To an oceanographer, the ocean around New Zealand in the summertime provides a fascinating field of study. This image, taken on February 10, 2011, by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite, cries out for closer investigation from sea level. The swirls of turquoise and green map out a large phytoplankton bloom along the shores of New Zealand’s South Island. From a ship on the water, a scientist would be able to sample the bloom to find out just what type of plankton are growing and how the bloom affects the region’s biology.
Some ocean scientists, however, come to New Zealand with different waters in mind. Christchurch serves as a staging ground for Antarctica, and that was the departure point for NASA Ocean Color staff member, Aimee Neeley, who recently left the city for McMurdo Station, Antarctica. Neeley is currently in the Southern Ocean on the research ship, R/V Nathaniel B. Palmer.
Over the next several weeks, Neeley will be taking measurements that will help scientists interpret ocean color observations, like the above image, from the MODIS sensors. She is keeping a blog to share her Antarctic experiences with the community. She will discuss daily life on an oceanographic vessel and describe the scientific questions she is working to answer.
NASA image by Norman Kuring, Ocean Color Team. Caption by Norman Kuring, adapted from New Zealand: Antarctic staging ground.