Lab 1.2 – OOI Science Highlights

Fundamental concept: Identify scientific methods and conclusions in OOI data case studies
Estimated time to complete: 20 minutes
Materials needed: None

Certain scientific questions about the ocean led to the design and placement of each of the OOI arrays. In this activity, you will read two highlights of research conducted with OOI data and practice identifying the arrays, platforms and sensors used by the scientists.

Highlight 1: What happens to marine animals during a solar eclipse?

In the late morning of August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse passed over the ocean near the coast of Oregon. Scientists at Oregon State University took advantage of this event to observe something neat about animal behavior. Small zooplankton in the ocean often undergo diel vertical migration behavior, in which they swim up to the ocean surface at night to graze and swim down to darker deeper depths during the day to avoid predators. Scientists hypothesized that the zooplankton would respond to the darkness of the eclipse by swimming toward the surface as they do at night. They did! Over the course of about 45 minutes, the zooplankton swam up 50 meters toward the surface. As the sun came out from the eclipse, they returned to the deeper depths where they would not be so prone to predation during the day.

After reviewing these descriptions, take the quiz below to see if you can identify the components of the OOI system used to conduct the observations of zooplankton changing their behavior during the eclipse (click Show Solution to check your answers)


Highlight #2: How does the Gulf Stream interact with the continental shelf?

The Gulf Stream is a major warm, salty ocean current that travels northward along the U.S. east coast. However, this warm water rarely moves onto the shallow area of the ocean closer to shore known as the continental shelf, which typically contains colder, less salty water. Certain types of fish, and their plankton prey, congregate at the boundaries of the warmer and colder water masses that meet at the edge of the continental shelf. This makes these water mass boundaries (called “fronts”) ecologically important.

Read about how OOI data helped scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute study the interaction of Gulf Stream and continental shelf waters. Then answer the following questions

  1. Which OOI array did they use?
  2. The warm water intrusion nicknamed “Pinocchio’s nose” is visible in satellite imagery. What platform did the scientists use to map this feature under the surface of the ocean?
  3. What two types of sensors could the scientists use to distinguish between Gulf Stream water and continental shelf water?