NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007
Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: April 17, 2007
I realized that I was doing you all a great disservice by not featuring the most important creatures of all, the producers. Producers are organisms that take the radiant energy from the sun and transform it into food (chemical) energy. These little bitties form the first link in a food web or chain. They are the link between the physical and the biological. They are the photosynthesizers.
It’s easy to feature the cute seal pup, or majestic bald eagle, but phytoplankton? Sea algae? Where’s the glamour in that? Come closer and have a look at the backbone of the ecosystem, come meet the microscopic creatures of the most productive marine ecosystem on Earth, the Bering Sea!
It actually starts with the rich nutrients that are circulated in complex cycles through the icy sea.
The first indicator that something is going on is the ICE. This isn’t dirt on this monster ice cube. It’s ice algae, one of the main producers in the Bering Sea. There are many different kinds of Diatoms that live here, use the rich nutrients dissolved in the sea and transform the energy of the sun into food.
Enter the copepods, krill, bigger zooplankton that chow down on these little ‘plants of the sea’ and in doing so transfer energy from the phytoplankton into them. Next it’s a free for all with something eating something else, a living luau that bubbles and brews and transforms and transfers. From creature to creature to creature and then one more. Nothing is wasted, everything is a part of and needed.
And suddenly, it’s over, but not really, it’s just reformed and recycled. The body decomposes, enters the nutrient cycles, and becomes part of the growing phytoplankton bloom ready to explode as soon as the ice melts.
What’s the ground floor of this uber productive sea? Say, ‘Hello Sunshine’