The Northwest Passage Project (NPP): An Interdisciplinary Approach to Arctic Science and Communication

Korenna Estes1, Melvin Kim2, Jacob Strock3, Zak Kerrigan3, Yoana Boleaga4, Andrea Nodal5, Tristan Rivera6, Ericka Schulze7, Alessandra D'Angelo3, Brice Loose8, Holly Morin3, Amy Denton1, Kevin M Boswell9, Linda Fernandez7 and Maria Tzortziou10, (1)California State University Channel Islands, Camarillo, CA, United States, (2)California State University Channel Islands, Camarillo, United States, (3)University of Rhode Island, Graduate School of Oceanography, Narragansett, RI, United States, (4)CUNY City College of New York, New York, United States, (5)Florida International University, Miami, FL, United States, (6)Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, United States, (7)Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, United States, (8)University of Rhode Island, Narragansett, RI, United States, (9)Florida International University, Biological Sciences, North Miami, FL, United States, (10)CUNY City College of New York, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, New York, NY, United States
Relative to other marine environments, limited oceanographic data has been collected in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago (CAA). An innovative,18-day expedition into the CAA, led by the University of Rhode Island and funded by the National Science Foundation and Heising-Simons Foundation, engaged undergraduate students in an interdisciplinary research program that investigated the changing Arctic through the lens of four research foci: water mass properties and circulation patterns, water column chemistry and greenhouse gas fluxes, seabird and marine mammal distributions, and the composition and distribution of plankton communities. Arctic plankton communities, the base of the marine food web, are poorly understood. To better understand the effects of changing ice coverage on plankton distribution and composition, the microscopic communities research team, studied under-ice, ice-edge, and open water plankton communities using microscopy, chlorophyll extraction, and FlowCAM particle imaging. The team also conducted a suite of onboard incubation experiments to measure phytoplankton growth, zooplankton grazing, and community compositional changes as a function of the light environment concomitant with different sea ice features. Microscopy tools were also applied to investigate microplastics in CAA waters and multi-year sea ice. The NPP undergraduate students gained comprehensive research experience in plankton sampling and identification, experimental design, and microplastics research. In addition, valuable science communication experience was gained through participation in interactive broadcasts that connected with live audiences at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, Exploratorium, and the Alaska SeaLife Center. This presentation discusses the NPP expedition in terms of the microscopic community research team’s experiences and the contribution to the collective understanding of the changing Arctic.