Elation Through Filtration: An Oceanographer’s Sensations at Sea

Being a biological oceanographer on a physical oceanographic voyage has highlighted a key distinction between the two disciplines. Physical oceanographers rely on sensing – deploying instrumentation that measures properties of the water: temperature, velocity, oxygen, etc. Those data are sent back to laptops allowing for near instantaneous analysis. The day-to-day work of biological oceanography, on the other hand, may be a science best described by filtering – a task that is intertwined with most measurements in our field. We collect water and remove the particles or organisms we want to study. The finest filter might have holes that let only the tiniest particles through, while the largest filter could be something like a large net, where even fish can slip through its mesh.

Scenes from CTD water collection party. Courtesy of Jessica Caggiano and Jacob Wenegrat.