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Science party in front on the UH research vessel Kilo Moana.

Deep-ocean trench research provided University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa students in the Global Environmental Science (GES) bachelor’s degree program valuable experience and inspiration in fall 2023. The mission of the oceanographic cruise aboard the research vessel Kilo Moana was to test and refine the performance of the Hadal Water Column Profiler, a unique scientific instrument designed to study the physical, chemical and biological properties of the water in the deep-ocean trenches.

student standing on deck
Tyra Arends stands next to the CTD sensor package on the back deck on the R/V Kilo Moana.

“These deep ocean research cruises provide great opportunities for our students to engage in hands-on science, experience life at sea, and envision possible career paths—not just research scientists, but also the engineers and ship’s crew that all work together to conduct successful at-sea observations,” said Glenn Carter, chief scientist of the Kilo Moana cruise and associate professor of oceanography at the UH Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST).

Eight undergraduate and four graduate students joined Carter and faculty members from the Department of Oceanography, including deep-sea biologist Jeff Drazen, chemical oceanographer Chris Measures, and biological oceanographer Craig Nelson for the four-day expedition off Oʻahu’s Waiʻanae Coast.

Applying classroom knowledge

“The experience turned out to be far more than what I expected, in the best way possible,” said Mattia Da Fieno, GES student and cruise participant. “It was an incredible opportunity that both opened my eyes to how a lot of the scientific world works and let me put a lot of the skills I have been learning to good use.”

three people talking
From left: GES students Tyra Arends, Mattia Da Fieno talk with oceanographer Chris Measures.
student filling bottle
Ande Westerhausen filtering a water sample during the research cruise.

In addition to the hadal profiler testing, the team collected zooplankton (tiny, floating animals, such as krill) using net tows, and measured vertical profiles on water properties using a Conductivity-Temperature-Depth (CTD) sensor package.

The cruise was structured so that all the undergraduate students were able to assist or observe in all the various operations, including sorting zooplankton and analyzing the CTD water samples. The zooplankton and CTD data will be used to understand the effect of islands on the marine food web.

“Going out to sea to do research has been one of my biggest dreams since I started college,” said Ande Westerhausen, GES student and cruise participant. “My most memorable experiences on the ship were the late nights processing zooplankton and bonding with my lab mates. Aboard the ship I quickly fell in love with the constantly busy environment where something is always going on.”

For more information, see SOEST’s website.

–By Marcie Grabowski

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