Ocean Inquiry Project Cruises

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The OIP Experience at Sea

From a participant’s perspective, a day with Ocean Inquiry Project is often a whirlwind of activity. This is appropriate because time on oceanographic research ships is always limited and every minute counts. Most OIP volunteer instructors have conducted research at sea, and those experiences helped inspire the creation OIP to provide similar, though shorter, opportunities to all students. When a student really connects a 10°C reading in the sea-surface temperature with a cold splash of spray from Puget Sound, it’s a rewarding learning experience for all.

A typical OIP cruise begins with a safety briefing from the ship’s captain or crew, an orientation to the research questions of the day, and a division of participants into multiple working groups. At the first sampling station on the water, each group works with instructors to complete different scientific tasks. One group may deploy a CTD instrument (Conductivity, Temperature and Depth) to see how temperature, salinity, and a number of other water properties change with depth. In looking at the data, they discuss expectations and results – was the Sound layered as they thought it would be? Meanwhile, students in another group pose questions about the marine food web and then seek answers by sampling plankton with nets. Examining the plankton under microscopes is always popular. A third group takes samples of water from several depths, generates hypotheses regarding a number of chemical properties, such as phosphate and dissolved oxygen, then measures those with basic chemical analyses.

Once all the data for a station is collected, the ship moves to the next station on the water and the working groups rotate to another task. If time allows, we often end the day with a short SCUBA dive. Students participate via a live video feed from an underwater camera carried by the divers. This shows the bottom flora and fauna in their habitat rather than as independent samples. A few specimens are brought up to the ship for close examination (and photographs) before returning them to the bottom. This combination often provokes many more questions about the richly diverse marine ecosystem in Puget Sound.

While transiting back to the dock, we often review the observations of the day and think about the bigger scientific and ecological issues. Usually there’s a little time to enjoy the views too.

Cruise Schedule

To learn more, or request a cruise, please contact info@oceaninquiry.org.

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