Undergraduate Research Experience in Ocean/Marine Science
Summer 2002 Teams & Abstracts

NMFS Plankton Gear Comparison Research
Woods Hole, Massachusetts
Team Members: Nicholas Lewis, Genee Smith
Mentor: Dr. San Juan, Geoscience

Ocean Color data depends on the accurate measurement of light intensity at visible wavelengths of the surface waters. In the ocean, light is reflected primarily by particulate matter suspended in the water, while absorption is primarily due to the chlorophyll content, which is present in phytoplankton. The net result of these interactions is light radiation from the water surface called the water-leaving radiance. Sensors such as the MODIS measure the radiance intensity at a given wavelength. These measurements can then be quantitatively related to the various constituents in the water column that interact with visible light, like chlorophyll.

The plan is to study the concentration of phytoplankton from Cape Hatteras to Cape Cod year round through the analysis of Ocean Color data Students will learn to use and analyze this data using remote sensing and digital image processing software such as ERDAS imagine, ENVI, or IDRISI to quantity the phytoplankton distribution with changing seasons. Periodic ground truthing of the satellite data will be accomplished by water sampling and analysis for the type and amount of phytoplankton using accepted analytical procedures. Collection of data and some water sampling will take place both locally and onboard a NOAA Research Vessel for ground checking of satellite data by teams of students.

Most of the work will be conducted during a summer for six weeks. However, collection of data and some water sampling will be done throughout the rest of the year for ground checking of satellite data by teams of students. Training of undergraduates through research, field work and observations is imperative in the department’s goal of producing quality students well prepared to continue their professional development either through employment or through graduate school. These undergraduate research projects will go a long way in making these goals a reality. In addition, the proposed study will add to the understanding of the coastal water processes in the northeastern Atlantic Ocean. The data from this study will also be useful in understanding the relationship between these two variables, and may be used in conjunction with other data such as water quality, fishery catch, and population of economically important aquatic organisms.