif. The objective of the research, funded by the National Science Foundation, was to explore the submarine realm off the northern edge of the Galapagos Islands.
Environmental studies professor Chris Sinton and one of his undergraduate students, Allison Tinnin, were two of the participants. All day and night, an advanced sonar mapping system scanned the ocean floor to collect information on its bathymetric features. After the area had been mapped, the crew of scientists used a large metal dredge to drag the ocean floor for samples of volcanic rock (and, at times, interesting deep sea creatures). An area the combined size of Massachusetts and Connecticut was mapped with several previously unknown undersea volcanoes discovered. As part of her senior capstone project, Ally is investigating how one of these volcanic seamounts potentially interacts with deep Pacific currents and the effects on phytoplankton production at the surface.
In early December, Sinton and Ally presented their preliminary research findings at the annual American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco. Dr. Sinton will continue these investigations over the next two years under a grant from the National Science Foundation that he and other colleagues have received.
Visit the Expedition to the Northern Galapagos Islands blog for details about the trip.