Monday, April 16, 2012

BROMEX 2012 Wrap Up

Below is a post written by the four midshipmen who participated in the USNA PSP first field campaign over Spring Break 2012 out of Barrow, AK.  Authors: MIDN 1/C Ben Aspholm, MIDN 1/C Kyle Crowder, MIDN 2/C Will Parker, MIDN 2/C Rebecca Watson.

Four Midshipmen (Oceanography, Chemistry, and Aerospace Engineering) and three officers from the Oceanography Department recently travelled to the ‘Northern Most Point in the U.S.’ Barrow, Alaska from 07-15MAR12 as part of the U.S. Naval Academy Polar Science Program (USNA-PSP). The program is designed to introduce midshipmen to the unique environment of the Polar Regions through academic course work, design/build projects, scientific research and field experiments. This trip was sponsored by the USNA STEM office, Midshipman Research Office, and Oceanography Department and provided the Midshipmen with the opportunity to participate in a major, international Arctic research program to investigate effects of Arctic sea ice reduction (especially the loss of perennial or multi-year sea ice in the last decade) on bromine explosion, ozone depletion, Arctic tropospheric photochemical processes, and mercury deposition in the Arctic Beaufort Sea on the North Slope of Alaska.  The Arctic field campaign is called BROMEX (Bromine, Ozone, and Mercury EXperiment).  It is being led by the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and is supported by NASA and by contributions and participations from 18 agencies and institutions in U.S., Canada, Germany, and U.K.   LCDR John Woods, CDR Joe Smith, and CDR Carl Hager ventured to the Arctic with Midshipmen 1/C Kyle Crowder, 1/C Benjamin Aspholm, 2/C Will Parker, and 2/C Rebecca Watson for the Spring Break experience of a lifetime. The seven USNA representatives, along with, Sam Denes,  a Doctoral Candidate in the Penn State Acoustic Program, journeyed to the arctic to deploy an USNA-PSP Arctic buoy (IceGoat1), collect acoustic data, and obtain samples for biochemical research. 

                MIDN 1/C Kyle Crowder, an honors Oceanography student, worked with LCDR Woods throughout the past year to bring the IceGoat1 buoy from concept to a finished product. Fall semester was spent working hard on determining what materials and equipment would be needed, finding funding, and then finally ordering the parts. After winter break, most of the parts had been obtained so construction of the buoy was started. Throughout this process, Kyle’s primary role was developing an understanding of each of the components that would be needed in the buoy. Ignatius Rigor from the University of Washington was constantly answering questions regarding the ARGOS and Todd Valentic from the Stanford Research Institute was helpful in designing the Iridium satellite communications system. 

                MIDN 1/C Benjamin Aspholm, an Astronautical Engineering student, was one of the three Midshipmen working on the IceGoat1 Buoy.  The Midshipmen worked together to design a solar panel power system to power the multiple systems of the IceGoat.  The system is designed to only be on when the solar panels are generating current from the sun.  This means that when the sun goes down, the entire system shuts down to conserve the life of the battery.  The system then wakes up every morning and captures pictures all day while the sun powers the system and recharges the battery.  The system powers the two Logitech web cameras that take pictures every 15 minutes as well as two communications systems, an Iridium satellite uplink, and an Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS) radio.  The Iridium uplink is the system used to retrieve all the data from the IceGoat.  It can also be used to send commands to the IceGoat to either update its systems or change the way data is recorded and sent back.  The APRS system is on a radio frequency that can be used to communicate with small satellites deployed by USNA with similar systems on board.  Information from the IceGoat1 will be relayed to the small satellites back to USNA using this system.

                MIDN 2/C Will Parker, an Oceanography student, was associated with the acoustic sampling under direction of CDR Carl Hager and Sam Denes.  The primary objective of this project was to determine empirically the transmission loss of a signal between a source and receiver under environmental conditions in which the propagation of the signal into the air and ice are of interest.  This work will be used as ground-truthing for a finite element model implementation of the propagation losses, which will be incorporated with other data to determine detectability of signals under conditions experienced in the Arctic.  

MIDN 2/C Rebecca Watson, a Chemistry major, worked with CDR Joe Smith to collect chemical and biological samples from snow, ice, and water.  Field sampling collection was extremely challenging in the Arctic wintertime environment but the team was able to collect snow samples from the tundra and from the sea ice, a 1 meter ice core, and water column samples from beneath the sea ice.  Additionally, samples were collected of “frost-flowers” and “brine-cicles” that were found while working on the sea ice.  Samples were transported back to USNA for analysis in the laboratory.  The snow samples will be analyzed for halide ions and metals, ice core samples will be analyzed for halide ions, and water column samples will be analyzed for halide ions, dissolved methane, and Deuterium and Oxygen-18 ratios.  Samples from under the ice-water interface of the ice core (the portion of the ice closest to the sea water), frost-flowers, and brine-cicles will be used in an attempt to culture extremophiles associated with the ice. 
In addition to research, the midshipmen and LCDR Woods spent a day at the local high school teaching students about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). A few hours were spent in the pool area with three different stations set up. One station was a “Build-a-Buoy” project, where the students were able to build buoys and test their buoyancy by loading them with golf balls. At the second station, students were able to drive a “Sea Perch,” a simple remotely operated vehicle, through the pool. At the last station, the students learned further about buoyancy by trying to created “flinkers” out of packing peanuts, metal washers, and paper clips. Flinkers are objects that do not float or sink, but rather suspend themselves somewhere in between the surface and the bottom. This was an excellent experience, especially for the students who are rarely introduced to college or the military. 

Thanks to the support of the STEM program and the cooperation of scientists and professionals associated with BROMEX, the midshipmen were able to take part in current Arctic field work. This program allowed USNA Midshipmen and Officers to gain experience conducting research in challenging Arctic conditions first hand while also absorbing local culture and heritage. The USNA-PSP trip to Barrow benefited the students by immersing them in environmental research as well as allowing them to gain an appreciation for a way of living so different from their own.  The experience gained and data derived from this effort will be used to enhance USNA course materials and laboratories for Midshipman education and will also be used in Midshipman Independent research projects.  Lessons learned from and success at BROMEX 2012 will provide the basis for continued Midshipman involvement in ongoing and future national and international Polar research projects.
You can follow the USNA Polar Science Program on facebook, view pictures and videos, or get the current data from IceGoat1 at one of the following sites:

1 comment:

  1. Chemistry is one of the disciplines of science. It colours our life with the discovery of different hidden colours of nature and all the things necessary for making our life happier. The study of chemistry is a must for the advancement of society and for making mankind happier. Chemistry is concerned with rocks, minerals, non-minerals, air, water, plants, animals, other materials of organic origin earth atmosphere, interstellar atmosphere.