June 26, 2019 | 75° F

Scientists and Rutgers Professors Explain Project in Antarctica

Students at Rutgers are able to further their academic studies in other countries, but not many would pick Antarctica as their first choice. But a handful of students have chosen to engage as scientists while researching in Antarctica.

Josh Kohut is the lead principal investigator of Project Converge and currently in Antarctica until late February.

In addition to Rutgers, the University of Delaware, Oregon State University the University of Alaska, and an extensive scientific communication and outreach team are working to bring information about the Antarctic food chain into classrooms, said Mark Miller, professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences.

Project Converge aims to direct the information to students of all ages, according to its website.

The scientists involved are interested in marine biology and climate patterns, according oto its website. They have been living in Palmer Station, Antarctica since December 2014 and until February 2015.

The website said the study includes focusing on a correlation between ocean circulation, plankton distribution, penguin foraging behavior and climate change.

While studying the food chain of the area, students get an experience with the smallest life forms to larger animals, according to the website. Not only do they stay on base at Palmer Station, but also scientists have the opportunity to sail and study the waters off the Arctic peninsula.

Tony Broccoli, professor in the School of Environmental and Biological Science, is a colleague of other professionals in Antarctica and a source of information regarding Project Converge. Broccoli said, Rutgers has a long history of formulating research in Antarctica.

As a scientist, he loves the challenge of learning about the world and how it functions. He does this by asking questions that are still unanswered. Broccoli said he finds science to be exciting and extremely rewarding.

“Our world is undergoing rapid changes in climate that have the potential to affect everyone in some way. The Project Converge team is working in a part of the world where the changes are very rapid,” he said.

This exciting project brings research to scientists in New York and New Jersey, Broccoli said. One unique future on the project’s website is the live video broadcasts scientists hold at the end of January. These broadcasts are intended for younger students to ask researchers and scientists in Antarctica questions about their work.

Broccoli said, “it gives me great pride to know that my Rutgers colleagues are sharing their experiences by bringing the excitement of scientific research to students and teachers throughout New Jersey and New York.”

Miller and Grace Saba, assistant research professor in the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences, coupled in an email interview to explain part of the research.

“The department is equipped with specialized equipment including current-monitoring radars and small, submersible gliders that provide unique observations to be interpreted by Rutgers scientists such as Dr. Josh Kohut, Dr. Oscar Schofield, and their students,” Miller and Saba said.

Miller and Saba provided information regarding specific research the team did in Antarctica, such as work with Adelie penguins. The equipment that is used provides measurements on the Adelie’s food source, Antarctic krill, and the penguins’ habitat in general.

“Lead [Principle Investigator] Josh Kohut will use the project as an example in the Rutgers classrooms to demonstrate the tight link between physics and biology in the ocean and the importance of multi-disciplinary research in answering scientific questions,” said Miller.

Kohut, an assistant professor in Antarctica from Rutgers, has been involved with the project since its commencement.

The online blog for Project Converge allows students to ask questions, get in touch with the researchers and see daily articles the team posts about life in Antarctica, he said.

“It is important to understand the climate change [in Antarctica] and the research they are doing,” said Ishani Patel, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student.

Project Converge would help people better understand our planet and the marine life in general, she said.

She thinks the project influences students at Rutgers in a positive and significant way. Planning to be a business major, she believes climate change and animal protection will play a key role in the future.

According to Project Converge’s blog, the experience will expose students to the content of the research mission and the process of science research and support Next Generation Science Standards and address Common Core Math and English/Language Arts.

Megan Joseph

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