KAREN STAMIESZKIN
BIOLOGICAL OCEANOGRAPHER

I am an oceanographer, with a focus on biogeochemsitry and plankton ecology. Plankton are microscopic movers and shakers in the ocean. Phytoplankton (plant plankton that can photosynthesize) convert the sun’s energy, along with nutrients such as carbon and nitrogen, into consumable food for zooplankton (animal plankton that eat phytoplankton or other zooplankton); zooplankton can then be eaten by fish, molluscs, and even whales, thus entraining the energy of the sun into a rich and complex marine food web. This network of living things in the ocean impacts not only on seafood economies and the nutrition available to sea creatures, but also global nutrient cycles.

I use ecological theory, lab experiments, at-sea observation, data synthesis and computer modeling to study ocean food web dynamics, and how changes in the environment impact the network of marine life. It is important to me that my work contributes to the greater good of the Earth: humankind and whole ecosystems – plants, animals and biogeochemical functions – included. Whether this is done through education, policy, or contributing to the understanding of how this beautiful planet works, my ultimate goal is to provide knowledge and services that equip our society to live well and in harmony as part of the Earth System.

NEWS & UPDATES

DATA, DATA, DATA!

07 January 2020

Happy New Year! Data is a big deal these days. In fact, an expert on the radio told me this morning that data is now one of the biggest businesses in the world! Data itself is magical because it is just numbers, zeros and ones, pure information. But, it can be transformed into useful facts, reveal unknown truths, and can also be twisted for malignant purposes. Understanding how to interpret data and data treatments is key to being able to spot conclusions supported by cherry-picked data, falsified information, or incorrectly analyzed data. Equally important, however, is access to data. Over the last few months, scientists like myself have been working hard to finalize their datasets collected during the 2018 NASA EXPORTS research cruise, and make them available to the public. It is the public, after all, who really own these data. Federal agencies such as NASA and the National Science Foundation have open-access repositories where all data produced during research supported by tax dollars must be made available after a certain amount of time - usually within a couple years. Even if you aren't interested in dealing with raw data, there are lots of tutorials out there to assist in interpreting scientific graphs and information. I encourage you to get informed so that you can draw your own conclusions about the world!

CLICK HERE OR THE IMAGE BELOW FOR JUST ONE  TUTORIAL EXAMPLE

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MAINE FISHERMEN AND CLIMATE CHANGE - A LIVELY DISCUSSION 

27 FEBRUARY 2019

All of us feel the effects of climate change in one way or another, but fishermen are out on the ocean far more regularly than most scientists, and are in a unique position to discuss the impacts of climate change on their livelihoods and lifestyles. I was honored to be an invited science speaker at the Island Institute's Fisherman's Climate Roundtable meeting. The meeting has been convening annually for 13 years! The discussion was mainly focused on bait, since most lobstermen in Maine use herring to catch the tasty crustaceans, and herring catch was just slashed by ~80% in an effort to preserve the stock. Fisheries scientists think that young herring are not surviving and entering the stock as new recruits, raising an alarm for fisheries managers. My talk focused on the copepod Calanus finmarchicus, an important food source for both herring and right whales. Warming temperatures in the Gulf of Maine are impacting Calanus and the animals that depend on them. Please stay tuned for an exciting new study poised to come out, explaining the link between temperature,  Calanus and changes in the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale population.

​CLICK HERE FOR AN ARTICLE ABOUT THE HERRING/BAIT SITUATION

Photo below from the Portland Press Herald's Ben McCanna

SAMPLE PROCESSING AND PUBLICITY IN BERMUDA

30 October 2018

Now that we have returned from the NASA EXPORTS research cruise in the NE Pacific, our group has a lot of samples to process in the lab. One measurement that we are after is total community respiration - in other words, an estimate of how much carbon dioxide the whole zooplankton community exhales per day at Ocean Station Papa, where we were working. I joined lead researcher Dr. Amy Maas and her associate Dr. Andrea Miccoli for a week of lab work at the Bermuda Institute for Ocean Sciences (BIOS). While there, a nice piece was published about all of our EXPORTS work.

CLICK HERE FOR STORY

SEATTLE MOBILIZATION FOR NASA EXPORTS EXPEDITION IN THE NE PACIFIC

10 August 2018

I am in Seattle, where we are mobilizing for the first NASA EXPORTS research cruise into the Subarctic Northeast Pacific Ocean. There will be two ships out there: the R/V Roger Revelle (ship to the right in image below) and the R/V Sally Ride (ship to the left). Mobilization is an exciting time - equipment is loaded, the ships are fueled, inspected and prepared, and you get to see all the food you will eat over the next month as it is loaded and stored. The NASA EXPORTS project is a substantial research program aimed at measuring the ocean's biological carbon pump.

​CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT EXPORTS

UMAINE INTERVIEW ABOUT MY NSF GRADUATE RESEARCH FELLOWSHIP WORK ON ZOOPLANKTON AND CARBON

15 August 2016

Last week I was interviewed for UMaine Today, the University’s video magazine. It was a good opportunity to share my work on the role of living organisms in the ocean’s biological carbon cycle, as well as discuss why the Gulf of Maine is a “living laboratory” in the face of climate change.

(Also, I officially graduated!)

​CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO

INSPIRATION AT THE OCEAN CARBON AND BIOGEOCHEMSITRY SUMMER WORKSHOP

28 June 2019

I have dedicated this spring and summer to processing and analyzing the samples and data that we collected on the NASA EXPORTS field expedition to the North Pacific Ocean. This entails lots of time in the lab, at the microscope, and at my computer, pouring over spreadsheets. It is easy to get lost in all the preserved zooplankton and numbers, easy to forget that there are nearly 100 other scientists, working on their own datasets, all in preparation to bring our findings together in a grand understanding of the ocean's carbon cycle - an essential part of the entire Earth System! Fortunately, there have been two workshops - one in Williamsburg, Virginia, and one in Woods Hole, Massachusetts - where I had the chance to meet with other scientists and discuss our progress, findings and challenges. The workshop in Woods Hole is convened every year by the National Science Foundation's program: Ocean Carbon and Biogeochemistry, or OCB. It was inspiring to learn what others are working on; it reminded me that while individual scientists produce knowledge in small increments, as a community, we are finding answers to some tough questions, and ultimately working toward a healthy future for people and the planet.

​CLICK HERE FOR A VIDEO ABOUT THE OCB PROGRAM AND OCEAN CARBON RESEARCH

Click the photo below to watch my presentation:

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LINKS BETWEEN CLIMATE CHANGE, CARBON AND ZOOPLANKTON POOP 

13 FEBRUARY 2019

It's hard to believe, but tiny zooplankton play an important role in the Earth's carbon cycle, and impact where and how carbon dioxide is stored in the ocean. In fact, carbon that zooplankton are responsible for moving from the surface ocean to deeper waters is on the same order of magnitude as the amount of carbon that humans emit as carbon dioxide each year! Some colleagues from Denmark and I did a modeling study to find out whether zooplankton-mediated carbon has changed over the past 50 years. We modeled zooplankton grazing (eating), egestion (pooping) and respiration (breathing), and found that indeed, these pathways for carbon flux have decreased in much of the North Atlantic Ocean over past decades. We also found that in some places it has actually increased, all due to changes in the ocean environment and distributions of zooplankton species. Please click below to learn more about our study, published in Nature Ecology and Evolution.

​CLICK HERE FOR LINK TO RESEARCH PAPER

Below is an image of a copepod (a type of zooplankton) with its prey.

Photo credit: Erik Selander

DANCING THROUGH DECK OPS ON NASA EXPORTS CRUISE

07 September 2018

Deck operations aboard research vessels are carefully coordinated dances, involving the bridge (where the captain and mates steer the vessel), winch operators, ship technicians, scientists and their equipment. A lot can go wrong: equipment can be damaged or lost, samples can be scrambled, and people can get hurt. Aboard the R/V Roger Revelle EXPORTS cruise this autumn, numerous complicated maneuvers were performed. A successful deployment and recovery of our last MOCNESS plankton net tow  of the cruise was worth dancing for joy.

THE HJORT SUMMER SCHOOL, TRAITS CONFERENCE AND THE HANSEATIC LEAGUE IN NORWAY

11-23 August 2017

This August I attended the Hjort Summer School, at the Espegrend Marine Biological Station in Bergen, Norway. The course focused on connecting experimental and modeling techniques. The Hjort summer school program was named after Johan Hjort, a Norwegian fisheries scientist. The fishing industry plays a huge role in Norwegian history. I visited the Hanseatic League (13th-15th century) museum, in a restored fish merchant's building on the Bergen waterfront. Cod was the basis of an economy that made fish merchants rich and powerful. It is fitting to see a dried cod next to a portrait of Hansa nobility (below). While in Bergen, I also attended the 3rd International Workshop on Trait-Based Approaches to Ocean Life. 

 

© 2018 Karen Stamieszkin