STILLPOINT Archive: last updated 05/29/2012

Exploring Ipswich Bay

By Cyndi McMahon

Though he usually spends his time on large ocean research vessels, Gordon’s newest biology faculty member, Walter Cho, is a deep-sea biologist with big plans for his students.

Soon after he arrived at Gordon, Cho took his Marine Science class out into the waters of Ipswich Bay to collect samples of the water column and sediment to study the physical and biological characteristics of this environment.

Their transportation? The IXTHUS—the Biology Department’s 21-foot power boat, equipped with a Van Dorn-type water sampler to study the water column; a petite ponar benthic grab to study seafloor sediments and animals; a plankton net to study animals that live at the sea surface; several water-quality meters to study water chemistry; and an underwater video camera to study the benthic habitat and animals.

Cho let the class design the cruise plan, and his students decided on different sites around Ipswich Bay. "They were interested in comparing sites near shore, off shore, and near an estuary to see if there were differences in the habitat and animals that live there," said Cho.

In addition to taking samples of the sediment, water and plankton, and documenting the characteristics of the habitat and animals, the students also took photos and video footage of the ocean floor for further analysis. "We were all excited by the video footage we collected of the seafloor," said Cho. "We found sand dollars, several skates—that even bumped the camera a bit—a flounder and some small crustaceans. We were even able to use the video camera to document our benthic sediment sampler in situ, watching as it took a sample from the seafloor."

Cho recently returned from St. Petersburg, Florida, where he was a participant in the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Principal Investigator One Year Update Workshop, sponsored by the National Science and Technology Council’s Sub-Committee on Ocean Science and Technology. Along with his colleague Timothy Shank from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), he presented his research on the potential impacts of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill on coral communities in the Gulf of Mexico.

Dr. Cho earned his B.A. in biology at Harvard University in 2000 and his Ph.D. in Biological Oceanography from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program in 2008.

Photo: Dr. Craig Story and Dr. Walter Cho exploring Ipswich Bay in the Biology Department’s boat, the IXTHUS.

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